Pastor Dick Webster – GIBM Director
God has given the authority and responsibility for worldwide missions to the local church. (And scripturally, there is no other kind but “local.”) Independent Baptists should know that all authority for sending missionaries is vested in the church, and that any missionary clearinghouse or mission agency ministry should possess no authority of its own over the missionary. Regardless of common secular beliefs, traditions, or evangelical trends (which have tremendous influence these days), Biblicists must recognize and honor church autonomy and authority. Understand, too, that this authority bears great responsibility. Individual churches will answer to the Founder Who commissioned them with that responsibility.
In their place of accountability, I think it good for churches to review the specifics of their charge. The particulars, of course, are recorded in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
First, all power (both ability and authority) comes from and by the Lord – “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Jesus said, “…without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5 b)
Second, and clearly, the assigned objective is for each church to spread the gospel to all nations. In Acts 1:8, our Lord describes it to include “the uttermost part of the earth.” Not one soul is to be left out!
Third, baptizing converts was commanded by our Lord and incorporated under that authority aspect as an ordinance. Baptism is a church ordinance! It is through water baptism that a believer is placed in the body of Christ (the church), and then takes his/her place helping to fulfill its commission (see Acts 2:41).
Fourth, there is a teaching responsibility – “…teaching them (each convert/disciple) to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” This is a commandment – that the church train or “disciple” all the baptized converts. This is an essential part of God’s instruction to the church – on the same level, but in a systematic order, with evangelism!
Finally, Jesus promises that He will be with us believing, baptized, church-member disciples in the great endeavor; He will be with us until the end of the age (or end of time) – the Church Age, because the Great Commission is a church operation and responsibility. And that last phrase is to help us recognize just how long we are to be about this privilege of missions: “until the end of the world.”
Once we church folk fully comprehend the charge given us, we must then understand that everything done for missions is to be directed and led by the Holy Spirit. Acts 13: 1-4a, illustrates this very well. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed…”
The Holy Spirit is the One Who calls.
The Holy Spirit first calls the church (again: God’s plan operates under the authority vested therein). The church is to minister “to the Lord.” The importance of a church ministering “to the Lord” is beyond measure. Too many churches spend all their time ministering to each other and to other people; but there is to be, first and foremost, a commitment to what God says and wants. In Col. 1:18, we are told that our Saviour, as Head of the church, should “in all things…have the preeminence.” The Church at Antioch sanctified themselves so as to minister unto the Lord.
Now this is the good part: the Holy Ghost then told the church to separate Barnabas and Saul for the specific purpose of missions. God called the church to be a sending church. Anything accomplished by a sending church is done through the power of God. It only makes sense that the Holy Ghost would call the church to do this sending work.
It was important that the Church of Antioch know that the Holy Spirit had called the missionaries it was to send. God affirmed it. When a church recommends its missionaries to other churches for support, it must know those missionaries are called of God to that certain “whereunto.”
Notice that the Church of Antioch fasted and prayed for their missionaries. Prayer must be a priority for a sending church (and for supporting churches)! Make sure the needs of your missionaries are ever before the church so they know to pray for them and their needs.
And then there was a very tangible action taken: they laid hands on them. This has a two-fold purpose. (1) It is a statement or illustration of the church identifying with the missionary and his call. It tells the world that this servant and his work is an extension of that church’s ministry. (2) The authority to “Separate…for the work” in the regions beyond is given by the church to the missionary. The church missionary has the authority to “go” and to make disciples, to baptize and train converts, and to start churches.
This principle and practice has been prevalent within the church since Acts 6, when deacons were selected and hands were laid on them to give them authority in their place of service. The apostles identified with the deacons and with their ministry of caring for the physical needs of widows and others within the church. This, of course, gave the apostles the time needed for prayer and the ministry of the Word.
But look again to the Church at Antioch. Take special notice of the terminology in Acts 13, that the church “sent them away.” The church helped them to get where they needed to go. I believe that help includedfinancially helping them. Antioch released them from their ministries in the church there and sent them out in obedience to God’s call, doing whatever they could and should to enable their missionary ministry. The sending and supporting pattern for missions is very clear in the Word of God.
Permit me to offer some practical suggestions intended to help everyone understand how a sending church can help its missionaries.
1. Offer your missionary an internship (or recommend him to a sister church to serve in that way). Your missionary needs a period of practical, hands-on training for his calling. He needs to do “the work of the ministry” – preach and teach; baptize; attend deacon’s meetings; run bus routes, vacation Bible schools, visitation, and other ministries. He needs experience in handling finances – both church and personal.
2. Send your missionary and his wife – she needs to go, too – on a survey trip to the field (even if the specific place of calling is not yet clear). Let them “look on the fields.” For those who do know where God wants them, such a trip will help them get a vision and a working comprehension of the culture, need, and language. They will have opportunity to determine their family’s needs on the field as well as be able to get information and video for better presenting their ministry while on deputation.
3. Encourage your missionary and his wife to attend the GIBM Deputation School. Finance their attendance; it convenes the last week of August each year. This is an extremely important “orientation” time, and a real help in preparation for the benefits, challenges, opportunities, and trials to be experienced on deputation.
4. Help your missionary family gain a foothold as they begin their journey to the field. Provide needed equipment to begin deputation: prayer cards, brochures, letterheads and stationary, displays, and a projector.
5. Give your missionary family a place to stay. Provide housing for them while on deputation. It is important for a missionary family to have the security of a place to “come home” to.
6. Provide phone service for your missionary; it is one of his greatest expenses.
7. Give your missionary family an identity of being your church’s ministry. If you have ample space, provide an office for your missionary at the church. This will help the missionary be actively connected to the church.
8. Support your missionary family – financially! And support them substantially more than you do other missionaries sent out from sister churches.
9. Help your missionaries with their health insurance. You can place them on the church’s policy, use the plan offered by GIBM, or some other option. It is very important that your missionary family be covered by health insurance.
10. If at all possible, provide your missionaries a vehicle to travel in. It is a great blessing (and necessity) for a missionary family to have adequate transportation while on deputation.
11. Assist your missionaries in scheduling meetings during their deputation. Contact other pastors/churches and encourage them to have your missionary family come to present their field. You can give your missionary a head start if you help him book meetings with your friends.
12. Keep your missionaries financially accountable. Periodically review their finances both during deputation and after they get to the field. The GIBM Service Office asks the missionaries it endorses to send a financial report each month for IRS purposes; their sending-pastor receives a copy to make sure he is abreast of the financial situation of his missionary
13. Visit your missionary on the mission field. This will greatly encourage your missionary, as well as give you a greater burden for his needs and his field of service.
14. Read the report letters from the field sent to your church by your missionary. The best time to do this is on Sunday morning – it will help your whole church stay connected with your missionary family.
15. Be creative in finding ways to encourage and show affection for your missionaries. Make sure to send birthday and anniversary cards and gifts to the entire missionary family. Send preaching tapes from your church, as well as tapes/DVDs from conferences and meetings you may attend. Remember, they are often in some remote spot, away from the privileges of fellowship and other such things we so-often take for granted here in the states.
These are just a few suggestions I trust will be a help. I am sure that there are many more things that you could add. I encourage you to do as much as possible for your missionary. Do what God leads you to do, and remember that the authority for sending your missionary ultimately resides in your church. And with that authority comes a place of responsibility to that missionary.
God bless you, as you do your part in fulfilling the GREAT Commission!