As I previously discussed, there are questions the local church must ask as it considers partnering with a missions agency. While we know that the local church is central to missions, we also know that missions agencies can benefit both the local church and missionary as all three work to spread the gospel to all nations.
As missions agencies consider partnering with churches to train and equip missionaries, here are three solutions they can put in place to ensure a healthy partnership.
Is there agreement about genuine partnership between churches and missions agencies?
Missionaries and missions agencies must be reminded that one would be hard-pressed to find a model of a missions agency in the Bible. Even with a cursory study of missions in the Bible, it becomes clear that the church is the primary method of world evangelization. This is a call for humility.
Missions agencies should be the ones who solicit the insight of local churches when significant issues arise in the life of a missionary.
Yes, God’s blessing has been on missions agencies; they have been vital in aiding the work of bringing the gospel to the nations. But agencies need transparent, humble, accountable partnerships with local churches. Missions agencies should be the ones who solicit the insight of local churches when significant issues arise in the life of a missionary, which will always arise on the field.
Is the church in agreement on the missionary methods of the missions agency?
An agency’s methods must be clear and transparent. There is a growing concern that some missions agencies don’t tell the whole story. They must ensure that numbers and success do not become more important than biblical faithfulness. Agencies should avoid using jargon and confusing acronyms, such as “Heart Language,” BAM, CPM, DMM, UPG, ULG, and MIT, without clearly explaining them to their partner churches. Most of all, it is imperative that agencies make sure that the subtleties of the missionary methods used are clearly explained and understood by churches.
Do the church and the missions agency agree about the basic principles of the church?
The missionaries I have known over the last 35 years of mission involvement have developed excellent technical skills in crossing cultures such as learning a new language. They know how to live life cross-culturally. They are sacrificial and servant-hearted. They are faithful in evangelism and discipleship. They love Jesus. Yet, most missionaries find it hard to define a church or to know which biblical principles must be in place for a church to be healthy, which Paul would call the precious materials on which we build churches.
If you haven’t seen a church modeled, it is challenging to plant one overseas. The weak link in modern missions is weak ecclesiology.
This makes perfect sense. We coast back home on the work of those who have gone before us in church. Few missionaries have been on a church staff, much less seen a church plant. If you haven’t seen a church modeled, it is challenging to plant one overseas. The weak link in modern missions is weak ecclesiology. Evangelical missions agencies need to store up strong and practiced ecclesiology.
To be sure, there are exceptions. For example, Reaching & Teaching, a new sending agency, focuses explicitly on church-centered missions. The International Mission Board publishes an excellent document called Foundations that outlines what a healthy church on the field looks like. But these are exceptions.
Partnering for the Spread of the Gospel
Paul writes, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” A partnership between missions agencies and churches is a dynamic process that can lead to many beautiful feet bringing good news to a lost and dying world.
This article comes from a congress of missionaries directed by Mack Stiles and will be featured in an expanded form in a forthcoming book on missions published by Crossway. To learn more, read Mack’s article on Who Has Authority Over Missionaries? and What Churches Should Look for When Partnering with Missions Agencies.