A Pastor's Responsibility in Missions Training - Radical

A Pastor’s Responsibility in Missions Training

Pastor, what can you do to train aspiring missionaries in your church? Perhaps your mind immediately flies to the things you don’t know how to do. Maybe you begin to think about your own inadequacies. Sure, there’s a lot you don’t know, but you also have a wealth of wisdom, biblical knowledge, and outreach opportunities that you can leverage. You can lay a solid foundation that can serve as a reliable starting point for all your missionaries to learn and apply for decades.

Cross-Cultural Interaction

Find opportunities for aspiring missionaries to interact with people who are not like them. Some people are gifted in cross-cultural interactions, some people are terrible at it, and most people need practice. Encourage aspiring missionaries to build relationships by inviting international students from local colleges into their homes. Urge them to make friends by attending cultural events in community centers. Find out about refugee ministries or your municipality’s placement work, and ways they might need helping hands.

Maybe you live somewhere that doesn’t have a huge refugee or migrant population. Encourage aspiring missionaries to try to find people who are different from them—even if it’s just people from another part of the country!

As your aspiring missionaries navigate cultural differences, there are two ditches that will obliterate a missionary’s usefulness: oblivious indifference or fearful paralysis. The cure to both is the same—building friendships with those who are different from you.

Christian Doctrine

They will need a firm grounding in all the Bible teaches, but especially important to give attention to is the gospel, the sufficiency of Scripture, and a biblical view of conversion. While there are great programs like the Radical Training Center and Radius International that provide needed additional training, local churches cannot neglect the responsibility to begin this theological training.

The Gospel

Equip aspiring missionaries with sound Christian doctrine. They should know the gospel, be able to explain the gospel and do so regularly. Evangelism should become a part of their way of life. So work to make sure an aspiring missionary understands the gospel, can spot false gospels and can share the gospel.

Sufficiency of Scripture

Especially in cross-cultural, frontier contexts, your missionaries will often find themselves in  situations where there isn’t a clear article on their favorite website telling them what exactly to do. You want to build the instinct in your aspiring missionary to always look to the Bible for wisdom on what to do.

You want to build the instinct in your aspiring missionary to always look to the Bible for wisdom on what to do.

Practically, this means training them in the skills of carefully and attentively examining a passage, asking questions about it, and applying it. Give them lots of repetition in the work of making observations, interpretations, and applications, so that they have built up muscles of asking questions of the Bible, and searching out answers.


When you really want to see people saved, and someone is kind of sympathetic to the gospel, it is tempting to contort and squint so that you can tell yourself they’re a Christian. That’s understandable in the pain of loving and evangelizing the lost.

But if your missionaries give in to that desire, they will build up barriers to the gospel and set back the work in that region. Help them learn what the Bible teaches about true conversion. Michael Lawrence’s little book on Conversion is a helpful resource for thinking about conversion in missions.

Church Life

You need to train an aspiring missionary in the importance of the church to the Christian life. This is something you must teach them because you are situated to teach in a way that no one else is.

Often missionaries are so focused on the urgent needs of the lost they neglect to ask any questions about what comes next. After someone comes to faith in Jesus, what about the next fifty years of their life? How can young believers be equipped to faithfully endure to the end? The primary means the Lord has given is the local church. Your aspiring missionaries need to have that conviction and confidence in their bones, to set them in the right direction from the very beginning.

Help them understand and be able to explain why it’s important for a Christian to be a part of a church. Why is membership important? What kind of questions should we ask of a potential church member? What is necessary according to the Bible in the life of a church? What is just nice-to-have or cultural? How can commitment, encouragement, and godly rebuke strengthen a Christian’s witness?

Your aspiring missionaries need firm grounding and training in what the Bible says about the life of the church so that they not only say the right thing but teach others by their words and their deeds.

Training Should Lead People Back into the Congregation

Allow me to presume to give a warning at this point. Your training work can begin to turn against you if you’re not careful. If it stands as a program distinct from the rest of the congregation, you may implicitly convey to ‘normal’ members that evangelism is just for the especially keen.

You may unintentionally train potential missionaries to rely on a clear program to direct their evangelism and discipleship. You might erect a wonderful program that prepares and sends out the members you can see in your church right now who have a heart for the nations but unintentionally squelch the good ambitions of those who could be your next wave.

I would urge you to have training that presses people back into the life of the congregation. Celebrate the outreach efforts that members of your church are already doing. Urge aspiring missionaries to learn from the soccer mom who shares the gospel with other parents and the businessman who gets up an hour earlier to disciple a young believer before going to his 9-hour workday.

Your regular members may not train the next generation as cleanly as you would like, but it may help your whole church grow in a focused love for the nations that will enhance your training of future missionaries for decades to come.

Caleb Greggsen pastors an English-speaking church in Central Asia.


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