We recently met a sweet family that was planning their wardrobe for life overseas but not regularly gathering with a local church. Their enthusiasm was admirable, but their priorities were misaligned. Families, who desire to serve as missionaries often first consider practical issues: Where should we serve? How will we raise support? What will our children do for school? What should we pack?
These questions are important and need to be answered. Yet, missionary families will be better equipped for service, even better equipped to make these decisions, when they are first deeply invested in their local church.
When the apostle Paul trained Timothy, he charged him to pay close attention to his life and doctrine because doing so would have an eternal impact on both Timothy himself and those he served (1 Timothy 4:16). There is a serious responsibility that comes with ministry and God has designed his church to equip us for this work.
Specialized missions training is often helpful, but a firm foundation of Christlike character, affections, habits, skills, and knowledge is what specialized training must be built upon. God has specifically prepared his church to train and equip believers of all ages. The structures, gifts, and functions of the church are God’s foundational training for missionary service.
The Church Helps Us Stand Firm
When you move overseas, everything in life seems to change overnight. Churches can prepare families for considerable change by providing a strong understanding of what God has ordained to remain the same, through Christ and his church.
When families on the mission field endure trials they find comfort in the knowledge that their sending church affirmed their direction and stands behind them. When teenagers tearfully ask, “Why are we here?”, their family is strengthened by believers who have committed to supporting them, praying for them, and pointing them to Christ all along the way.
The Church Trains Us for Service
Our local churches provide the best context for parents and children to learn to use spiritual gifts. Serving in the church allows families to build rhythms of hospitality that encourage them to open their homes to neighbors overseas.
Our local churches provide the best context for parents and children to learn to use spiritual gifts.
Those who have experience teaching children find creative ways to teach and disciple different age groups in new contexts. When future missionaries are taught to share the gospel in a new language, they are often given opportunities to share simple gospel truths with children in their church. Our church helps us discover, develop, and learn to use our gifts in ways that transcend culture or country.
The Church Instills the Fundamentals of the Faith
Families train for the mission field every Sunday as they sit together under faithful, expository preaching from pastors who model godly character. Through the church, entire families learn to know, love, interpret, and apply God’s Word rightly.
As we corporately celebrate the Lord’s Supper and baptism in multi-generational contexts, the church prepares families for biblical evangelism and discipleship among the nations. We should be eager students who consider deep investment in the local church to be a training ground for all members of the family.
The Church Helps Us Discern
When families are deeply invested in the local church, they are known. Their pastors and fellow members can affirm their faithfulness, qualifications, and readiness for service. When surrounded by wise counsel these families make better decisions (Proverbs 27:9).
How does a family decide where to serve? They consider their options while prayerfully seeking counsel from godly brothers and sisters in their church who know them well.
When families are deeply invested in the local church, they are known. Their pastors and fellow members can affirm their faithfulness, qualifications, and readiness for service.
How does a family raise financial support for ministry? Often some of those who have helped them discern their calling desire to support their ministry.
How do families know how to pack? Future missionaries often even make better practical decisions when their lives and doctrine have been strengthened by their local church. Families who are deeply invested in their local church become better prepared for the missionary work ahead.
Do you want to prepare your children to thrive overseas? Take them to church.