Why We Should Send Families to the Unreached - Radical

Why We Should Send Families to the Unreached

There is an African Proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” When we consider the gospel need among the unreached, we don’t only want to go fast, but far. Certainly, we can achieve this in a number of ways, such as teams or other partnerships, but one of the most natural ways to go together is by going as families.

To be clear, singleness is a gift that can be leveraged to great benefit for the cause of the Gospel. Every person called to ministry ought to, if possible, seriously consider whether the Lord is calling them to singleness. While I am going to advocate for sending families to the unreached, an argument can be made for the great advantages of singleness for missionary work, particularly given that neither Jesus nor Paul were married. There are great benefits and blessings in marriage and children, but they are far from prerequisites for ministry. And yet I’d like to argue that marriage and families are uniquely equipped for the challenges of service among the unreached.

Marriage is Good for the Work

Marriage is not simply a convenient arrangement for companionship and intimacy or a pragmatic structure for the propagation of our species. Marriage is given to us as an image of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5). As Spirit-filled believers, we have an opportunity to live out that image with clarity. Throughout the New Testament, we see that the way we live and act as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children brings glory to God and displays the beauty and wisdom of the gospel (Ephesians 5–6; Colossians 3; Titus 2; 1 Peter 3).

Marriage Reminds Us of Christ’s Love for the Church

As we go to the unreached to proclaim the good news of Jesus, they may deny our message, but they cannot deny our witness.

Marriage resembles astonishing beauty when a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church––when he lays himself down for her, giving up his preferences and his comfort to serve his wife (Ephesians 5:25–33). It’s glorious when a wife respects her husband and submits to him (Ephesians 5:22–24). It is a marvel when parents teach and discipline their children with love, patience, and dignity, and when children obey their parents joyfully. These actions are impossible without the work of the Spirit and are incredibly winsome in a world filled with broken families and troubled relationships. As we go to the unreached to proclaim the good news of Jesus, they may deny our message, but they cannot deny our witness.

Marriage Reveals Our Weaknesses

As we enter new places to proclaim the Gospel and plant churches, the need for teaching, discipleship, and counseling new believers is immense. God’s Word is sufficient to disciple, teach, counsel, and make disciples, but the process can be immeasurably helped if our lives model the change we are teaching. This is a heavy weight and great responsibility, but also an amazing opportunity to use our families and marriages for the advance of the Gospel among the unreached. As biblical principles confront sinful patterns, it is natural for people to look for an easy way out. The work of discipleship and life transformation is slow.

We have seen often in our ministry amongst unreached peoples that if a biblical principle can be somehow rationalized away, marginalized, or otherwise externalized, it is easy for people to ignore it. If people can reasonably charge that we haven’t experienced something, or that what we are teaching is simply Western culture, then they have an excuse to dismiss the difficult things we have to say. This is not to say that a single man can’t teach authoritatively on marriage, parenting, and family issues because the apostle Paul did, but in my experience, when our teaching matches our pattern of life, it is much easier for people to follow.

Marriage Sets an Example for the New Believers

As we go to unreached peoples where there are few models of Christian life and maturity, we need to take great care to explain our idiosyncrasies. Where we live, stemming from the example that has been set by missionaries, there is a common misconception that in order to be a serious Christian you must leave any secular employment and pursue full-time ministry. Certainly, some will enter full-time ministry, but that is not what it means to be a real Christian.

Likewise, if the pioneer missionary is single, there can be a false idea that Christians ought to be single or that leaders must be free from any family entanglements. However, Scripture assumes that many who will be called to leadership will be husbands and fathers. Their leadership and love for their families is a qualification to become an elder.

While a single man can be assessed as an elder, it will be harder to discern how he will lead those under his care. In fact, this scenario is not only a theoretical possibility for missions in our day, but has already proven itself in church history as we can see in the Roman Catholic Church, which requires celibacy for ordination, a tradition that was widely held in the Western church until the Protestant Reformation.

Nonetheless, God will call qualified men––both single and married––who have been assessed and recognized by the church to serve, guide, and lead churches as elders. Likewise, God will use local churches to send both families and singles to the unreached for the glory of his name.

Editor’s note: At Radical, we pray that God would lead local churches to send godly men and women as missionaries to the unreached whether they are single or married. For another perspective on this topic, read Sean DeMars’ article on Why We Should Send Singles to the Unreached.

Clyde and his wife have been serving in church planting and theological education among unreached peoples in South Asia since the beginning of 2015 and are parents to three wonderful boys.


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