“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:”
The ministry of missions is one of co-laboring with others in the ministry. The Great Commission was not given to missionaries, pastors, Jews, Gentiles or Americans. The Great Commission was given to the local church, which is made up of individual members. Therefore, missions involves local churches partnering with missionaries to fulfill the church’s responsibility to evangelize the world. The purpose of missions is given to us in the Scriptures, and it still works today!
- Preach the gospel and plant churches. First and foremost, the missionary is sent with the goal of reaching the lost. If he is not doing this, he is not fulfilling that for which he was sent forth. Whatever other good he may be doing, winning souls to Christ is the main purpose of his mission.
- For the perfecting of the saints. In addition to winning the lost, the purpose of missions is to see these new babes in Christ grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord. This is why church-planting is so important. We cannot only win them to Christ; we have to bring them into a local church where they can grow and mature in their Christian walk. In order for the new Christian to be strengthened and encouraged, it is imperative that he is under sound preaching and around good Christian fellowship to develop new relationships and fill the void that will be left after his conversion.
- For the work of the ministry. This is perhaps, more than any other aspect, where we are failing in missions today. We are not preparing God’s people on the mission field for the work of the ministry. We place too much emphasis on the disparity between the missionary and the national, building a gap between the leadership and the laity. The missionary should try to involve the members of the church in every aspect of the ministry. If my vision for a new Christian is that they one day be a Sunday school teacher, I would begin by asking if they could just come to the class one Sunday a month and help with the refreshments table before class starts. Then I would ask if they would be able to go make a Sunday school visit with me. A few months later, I might ask if they could help me with a class activity. During this time, the young Christian has begun to think of this class as “their own” and with ownership comes the willingness to take on added responsibility. When the need is presented to them to serve in the church by teaching a class, they may be more willing to do so because they have already had a part in the ministry for several months. With God’s help, the Lord prepares the lay people to take on responsibilities such as these in the church, and it is part of the bigger picture of the purpose of missions.
- For the edifying of the body of Christ. All that we do in worldwide missions is for the edifying of the body of Christ. In reality, the reason for involving God’s people in the work of the church is not simply to build that class or increase attendance. The purpose for placing them in positions of service in the church is to build them up in the Lord. It is in order to build God’s people. It is for the edifying of the church.
The Great Commission is not limited to American churches. It is also our responsibility on the mission field to win, teach, train, and send out church planters, Christian leaders, and missionaries from these churches to carry out the mission given to those individual churches. Paul taught and practiced this principle. Great missionaries of the past preached and worked by this principle. This same truth and practice will still work in our generation. May we work together, both sending church and missionary, to preach the gospel, plant churches, and train new Christians to go out and participate in the Great Commission.
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David Sloan serves as pastor of the Spanish Department of North Valley Baptist Church. He and his family were missionaries in the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East, where he served as United States representative to the Christian Caucus in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. He and his wife Jolene have five children. Bro. Sloan is part of a missionary heritage of fourteen families who serve on the mission field, spanning seven countries and four continents. He is also the Missions Director at Golden State Baptist College.