Has your church sent out any missionaries or partnered with a missions organization to help spread the gospel overseas or in your local community? Have you ever wondered why missions are important in the church? What is the church’s role in missions?
What is the relationship between missions and the local church? The remarkable relationship between missions and the local church is that they enable each other to proclaim the kingdom of God and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ both to the local community and the world. When the local church and missions work together, they get greater opportunities to partner with the work God is doing in the world and be a part of Him transforming lives.
In this blog, we will look at what the relationship between missions and the local church looks like.
Missions & The Local Church
There are many ways that missions and the local church can partner together in the work God is doing all over the world.
In the New Testament, we see the local church devoting themselves to Biblical teachings, sharing meals, inviting each other into their homes, and praising the Lord together.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.Acts 2:42-47 ESV
Later we read in Acts of a local church praying over and sending out two mature believers from their midst because the Lord had called them to go and preach the gospel. This is a picture of how the local church can partner with God’s heart in missions.
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.Acts 13:1-3 ESV
We also see in the New Testament that some churches supported the disciples financially, but their biggest encouragement was through prayer.
Paul writes in many of his letters to the churches to thank them for praying for him and wanting to supply for his needs.
He also thanks God for the churches and for how they are sharing their faith and love with others around them.
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.
Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,Colossians 1:3-6 ESV
The Local Church’s Role: The Sender
Missions is an extension of the church to the world, and the church plays an important role in enabling people to follow the Great Commission.
Those who are interested in missions need to find a good sending church that is established upon God’s Word and focused on Jesus and be mission-minded.
The local sending church should help develop a long-term vision and partnership with the missionaries they are working with. They should also be a church that wants to partner with the missionary for who they are, and not just what they are doing.
This is important to take note of because plans often change on the mission field and God may show missionaries other ministries or opportunities to be a part of.
The local church and the missionary need to remain open and flexible to what God wants to do and not take their presuppositions to the field.
If you are wanting to become a missionary and are going through the process of raising support, talk to your church or find a church that can provide community and a home base to come back to.
When you find a local sending church, ask them if they would be willing to partner with you and send you to where God has put it on your heart to go.
If their vision for missions lines up with your vision, then they may be a great sending church for you.
The local church and missionary should never move forward in partnership if they cannot agree with what God has called them to do.
If they have different visions, they need to pray and talk about it together. If they cannot agree, the missionary needs to find a different sending church that is in agreement with where they are wanting to go.
You can learn more about the local church here.
The Missions Agency Role: The Facilitator
Both missions and the local church have a unique opportunity to show God’s love to each other and reach others with His love.
Missions agencies are missionary sending organizations that help people get onto the field.
If you are considering missions, it is important to find a missions agency that recognizes the centrality of the local church in the sending process.
If your local church is not already partnered with a missions agency or sending organization, ask your church if they would be willing to partner with one.
Missions agencies can work together with the local church to provide pre-field orientation, commissioning, financial support, member care, and home assignment.
The Role Of The Local Receiving Church: The Helper
Another role that needs to be discussed before looking at the different ways that missions and the local church can work together to send the missionary is to look at the local receiving church.
The local receiving church is the local church in the cultural context that the missionary was sent to. This church welcomes the missionary into its midst and helps handle the inculturation of the missionary.
During this process, the missionary is learning the language and interacting with the people and the culture around them with the goal of creating and building friendships.
Unlike the local sending church, the local receiving church is not responsible for all of the areas that the local sending church is.
It is this church’s job to teach the missionary about the culture and to help them stay engaged with the local culture.
How Missions & The Local Church Work Together
Below are some examples of what the relationship between missions and both local churches should look like.
1. Engaging In Partnership
Partnering with a missions agency presents an open door for the local church to partner with God’s heart for both the local community and the world.
Both a sending and receiving local church have opportunities to partner with several mission agencies, which will then either train and send members of their church to be missionaries.
Having open communication and collaboration is the key to cultivating relationships on both sides.
If there is a concern about the person on the field, the local sending church can reach out to the missions agency and contact them about the missionary that is on the field.
The local receiving church can also partner with the mission agency by providing ministry and work opportunities and introducing them to people within the local community.
For the receiving church, this is beneficial because they get to be a part of welcoming and establishing new believers in their church family. The sending church gets to rejoice at how their partnership is enabling the missionary to do the work God has called them to do.
2. Provide Training & Classes
The local church has the incredible opportunity to provide hands-on training for equipping people to be intentional and live on mission.
Before going on the mission field, people need to gain the heart of God. You can do this by studying the Bible, theology, and missions by hosting courses like Perspectives, a fifteen-week intensive on knowing God and understanding His heart for the world.
It is also important that people study who Jesus is and what He taught so that they can be obedient to His command to go and make disciples of all nations.
Crossing culture is done in many ways and is one of the reasons why studying the Bible is so important.
If you are wanting to be a missionary you need to be able to break down cultural barriers and share the gospel message in a way people can understand it within their context.
By providing classes, the local church is able to enable people to go and do what the Lord has put on their hearts to do.
Another unique characteristic of the relationship between missions and the local church is that the local church has the amazing role of discipling members of the church to go out, live on missions, and plant more churches.
Missions are all about making disciples who follow Jesus and teaching others how to follow Him. It is looking at your life with purpose and seeing beyond into eternity.
This is one of the most important roles of the church. To make disciples is to teach people how to live out the gospel practically and to carry out the commands of Jesus daily. This can only happen if the church is first exemplifying this to the people they are wanting to send out as missionaries.
4. Providing Outreach & Serving Opportunities
The local church can provide opportunities for members of their church to serve in their community and to grow and be a part of what God is doing through the local church.
Before a local church becomes a sending church, they first need to be a serving and missional church.
This is critical for missionaries before they go out on mission.
Having the opportunity to gain experience serving with the church will give them confidence in meeting new people and using their spiritual gifts.
Then, the local church knows and understands that they are sending out a person who has served and shared the gospel with people in their local community first before sending them overseas.
5. Giving Financially
The local church has the opportunity to partner with the work God is doing by giving financially to members of their church who are called to go overseas.
Not every sending church financially supports the missionaries they send out, and it is not the role of the receiving church to provide financially for the missionary.
However, mission agencies who partner with the local church can help walk alongside the local church in what it looks like to support the missionary, either spiritually or financially.
One of the important aspects of the relationship between missions and the local church is equipping missionaries to effectively do the work the Lord has put before them.
Local receiving churches can help a missionary learn how to appropriately engage with culture, learn the language, and interact with people within the culture.
They can also equip missionaries with how to do church planting within the culture appropriately.
Native pastors and believers have more knowledge and insight into the culture and community and thus can be incredible people to learn from.
By sitting down with a local pastor you can learn the historical and cultural history of ministry that has happened in the country and region you are in. From there, you can then develop strategies for reaching the people around you in a culturally appropriate way.
It is important to learn how people have responded to the gospel in the past within the cultural context you are in.
The missions agency and local church can also help encourage a missionary to grow in Godly character, develop sound Biblical doctrine, and practice righteousness.
7. Member Care
Both the missions agency and local sending church are to care for those who are serving overseas.
If a missionary is going through a hard time, it is the responsibility of the missionary to reach out to their sending agency and to communicate their needs to their local church.
To do this, the local church needs to communicate well and stay in regular contact. One idea is to put someone in charge who can stay connected with the missionary and be an advocate for them to the entire church.
Church leaders should also regularly check up on their people and try to understand what they are going through so that they can comfort and listen to them.
Oftentimes missionaries can come to these leaders for help and receive wisdom and insight on how to continue in effective ministry.
The local church is responsible for taking care of the people they send out. If their missionaries are struggling with finances, marriage, trust, faith, and sin struggles, encourage them to seek healing and restoration by providing Christ-centered counseling.
Missionaries also need time to rest and relax and be with the Lord. Both the local church and missions agency can provide restful retreats and even seminars to help their missionaries grow in their faith in the Lord.
Prayer is one of the most important ways the local church can partner with missions and support the missionaries they send out into the field.
It is essential that the local church is praying for their missionaries on a regular basis. It is also critical for the mission sending agency to be praying for the missionaries they send out on the field regularly.
There are many ways a missionary can mobilize prayer among their local church, either by sharing with the church or sending frequent updates and prayer requests.
It’s critical there are people who are committed to praying for the missionary as they are obedient to what God has called them to.
If you are a missionary or considering missions, find people who will intercede on your behalf and who are committed to praying for you daily. Prayer is so powerful!
Often when missionaries return from the field, they will be needing a place to stay and a car to get around.
Missions agencies can work together with the local churches to provide housing and help with other needs while missionaries are in the states.
Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.3 John 1:8 ESV
One of the hardest parts of being a missionary is that home no longer feels like home and although strangely familiar, they will be missing the culture they are in.
Others, however, may be relieved to be back in the states and do not want to return. They will need the same comfort and care as those who are missing their host countries.
It is important for people who have been overseas for a long time to reconnect with others. The local church can create meaningful ways for them to be part of the congregation and to feel welcome back in their own culture again.
10. Short Term Trips
Sending or receiving short-term teams should be prayerfully considered by the missionary, local church, and mission sending agency.
The local sending church can send short-term teams to visit with the long-term team. However, they need to be wary of how healthy the long-term team is and if would do more harm than good with sending over a team for 1-2 weeks.
This is where the missions agency and local receiving church can speak into this matter. They may wish to have more people come help with their ministry, but it is important that they consider the risks involved.
Short-term teams are not always sensitive to culture and may not be able to develop deep relationships.
The missionary and their team also need to prayerfully consider taking on a short-term team for a few weeks. This is important to discuss as a team how it will affect the ministry they are a part of, as well as their relationship with the local sending and receiving church and mission agency.
Check out this post to learn more about short trip mission trips & if they help or not.
What Is Your Role?
The relationship between missions and the local church is incredible.
Not only is it a partnership where the local church gets to expand its borders and share the gospel elsewhere, but missions help the church obey the great commission and make disciples who make more disciples.
Are you called to be a missionary? To cross cultures and share the gospel with people who have not yet accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior?
Being a missionary does not mean that you need to go overseas to do missions. The correct definition of a missionary is to cross cultural barriers and share the gospel.
Right now, if you are not actively pursuing missions but want to in the future, or you are looking to serve overseas soon, start getting involved in your local church.
Find opportunities to serve and engage in the community.
Ultimately, we must remember that God is the sender of the person to do His will, but He also desires for the global church to be in harmony with one another and to partner together for His purposes.
The local church and missions is just one of the many ways that He unites the body through the good news of His Son, Jesus Christ.