Why do sending agencies require missionaries to be members or active in a local church?

“The agency needs to know you have a track record.”

Mission agencies don’t know you from Adam. So they look to your church. Your church should know whether you are a godly person, whether you are trustworthy, and how you have engaged in ministry. The agency will rely on the testimony of your church to know whether they should send you to represent Christ. 

Your church is also likely going to be the major financial support for you if you do become a missionary. It’s hard to raise support without a sending church. Similarly, it’s hard to get organized prayer behind you and bombarding the dark places of this world without a sending church supporting you, holding the ropes emotionally, financially, and spiritually for you. 

Many mission agencies are passionate about church planting. If you’re not a part of a church, you’re probably not going to be a good church planter.

Answer from Justin, who served in both France and Morocco with Pioneers, and is now recruiting and training new missionaries as well as helping local churches develop their own mission strategies.

“The Body of Christ can accomplish so much more.”

Being a part of a local church (regular attendee, member, or just a regular part of a small group) means that you are an active part of the Body of Christ and as a member of the Body of Christ you can serve each other in complementary ways and can accomplish much more as a complete body than as just a part of the body. 

I served in junior high and high school church ministry for a few years before going to the mission field, and those church members, the kids’ parents, and the church leadership grew to trust me and believe in God’s calling on my life. Many of them have been faithful prayer and financial supporters for over twenty years!

“Not forsaking the fellowship of other believers” is not only important for every believer but even more important for someone who senses God calling them to serve him in missions.

Answer from Alan in North Carolina, who has served in missions for 24 years—18 with Pioneers and six with TWR International.

“Because the Local Church Matters”

The Bible is clear that the sending entity of missionaries in the New Testament is the local church. The local church matters. A missionary that is not willing to submit to the authority of the elders in his local church needs to reconsider his/her fit to serve overseas.

We read in Acts 13 that while the local church in Antioch was “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”. This is significant for a couple of reasons. 

First of all, it was in the context of the life of the church, when they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, that Barnabas and Saul were set apart for a specific calling. The church was being obedient and being what it was- a vibrant community of Christ worshipers.

They were not primarily concerned with holding on to their “members” nor were they afraid of their own being “set apart” and leaving. Their primary vision was fulfilled in seeing, shortly after Barnabas and Saul were sent out into the mission field, that the “Gentiles heard [the Gospel], [and] they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed”.

The second reason the above passage is significant is that the local church, after hearing the clear calling of the Holy Spirit, laid hands on them and sent them off. If Barnabas and Saul needed prayer, fasting, laying on of hands and being sent off by the local church in Antioch, how much more are we in need of being obedient to the Scriptural pattern.

If the local church’s primacy in sending off missionaries by the clear leading of the Holy Spirit was important for the apostles and disciples, it ought to be important for the twenty-first-century church.

Answer from Kathy in USA, who has served with Mission Quest.

Local church involvement reveals your calling and gifts

Your involvement in a local church confirms your calling and reveals the gifts or ways in which God plans to use you.

Would you hire someone to do something they had never done before? You might but most prefer seeing that you have an aptitude for something before they invest heavily in you.

God builds into people skills or gifts which he intends to use. That is why he gives them to you. But they don’t come fully grown or fully developed. That takes time and experience.

The more you are involved now, the better off you will be when you land overseas.

AskaMissionary staff.

“Submission to authority is important for all of us.”

One of the spiritual realities of the Kingdom is the necessity to respect authority. Heaven is hierarchical with archangels and angels who have specific responsibilities. Jesus himself said in John 5: 19 “…Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

f Jesus denied his own will to follow the Father’s, we must do the same. God has placed authority structures over us for our benefit (See Romans 13). 

Lucifer was essentially a rebel who refused to respect Kingdom authority. 1 Sam. 15:23 states, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” Since we are called to be members of the body and to fellowship with other believers that we submit to and hold ourselves accountable to, not doing so is a form of rebellion and disobedience to God’s Word. 

Quite frankly, church membership is a sign of spiritual maturity.

One way to read many Bible stories of the great people of faith is to understand them as documentation of how God took proud and independent people and re-formed them into humble servants who learned how to be submissive to God’s good plans.

Ask God to lead you to a mission-minded church that will prepare you for the humble submission that cross-cultural ministry requires.

Answer from Thomas who has served for 18 years with Reformed Church in America in Niger and Haiti.

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