The church is the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15). It is the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12), of which He is the head (Ephesians 5:23). God has chosen to do His work in this age through the church. Baptism (Acts 2:41), the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34), giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), exercising God-given gifts (1 Corinthians 14:12), sending forth laborers (Romans 10:15; Acts 13:1-3), and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20; Mark 16:15) are undeniably connected to the church. Since the times of the New Testament, the work of God has been inseparable from the church. Grasping the importance of the church is needed for a missionary to fulfill his role on the mission field effectively.
The Great Commission can be divided into two evident sections: evangelism and discipleship. The church and the people of God begin by telling the sinners, but they continue by teaching the saints. The task cannot be accomplished without the church. The church is needed for “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
As Mark Coffey, a missionary in South Africa, says, “If they have a church, they have a chance.” Every city and every area needs a gospel-preaching church. The church is God’s training camp to spread the gospel worldwide.
A missionary goes to the field with ambitions, hopes, finances, preparation, and plans. There’s hope for people in that area while the missionaries are present, but what happens when the missionary leaves? If a church is established, the chance of more people being saved and more being taught is greater for everyone. If the missionary starts multiple churches, clearly the impact is greater. The beautiful fact is that the missionary can prayerfully plan to start multiple churches, hence helping cause the greatest impact possible. Let’s consider a few things a missionary will do to start multiple churches:
- Every church needs a local pastor.
It’s not the job of a missionary to pastor every church, although he will certainly need to be a pastor for a while to teach others how to pastor. A missionary will pray and be attentive from the very start for those whom God may use to be prospective pastors. He will love them, equip them, pray for them, be patient with them, and help them successfully lead others.
- Missionaries must keep moving forward.
The crowd in Mark 1:38 wanted to set Jesus up as their leader for that area. Jesus responded saying, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also.” A missionary will get a map and a burden to prayerfully plan where churches need to start all over a city and country. A missionary won’t settle in so much that he will build a perfect, comfortable church he will never leave. The philosophy of one mega-church versus multiple smaller churches will affect how he does ministry. He will keep the map in front of him. He will constantly tell his church and perspective leaders the need for more churches and pray that God will help him start more churches.
- Missionary church plants don’t need to be large. It is possible!
The average church in the US that sends out a missionary is around 60 people. It’s not just the large churches supporting and sending missionaries; it’s the smaller ones, too. Many of them have bi-vocational pastors, not full-time supported by the church. It is sometimes thought that a church cannot send a missionary or start another church if they only have 50–60 people, but that’s proven to be the perfect size for sending out laborers. Understanding this will help the missionary look at the mission field with belief, sharing with his congregation that God can use them to start other churches.
If you would like to find out more about what it means to be a missionary, click here. Jason Holt and Jeffrey Bush discuss the difference between a missionary and a pastor.