Home > Missions, Voegtlin > A Model for Modern Missions (part one)

A Model for Modern Missions (part one)

January 14, 2008

This philosophy of missions was developed by a friend of mine who is a missionary out of our church to Zambia, Africa.  I went to undergraduate and master’s classes with Dave Olson.  He then worked at our church; he pastored a small church in Nebraska; and he is now ministering in Kabwe, Zambia.  This is part one.

The Bible is the basis of our faith and practice.  If we want to know what we should believe about any given topic, we should consult the Bible.  The subject of missions is no different.  Too many times we accept how churches do things as the Bible way of doing things.  We must remember that Bible policy should always outweigh church polity.

The term philosophy should not intimidate anyone.  Your philosophy is what you believe, and you will surely live what you believe.  If you are uncertain about what you believe, you will be uncertain about how to live.  If you do not know what you believe about missions, you will not know how to be involved in missions properly.  We need to get a Bible view of missions, not our own view or someone else’s view.  If our philosophy of missions is wrong, we should not be afraid to change it.

In the Bible we discover many wonderful truths about the subject of missions.  God has given us some great examples to follow in His Word.  Paul was not necessarily the first missionary, but he was an effective one.  Because there is much information on the life and ministry of Paul, he and his co-laborers provide an excellent model for modern missions.  It is very important to notice that Paul’ s activities are centered on the local church.  We will consider several relationships of Paul with the local church.

1.  Paul was Recruited

“Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas…and Saul.  As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”  Acts 13:1-2

Paul was recruited by the Holy Ghost during a prayer meeting at his local church.  There are many reasons why God recruited him for this missionary work.  Obviously, it was God’s plan for Paul to be involved in mission work, but what are some practical lessons we can learn from this?  God does not use lazy people; He uses people who are already serving Him in some capacity.  Paul was busy for the Lord – “they ministered to the Lord.”

Paul was an Example of One with Ministry Experience

Paul had some experience previous to this new endeavor.  In other words, he was not a 21-year “rookie” fresh out of Bible college.  He had already been preaching (Acts 9:20-22, 28-29), teaching (Acts 11:25-26), and involved with relief activity (Acts 11:27-30).  He had already been seeing results from these efforts as noted in Acts 12:24, “…the word of God grew and multiplied.”  In the next verse, we see that he was faithful and not a quitter.  Notice that, “…Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry…”

Unfortunately, some missionaries are sent to the foreign field with little or no idea what the ministry is all about!  In many cases, four years of college is not enough training to go to the mission field.  Why?  With no previous practical experience, a missionary has had limited responsibility and/or accountability in the local church setting.  Experience in local church ministries during Bible college is a help, but is not always enough.  Some say that only one of a hundred who surrender to missions ever get there.  Of those who do get to the field, about half never make it past the first term.  A 50% dropout rate after the first term should tell us there is a problem.  It is a clear indication that more experience is necessary.

If missionaries had some practical experience in a local church working under the authority of a good pastor, they would better know how a local church operates.  A missionary is a church planter, and it is hard to plant a church when one does not sufficiently understand the workings of the local church.

John Mark was an Example of One without Ministry Experience

“…and they had also John to their minister…and John departing from them returned to Jerusalem…And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.  But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.”  Acts 13:5, 13; 15:37-38

There is clear evidence of Paul’s experience prior to his first successful missions trip.  We are also given an account of John Mark, a man who failed in his first missions endeavor.  It is interesting to note that, differing from Paul, there is no record of previous experience.

John Mark started out serving the Lord but quit after a while.  His condition was bad enough that the apostle Paul did not think it wise to take him on the next trip.  I think it is wrong to assume that John did not have a heart for the Lord.  He must have shown a zeal and passion for the Lord in the first place or he would not have been taken on Paul’s first trip.  In fact, later in his life Paul said of him, “he is profitable to me for the ministry,” and he even penned a book of the Bible, the gospel of Mark.  All this proves a noteworthy point:  having a good heart does not mean one is ready for service.  What was John’s problem?  Although he had a good, willing heart, he was not ready.  He needed more time to mature and get the experience needed.

Elsewhere in the Bible we are warned not to send men off into a position before they are ready.  I Timothy 3:6 states that a pastor should not be a novice (beginner).  Paul also warned Timothy in I Timothy 5:22, “Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure.”  A pastor who takes responsibility for ordaining and sending someone into the ministry will be accountable for that man’s sin.  It is no small responsibility when a pastor sends a man out of his church – God holds him accountable!  A pastor has every right to decide whether or not a person is ready to be sent out.  Too many good men have been hindered because they were sent out without being ready.

2.  Paul was Relegated

“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.  So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed…”  Acts 13:2-4

The word “relegated” simply means authorized or assigned.  This is such an important part of a missionary’s credentials.  He has to have permission and an assignment to go to the mission field.  In fact, the above verses mention that “they [the church] sent them away” and that they were “sent forth by the Holy Ghost.”  There were two sending agents: the church and the Holy Spirit.  A man truly authorized by God has to have the blessing of his local church.  Holy Ghost approval and local church approval seem to go hand in hand.  When a missionary’s pastor no longer believes that the missionary should be on the field, then we better question if the missionary really has God’s approval to be there.  A missionary cannot have the power of the Holy Ghost when he is out of sorts with his local church.

Even the term missionary indicates the fact that he is assigned.  Missionary is defined as one sent to propagate religion.  If a missionary is a sent one, then somebody must be doing the sending.  To be a local church missionary is more than just talk.  It means that he is sent by his church to do a work for them.  The missionary is just an extension of his church.Â

           What does it mean to be  sent out of a Local Church?

A missionary has a pastor.

If a missionary is representing his church on a foreign field, how can he say that he is not accountable to it?   If he is a member of a local church, then he has a pastor.  Whether he is ten miles or ten thousand miles away from his church, he still has a pastor.Â

There are reasons why the missionary needs a pastor.  First, he needs the pastor’s authority.  Because he represents the church, he needs the pastor’s input on major decisions.  The missionary is not acting on his own whim; he needs the guidance and approval of his pastor.  Second, he needs accountability.  There are too many missionaries who do not answer to anyone so they do their own thing, or maybe even nothing.  He has to answer to someone, and that person according to the Bible is his pastor.  Third, a missionary needs his pastor for assistance.  Missionaries are people and have problems like anyone else.  In fact, sometimes their problems may be more numerous at times because they are laboring in Satan’s strongholds.  Missionaries get discouraged, have family struggles, need encouragement, and may even require reproof.  These are just a few things that their pastor can help them with.Â

A missionary is not a pastor.

The only way you can have a pastor is if you are not a pastor.  Baptists do not believe in bishop hierarchy amongst other churches.  If a missionary is a member of his home (sending) church, then he has a pastor and therefore cannot be a pastor of another church.  Although some missionaries think they are pastors, it is not a Biblical approach.  That is not to say that God could not call a missionary to become a pastor; He may do so.  The point is that the office of pastor and missionary are two separate offices.  There are several points to consider.

First, Paul did not pastor the churches he started.  We like to consider Paul as our premier example of a missionary, but fail to follow that example.  He won souls, taught the people, and ordained pastors.  Practically speaking, if a missionary starts out as the pastor of a church he starts, would the people want him to leave?  No.  However, if he establishes the fact that he is not the pastor from the onset, people will be working toward getting and accepting a pastor when he has trained one.

Second, Paul’s helpers were not pastors.   They simply helped the churches that they went to.  I have heard many say that Titus was the pastor of Crete, but this is actually impossible.  Crete was an island, and a pastor leads a church, not an island.  In fact, Titus 1:5 tells us why he was in Crete, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.”  Paul left Titus in Crete to finish carrying out what Paul would have done had he stayed there.  The truth of the matter is that there were several churches in different cities and Paul did not have enough time to train and ordain men for all the churches.  Titus did this work as a missionary, not a pastor.

Timothy also was not a pastor.  Many have said that he was the pastor of Ephesus, but this ignores known facts in the Bible.  In I Timothy 1:3 we are told that Paul was travelling on and left Timothy to finish some business.  We must remember that previous to this, Acts 20 reveals that the church of Ephesus already had elders (pastors).  Paul had warned them in Acts 20:29-30, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”  It is apparent that Timothy was left in Ephesus to help straighten out the mess that Paul had prophesied would happen.  Timothy was not the elder (pastor) of the church; they already had elders.  He was just there to help the elders!  Missionaries are to help churches that they have gotten started, not pastor them or abandon them.

If a missionary is not a pastor, what is he?  What office does he hold?

He is an evangelist.

First, Timothy was an evangelist.  The term missionary is not in the Bible; however, what missionaries do is in the Bible.  II Timothy 4:5 gives us insight that Timothy’s missionary work was really the “work of an evangelist.”  This is vital for us to recognize because God does not choose words randomly.   The life of Timothy provides a guideline for what the work of an evangelist is.  He was sent out by his local church in Lystra (Acts 16:2) and went about establishing the churches (Acts 16:4-5).  Timothy was as much a missionary as was Paul.

Timothy provides us with one more valuable lesson.  Evangelists should meet the same qualifications as pastors.  Many say that the qualifications given for the ministry were only given for pastors, but not for evangelists and missionaries.  This is absolutely ignorant of the very context where the major qualifications are given.  Just after the qualifications for pastors were given in I Timothy 3, we read in verses 14-15, “These things write I unto thee…that thou [Timothy – the one doing the work of an evangelist] mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.”  Clearly the qualifications were given for bishops, but this indicates that Timothy (the evangelist) was to be held to the same qualifications.

Second, Timothy is not our only evidence that our modern day missionary is really the office of the evangelist.  We must also consider Ephesians 4:11-12, “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.” This passage lists the gifts to the local church.  It is accepted among Bible believers that the first two offices, apostles and prophets, no longer exist.  They are not necessary because we have all of the revelation from God that we are going to have in the Bible.  However, the evangelist and the pastor/teacher do exist.  Where is missionary on this list?  The word is not found, but the office of evangelist is.  Christians today commonly misunderstand the Biblical office of the evangelist.  His main job is “the perfecting of the saints.”  That is what missionaries are to do.  If there truly is the office of a missionary, then it has to be the office of an evangelist.

Third, we should consider what other evangelists in the Bible did.  Other than Timothy, we only have “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8) as an example in Scripture.  There are four striking resemblances of this evangelist to what we would consider a missionary.  First, he was a member of a local church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:5).  Second, he left Jerusalem and “preached the gospel in many villages…”  (Acts 8:5).  Third, he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 8:25).  Fourth, he went out again – to the Ethiopian in the wilderness (Acts 8:26), to Azotus (Acts 8:40), and “…and passing through he preached in all the cities…” (Acts 8:40).

Philip was a member of a local church, was sent out and preached, returned to his local church, and went out again to see more souls saved and to do more preaching.  This sounds a lot like what Paul did.  It describes what we say a traditional missionary does.  It seems conclusive that the office of an evangelist really is the Biblical justification and description of a missionary. Â

Following the Biblical example of the evangelist/missionary, there is no way that a missionary could be considered a pastor.  The office of the pastor is an entirely separate office.  Missionaries are not pastors; they need pastors.  That is how God designed it.  To stray from God’s design is to create problems while trying to do His work.  His work must be done His way!

  1. Art Dunham
    January 15, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Brother Kent,

    A wonderful post! I believe you are absolutely correct on the office of “evangelist” being our modern-day “missionary.” With your permission, I will use this outline in my teaching classes.

    You’ve made me think again! I will have to study more thoroughly about whether Timothy was a pastor or evangelist. Good, practical exposition.

  2. Art Dunham
    January 15, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Brother Jeff,

    I am sorry that I said that you were Kent. Sometimes I’m not as smart or as quick as I think I am.

    But, still, good post!

  3. Bobby
    January 15, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Lot’s of good stuff in the article. Just a few weeks ago I preached in the church that Dave’s brother is a member of. It is in North Windham, Maine. We actually had Dave and the family here once.

    I’ve studied and taught through 1 and 2 Timothy and I can’t find where Timothy was an evangelist. He was told to “do the work of an evangelist,” but there is no Bible statement that he was filled the “office” of evangelist.

    Philip was certainly an evangelist and a study of the word “evangelist” and his work reveals that he was doing what the modern missionary does as far as preaching the Gospel and baptizing the converts.

    Paul’s office is simple. He was an Apostle. That is clear. Just like Philip’s office is clear.

    I find it hard to be emphatic concerning Timothy’s “office” since it is not stated. However, it is clear that he was responsible to follow the instructions of Paul the Apostle. An apostolic assistant perhaps?

    2 Timothy one indicates that he was ordained. Ordained to what? I tend to think pastor and he certainly was obligated to lead, feed, and protect one of the Lord’s flocks.

    I’m out for now. Have a great day.

  1. January 21, 2008 at 1:03 am
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