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

A Model for Modern Missions (part two)

January 21, 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 two. Part one is here.

3.  Paul was Recommended

“And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.”  Acts 14:26Â

“And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.” Acts 15:40Â

What does it mean to be recommended?  The two verses teach two separate ideas about being recommended.  First, Paul was recommended to God, meaning to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage.  The church of Antioch realized that they had to commit Paul to God’s charge.  A local church does this as they regularly pray for their missionaries.  There must be a pleading with God that He will take care of and use each missionary.

Second, there is the idea of being recommended to others.  It is important for other churches to know that a missionary is equipped and ready.  No other church should support a missionary if that missionary is not recommended and in good standing with his sending church.  In Acts 15:40 it says, “being recommended by the brethren.”  This recommendation by the brethren stresses the importance for a missionary to have the support of his local church.

Other churches must look at the recommendation of the sending church before it considers the recommendation of a mission board.  Unfortunately, this is not the case among the majority of independent Baptists today.  The local church knows the missionary better than a board does.  Boards should not even take missionaries who have problems with their local church.  This undermines the local church, which clearly undermines the teachings of the New Testament.  Many boards supercede the authority of the local church in this area.  It is amazing that some boards are so quick to take a church’s recommendation and yet so slow to take a church’s criticism of a missionary.  Many boards adopt the missionary into their “church” family, and they speak for and take the place of the sending church.  Because of this wrong relationship, boards often take the side of the missionary instead of his sending church.  We must always remember that a truly Biblical recommendation is “by the brethren” of his local church.

4.  Paul Reaped

Paul knew firsthand that the law of sowing and reaping never fails.  Whenever there is sowing, there should be some reaping.  How much reaping is God’s business-“God… giveth the increase.“  It is important to notice that there is very little emphasis on or information about the number of converts in Paul’s ministry.  The emphasis was not on numbers, but on the power of God.  Paul always gave glory to the Lord for any results.Â

5.  Paul Returned

“And when they had preached the word…they went…to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they had fulfilled.” Acts 14:25-26

Paul returned to his sending church after much missionary activity.  We call this furlough.  The issue was not whether or not they should return home.  Not returning to the sending church is not right.  Let us consider some facts concerning the missionaries’ return to their local church.

Where they Returned

Paul and Barnabas returned to their own church, “from whence they had been recommended” (Acts 14:26, 18:22-23).  When a missionary comes home on furlough, he should spend most of his time at his sending church.  That is the church that has authorized him, and that is where he is to be accountable.  Besides, a member of a church should be an active member in his church.  Furlough is not an excuse to travel the countryside for pleasure purposes.

When they Returned

We notice that the missionaries did not return home until they finished their work for that trip.  This implies that they must have had some goals and that they had a plan to get a certain amount of work accomplished before they returned home.  The main point to notice is that they were concerned about doing the job right.Â

Each furlough may come at a different time; but the missionary must have God’s leading on this matter, and through counsel with his pastor, a furlough should be planned.Â

Why they Returned

The very reason for their return was to report what God had been doing.  They reported to their home church.  We see that “they rehearsed all that God had done.”  This was not a one-sided report.  There were blessings and there were struggles to report.  They were not trying to make a name for themselves; they gave God the credit for what was done – “that God had done.”

They reported to other churches also (Acts 15:1-4).  This trip was triggered by the fact that Paul and Barnabas had experienced something firsthand that would benefit other churches.  Their home church thought it would be good to send them out and tell others what they had heard.  Paul and Barnabas did not take it upon themselves to go out and be a blessing to other churches; they were sent out.  We see this clearly from the passage, “being brought on their way by the church.”  The missionaries went through many areas including Phenice, Samaria, and Jerusalem.  This is evidence that a Biblical furlough would include going to other churches to report God’s doings.

6. Paul Remained

“And there they abode long time with the disciples…”

“…he went down to Antioch.  And after he had spent some time there, he departed…”Â

Acts 14:28, 18:22-23

How long did they remain?

The Bible does not tell us how long Paul and Barnabas stayed in Antioch after their first missionary trip.  It does tell us that it was a “long time.”  Other than it should be for a long time, we are given no absolute length of time that a furlough should last.  Because the pastor of the church is the leader, he should determine the length of the furlough.  Many things must be considered: the spiritual state of the missionary, the needs of the people on the mission field, the obligation to report to supporting churches, and the needs of the home church.  The traditional one-year furlough after four years of service should be plenty of time to accomplish what needs to be done.

What did they do on furlough?

They were abiding.  The first thing we see was that “they abode.”  The word abide means “to dwell, to continue, to remain.”  Simply stated, they stayed around and lived there for a while.  A missionary should not feel guilty about spending time at his local church-it is Biblical.

Antioch was their home!  A missionary must remember where home is.  It is great to have a heart for the people you are ministering to, but home is at your local church.  Without this realization, many missionaries lose sight of the fact that they are members of a local church.  Each member has a part in the body, and we need one another.  I Corinthians 12:20-21 says, “But now are they many members, yet but one body.  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”  The missionary needs his church, and the church needs the missionary.  Neither one can forget about the other.Â

They were active.  Acts 15:35 tells us, “Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.”  I believe a missionary is entitled to spend time with family and take a normal vacation, but he is not primarily home for “R & R.”  He is to be active.  Paul and Barnabas did not just sit around, they taught and preached.  This seems to be what they spent most of their time doing while at home.  They had learned some things that they could pass on to others.Â

7. Paul Was Reassigned

“And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do…

And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.” Acts 15:36, 40

The Lord led the missionary

The Lord will always lead his men.  God moved upon the missionary as to what to do next.  Because God led the missionary, it does not mean the pastor and church are not involved.  A good pastor will understand that God will lead another God-called man.  The missionary, however, will not be led to do something that the pastor prohibits.  God will not lead the missionary to contradict the pastor.  Scripture indicates that God can lead the missionary without undermining the pastor’s authority and leadership.  The key to this relationship is communication.  A good pastor wants to be a help to his missionaries, and he will not want to “micro-manage” everything that he does.  However, the pastor must be kept abreast of the missionary’s plans and activities.Â

The church supported the missionary’s leading

 Again, it was the local church that sent Paul out on this trip. It is interesting that Paul was the one who was recommended by the church, not Barnabas.  Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement, and Paul was the one whom the church thought should go out and carry on the missionary activity.  This gives clear evidence that the local church reserves the right to send out or not send out whomever it chooses.  Because the church recommended Paul, we see much about Paul’s efforts in the rest of the book of Acts.  Because the church did not recommend Barnabas, he is not even mentioned again.  God places a great importance on missionaries needing the approval of the local church!

Churches should evaluate their missionaries before sending them off on another term.  A church should not recommend a self-willed man such as Barnabas.  Missionaries must remember that, no matter how much God has used them, they are still under the authority of the local church.  There is a danger of becoming too independent-minded while out on the field, and that danger is kept in check by an appropriate furlough at the home church.

8. Paul Reproduced

Missions involves training others

Paul invested time in the church leaders. A classic example that best illustrates this is when he was at Miletus and called for the elders of the church of Ephesus.  Paul said to them, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you…For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God…I have shewed you all things (Acts 20:20, 27, 35).  Paul clearly testified that he did everything in his power to train these pastors to do their job.  For him to have shown them “all things” he must have invested hundreds of hours into these special men.  In the same passage he also charged them to, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock” (Acts 20:28).  Paul believed that it was his responsibility to warn these pastors of things in their own lives and in the lives of the people of the church.

Paul also invested time in future missionaries.  Most of the time, he had men with him who worked with him (e.g. Silas, Timothy, Luke, Titus, Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, Trophimus, Crescens, Silvanus, Sosthenes, John Mark, and Demas).  Not all of these men remained faithful, but many did.  Some of these men whom Paul had trained went on to help the churches in Paul’s absence.  Of Timothy it is said in I Corinthians 16:10, “…he worketh the work of the Lord, as I also do.”  He did what Paul was doing.  Paul reproduced himself in Timothy!

A missionary should always be working with some young men who have surrendered themselves to the work of the Lord.  By taking them along on visitation and soulwinning opportunities, they will gain practical experience in the ministry.  The missionary must also spend time teaching them the doctrines of the Bible.

Missions involves training others to train others

Paul later gave the charge of training others to one of his trainees.  Paul told Timothy in II Timothy 2:1-2, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”  A missionary can multiply his efforts if he takes the time to train some faithful men to do the same thing he is doing.  Training men to train other men is the most important task of the missionary!  The main task of the missionary is to reproduce himself.

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  1. January 22, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Brother Jeff:

    I’m wondering about point three. I doesn’t seem to me to be sound exegesis to develop the point that a missionary needs public recommendation of his church for ministry. Both texts include verbs with objects. And, both verses are speaking directly to the same point – a church must commit it’s men to God’s grace. To say that the recommendations Acts 14:26 and 15:40 have something to do with public recommendation is stretching the verb. That’s like preaching on interpersonal verbal communication using the bible texts that use the word communication. Bible communication was giving, not talking.

    Aside from that the only mission boards I find in the Bible are in Acts 27:44. 🙂

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