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The Local Church's Role in Mobilizing Missionaries

This article aims to give a succinct summary of the local church's role in mobilizing missionaries according to the following outline: (1) defining terms; (2) the mobilization task of the local church; (3) the role of mission sending agencies.



Gospel. The gospel is the good news that God has made a way for sinners to be restored to Himself and to His good design through the God-man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5-6).

Disciple. A disciple is a follower of Jesus Christ who, through an abiding relationship with Christ, will experience transformation in every aspect of life (transformed heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, purpose). [1] Because every believer is called to make disciples, every believer is involved in the mission of God (John 15:16). Sharing the gospel doesn't make someone a missionary. Sharing the gospel is the fruit of being a Christian—the inevitable result of a true and abiding relationship with Christ. A high view of God brings "springs of living water" to the most desolate of places (John 4). Thus, the mission of every church (made up of disciples) is most immediately tied to making and training disciples in its' God-given place.

Church. A local church is comprised of (1) an assembly of born-again disciples of Jesus Christ who (2) have been baptized by immersion following their conversion who (3) are committed—covenantally and sacrificially—to God, God’s Word, and to one another, who (4) meet together regularly to carry out their biblical purpose (see image below), and who (5) exist to declare the glory of God both locally and globally. “An obsession with God and His glory is the hallmark of true knowledge of God.” [2]

Mission. The mission of God is God’s, not ours. God receives glory as people come to delight themselves in Him and His good design (Hab 2:14). In the words of John Piper, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” God’s glory fuels His mission.

God did not give His mission to missionaries. He gave His mission to the church.

Genesis 1:27-28, 12:1-3; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8, 1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 5:9-14, 7:9

Missions. The specific activity of the church is to carry out God's mission. Specifically, this entails the proclamation of the gospel, making disciples, and planting churches. Every local church exists as a result of God’s mission (Matt 28:18-20; Eph 3:10). God’s mission is thus not simply one aspect of what the local church does but is at the core of who the local church is. The identity of the church and its purpose are inextricably woven together (Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Peter 2:1-10). It is counterproductive, therefore, to think and speak of the “church” and “mission” as two entities that operate independently of one another.

Mission is an identity, not an activity. The church does not have a mission. God’s mission has the church.

Missionary. A missionary is a disciple who is sent out by their local church to carry out God’s mission across geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers. Every Christian is a product of God's mission. Every born-again Christian has also been given the purpose of advancing God's mission in the world (1 Pet 2:9). However, because every believer is not carrying out this mission across geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers, every Christian is not a missionary.

Missionary task. The missionary task is composed of the following six elements that are derived from the New Testament: (1) entry, (2) evangelism, (3) discipleship, (4) healthy church formation, (5) leadership development, and (6) exit to partnership. [3] The only way to fulfill the missionary task and bear good fruit is through an abiding relationship with Christ (John 15:5).



Mission and the church are indistinguishable from one another in the New Testament. As mentioned previously, however, it is common today to hear of God’s mission and God’s church discussed as if they were two separate entities operating largely independent of one another. Mission, however, is not simply one of the many activities of the church. Mission is the gas that the church runs on. The more a church embraces its’ God given mission as its' fundamental identity, the stronger that church will be.

Praying. Prayer is the foundation of every other aspect of both the mobilization task and the missionary task (Matt 9:38). Prior to the birth of the church in Acts 2, we see the apostles, the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus’s brothers gathered in the upper room, “devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:13-14). Therefore, the local church must pray for the advancement of God's glory amongst the nations. Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain (Ps 127:1).

Mobilizing. Every local church has six specific roles in the mobilization task of missions: (1) engaging in God's mission within one's own zip code through intentional evangelism and discipleship (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 5:42); (2) inspiring disciples to embrace God's mission to take the gospel to places where it has little to no access (Rom 1:5; 15:20, 24); (3) discerning disciples' strengths, weaknesses, and readiness for the field before encouraging and affirming their internal call to missions overseas (1 Pet 5:5; Heb 13:17; Rom 10:13); (4) equipping disciples for the mission (Rom 10:13-15); (5) sending disciples across geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8, 13:1-12; Rom 10:13-15); (6) supporting the mission and the missionaries that are on the field (see below; 3 John 7-8).

Supporting. Regarding this sixth role, the local church plays an ongoing supporting function that consists of six parts: (1) praying for missionaries and the advance of God's mission among the nations; (2) giving financially to the mission; (3) communicating regularly with missionaries for accountability, counsel, and encouragement; (4) visiting/sending short-term teams to help with the task and support the missionaries; (5) hosting missionaries when they return home and utilizing these missionaries to help the church with the mobilization task (3 John 8); (6) mobilizing other likeminded disciples to become teammates through the process described above. [4]

Key Scripture: Matt 9:38; John 20:21-23; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Eph 3:10; 3 John 1-8



Mission sending agencies play a significant supporting role to churches who desire to send missionaries overseas. Because sending is a function of the local church, mission agencies do not send missionaries. Andy Johnson helpfully illustrates that sending agencies are like schools to which parents send their children. While the school (the mission agency) assists the parents (the local church), it is the parents who are ultimately responsible for their children (those who are sent). Such agencies provide significant expertise on key areas that the church is often not able to address, such as language, unique cultural concerns, overseas taxes, computer security, missionary health, etc. Agencies can also provide day-to-day supervision and field support.[5] They can provide helpful training for churches to send and support their missionaries well.


[1] “Foundations: Core Missiological Concepts, Key Mission Terms, The Missionary Task” (International Mission Board, 2018), 12.

[2] “Foundations: Core Missiological Concepts, Key Mission Terms, The Missionary Task” (International Mission Board, 2018), 28.

[3] “Foundations: Core Missiological Concepts, Key Mission Terms, The Missionary Task” (International Mission Board, 2018), 75

[4] “Foundations: Core Missiological Concepts, Key Mission Terms, The Missionary Task” (International Mission Board, 2018), 34.

[5] Johnson, Missions, 51–52.


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