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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Missionary Don Clough
Sent by New Testament Baptist Church 2119 3rd Ave. SE Rochester, MN 55904, Pastor Curtis Martin
For some, the question of finding a sending church is a mere formality. Many missionaries choose a "sending church" knowing that some Baptist churches will require it before the missionary will be considered for support. And so, the missionary often chooses a "sending church" that will allow them to do what they want to do, and will not "interfere" with their ministry. The "sending church" that is chosen often times hasn't had any influence in the spiritual lives of the missionary. The missionary wasn't saved there; wasn't called there; wasn't trained there; and never served there! In this case, the "sending church" only acts as a rubber stamp, having little or no authority over the missionary or his ministry. Is that the pattern that we find in the New Testament? No!
Missionaries Should Be Members of Their Sending Churches
Paul and Barnabas didn't just choose a "sending church." They were already members of the church at Antioch, which sent them out (Acts 11:25-26; 13:1-3). I've seen prayer cards from missionaries that list both a "sending church" and a "home church." Where do we find that in the Bible? A lot of times, those type of missionaries will choose a large, influential church to call their "sending church", when in reality, that church has little, or not authority over the missionary or his ministry. Biblically, the "home church" and the "sending church" should be one and the same.
Missionaries Should Be Serving In Their Sending Churches
Not only were Paul and Barnabas members of the church at Antioch, but they were also serving God in and through their church (Acts 11:26; 13:2; 15:35). Many missionaries list "sending churches" that they have never served in. The Bible tells us, "Lay hands suddenly on no man..." (I Timothy 5:22) How can a church ordain, and send a man who has never served in their church? How do they know the spiritual condition of that man, if they have not labored with him, side by side? The missionary then does himself much harm, for the people of that "sending church" often times do not know him, and have no natural care for him. How apt are they to pray for him? And, the church does itself much harm, as well, for they have a missionary whom they do not know, that does not answer to them, that is representing them (the church) wherever he (the missionary) goes! The testimony of that church can be harmed by a missionary they hardly even know, because they've allowed him to be associated with them.
Missionaries Should Be Sent Out Under the Sole Authority of Their Sending Churches
The Local, New Testament church is the only Biblical sending agency (Acts 13:3; 15:35-41). Any organization that usurps the authority of the church in the work of missions is not Biblical. The Great Commission was given to churches, not clearinghouses, or mission boards. Note: I know some good men who use mission boards, and clearinghouses. I do not condemn them. However, the Bible clearly teaches that missionaries should be sent out under the sole authority of their church. The Great Commission was given to the institution of the local church - not to individuals.
A Biblical sending church will recognize the call of God upon their men, and when the Holy Spirit leads, they will send those men out to do what God has called them to do. How can a sending church recognize the call of God upon its men? It can only happen when those men are members of the church, and serving in the church.
Missionaries Should Be Accountable to Their Sending Churches
Paul and Baranabas were held accountable by their sending church. Upon completion of their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to their sending church and gave a report on their ministry (Acts 14:26-28). And, at the conclusion of Paul's second missionary journey, Paul returned to his sending church in Antioch to report to them (Acts 18:22-23). Even the Apostle Paul submitted to God's order, being sent by the church of Antioch, and being accountable to them! Nowhere in the Scriptures do we find any missionaries that were accountable only to themselves.
Many missionaries claim that they are only accountable to God. They claim that they have no need to be under the authority of any man. If that is true, why did God ordain the institution of the family, and command the wife to submit to her husband, and children to obey their parents? And why did God ordain the institution of government, commanding us to be subject to the higher powers? And why did God ordain the institution of the church, commanding the members to "obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves"? God has ordained human authority at every level of society. Is the missionary alone exempt from human accountability? If the missionary is a member of his sending church (and he should be), then his sending church and his pastor have God-ordained authority over him.
I've met missionaries who have changed their sending church because their church won't let them do what they want to do. I believe that a missionary should only change his sending church if that church has departed from the faith, either doctrinally or morally. A Biblical missionary is not his own agent, but is an extension of his sending church.
The sending church has every right to hold that missionary accountable, and even set expectations for that man's ministry. If a missionary will not be accountable to his home church, then the problem lies with the missionary, not the sending church. How can a missionary say that he really believes in the authority of the local, New Testament church, if he is not willing to submit to his sending church, or his pastor? A missionary that won't submit to his sending church is not submitted to God either, whatever he may say.
Thus, a Biblical sending church sends out its own men, who have been called by God, and that are serving God in and through their church. And, a Biblical missionary is sent out through the sole authority of his home church, and is accountable to them. Any deviation from this pattern is not Scriptural!