Commitment 1: We are committed to reproducing our local church in a contextualized manner.
To establish a biblical local church in a second-culture context, a missionary must be committed to team building. This commitment to teambuilding will be tested at three distinct periods within the process.
First, as a missionary begins to formulate and execute plans during pre-field ministry, the missionary’s commitment to teamwork will be tested. How influential will the local church pastors/elders be on discerning God’s call toward ministry? Theological training is all about teamwork. Future missionaries need theological mentors who shape, not only the mind, but also the affections toward Great-Commission priorities. Raising financial and prayer support is all about developing a team. Ministry that begins with a team-focus has the greatest potential to endure. Satan will seek to discourage and distract throughout the pre-field ministry, and the encouragement that comes from local-church members will be essential during these trials.
Second, a missionary will need a team-focus during the first two terms on the field. During the first decade of missionary service, the patterns that a missionary establishes will often be reproduced repeatedly throughout that missionary’s career. Other missionaries who partner with a new missionary will help foster healthy ministry habits. These include a commitment to the spiritual disciplines, intentional patterns for engaging the lost, and practical methods for discipling Christians in the new culture. Any missionary who seeks to develops these patterns without the wise counsel and care of a team will likely fail to internalize good patterns by accidentally focusing onthe wrong things. Note that when teamwork precedes tactics, the missionary is best positioned to internalize the best practices.
Third, as a missionary begins to see new disciples being made within the local churches of the receptor culture, teamwork will be needed to develop healthy local churches. The context, or cultural setting, of the new local churches will demand some new strategies for local-church life. Practical issues like dress, timing of services, and kinds of buildings can easily become the focus of a veteran missionary. These are important considerations, but they are tangential to the relationships that must be cultivated with the new leaders of the local churches. Churches are made of people, not bricks and wood. For local churches to become healthy, they need biblically trained leaders (pastors/elders, deacons) who understand and accept their roles within their Christian communities. Missionaries need to partner with them without usurping their roles and responsibilities. Again, teamwork done well is necessary at this final stage of church-planting. The result of this teamwork is that the missionary assists in reproducing his or her local church in a new cultural context.
So, are you committed to team building as a missionary? To learn more about how to prioritize missionary team building, consider attending the Advance the Gospel conference at Bob Jones University, January 4-7, 2023. Learn more at advancethegospel.org.