Responsibilities of Missionary Candidate
Missionary candidates and local churches both have responsibilities in the missionary process. Missionary candidates should be careful to exercise the following.
1. Candidates should have a deep conviction regarding the great commission, that God has commanded us to share the gospel with all people everywhere. This conviction should be evidenced by regular and natural sharing of their faith with those with whom they have contact before ever considering missionary service. (Acts 1:8; Mat. 28:19-20)
2. Candidates should have a deep conviction that God the Holy Spirit has called them to missionary service, not just a desire for a professional career. (Acts 13:2; Heb.11:26)
3. Candidates should have a profound sense of personal inadequacy and unworthiness coupled with a strong desire to grow more in grace and ability. He will not think too highly of himself/herself, but will find confidence in his/her dependence on the Holy Spirit, recognizing that the He determines the success of ministry endeavors. (Acts 1:8; Phil. 4:13)
4. Candidates should realize that inadequate as they are, they possess the ability to become qualified to serve in the ministry to which God has called them. They have the Holy Spirit to empower them to do the work of the ministry. (Rom. 6-8; Rom. 12:3)
5. Candidates should be wholeheartedly committed to proclaiming the gospel to the world. There are many helpful ministries that assist people, such as feeding the hungry, but the primary mission of the church is to make disciples of Jesus Christ and equip them to do the work of the ministry. (Mat. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Rom. 10:14-15)
6. Candidates should have a deep conviction that God has placed them in a local church to direct them and help them identify God’s will for their lives. They should recognize that God has provided leadership and accountability through the local church for the effective ministry of the gospel as well as the protection of those ministering. (Acts 20:28-31; Heb.13:17)
7. Candidates should have a dedication that will not wane when the adventure and sense of heroism is gone. Missionary service is hard, sacrificial work. Effective, successful missionary service requires selfless dedication to accomplishing the ministry of God. “The call to ministry is a call to sacrifice, a call to lay down your life and take up the cross of Christ. The principle of sacrifice pervades Christ’s ministry” (Peters 1972, 286). (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 11:23-12:10; Col. 3:23)
Responsibilities of the Church
Local churches have responsibilities in the process, too. Churches can contribute positively to the missions process by exercising the following, especially if they are considering commissioning missionary candidates for service.
1. Verify the Christian character of missionary candidates and only approve candidates that meet the leadership standards of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
2. Verify the gifts and abilities of missionary candidates, observing the ministry of the candidates over time to verify they have the appropriate gifts and abilities to carry out the ministry to which they believe God has called them. (Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Tim. 3:1-7)
3. Examine missionary candidates for proper theology. As an extension of the church staff, the missionary should not be teaching any major contradictions to the doctrines held by their commissioning church. (Gal. 1:8-9)
4. Verify the spiritual maturity of missionary candidates. The candidate should be expected to have the same minimum level of spiritual maturity that the church would require of a pastor or deacon. The mission field is often like a pressure cooker and small flaws can be magnified, resulting in harm to the cause of Christ. (1 Tim. 3:6)
5. Verify the ability of missionary candidates to minister cross-culturally. This requires flexibility, adaptability and open-mindedness. He must be able to distinguish between biblical mandates and cultural preferences and traditions. (Acts 17:22ff)
6. Take on responsibility for the missionaries’ spiritual and financial well-being just as they would a fellow staff member. The church may not provide all the financial needs and may delegate some of the oversight to a mission agency or others, but the commissioning church needs to provide guidance, direction and accountability to the missionaries it commissions. (1 Cor. 9:1-14; 11:8; Phil. 4:15, 18)
I hesitate to say with certainty and authority that the Bible commands missions to be done this way, but I think we can say that it is a good example of how God has worked in the church to call and send missionaries and is a likely model. Surely this example in Acts 13:1-4 is closer to what God would want to happen in the church today than the model of the “cowboy” missionary functioning apart from the guidance of the local church.
I have included a bibliography for this series below. Also see Errol Hale’s post on this subject.
Block, Darrell. 2007. Acts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
Bruce, F. F. 1981. Commentary on the book of Acts. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Hale, Errol. n. d. The Role of the Church in World Missions. http://gbcmpk.org/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=180049824&sec_id=180008954; Internet
Hofstede, Geert. n. d. Cultural dimensions. Accessed 17 September 2009. Available from http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_united_states.shtml; Internet.
Hofstede, Geert and Geert Jan Hofstede. 2005. Cultures and organizations: software of the mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Larkin, William. 1995. Acts. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Peters, George W. 1972. A biblical theology of missions. Chicago: Moody Press.
Schnabel, Eckhard J. 2004. Early Christian mission. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Senior, Donald and Carroll Stuhlmueller. 1983. The biblical foundations for mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
Sommer, Pete. 1999. Getting sent. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Stott, John R., ed. 1990. The message of Acts. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
Tippett, A. R. 1970. Church growth and the word of God, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.