Rethinking church and mission – What is the local church’s role?

Stephen Kneale kicked off some thinking about the local church and mission with few blog posts recently.[1]

Eddie Arthur has followed up with a post looking at what Mission Agencies can and in his experience do contribute.[2]

The fascinating thing is that in the follow on conversation there hasn’t really been much disagreement from the following propositions.

  1. The local church is primarily responsible for sending, supporting and providing ongoing pastoral care for workers.
  2. Mission agencies have an important role to play within this context by engaging local churches with regards to the need for missionaries, helping people to prepare for the field, facilitating financial support and helping to enable proper fellowship and pastoral care on the field.
  3. That whilst these principles are often agreed upon in general terms, this isn’t always the practice in reality and mission agencies can become parachurch entities with missionaries detached from the local church context.
  4. That local churches sadly also don’t live up to their responsibility.

So, here’s my little contribution to the discussion -what can we do differently as local churches.

  1. Make sure that decision making about mission support is part of the core responsibility of the church leadership team and the church members. Whilst you may have a subgroup who do the detailed work, this should feed into elders’ meetings and church members meetings, it shouldn’t just be left to the missions group.
  2. Make engagement in wider mission a key part of your and elders’ roles. They should be visiting and communicating with mission partners in the field. They should also be taking time to meet and pray with mission partners when they are home. They should also be involved in encouraging and facilitating wider mission by getting involved themselves. For us this means that one of our elders works with Scripture Union camps in the summers and two of us have been involved in visits to the Middle East on a regular basis.  Our involvement with Union training pastors in the West Midlands, ActBC commitment to encourage church planting and also provision of faithroots is part of our commitment to support mission beyond our own immediate neighbourhood.
  3. Encourage prayer for mission partners as part of the regular life of the church including intercessions during corporate worship, small group prayer and the regular church prayer meeting.
  4. Preach it. Make sure that when mission forms a natural part of application that the application happens. Also think about how application has a wider, global relevance. For example, if you are preaching about suffering and persecution, remind your hearers that this is the real, physical experience of believers around the world and give concrete examples.
  5. Be pro-actively discerning, identifying, commissioning and sending people into Christian mission whether locally or further afield.

[1] See and follow up articles