ONE PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE ON MISSIONS AND MISSIONARIES

HBC photoHillsdale Baptist Church just finished her 54th annual missions conference.   From her inception, The Great Commission has been a central passion of this church and her second pastor, Robert Smith, was a missionary church-planting pastor (no relation to this pastor).   For 54 years, Hillsdale has served the LORD as a Supporting and Sending church.   Today, we are blessed to have our own “kids” on foreign mission fields.  Embracing the spirit and principle of 1 Corinthians 3:9, we teach our members “we are labourers together with God” and encourage our members to  “rub shoulders” with their missionaries.  In 2016 Hillsdale sent 35 members to the mission field and are planning to do the same in 2017!

Four principles serve as a guide for Hillsdale’s missions endeavors.the-gospel

I. The Message of Missions is the Gospel (Mark 16:15; 1 Cor. 1:23)

Mark 16:15 Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”

1 Corinthians 1:23 – “But we preach Christ crucified…”

II. The Method of Missions – The essence of missions is to Send and be Sent.

We follow our LORD’s fourfold charge to His disciples, “Go…teach…baptizing…Teaching” (Matthew 28:19-20) and a four point compass embracing the universal scope and mandate of The Great Commission (Mt. 28:19; Mark 16:15, 20; Acts 1:8).

Acts 1:8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem [Tampa, FL], and in all Judaea [United States], and in Samaria [Canada; Mexico], and unto the uttermost part of the earth [every race, tribe, tongue and nation].”

faith-promiseIII. The Means of the Great Commission – Faith Promise Giving (2 Corinthians 8-9)

There are many great missions supporting churches who follow a different model; however, God has blessed Hillsdale’s emphasis on Faith Promise Giving for over 20 years.

IV. The Messenger of the Great Commission is the Missionary.

It is this fourth principle that has stirred me to address what I feel has become a neglected doctrine in some churches, Bible colleges and seminaries.  Some Bible college teachers and seminary professors have, in my opinion, turned to a pragmatic philosophy of missions in their endeavor to bolster a failing missions program.  Encouraging less than a whole-hearted surrender to missions not only slights the central doctrine of the missionary call, it ultimately erodes the responsibility of the church to support and send missionaries.

Consider three basic tenets of the missionary’s work and ministry.

The first is the Character of the Missionary greenwoods-in-front-of-church

Hillsdale views its missionaries as an extension of its pastoral staff.  When we consider supporting a missionary, one of the first questions we ask is whether or not we would hire that individual or family to be a part of our church staff.  By references, interviews, and a questionnaire, we weigh our decision to support a missionary based on whether or not they exhibit the qualities and traits of the pastoral office: “…blameless [worthy; approved; having a good report]…vigilant [disciplined; having self-control], sober [discreet; prudent], of good behavior [modest; proper; honorable]…apt to teach [able to teach]…“Not a novice”  (1 Tim. 3:2-6).

The first missionaries, Barnabas and Saul (Paul), were numbered among the “prophets and teachers” in Antioch when God called them and the character of the missionary was a big deal in the 1st century church and it should be no less in the 21st century church.

fitzgeraldsThe second fundamental tenet regarding the missionary’s work and ministry is one I find slighted the most by some Bible college and seminary professors:  The Constraint of the Missionary Call (Acts 13:2-3).  

The New Testament missionary was Dedicated and compelled to the Duty (work) of the Great Commission.  The Holy Ghost directed the church at Antioch, “Separate [divide; sever; appoint; set apart] me Barnabas and Saul for the work [occupation; labor; employment; task] whereunto I have called [summoned] them” (Acts 13:2).

Barnabas and Saul were separated [marked off; corralled; fenced; divided and cut out] by the church at Antioch.   We read, after the church “fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” [released; dismissed; relieved]… “for the work whereunto [God had] called them” (Acts 13:2).  The calling of the missionary was not a two-year commitment or a two-term suggestion.  Barnabas and Saul were “separated” and “sent” away, laboring for the LORD the rest of their lives (2 Timothy 4:7).  I sorrow that such a holy calling is being trivialized by both our churches, colleges, and missionaries.

The third fundamental tenet of the missionary’s work and ministry is The Calling of the rodgersMissionary.  The missionary bears a specific calling [“…the Holy Ghost said…I have called them“] (Acts 13:2).  Several men were faithfully preaching and teaching in Antioch when God called Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:1); however, only Barnabas and Saul were specifically called by the Holy Ghost to separate and go out from the church with its blessing.  Recognizing God’s call, the church “laid their hands on them, and sent them away” (Acts 13:3).

The Great Commission is a mandate for all believers; however, some believers bear an unique call to be separated and sent out by their church.  It is the duty of the church to examine those who profess to be called and send only those who evidence spiritual qualities and traits deemed essential for the work of the ministry.  I urge all the brethren, especially those entrusted with teaching and training the next generation, to not diminish the missionary unction of those whom God has called out of our churches.

Copyright 2016 – Travis D. Smith