Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Centrality of the Local Church in Missions

By Randy Watkins
October 2010

A pattern of missions develops in the early church as the gospel is spreading from Jerusalem to other regions. At first the activities may appear random without recognizing the superintending power of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the “Great Commission.” The example of the church at Antioch illustrates several key points:

• They were a mature congregation who knew the scriptures
• They understood the mission sought direction from the Lord
• Sent missionaries with purpose, prayer, and provision
• The missionaries would travel to the regions beyond
• Seek opportunities to evangelize usually in a principle city
• A core of believers would be baptized and form a local congregation
• They spent time teaching and training the new Christians
• They then appointed faithful men as elders to oversee the new church
• Once the church was established they would move on to another location, with help from the new church and the process was repeated
• Later they would revisit to the new churches in person or by letter to strengthen and exhort them
• The new churches would send out the gospel to neighboring communities where new churches would be started
• Eventually the missionaries would return to their sending church, often with new Christians from the new churches
• They would rehearse the account of what God had done and rejoice together
• There was fellowship and partnership with the churches in the work

The first century church was central to the purpose of missions and “missions” was central to the church. That is, the “mission” was to establish churches who would in turn take part in the mission to establish more churches.

Over the centuries the idea of missions has taken many forms and in many cases abandoned altogether. The modern phenomena of “the mission society, or board”, has in many cases isolated the mission from the church. These and other para-church organizations can be greatly helpful but should not supplant the primary role of the church.

The “oneness” of the church, the missionaries and the new churches creates a dynamic bond that is crucial to missionary enterprise and joy in a commissional church.

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