I’m not really sure if our church plant is normal or abnormal. I have no idea. I’ve done NO research, do not consider doing any research, and have no interest in comparing Cornerstone Las Vegas to any one else. Maybe you’ll read this and laugh at or mock me (if you do, can I join in?). Maybe we’re ahead of the game? I’m not really sure? To be honest, when we took on our first missionaries I didn’t even contemplate IF it was wise, I just considered it the right thing to do.
<– (Hudson Taylor)
God desires churches to partner with missionaries. I’m not sure anyone would argue this except to question our timing. Personally I didn’t want to look up five years into our church history and then have to persuade the church to think missions. I just wanted it to be what we do. If the Lord was going to add numbers, I wanted those who joined to say, “We’ve always prayed for and been about missions.” Every week we pray for a different missionary we support. We encourage our people to sign up for their updates and pray for them regularly. Timing aside, I know God has a heart for all the nations. Our church, no matter how short our tenure, needs to support His missionaries.
I know our readers agree with the conviction churches need to support missionaries. Even seeker-sensitive churches have missionaries. But, I’m the kind of person who wants to link what we do directly to Scripture. For those unaware, I want to provide a few Scriptures supporting missions involvement. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:19). Jesus commands the Apostles and church throughout all ages to go into all the nations. (You might be surprised to learn, in the Greek, “all” means “all” — like every nation, like there is no exception). This means we, the church, need to be concerned with missions in every nation. This can be a tough order when we consider enemy nations. A Christian desires to see enemy nations come to Christ (we pray ISIS comes to Christ). We even desire our leaders to come to Christ too — I’m digressing . . .
So, how do we do faithfully commit to all the nations while maintaining faithfulness to our home town? We do it by following the previous generation in supporting other’s work financially and prayerfully. Our previous generation ultimately learned it from Scripture. “For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord, begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God” (2 Cor. 8:3-5). The churches in Macedonia gave liberally (8:2) to support other saints. They wanted to participate in the needs and love churches in other nations.
Consider the Philippians, “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs” (4:15-16). The Philippian church knew Paul, the ministry, the mission, and supported the work financially for the advancement of the Gospel. This did not benefit Paul, but the givers, “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account” (4:17).
These three verses help form a foundation for missions. First, making disciples is a global enterprise. Second, churches need to consider how to help other churches. Third, churches need to support qualified men who labor in other countries. Paul was both a church planter and missionary. His work created a network of churches who supported each other and him personally. We know they prayed for him and wanted updates.
This raises a second, and extremely important question, how do you pick a missionary? If we agree missions important, then how do we go forward? I’m not sure how many missionary prospects exist in the world, but navigating and discerning the right ones could be problematic. I remember a guy approaching me seeking support. He worked a part-time job, didn’t attend church, but wanted financial support. We didn’t feel comfortable with this at all. We have some basic criteria for supporting a missionary. Here is our criteria. (Please note, I am not saying my criteria is how it HAS to be).
So, what must he be for Cornerstone to participate in the work?
First, he follows the great commission seeking to make disciples. Three of our missionaries train local men to be pastors in their country. They train these men to make disciples. It seems common to associate missions with Africa and the work with humanitarian projects. I have no problem with either, I just wish we wouldn’t call much of what’s done in Africa “missions” but “humanitarian aide.” It would be clearer. Missionaries focus on making disciples. I can provide an entire village medical aide, new homes, clean water, and food, yet without preaching the Gospel, none of it will have any meaning on judgment day.
Second, these missionaries follow Christ’s directions regarding how we make disciples, “baptizing them and teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). As God saves people, we baptize them. We primarily focus on teaching and instructing them. (You’ll note, the great commission does not say, “making 3rd world countries 1st world countries” or “Americanize them”). We pour our life into believers to equip them for every good work. So we preach the Word, in season and out of season (2 Tim. 4:2). Our missionaries must be gifted, committed, and focused on preaching. I do not have a problem if your missionary only builds houses, I trust you. Our guys must focus on discipleship.
Third, they love and emphasize the local church. God equips every believer with a gift to help mature the church. Each of us needs the church to serve and be served so the church and myself will mature (Ephesian 4:1-16). Our missionaries must not be loners. He must be involved with, committed to, and serve the local church. He may be called to teach in a foreign seminary and we may view this as God’s work, but God still wants him actively plugged into the church serving for it and his benefit. Preaching teaches, the local church sanctifies.
Fourth, our missionary must be above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2). We participate in God’s ministry oversees entrusting time, energy, and resources into him. He is a servant-leader and must fit the qualifications of an elder. God requires elders have the right character. If he is pugnacious, then he is not qualified to be a missionary (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1). Because of this qualification, we verify a church lays hands on him. If a man cannot find another church to support him and officially lay hands on him, then he does not meet our qualifications. We want someone to vouch him qualified.
Finally we must agree regarding doctrine and philosophy of ministry. When we promote a missionary, we are telling Cornerstone, this man could be an elder here. This last point is our personal preference. We want our missionaries to have similar hermeneutics, doctrine, and views regarding ministry. This will help avoid confusion while maintaining unity with him. Because of this conviction, our work with our missionaries tends to be extremely encouraging and supportive. I have never questioned the wisdom or their work. Our common doctrine provides a solid foundation allowing us to talk ministry and needs much easier.
I don’t have the right to tell other church planters how to incorporate missionaries. It’s not my place. But I can tell you it has benefited us tremendously. The profit has been all ours. All our missionaries know our financial support will be small for awhile. But I’ve been amazed to see the Lord both take care of Cornerstone and provide extra for our missionaries. To be honest, I do not worry about it — and I’m not sure I have too. They’re His servants, we just participate.
What other qualities and characteristics do you look for in a missionary? What are we missing?
PS. If you’re interested in supporting a missionary and want to know some quality men worthy of participation, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org