Missions Philosophy

Missions Philosophy

The book of Acts reveals explosive gospel expansion. In less than two months after the disciples were commissioned in Matthew 28:18-20, the first church in Jerusalem was formed with only 120 faithful believers. In just a few days this young church swelled to over 3,000 and continued to grow daily as the Lord added to the church.

By the time Peter and John were put into prison (Acts 4:4) at least 5,000 men were in the church. Following the death of Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:14) Luke states that “multitudes” of men and women were in the church. And after the appointment of deacons (Acts 6:7) believers were said to have multiplied. It wasn’t long, however, until fierce persecution moved the church out of Jerusalem and into the world. This opposition was used by God to drive the believers from the safe cocoon in Jerusalem and scatter them abroad as witnesses to Judea, Samaria and beyond; just as Jesus had said they would (Acts 1:8). As these witnessing believers scattered, the gospel erupted with power (Acts 8:1-4). By the time Saul was saved in Acts 9, churches were already functioning throughout Galilee, Judea and Samaria (Acts 9:31).

The fall-out from this gospel explosion created the birth of a new church in Antioch (Acts 11:19-26). Soon the maturing church in Antioch was called on by God to send out men to continue the mission of Gospel expansion by planting churches throughout the world (Acts 13-14).

The church in Antioch was the primary church God used to send and support the church planting efforts of Paul and Barnabas in the First Century. And while what we find in Acts is descriptive, rather than prescriptive, the example of this church provides a picture of what missions looks like from a local church perspective.

Terms Defined

Because the terms mission, missions, missionary, and church planting mean different things to different people; the following definitions are provided to clarify how they are to be understood in this Philosophy of Missions:

  • Mission defines the purpose of our ministry globally. The word mission identifies what the church is to be about. Missions operates under the umbrella of the larger mission of our church. Countryside’s mission is to see God glorified as the lost are evangelized and believers are edified as Christ-like disciples. We are disciples of Christ making disciples for Christ to the glory of God.
  • Missions defines the program of our ministry globally. The word, missions identifies the ministry of selecting, sending and supporting mature believers into the world for the prupose of reproduction. Our goal in missions is to see the lost evangelized, believers edified and local churches reproduced locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Missionary defines the personnel of our ministry globally. The title, missionary refers to someone who is sent and supported by the local church to a defined area for the purpose of evangelizing the lost, equipping believers and establishing churches.
  • Church Planting defines the process of our ministry globally. Church planting describes the process, as well as the goal, of a missionary’s ministry. Church planting involves evangelizing the lost, edifying believers, establishing churches and enlisting and equipping localized church leadership in a given geographical area.
  • The philosophy of missions at Countryside involves four major points of emphasis: the underlying premise governing missions, the foundational principles supporting missions, the defining purpose directing missions, and the guiding policies accomplishing missions.

    The Underlying Premise Governing Missions

    The underlying premise behind our philosophy of missions is a conviction that the Bible not only establishes the specific mandate for missions, but that it also provides the general method for how that mandate is to be accomplished. There is little disagreement among Bible believing churches that the responsibility of the mandate given in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is the responsibility of the church. So there is no question as to what we are to do. The question becomes, how is the church going to accomplish this mandate? Comparing the way missions is typically approached today with the way missions was approached in the New Testament, some notable changes become evident. When it comes to missions today, there is typically minimal involvement from the church on the local level with the missionary on the field. There is also very little accountability from the missionary to his sending church. The local church today has basically delegated its responsibility of selecting, sending and supervising missionaries to mission sending agencies and has left the burden of obtaining financial and prayer support to the missionary. The mission’s philosophy and strategy of our church is largely taken from principles that are found in Acts chapters 13 and 14. Understanding that there is room for flexibility in missions due to changing cultural and technological factors, the basic pattern to follow has been clearly established by God principally, in the book of Acts. The underlying premise in our mission’s philosophy is that the Word of God provides principles for how a local church should be involved in missions.

    The Foundational Principles Supporting Missions

    There are four major principles found in the model of the church at Antioch and the unique relationship this church had with its first two missionaries, Paul and Barnabas. This model relationship provides the structure that supports our philosophy of missions.
      1. The missionary is to be proven in the context of local church ministry prior to being sent.
    This first principle deals with the local church’s responsibility of discipling those who will become its missionaries (see Appendix: Countryside Internship Program). The Antioch church was a ministering church. The 13th chapter of Acts opens with the identification of those who were faithful in the ministry of that church, among whom were Paul and Barnabas. Barnabas and Saul were among five men listed as the prophets and teachers in the church. It is significant to note that while all five are listed as being spiritually gifted men ministering in the church, God only called some (two) into a specific church planting ministry.

    Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul (Acts 13:1).

    Before a missionary should be sent to the mission field, that missionary should first be involved in the ministry of the church. Barnabas and Saul were actively involved in a ministry that involved the communication of God’s Word. The designation of “prophets and teachers” indicates a teaching and preaching ministry. It was in the context of faithful ministry within the church that Barnabas and Paul were separated out for missionary service.

    As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

    Paul matured as a leader in the context of his local church at Antioch, having been brought there by Barnabas.

    And when he [Barnabas] had found him [Saul], he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).

    While in Antioch Paul and Barnabas engaged in a teaching ministry for nearly a year, until they were entrusted to take relief money from Antioch to the believers in Judea who were experiencing great famine.

    Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:29-30).

    Paul and Barnabas proved themselves in the context of their own church by remaining faithful doing the work of God there. It was through serving in this local church that they proved themselves to be gifted leaders who demonstrated an ability to teach. Under their ministry the church grew and everyone in the church knew them. Discipleship is the responsibility of the church. When a church fails to effectively train, equip and then engage believers into the ministry of the church; then the pool from which to harvest missionaries becomes virtually nonexistent. A church that fails to effectively disciple and equip believers must then look outside its own ministry to find faithful missionary candidates whom they can support. When the Holy Spirit directed the church to send out its first missionaries, He identified two men who were already proven in the context of faithful ministry. When Paul and Barnabas went out from Antioch on their first missionary journey, they did not need seek support from other churches where they were not known and had not been proven faithful. They were sent and supported by the church with whom they had been proven. Paul and Barnabas were proven to be faithful servants who faithfully served within the church.
      1. A missionary’s call will be confirmed by God to the local church.
    This second principle deals with the church’s identification of those who are called to missionary service. It had become obvious to the church in Antioch that God had His hand on Barnabas and Saul. While the church was involved in seeking and worshipping the Lord, the Holy Spirit revealed His will.

    As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).

    One wonders if they were following the instruction given by our Lord to pray for the Lord to send laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:38). It is in this kind of climate that a sovereign God chooses to work. The Holy Spirit will reveal His will to a God seeking and Spirit sensitive church body. John Stott noted, “It is the responsibility of every local church (especially of its leaders) to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, in order to discover whom he may be gifting and calling” (The Spirit, the Church and the World, 218). Someone who is not recognized by his church as faithful, mature and called should not pursue the mission field until others within the leadership of that church have a sense of God’s calling on his life. It is essential that the church be faithfully praying for laborers and effectively equipping those whom God has called.
      1. The missionary is to be sent out by the local church.
    This third principle deals with the church’s responsibility to send and support missionaries.

    Then having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away (Acts 13:3).

    Convinced of both the calling and qualifications of the two men, the church officially commissioned them and sent them out on their first missionary journey. The act of laying their hands on the two missionaries was recognition of the two men as their Spirit-chosen representatives to the regions beyond and was a mark of the church’s confidence and commitment to their missionaries. Having been given authority by God to carry out the Great Commission, the local church is to ensure that the work is done according to His plan. The pattern is clearly church centered, church supported and church supervised. The missionary who has been commissioned by a church becomes the representative of that entire church. He is then able to extend his church’s ministry far beyond where the church as a whole could minister. One concern with modern missions is the process used to get a missionary to the field. The sending role of the local church has been replaced by an individual autonomy when it comes to missions. A man who has been called into missions may find his church assuming little financial responsibility for him and virtually no oversight of him. This leaves the missionary dependent on the mission board system to care for him and provide accountability. Sadly, the local church is relegated to function in the role of providing limited financial support and minimal investment in the ministry of the missionary. In our day, a man might be saved, trained and then called into missionary service—all in the context of his local church—only to be left on his own to find a mission board under which to serve and other churches which will agree to support him financially. While his own church may promise a few hundred dollars per month in support, it is left to the missionary alone, to get himself to the field. Being “sent out” by a church today typically only means promised prayer support and minimal financial support. Most churches do not view the missionary as an extension of its ministry and the missionary does not view himself as an extension of his church. A missionary is more identified with his mission board than he is his “sending church.” Therefore, the missionary is also more accountable to his mission board than he is to his sending church. He may be supported by numerous churches and individuals (with whom much time must be spent when back in the states) rather than being supported by his “sending” church. Sending, in the biblical sense, involves more than sending one off to the work. It involves sending in the sense of equipping with whatever is needed for the mission task.
      1. The missionary is to return home to the ministry of the local church following periods of ministry on the field.
    This fourth principle deals with the church’s continuing role with the missionary. It becomes necessary for the continued vision of the church for the missionary to rehearse what God has done while he was ministering away from the body. In Acts 14:26-28, following their first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to the church in Antioch to rehearse all that God had done.

    From there they [Barnabas and Saul] sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples (Acts 14:26-28).

    There was an ongoing continued link between Paul and Barnabas to their sending church. Their return visit was for “a long time.” This undisclosed extended time spent back in Antioch indicates that a continued ministry in the church had time to be accomplished. Even after being sent by the church in Antioch to Jerusalem to attend the counsel (Acts 15:2-3), Barnabas and Paul returned to Antioch to continue their teaching ministry there.

    Paul and Barnabas also remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also (Acts 15:35).

    The sending church in Antioch appears to have served as a home base for the two missionaries. Even when Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways, the church in Antioch was where Paul returned after periods of ministry.

    And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples (Acts 18:22).

    Time spent back with the missionary’s sending church allows opportunity for the missionary to minister to the sending church body as well as for the sending church body to minister to the missionary and his family.

    The Defining Purpose Directing Missions

    The purpose of missions in the church is to reproduce Christ-like disciples who will be able to reproduce themselves. This purpose finds its support from three foundational pillars. The first pillar that supports the mission’s purpose of the Church is that God must be glorified. Glorification involves our worship of God. The driving force behind every area of the ministry of the church (missions included) is to glorify God (Ephesians 1:5-6; 11-12; 3:21; 1 Corinthians 10:31). This not only affects what the church is trying to do, but also governs the means of how the church will accomplish it. When this overriding purpose is implemented, it keeps the church from the pragmatic methods and means that stray outside the clearly defined doxological principles given in the Bible. The second pillar that supports the mission’s purpose of the Church is that the lost must be evangelized. Evangelization involves our witness to the world. Believers have been entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Although evangelization is one part of the purpose, evangelization alone falls short of the commission. The third pillar that supports the mission’s purpose of the Church is that believers must be edified. Edification involves our work with believers. Our work with those that we see come to faith in Christ is to teach, train and disciple them to maturity as Christ-like disciples (Romans 8:29). Christ-like disciples are to be established in the faith so that they can carry on the work of ministering. This being accomplished, God is glorified and the lost are evangelized (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 20:28-32; Hebrews 3:13; Ephesians 4:11-13). The commission given in Matthew 28:19-20 is the on going responsibility of the church. Christ-like disciples are to be reproduced and New Testament churches are to be replicated in order to continue the work of reproduction. This is to be an on going multiplication process. Since Pentecost, the life-cycle of a local church has been birth, maturity and reproduction. This life-cycle explains why there are churches today that are able to advance the gospel.

    The Guiding Policies for Accomplishing Missions

    The purpose of having policies in the area of missions is to provide guidelines for how the church will carry out its philosophy of ministry. Policies are the specific applications of the Biblical principles that are laid out in Scripture. The following policies are intended to enable our church accomplish its mission purpose. These objectives outline the church’s responsibility to the missionary as well as the missionary’s responsibilities to the church.

    The Responsibilities of the Church to the Missionary

    Objective: Countryside will select and send its own missionaries. In the typical method of supporting missionaries, it is common for a church to support a large number of missionaries (often for $25.00 – $100.00 monthly) that few in the church know and actually pray for. A church believes that it is “doing missions” when large amounts of money are given to support a large number of missionaries. As a result, missions has become impersonalized. While the motives of how missions is accomplished today are not in question, the methods are. A system that sends a missionary candidate and his family out across the country on deputation has been largely unchallenged. In this system it is left up to the missionary candidate to promote or sell himself and his ministry to churches who will not have the opportunity to truly get to know or prove him in an actual ministry context. This impersonalized system enables some incompetent and unqualified missionaries to get to the field, while preventing some very capable and gifted missionaries from getting to the field. Unfortunately, if the candidate doesn’t communicate well to an American audience, he may spend in excess of four years on deputation receiving little more than “love offerings” which enable him to make it to the next church seeking support. We have perpetuated a system that discourages good men from getting to the mission field and we have wasted millions of dollars to support a deputation system that could have been poured into field-ministry. A missionary who is supported by 20 or more churches and individual donors must spend his entire furlough crossing the country to visit his supporting churches and donors. However, a missionary sent and supported by one primary church is able to spend his time during furlough to engage in the ministry of that church. In sending and supporting missionaries from the church there are six areas that are required: Countryside will send those who have a proven testimony in ministry (1 Timothy 4:12; Acts 13:1-3). Any missionary sent out by the church must first be involved in the ministry of the church. It is here that his heart for ministry is seen, his theology proven and his character tested. Not only will the missionary be known and loved as part of the church family, but as the Lord uses him in ministry, his spiritual gifts will be experienced first hand by those he serves. Countryside will send those who have a divine calling (Acts 13:2). It is not only essential that the missionary have a testimony in ministry, but that both he and the church are certain of his calling by God. The church leaders have the responsibility to seek laborers for the harvest. As God leads, missionaries will be raised from within the church. Since our missionaries are church planting pastors, each missionary that is sent must meet the qualifications of an overseer as outlined in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. Countryside missionaries are commissioned as pastors and will serve as elders on the church staff when they return for furlough. Countryside will send those who are like-minded in doctrine and philosophy (2 John 10; Romans 16:17; 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15). Because the mission is that of reproduction, it is imperative that the right thing is reproduced. Having been involved in the ministry of the church, the missionary will have a firm grasp of the doctrine, philosophy, and pattern for ministry of his sending church. Just as it is expected that the ministry leaders within the church be like-minded, so too must the church planting missionary also be like-minded. Countryside will send those who will be involved in reproducing Bible teaching, New Testament churches. While there are many ministries in which a church may choose to be involved under the umbrella of missions, Countryside will limit its involvement to church planting related ministries where nationals are trained for leadership to pastor their own churches. We desire to establish church plants that will continue the process of reproduction where national leadership will be equipped to train and send their own missionaries to reach surrounding neighborhoods, communities, cities and regions beyond. Objective: Countryside will keep missions visible before the church. Keeping missions visible before the church will be accomplished through the following two responsibilities: Missions will be kept visible through teaching and training. It is the responsibility of the leadership of the church to properly equip the believers in the church so that they will be able to do the work of ministering (Ephesians 4:11-12). Paul instructed that the things received are to be committed to faithful men who will also be able to teach (2 Timothy 2:2). The purpose, mission, and philosophy of our church each require that we have a very visible mission’s ministry. Missions will be kept visible through first-hand exposure to missions. Following a season of ministry on the field the missionary is to return to his sending church to minister for a period of time (Acts 14:27-28). This not only exposes the church what God has been doing through the missionary on the mission field, but exposes the people to the missionary as a functioning part of that body. The missionary will return as a member of the pastoral staff while he is home. He will be implemented into teaching, fellowshipping and worshiping with the body. His family will be embraced as one of the families of the church. The church will benefit from his ministry, the missionary will benefit from serving in one place, and the future mission of the church will benefit as others see missions as a natural ministry of the church. Exposure to missions will also be accomplished as members of the body go to the field in order to encourage the missionary. Churches that expose their people to missions through trips to the field where their missionaries labor, see others within the church become open to becoming missionaries themselves. Exposure to the mission field must begin at a young age. Therefore family mission trips are made available. On these mission trips, children may conduct puppet skits and songs in the language of the people to whom they are ministering. This involves them in seeing the benefit of preparation and then ministering first hand to people in another culture. Women and teens may prepare and conduct a VBS working alongside of national believers. Men may engage in a light construction project working alongside nationals from the church. On these trips there will be opportunities for testimonies, tract distribution and personal evangelism. Following each mission’s trip an entire service is dedicated to communicating what was seen, heard, and experienced, thus keeping missions visible to the congregation. Missions is exposed to the church through the Great Commission Support Team (GCST). The purpose of the Great Commission Support Team is to provide a practical vehicle for encouragement and communication for Countryside missionaries and to promote Great Commission ministries to the church body. The basic responsibilities of the GCST are threefold:
    • To ensure that our missionaries needs are met while on the field by 1) making regular contact with our missionaries, 2) keeping current with needs and prayer requests, and 3) Communicating the needs and requests to the church body.
    • To meet our missionaries needs while they are on furlough by 1) ensuring that housing arrangements are made prior to our missionaries’ return, 2) seeing that transportation needs are arranged, 3) acclimating the missionary back into American life, and 4) helping to assimilate our missionaries into the body life of the church.
    • To expose Countryside to missions world-wide by 1) organizing and/or assisting with mission trips, 2) promoting mission events, and 3) communicating the spiritual needs of other mission fields where our church is not currently ministering.
    Objective: Countryside will support missionaries in their work. Having sent the missionary to the field, it is the responsibility of the sending church to support their missionary. As a sending church, we will be responsible to provide the following three essential tools: Countryside will provide regular prayer support. The missionary supported by a sending church receives a great amount of prayer because as a member of the sending church he and his family are loved and cared for as part of the body. The result, is passionate prayer offered to God by the church for the missionary. Countryside will provide regular pastoral support. Recognizing that the missionary is an extension of the ministry of the church, the pastors must be available to the missionary as they would to any other ministry of the church. The pastors, as well as other church leaders and workers, will visit the missionary on the field yearly to encourage, evaluate and edify the missionary and his family. Throughout his letters, Paul frequently mentions those who visited him while he was in ministry, as well as those that he sent to visit the churches he started (Phil 2:19-25; 4:18; 1 Cor 16:17-18; Tit 3:12-13; Eph 6:20-22; 2 Tim 4:12; Col 4:8-9). Countryside will provide regular financial support. Because our missionaries depend on the support of one primary church, it is essential for the church to insure that sufficient support is provided to accomplish the work. One objection to the idea of one church sending and supporting a missionary is that, if something happened to the church (such as a split or financial trouble) then it could not continue supporting the missionary on the field and he would be forced to return home. However, since our missionaries are an extension of their sending church, they understand that if their sending church has needs or is unable to continue its support, they must return and help the church as a functioning part of that body. If a church folds, all the ministries of that church are affected and cease to function—not just the localized ministries. Missions at Countryside is included as part of our General Operating Budget—not something separate. Because of its high priority, missions is not supported by a faith promise method of support.

    The Responsibility of the Missionary to the Church

    Objective: We expect our missionaries to be accountable to the church. It is essential to the health of the missions program of the church that the missionary maintain a position of accountability with the church. There are three expectations that the church has of its missionaries. The missionary is expected to correspond with the church on a regular basis. This communication is necessary for the ongoing ministry of prayer for the missionary. The communication is designed to keep the church informed about the needs, blessings and burdens of the missionary’s life and ministry. The missionary is expected to spend quality time with our church while on furlough (Acts 14:27-28). This allows for the church to see him up close and address any personal, spiritual or familial needs that may arise. It also allows new families in the church to become acquainted with the missionary family and for the missionary family to become a functioning part of the body. The missionary is expected to remain faithful in his calling, true in sound doctrine, and consistent in his testimony. Because of the close ties and accountability between the missionary and the church, the sending church is responsible to know if there are any problems that need addressing, or any work that needs to be done. It becomes the responsibility of the sending church to implement disciplinary action if sin would render the missionary unfit for the ministry. Spiritual restoration would be accomplished back in the home church and by the home church, which is the biblical pattern.

    Conclusion

    Nearly all bible believing churches agree that the responsibility for the mandate given in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is the responsibility of each local church. There is no question as to what the church is to do. The question is how will each church accomplish this mandate? The philosophy of missions that has been presented is not intended to critique other churches (though some comparisons are made) it is to answer the question, how will Countryside be involved in Great Commission ministry.