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The Local Church as a Missions-Sending Agency

"Local churches are the seedbed where new generations of young people respond to the call of God to be missionaries." --John Easter
AGWM Executive Director John Easter has a passion for equipping the local church as a missions-sending agency. He believes that as followers of Jesus, we have experienced the outcome of Jesus’ sentness — our salvation. Easter states, “Now, the Triune God is sending us — His Church — into the world.”

The Antioch moment in Acts 13 illustrates the sending activity of God through the local church. We see the passion of the Antioch church as they evangelized their own community. The church was thriving. People in Antioch were coming to Christ. The Holy Spirit was grafting them into the body of Christ, the church was discipling them, and these new believers were growing in Christ.

“In the midst of this move of God, however, the Holy Spirit had a message for the church,” states Easter.

Luke wrote, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2, ESV).

To understand the importance of this moment, Easter explains, “The Holy Spirit didn’t just speak to Barnabas and Saul. The Holy Spirit spoke to the whole church. He wanted the whole church to recognize its limited outreach and that it must partner with God in His sending nature and activity beyond its community. To accomplish this, the Spirit instructed them to send representatives from within their church to cross geographical, linguistic, and cultural boundaries to ensure that the church was successfully planted elsewhere.”

Through God’s message by His Spirit, the Antioch church recognized that part of God’s redemptive plan was to send believers to where Christ has not yet been proclaimed. The Spirit’s message ensured that others outside Antioch would hear the gospel as well. God was preparing His Church to establish the Church in areas that had not yet heard the gospel.

God chose Barnabas and Paul to be the cross-cultural missionaries “for the work to which I have called them.” The commissioning of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch, then, becomes a model for us to understand how the Church today participates in God’s sending global workers to all peoples.

God’s model for sending cross-cultural missionaries, then, is a biblical, New Testament model of how the local church participates in the sending nature and activity of God.

According to Easter, “Local churches are the seedbed where new generations of young people respond to the call of God to be missionaries. God is calling the local church to send its sons and daughters into cross-cultural missions. The local church is the lifeblood making this possible. Giving and praying are the backbone of what we do.”

As a sending community, local churches must understand their responsibility to continue the mandate that God has placed on the Church’s shoulders.

God often calls young people to missions in youth camp or convention. Pastors and churches need to cultivate and nurture that call to help these young people be all that God has prepared for them.

Also, there are people in our churches who have unique gifts that God can use to build His Church. There are many short-term missions opportunities in which they can become involved. The church becomes a sending agency as it releases people whom God has called for cross-cultural ministry.

When every local church understands the unique, special privilege it has in obeying God’s sending nature and activity, it will position itself to be effective in participating in God’s sending activity. Local churches will create an environment for the Holy Spirit to speak.

As a church participates in what God has called it to do, it is helping to ensure that all people everywhere have access to the gospel. This includes those who are outside our geographic borders, outside our culture, those who are of other language groups, and those who are distinct people groups.

Until Jesus comes, we continue to encourage this mentoring relationship between those being sent and those who are sending. For local churches not to become involved in sending prevents their people from participating in God’s divine activity. If these churches are not involved in sending people in their church in response to the call to cross-cultural ministry, they are only involved in part of God’s redemptive plan. Every local church must do both local evangelism and global missions.

AGWM challenges every Assemblies of God church to evaluate and strengthen its missions program. We cannot fulfill God’s mission to save the lost without the help from every one of our churches.

This article originally appeared in Worldview magazine, Vol. 10, Issue 1. Used with permission.