A Plea for the Training of New Missionaries By Roger Perrott

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1 A Plea for the Training of New Missionaries By Roger Perrott All Christians know that the need for new missionaries going out to spread the gospel is great because the number of career missionaries quitting or retiring from the work is far greater than the number of new missionaries being sent out. However, many who say they are called to this work never get to the field because of lack of preparation for the process of becoming a career missionary. Others get to the field and quit within a few years because they were unprepared for the work, did not possess the character that is required to do the work, were not ready for the cultural adaptations necessary or the difficulties of just living in another country overwhelmed them. Mission boards are more and more recognizing that many candidates are not prepared for a career in missions and are doing their best to fill this void. Bible colleges and seminaries have also seen this need and have instituted internship requirements within their missions programs. The questions that should be asked, though, are Who is responsible for the training of missionaries?, and How should this training be best accomplished? In this article, I want to first prove that the training of missionaries is the job of the local sending church, not a mission or Bible college, and give some ideas as to how any church can set up a program to accomplish the task of recruiting and training future missionaries. Firstly, recruiting and training missionaries for this great work is not the responsibility of mission boards or Bible colleges, it is the job of local churches. Colleges and missions have Training of New Missionaries 1

2 taken up this task by default, because they saw that churches were not doing the job sufficiently, or, in many cases, not doing it at all. They saw that many young people were going out to the field lacking the skills and character needed and sought to fill the gap. However, this is the wrong way to solve the problem. Biblically, it is the local church which ordains and sends the missionary out to the work (Acts 13:1-5), not the Bible college or mission board. The place of the mission board is only to evaluate to be sure that the candidate is ready to go to the work and then, under the delegated authority of the local church, to administrate the missionary s work on the field. Ordination means that the church knows this person and has trained, tested, and approved him in all the areas necessary for successful missionary ministry: academics (knowledge of the Bible and theology, missionary work, culture and language learning, etc.), character (spiritual, mental, and emotional maturity necessary for the work), and ministry skills (preaching, evangelism, discipleship, mentoring of men for the ministry, and communication). Very few churches actually have a program or plan for such a training or testing of a possible missionary. What most churches do is just send the prospective missionary off to a Bible college or seminary to get his academic training. When his academic career ends, they then have an ordination council to check that he is adequately knowledgeable of doctrine and Scripture, and then send him out. The Lord will hold the church responsible, though, for adequately preparing the prospective missionary and academic preparation is not enough. This training is not the job of a Bible college, though. Their only function is as a delegated helper in academically preparing the missionary candidate. They may have internship programs for the student to practice the skills of the ministry, but do not have the personnel or a knowledge of the student s personal life that is needed to train him up in character and the full range of skills needed on the field. Neither should the mission board be doing this preparation after the fact. The ordaining and sending out of a missionary candidate by a church means that the church has prepared him and is commending him to other churches as being worthy of support. He must be ready before joining the mission and not trained afterward. Only the local church has sufficient opportunity and facility to do what is needed, because it alone knows the candidate, and has the ability to mentor properly. Bible colleges and mission boards do not. Training of New Missionaries 2

3 How should the church then fulfill its God-given responsibility to train people who are called to the ministry and especially into missions? The first step I suggest is the developing of a culture of missions support in the local church. Young people in the Christian school and in youth groups should be required or at least strongly encouraged to read biographies of missionaries and then discuss them with teachers. Missions should constantly be placed before youth as a high calling. Pastors and teachers in the church should look for young people who are on fire for the Lord and encourage them to become soul winners and then think about becoming missionaries. Pastors, of course, both in private and public, should lead the church in praying the Lord will call missionaries out of the church. Missionaries should be invited to speak to youth groups. At Missions Sundays or Missions Conferences, missionaries should meet with the youth also for a special meeting. Each church should establish a firm commitment to support any missionary sent from their church for at least 8-10% of his total support, more if the church is able. The pastor should also commit himself to helping the missionary contact other pastors nearby to garner prayer and financial support. I would also suggest that the senior pastor of every church should set up a program for the training of any young person or adult who feels God may have called him. That training should begin immediately after the person is called (as long as the person is at least of high school age) with the pastor going through a personal discipleship course to be sure the young person is growing in the Lord and establishing all the habits of a godly man. The pastor should mentor the young person about any character problems that are apparent or that come up and set up accountability programs for growth in those areas and in devotional habits. The pastor should begin to teach the young person how to exegete the Scriptures and how to prepare short devotionals. Assignments to give lessons to children s groups or devotionals in school chapels should be given, so initial evaluations can be made about what he is learning. The pastor should also start requiring the young person to go out on evangelism contacts with the pastor, so he can start showing the candidate how to win people to Christ and then giving witnessing assignments. After he has learned how to share the gospel and has some confidence and experience, the candidate should be required to try to witness to harder-to-reach people (Mormons, Catholics, atheists, etc.) and then to cross-cultural peoples (Latinos, Asians, etc.). If he knows what country the Training of New Missionaries 3

4 Lord is leading him to, he should be required to make contacts with those peoples in the US, if possible, make a short-term missions trip, and then have reading assignments to learn more about the culture of those people. If the young candidate is already in college, the church should hire him to work at least part-time for the church every summer, so the pastor can have sufficient time to mentor him. The church should seek to help him find employment outside the church if the church cannot afford to hire him full-time. For a college student or an adult, the internship program should begin as outlined above. After that, the pastor should begin to teach the young person how to do counseling. Every situation should be covered, including premarital, marital problems, sins, discipleship, and mentoring situations. The ministerial candidate should then be given discipleship assignments, starting with children and gradually building to adults. After several discipleship experiences, he should be given counseling assignments of each kind. Of course, all of these assignments must be carried out either under the pastor s supervision or in concert with him. In addition, the candidate should be required to read good books on evangelism, discipleship, church planting, cross-cultural ministry, etc. If the home church is starting other churches, the young person should be required to help in that work, so that he can learn the basics by experience. Of course, by the time the young person is in college, he should be given opportunities to preach in church services and youth meetings, so that the pastor can evaluate his preparation and delivery of messages and then help him improve. He should be required to plan and lead services. Whether he is a spiritual leader of other people should be evaluated by noting if any other church members are following him in becoming active in serving the Lord and if he is leading lost people to Christ. Finally, toward the end of this training time, the pastor should teach the young prospective minister or missionary how to train men to serve in the church, how to be deacons, and how to recognize and develop future leaders and pastors. He should teach long-range Training of New Missionaries 4

5 planning, accountability, philosophy of ministry, finances, and philosophy of missions. Obviously, he will want to check to be sure the young person is getting adequate academic preparation also. Lastly, the young candidate must throughout his training be taught to pray, so that he will learn to rely on the Lord and His power in ministry, instead relying on the power of flesh. Moses failed to learn this early on because there was no one available to train him and so the Lord had to take him to the back side of the desert for forty years to teach him that the arm of flesh will always fail us. The pastor should spend much time in prayer with the candidate and talk often about maintaining a proper prayer life. If the missionary candidate is a lady, the pastor will want to be sure that his wife gets involved in her training. A young lady obviously does not need to be trained to be a pastor, but she should be trained in all the other areas. In addition, she must be taught how to follow the leadership of the male missionaries in the work, how to minister to children and ladies, and the proper philosophy of working as a female missionary. The pastor must be careful that his wife or a secretary is in the room, or that the teaching is done in a group, when teaching the young lady, to avoid the appearance or accusation of evil. It is absolutely necessary for local churches to again take up the mantle of training new missionaries and ministers. The church is the organism the Lord Jesus promised to build and work through in this age. There is a need for a new army of missionaries (and ministers) to be trained to lead the work of God in the next generation. If this generation fails to take that responsibility seriously, the church around the world will be filled with untrained and incapable leaders. The result would be an entire generation that is largely unreached. Brethren, Paul challenged Timothy to study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). We must train up that next generation of workmen. We need to again follow the example of Paul, in taking young men under our wing and letting them learn the ministry by seeing it done and doing it with an older, experienced minister. Training of New Missionaries 5

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