BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HUTTS: Before coming to BGBC, I spent a year in South Africa doing a church planting apprenticeship. There I gained a vision for the church, church planting, global mission, and a heart for Africa. Coming to BGBC I sought a church that loved church planting and global missions. It has been a joy the last 8 years to watch this church with a long history of missions-mindedness send out missionaries to the foreign field. Sarah and I will be the next ones sent out from this church.
BRIEF HISTORY OF SENT ONES IN THE NT: We see 4 examples of churches in the New Testament that sent people out for Christ’s mission. First, Jerusalem was hub of the first church where gospel preaching, fellowship, and suffering together led to remarkable growth and expansion of the church. Second, Antioch a hub of missions to the north and west because the church was well-mixed ethnically and well-led spiritually. Third, Philippi was a church that financially supported and encouraged Paul. His letter to them is more of a thank you letter for their support. Paul brings up an important principle in the mission of the church: the mission is a partnership in the gospel. Finally, we see a community [near Ephesus] tucked away at the end of the Bible in 3 John.
BRIEF HISTORY OF JOHN AND THE SENT ONES: The church to which the apostle John wrote seems to have problems and divisions [what church doesn’t?]. John sent messengers of the gospel to the church and they were met with a mixed reception. Gaius welcomed and supported them [vs.1-5], while Diotrephes [a self-appointed leader; false teacher] thwarted and evicted them [vs.9-11]. 3 John could be a case between two types of missionaries. I will place most of my emphasis on Gaius. What John says to Gaius is informative and is a biblical model for what [TO ME] is the mission of sending out.
1) SENT ONES ARE SENT OUT THROUGH THE CHURCH [3 John 6]
The church is the hub of Jesus’ missions. Missions and sent ones must be doing ministry through the church, for the church, by the church, in the church, because of the church, for the sake of Christ’s glory who is the Head of the church. If sent ones are doing anything other than planting the church, they are parachurch [i.e. alongside the church; orphanage, bookstores, seminaries, etc]. Sent ones are faithful to the mission of the church.
3 WAYS FAITHFUL FOLLOWERS ARE SENT OUT:
By the Holy Spirit. According to Acts 13:1-3, the Holy Spirit of God sends out qualified servant-leaders from local churches to plant new churches in new lands. God’s Spirit gives witness of this calling both to the sent one and the sending church. In recognizing how God wants to use the sent one, the church then “releases” them.
Through the call of Christ. In John 20:21, Jesus says to all his disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Jesus was sent into the world to become the Savior. You are sent into the world to proclaim what Christ has done and call people to faith in Him. Therefore, every Christian should evangelize locally and, if possible, support the work of bringing the gospel globally.
Through local churches. The local church, again, is the vehicle God uses to send out people to preach the gospel with the goal of establishing new local churches wherever they go [Acts 13:4-5; Acts 14:21-23]. This means that local churches are responsible to raise up, send out, and support missionaries whose goal is not merely to see individuals come to Christ, but to see local churches established in regions where there are none.
The church “does well to sends them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” What does that mean? It could mean cutting them checks, it could mean having a beautiful commissioning service, or waving good-bye at the airport. However, I would hold that it means more than that! To send one in a manner worthy of God is to support them in such a way that God would approve: Arrange all hospitality with lodging and meals while home [Romans 15:24; 1 Corinthians 16:6-11; 2 Corinthians 1:16], offer transportation and accompaniment [Acts 20:38; 21:5], and freely give resources and encouragement [Titus 3:13; Acts 15:3]. Servants of Christ should be treated like we were sending Jesus on His journey. When a missionary calls your church asking for support do you hear their story, encourage them, and pray with them even if you know you cannot support them financially? You do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.
2) SENT ONES GO OUT FOR THE SAKE OF THE NAME [3 John 7]
Most missionaries tend to be Type-A kind of people. When sending out people from your church aim to cultivate character over mere skills. The person you are considering might be gung-ho, super-skilled, have a sweet resume, look like leadership-material, wears Christian T-shirts and is quite evangelistic, but he or she could be corrupt in their core. Spend time with them in the testing fields, before you unleash them to the mission field. Sent ones spent a long time with their sending church serving [Acts 18:22-28].
ESSENTIAL EXPECTATIONS [AS ONE BEING SENT] CONCERNING HOW MY CHURCH PREPARES ME:
Surrendered. Look for one overwhelmed by their own salvation, committed to Christ, consumed by the message of His gospel, and championing the One Name [Philippians 2:9; Romans 1:5; Acts 5:40-41]. Period. [Galatians 2:20; 6:14; Colossians 1:24-27]. The power, authority, and glory for the mission is in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Servanthood. Do they choose the towel over the robe? Giving one a robe is a special honor [Luke 15:22]. When one was given an important task or office they received a robe. The disciples often aspired for the robe, but Jesus sought the towel [Matthew 20:20-28]. The greatest missionary is a one who takes the position of the least [Luke 22:24; Matthew 20:26]. Sent ones are servants of Christ first and foremost.
Humility. This is the posture of a servant. They “accept nothing from the Gentiles.” This was not arrogant humility or false humility; rather they only accepted support from Christians and churches that understand the mission. Humble servants understand the results in ministry come from God, not from the human instrument. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” [1 Corinthians 3:6-7].
Full of Integrity. God expresses far more interest in what we are than in what we do or where we go. Here are some good questions to pry into the life of new or old missionary: Are they financially responsible? Are they pure of heart and mind? Do they have a pattern of good relationships? Do they deal with conflict biblically? Are they faithful to their family? Ministry should not destroy the family and the family should not destroy ministry. Integrity is important at home, work and the ministry. Since, distance makes it easier to hide, as one sent, I am responsible to be proactively communicating with my sending church with openness and honesty.
Faithfully Bearing Fruit. [vs. 3-4, faithful to the church & others] If someone wants to evangelize in China, are they already evangelizing Chinese people? If someone wants to be a Bible translator, are they already studying the biblical languages? Sending someone out to minister on behalf of a church is a serious matter. “So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” [1 Corinthians 4:1-2]. In Acts 13:1-3, the church sends out only those who have proven themselves in godly character and ministry effectiveness, who are sound doctrinally and equipped for ministry, who show the fruit of the Spirit, and who have remained steadfast under trial. Consequently true success in missions is measured by faithfulness to the task, not by immediate, visible results.
Biblically Minded. A missionary will face all kinds of new challenges and unorthodox beliefs/worldviews. He or she will need to be able to confront these unexpected challenges biblically. Sometimes they return from the field tired, discouraged and depressed, and a biblical framework would be helpful. Also, on the field, exegetical skills are important for training church leaders, counseling, planning, team working, evangelizing, discipling, spiritual warfare, and so much more.
Love for the church. According to the Scripture there is no such this as a rogue missionary, Lone Ranger Servants, Christians Tourists or Commercial Travelers/Charlatan. The missionary represents the church and its mission. A sent one should willingly submit to the elders of the local church that sends him [1 Peter 5:1-5; Hebrews 13:17], and more importantly they submit to Christ who is over the church [Ephesians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 11:3]. Remember, missionaries are sinners too. They need accountability and counsel. It is important the missionary be a member of the church. Not just a member, but also an active member, a fruitful member, and a theologically and methodologically minded member. Your sent one is part of the mission of your church, planting like-minded churches through your church.
3) SENT ONES HAVE THE SUPPORT OF THEIR SENDING CHURCH [3 John 8]
“We ought” is rather weak. It would be better translated, “we are obligated to support people like this.” The church and the ones they send are partners [i.e. fellow workers] in the gospel of Jesus Christ [i.e. truth]. Therefore, together we must do all we can to support one another in the growth of the church and the continuance of the gospel message. It is not about what the church does for the missionary, but what it does through the missionary. Likewise, It is not about what the missionary does for the church, but what he does through the church.
In conclusion, as one who is being sent from the church I recognize first of all that it is the church that sends me out. Second, I must go out for the sake of the name and no other. My character as an ambassador of Christ and representative of His church seriously matters. Third, I must encourage the support [receive] and be willing to support [give] the church sending me out. Together, the sent one and the senders lift high Christ and His church.
This is how we do missions as a church. John helped start all these churches, and then, he sends people and money to go to those churches to get more people and more money to go start yet more churches. When they are up at that church, who greets them? Gaius, Gaius is the guy that John will send a letter ahead and say, “I’ve got Missionary Mike and I’ve got Servant Sally and I’m sending them down, and they’re going out from Fellowship Bible Church, and they’re going go plant New Bible Church, and here they come, and Gaius, you know they’re coming.”
So then, Gaius waits, and here comes Mike and his wife, and they show up, and Gaius says, “Hey, good to have you. Come stay at my house. Have some soup. You guys need money? Let me get my checkbook. How can we be praying for you? My Bible study gets together every week, and if you could let us know what to pray for, we’ll pray for it.” That’s Gaius. Gaius gets behind their work, and is really happy to be involved, and John says why, “So that we may work together for the truth.”
Don’t be a Diotrephes.
Let’s go Gaius!