A missionary is a servant of Christ called to proclaim the gospel across geographical and cultural boundaries in obedience to the Great Commission
Grace Bible Church of Gainesville (GBC) defines a missionary as a servant of Christ called to proclaim the gospel across geographical and cultural boundaries in obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:45-47). Frontier missionaries, like the Apostle Paul, aim to take the gospel to people who have not heard the good news of Jesus Christ and do not have access to gospel-preaching churches in their culture (Romans 15:19-23). Cross-cultural missionaries, like Timothy, travel far to serve where the church, though perhaps established, benefits from a missionary’s service (Acts 16:1-3; 1 Timothy 1:3).
International Outreach Ministry
GBC defines international outreach ministry as the commission to preach the gospel beyond the immediate influence of the sending church to evangelize and instruct those who have little or no opportunity to hear the gospel to establish and strengthen local congregations. Missionaries may use various means to live in a given location. Some may use their skills as doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., to serve in areas where they cannot directly serve as missionaries. Planting and supporting churches should be the long-term and primary goal of missionaries.
Local Outreach Ministry
GBC defines local outreach ministry as the commission to preach the gospel in the local community surrounding the church. GBC recognizes the opportunity to preach the gospel to the nations in our surrounding community, including the University of Florida. Local outreach opportunities may include publicly preaching the gospel in jails, long-term care facilities, downtown, and the university. GBC may also host local outreach events and assist orphans and widows with their needs (James 1:27). The true gospel, not the social gospel, must remain the central focus of these activities.
GBC affirms the following biblical definition of the Gospel:
- Created and Owns All Things (Gen 1:1; Ps 24:1)
- Is Perfectly Holy (1 Jn 1:5; Matt 5:48)
- Requires Perfect Obedience to His Law (James 2:10)
- Has Broken God’s Law (Rom 3:10, 23)
- Will Pay the Eternal Penalty for Sin (Rom 6:23)
- Cannot Save Himself By His Good Works (Titus 3:10)
- Came to Earth as God and Sinless Man (Col 2:9)
- Demonstrated God’s Love by Suffering and Dying on the Cross to Pay Sin’s penalty (Rom 5:8, 2 Cor 5:21)
- Rose from the Grave, Has Ascended to the Father and Is Alive Today (1 Cor 15:4)
- Must Repent of all that Dishonors God (Isaiah 55:7; Luke 9:23)
- Must Believe in Christ as Lord and Savior (Rom 10:9; Acts 17:30)
Jesus entrusted the church with the Gospel and commanded her to fulfill the Great Commission. Christ’s great purpose for the church is Spirit-led advancement of the gospel until all God’s elect are gathered from throughout the world (Matthew 28:18-20); John 10:16; Acts 1:8). Through international outreach ministry, the church participates in God’s plan worldwide. Thus, local and global outreach ministry should be a priority of every local church. It is how congregations and individuals fulfill Christ’s command in the will of God.
"Local and global outreach ministry should be a priority of every local church."
The proper motivation for international outreach is a passionate love for God’s glory and exaltation united with a Christ-like compassion for all peoples. We yearn to see God honored as God among the nations (Matthew 6:9). Therefore, we pray with the psalmist, “God bless us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him.” (Psalm 67:7). We desire, like the Apostle Paul, “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake.” (Romans 1:5).
Moreover, as Jesus Christ was a compassionate and merciful servant to the lost so that God might be glorified for His mercy (Matthew 9:35-36; Romans 15:8-9; Jonah 4), we pursue outreach with hearts of compassion and a readiness to sacrifice all for those without Christ (Romans 9:1-5; 10:1; 2 Timothy 2:8-10). We heartily affirm with John Piper: “A heart for the glory of God and a heart of mercy for the nations make a Christ-like missionary.”
“A heart for the glory of God and a heart of mercy for the nations make a Christ-like missionary.” — John Piper
Missionaries are set apart by the Holy Spirit for service (Acts 13:2). A person’s call to missionary service will be evident by their qualifications. A godly character, faithful service in a local church, and an accurate and thorough knowledge of Scripture are necessary qualifications of a missionary. In addition, those sent out as pastors to establish and lead churches are to meet the biblical qualifications for an elder (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). Through prayer, counsel, and observation, the Spirit will lead a church to discern and confirm the qualifications and calling of persons to be missionaries.
The Church’s Duty
GBC believes the church is responsible for praying for, identifying, training, and sending only those qualified to be missionaries. A missionary is ultimately accountable to the sending church and serves under that church's authority (Acts 13:3; 14:26-27). We strongly discourage missionary candidates from pursuing service with a missions agency before seeking the counsel and blessing of their church.
Missions agencies have a legitimate and valuable role in sending missionaries by identifying strategic service opportunities and providing administrative support, specialized training, and on-the-field supervision. However, the missions agency is not a substitute for the church but a partner with the church. For such a partnership to be workable, both church and missions agencies should share substantial agreement in their doctrine and philosophy of ministry.
For practical reasons, we recognize that one church may not bear the full load of supporting missionaries in the field. Therefore, we encourage the called missionary to find support with other like-minded churches. In choosing to support a missionary, GBC will evaluate the full range of support, especially the sending church, if not GBC. We want to maintain substantial doctrinal fidelity, especially in the core doctrines.
The church must send missionaries “in a manner worthy of God” (3 John 6). Since they go forth as God’s representatives, the church is to send them in a way that will honor God in every respect. The church provides substantial support through money, prayers, and other practical assistance. In so doing, we glorify God, and the church has the privilege of partnering with the missionary in spreading the truth (3 John 8).
The New Testament Pattern
The New Testament for outreach ministry is the proclamation of the gospel to establish and strengthen self-propagating local churches. Therefore, we believe evangelism, church planting, and ministry that strengthen churches are the primary work of outreach ministry. As of first priority, we are committed to sending pastors to evangelize, establish churches, and to strengthen churches through preaching, teaching, and prayer. We affirm with Dr. Thomas Hale, former medical missionary to Nepal, “The essential core ministry in missions is the winning of people to Christ and forming them into congregations—that is, evangelism and church planting . . . . It is useless to win people to Christ and then leave them alone as a bunch of individuals; they will quickly fall away. Not only must there be churches for new believers to join, but also it is the church that is going to be responsible for ongoing evangelism. Hence, in the same breath with church planting, we need to include discipling new believers and imparting to them the vision for further evangelism.”
GBC recognizes that some countries restrict the open proclamation of the gospel. Therefore, we support strategic initiatives to proclaim the Gospel through community development initiatives such as healthcare services, agricultural projects, sports, and education. In these cases, we will support qualified persons who are committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ as they serve through their respective professions or trades and who have as their ultimate aim the formation and strengthening of local churches. While biblical missions ministry is more than humanitarian assistance, it can include such service as an expression of Christ’s love and as a means for securing a hearing for the gospel.
GBC recognizes, too, that we should send support missionaries to provide vital services. Many, such as pilots, mechanics, administrators, engineers, youth camp leaders, coaches, and schoolteachers, are qualified church leaders and mature believers who embrace biblical ministry priorities. In addition to providing administrative or technical assistance, they proclaim the gospel whenever possible, model godly lifestyles, and teach the Word of God. As a secondary priority, we will send qualified support missionaries committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ in their spheres of influence.
GBC believes missionaries should commit to a lifetime of service while recognizing that God might providentially direct their steps otherwise. Short-term service is usually inadequate for understanding culture and language, building relationships, making disciples, and establishing churches. Thus, the most strategic use of a church’s resources is to support career missionaries. Short-term missions service can be helpful for ministry training, educating a church about missions, tactical support of existing missions ministry, and personal encouragement of career missionaries. We will encourage and support short-term missions, especially service with and to our career missionaries. Nevertheless, short-term missions should be secondary to the training and sending of career missionaries.
Finishing the Task
Lastly, GBC believes that outreach ministry's very existence and success depend ultimately upon God. We commit, then, to petition the Lord of the harvest unceasingly to send out workers into His harvest (Matthew 9:38). Further, we devote ourselves to helping those who are sent out by our earnest prayers (2 Corinthians 1:11) so that they may have opportunity and boldness to proclaim the Word (Colossians 4:3; Ephesians 6:19), and to witness the rapid spread and influence of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 3:1). We pray, too, that they will continue to conduct themselves honorably (Hebrews 13:18), and be kept safe from all evil (2 Thessalonians 3:2; Romans 15:30-31), until that Day when the missionary task is finished.
We are all missionaries. Wherever we go, we either bring people nearer to Christ or we repel them from Christ. - Eric Liddell