Marks of a Missionary Church

In 2023, there will be 8 billion people on the planet. Every day, 360,000 people are born and 151,600 die. (source) If 8% of the world are evangelical Christians (source), then that means 139,000 people die every day without having believed on Christ alone for salvation and will, therefore, go to hell!

Why are so many people not saved? For some, it is a case of having heard the truth about Jesus and rejecting it. For others, it is a case of never having heard about Jesus. And the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel to all people lies squarely on the shoulders of the local church (Read Romans 10:13-15, 1 Corinthians 15:34).

So, how do we be the type of church is sending out missionaries to the ends of the earth?  The example of the church at Antioch is very helpful. They succeeded in sending out missionaries around the globe in a way that the church at Jerusalem, for all her good points, by in large failed.

1. Missionary churches genuinely understand and believe the gospel (Acts 11:19-23).

The church at Antioch heard the Word of God, the message about the Lord Jesus, that He is Lord, God, and Saviour from their sin. They believed on Jesus and turned to the Lord from their sin.

Missionary churches must be filled with people who really understand that all men are sinners, that Jesus is Lord and God, that He died and rose again, that only He can save, and that salvation comes to those who repent and believe.

Without understanding and believing the gospel message, we have no good news to carry or to send with our missionaries. Have you understood and believed the gospel?

2. Missionary churches grow in their knowledge of and commitment to Jesus (Acts 11:23-26).

Barnabas was a mature, Spirit-filled man, sent by the church at Jerusalem to help the church at Antioch grow in their faith. He encouraged them to cleave to the Lord with purpose of heart.

This shows us that salvation is not the end but the beginning. Every believer in the church needs to grow and determine to keep following the Lord and serving Him. Many challenged will come along that will seek to discourage and divide the believers, but they must cleave to the Lord.

In order for churches to be filled with growing and committed believers, there must be Barnabases who will learn so they can teach others.

Are you cleaving to the Lord? Or have you become stagnant in your walk with the Lord? Are you getting in the word so you can grow? Do you have a daily time of reading God’s Word? Do you attend as many services of the church as possible? Are you meeting with other believed to discuss and study God’s Word? Are you willing to invest the time to teach others God’s Word? Without these things, we will not become the missionary church God wants us to be.

3. Missionary churches develop a generous, outward focus (Acts 11:27-30).

As the church matured and grew stronger in their faith, they wanted to do something for others. They took up an offering for the church at Jerusalem. They were marked by a spirit of generosity that is the outflow of spiritual growth.

Missions is all about giving – giving of our time and prayers, our money and support, our children and our best workers. If we don’t like to give, then we won’t like missions. But if God is working in your life and you are experiencing more and more of His love, then you will want to give, and the best place to give is to the spreading of the gospel around the world.

4. Missionary churches embrace and love people from all cultures and walks of life (Acts 13:1).

Antioch was a multicultural city. Situated on the banks of an important river, Antioch had more than its usual share of people from other parts of the world. And the leadership of the church seemed to reflect the multicultural makeup of the city:

  • Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus.
  • Simeon called Niger (meaning black or dark-skinned) was probably from Africa.
  • Lucius was from Cyrene in North Africa.
  • Manaen was near royalty being brought up with Herod Antipas.
  • Saul was a highly trained Jew in the rabbinical schools from Asian Minor (Turkey).

Their love of people from different cultures, backgrounds and social classes created the kind of church that would want to reach other nations. Missionary churches should celebrate, honour and enjoy the diverse cultures and backgrounds of people God brings to the church. It is a reminder of what our world is like and what heaven will be like.

5. Missionary churches train lots of preachers and teachers (Acts 13:1).

The other thing we notice about this church was the fact they multiplied from one teacher (11:22) to two teachers (11:26) to five prophets and teachers (13:1). When Barnabas and Saul left for the mission field, there were three men to take their place.

This is one of the most crucial characteristics of a missionary church – a church that is training people. Labourers are the greatest need when it comes to missions (Matthew 9:36-38).

So, a missionary church will be…

  • Constantly teaching and training others.
  • Continually discipling and committing to others what they have learned.
  • Encouraging young men and women in their walk with God and praying for God to send them out as missionaries.
  • Honouring those who surrender to missions and ministry.
  • Allowing young people to exercise their gifts in the local church. 

2 Timothy 2:2 is the heartbeat of a missionary church, ‘And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.’

6. Missionary churches faithfully serve the Lord and earnestly seek His will (Acts 13:2).

As they faithfully served in the local church, Barnabas and Saul were equipped and called to go out as missionaries. The church was fasting and praying and really wanting God to use them.

In this context, the Holy Spirit led them to send them out as missionaries. The work the Holy Spirit wants to do is send out thousands of more missionaries around the world. How open are you to what the Lord wants to do you in your life? Are you seeking Him, praying, even fasting?

7. Missionary churches pray for labourers and are committed to sending them out (Acts 13:3-4).

There was a real partnership here between the men that God led to go and the church that sent them.

  • The men were praying and fasting.
  • The church prayed and fasted and laid their hands on them.
  • The church sent them away (v.3) – the church is the Holy Spirit method (v.4). 

After their missionary journey, they came back to the church and gave a report to the church of all that God did (Acts 14:26-27).

Missionary churches understand that they are God’s organisation for the evangelisation of the world. They have the responsibility and the ability to train up missionaries, send them out, and support them.

As a church, we cannot delegate the job of world-evangelism, farm it out, or blame others for our lack or failure. The great commission has been given to us, and we will give an account to God for whether we have faithfully executed the mission.

So, how can you significantly up your involvement in world evangelism?