The Great Commission was not given to a denomination or mission agency. It was given to the local church. Thus, churches send their own missionaries (Acts 13). I am not saying that denominations and mission agencies have no role to play in the Great Commission. They play a vital role if our understanding is that of partnering for greater gospel impact. After all, as Southern Baptists, we believe we can do more together. Therefore, we champion cooperative missions.
So, while we work with sending agencies such as the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and the International Mission Board (IMB), our churches send missionaries in partnership with these organizations. If churches are the senders, what exactly are we sending missionaries to do? In recent years the IMB has helped us better crystallize the task of the missionary.
Many needs often compete for our attention when it comes to missions. IMB mobilizer D. Ray Davis recognizes, “Let’s be honest, there are a lot of overwhelming needs around the world, and it’s easy to allow needs to dictate and define the work we do” (“Churches: Essential Partners in the Missionary Task”).
To keep us focused on our God-given responsibility to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19-20), six components detail the missionary task. Whether through the missionary on the field or the partnering church, the mission should focus along these lines (Davis, “Churches”). So, if you are the missionary on the field or the church partnering with the missionary, the mission is the same. These six components of the missionary task include: entry, evangelism, discipleship, church formation, leadership development, and exit. I want to look at the first component in this blog.
- Entry: Finding and engaging a particular people group is the first component. In short, as the IMB has described it, entry involves finding them, getting to them, and developing an ability to communicate with them.
First, finding them involves researching the people group in order to learn culture, levels of evangelization among them, whether any translation of the Bible exists, and if other Great Commission Christians are present.
Second, getting to them requires exploring the political, economic, and religious environment. Further, exploring access options is critical as most places with unreached people are unreached because they are hard to get to. Most hard to reach places are hard to reach because missionaries are not welcome. Thus, missionaries must acquire the necessary skills and resources to enter among a people group.
Third, developing an ability to communicate with them involves skills that no doubt requires language and cultural learning. Most hard to reach places will mean missionaries must learn another language besides English!
Churches can play a vital role in the entry level. They assist by praying that missionaries gain legitimate ways to enter. Churches can also be a means of providing legitimacy for the missionary’s presence among that people group. To that aim, churches may partner in this phase through specific mercy needs or platforms, such as businesses or services provided.
In order to reach the unreached, missionaries are sent by churches to enter among peoples and places that are unreached. Being intentional about entry and partnering carefully together, we can ensure that the gospel not only enters among the unreached but that it remains there.