5 Ways to Become a Missionary Sending Church

Before you plan programs and initiatives, becoming a missionary sending church means building a church culture saturated with the gospel.

The barriers to sending out a missionary are many, and it can seem like an impossible task. However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and by focusing on some of the basic ministries of the church, I believe we can raise up new missionaries from our local churches.

Here are five common factors that I have seen in churches that successfully send out missionaries.

1. Strong, doctrinal Bible preaching and teaching

A missionary is a spiritual ambassador; his task is tied to his soul, and his work is for an unseen kingdom. He is being sent to do spiritual work, and thus must be thoroughly spiritually prepared. As a pastor, you need to focus your attention not simply on sending out missionaries, but on growing up missionaries. I know of no other way to effectively grow missionaries than through solid explanation, careful exposition, and passionate exhortation of God’s word. To ignore this vital element is to ignore the soil in which all missionaries must be firmly planted.

It’s often those children who grew up in Sunday school and went to your youth group who end up becoming the church’s first missionaries. What kind of biblical foundation are they receiving in your church? It must go deeper than a few Bible stories.

Give your young people a God who is so glorious, so righteous, so good, so powerful, so true, so just, so merciful, so patient, so gracious, that you will find it impossible to keep them from sharing with others the glories of their God. Give them a doctrine that is wide enough for them to see the crimson thread of God’s redemptive plan from Genesis to Revelation. Give them a theology that is deep enough for them to marvel at God’s sovereign choices before the beginning of time. Give them a high eternal perspective that will keep them from pursuing the temporary comforts of this life.

In my experience, churches that send out missionaries are strong Bible and doctrine-teaching churches.

2. An emphasis upon the gospel and doctrine of salvation

A church that is not centered upon the foundational truths of the gospel cannot expect to produce missionaries who will preach the gospel. Sin’s damning effects, our helplessness outside of Christ, Christ’s divine nature, the atoning death of Jesus, the power of the resurrection, the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, the nature of true repentance, and many more gospel truths must find their place front and center in your church.

Do not let the gospel become a mere formula memorized and repeated by unbelieving lips. Give the gospel the depth it deserves, make it rich, make it real, and make it radiate from every corner of your church.

Don’t assume that all your church members believe the gospel, and don’t assume that any of your church members believe it enough! Don’t give in to the lie that they don’t need it because they’ve heard it before. A missionary must unwaveringly, and unabashedly stand upon the promises of the gospel; he must know the truths for himself and see them in himself.

Even before he reaches the mission field, his faith in the gospel will be tested. It will be tested in his marriage, in his family, and in his thought life. It will be tested with discouragement, tiredness, and frustrations. Do not give your prospective missionaries a chance to stumble when it comes to gospel truths.

In my experience, churches that don’t emphasize the gospel don’t produce many missionaries.

3. Healthy local evangelism

Biblical gospel-teaching without Biblical gospel-practice is unlikely to produce anything more than head-heavy, heart-empty church members who know much about predestination and progressive sanctification and little about their unbelieving neighbors.

On the other hand, give your members real gospel opportunities—give them a chance to share the message of Jesus with unbelievers, teach them the practice of starting gospel conversations, and show them by example how to carefully and accurately communicate gospel truth—and you will see prospective missionaries rise from your congregation.

Soon you’ll find that God is working in the hearts of one or two church members who are thinking about reaching out across the lines of culture and possibly across the boundaries of their home country.

In my experience, churches that practice evangelism produce missionaries who practice evangelism.

4. A faithful leadership team

Simply stated, pastors often don’t stick around long enough to really cultivate new missionaries. This isn’t a task of days, but of decades!

In order to send, you must have something to send from. A faithful team of pastors/elders and deacons provide the local church with the stability it needs to send out some of its best members to reach the nations. A leadership that exemplifies biblical roles of elder and deacon, a leadership that humbly and faithfully serves, a leadership that loves God, his word, and his people provide the structure and the confidence needed to produce new missionaries.

Pastor, if you want to send out missionaries you must work inward and downward and provide a deep and solid Biblical leadership team for your church. No prospective missionary wants to be sent by a church that is limping because its leadership is not in order. No prospective missionary should worry more about the future his home church than the church that he’s planting in a foreign country.

In my experience, churches that send missionaries have a robust and biblical leadership that has stuck around for more than a few years.

5. A heart for the nations

Finally, your church must have a heart for the nations cultivated by biblical theology rooted in God Himself, who loves the nations and calls from every nation to worship him. Isaiah 45:22-23 ESV reads: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”

I put this point last because it is ultimately the logical outcome of biblical theology taught in its fullness. We must not think a heart for the nations is caught simply by watching missionary presentations and hearing missionary stories. Ultimately a heart for the nations is about seeing God’s heart through God’s word and transplanting it into ourselves through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Pastor, give your people the heart of God over and over again. Teach them of God’s love and God’s heart for all peoples and cultures.

The heart that beats for the nations beats loudly. It can be heard when missionaries are prayed for from the pulpit; it can be seen when missionaries are given time to share. A heart for the nations will naturally include missionary stories, videos, and presentations. The heart value is shown by making missions a priority and by putting it in the budget.

Making an effort to reach out cross-culturally locally is often a sign that a church has a heart for the nations. Another sign is sending short-term teams to aid and encourage missionaries. Churches who find ways to weave missions into the regular life of the church do much to help cultivate and deepen a heart for the nations.

In my experience, churches that send out missionaries are churches who have seen God’s heart for the nations.

Caleb Suko

Caleb Suko is an ABWE missionary and pastor in Odessa, Ukraine, where he has served since 2007. He is also the director of Blagovestie Today Center for Evangelism and Discipleship, which aids local churches all over Ukraine by offering biblical teaching on evangelism and discipleship. Caleb blogs and podcasts regularly at sukofamily.org.