President’s Letter: Sending Missionaries Backwards

Current methods of sending missionaries are often backwards from the biblical model.

From Message magazine issue "Hardship & Harvest: New Missionaries in a Changing World"

In many ways, the way we send missionaries is backwards.

By “backwards,” I don’t mean primitive or old-fashioned. I actually mean that the “old” way of commissioning gospel workers—Scripture’s way—is in one sense the opposite of our method today.

Today, when a pastor preaches on missions, the church waits for someone in the pew to “feel” called. Sometimes they do, and gifted, faithful, godly laborers are sent off as a result.

But in Acts 13, when the local church in Antioch gathered for prayer and worship, the Holy Spirit spoke to the leaders first and said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (v. 2). The church took the initiative to identify those whom God was setting apart for the mission, and Saul and Barnabas obeyed.

Of course, the Holy Spirit is free to work in a variety of ways. He is sovereign. But I can’t help but think that there’s something beautiful and frankly better about the sending process starting with the local church and not only an individual’s personal call.

That’s why it’s such a joy to see a new crop of faithful new missionaries and their home churches mobilize as one for the work of missions.

Since our last new missionary issue, we’ve seen God call an astounding 43 churches to set apart 84 new workers for the harvest. God is still at work like he was in Acts 13.

And because the first missionary movement started with prayer in Acts 13, let me challenge you and your church to pray this prayer with us:

Heavenly Father,

You are the Lord of the harvest. Your Son died and rose to purchase a people from every nation. We stand in awe of your love for our world. We ask you, by your Spirit, to set aside these 84 missionaries in a special way. Empower their churches to support them well. Call generous givers to partner with them. And keep them rooted in Christ, growing in grace, and committed to this task. Do all of this for your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Our time in this world is short, and nothing matters more than the eternal destiny of human souls. May our powerful God continue to set apart workers to proclaim the good news.

Paul L. Davis

Paul Davis is president of ABWE. Prior to his appointment in 2017, Paul served as senior pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Holland, MI. He attended Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a master’s degree from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. Paul and his wife, Martha, have been married for 28 years, and have both served in numerous roles in Christian ministry and education. They have four adult children. Follow Paul on Facebook.