As a pastor, you have a pivotal role in fulfilling the Great Commission.
It is so pivotal, in fact, that you have probably wondered what to look for in a missions agency.
I’ve asked this same question as a pastor. Below, I’ll outline some of the filters I think through in determining what kind of missions agency—if any—I would work with, and how pastors should biblically approach the important responsibility of caring for their sent-out workers.
The Inevitable Challenges in Missions
Any time we make a choice, selecting the path of least resistance is natural. Similarly, it’s tempting to think that the best missions agency is the one whose workers pose the fewest problems. But there are better criteria than this.
Trials and tribulations are a given in any endeavor that involves stepping into difficult, remote, and unreached places. I’ve seen this firsthand in my years leading a nearly 100-year-old mission organization serving in more than 80 countries. Inserting Bible-believing, Great Commission-obeying individuals into Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim countries will necessarily bring a host of challenges, such as:
- Spiritual obstacles
- Cultural barriers
- Governmental challenges
- Legal hurdles
- Financial difficulties
- Moral temptations
- Housing problems
As James 1:2-4 tells us, trials test our faith and help us grow in perseverance. And Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:14-16 makes it clear that we are to be lights in the world as Christians. Therefore, it’s not whether problems will arise but when.
The Importance of Comprehensive Support
Churches that underestimate the needs of missionaries set them up for failure. A lack of support can breed mediocrity and diminish ministry effectiveness. The Apostle John commends such support in 3 John 5-6, emphasizing that we ought to support missionaries so that we may be fellow workers in the truth.
When the church and a missions agency are in sync, they act as Paul describes in Galatians 6:2: bearing one another’s burdens and fulfilling the law of Christ. A well-aligned church and agency can provide a safety net, catching missionaries when problems start to add up, interpersonal issues among missionaries arise, and ministry effectiveness begins to break down.
Selecting a reputable missions agency to partner with your church is an important step in sending your best to the nations. So, how can pastors recognize an agency worthy of their trust?
Criteria for Choosing a Missions Agency
Doctrinal and philosophical alignment: Sound missiology is downstream from sound doctrine. The agency you choose must align closely with your church’s theological convictions. Doctrinal alignment ensures a harmonious relationship and a unified approach to the missionary task.
Leadership and experience: An agency with experienced leaders can provide invaluable wisdom and guidance. Veteran leadership can be a deciding factor in successfully navigating the complexities of international missions. A new, lean, sending organization may be more nimble in some situations, but few things can replace the wisdom of a mature saint in times of trial.
Healthy ecclesiology: All parachurch organizations serve at the pleasure of the local church. Jesus said he would build his church (Matthew 16:18), not just his nonprofit organization. The bride of Christ is God’s plan A for accomplishing the gospel mission in the world. Thus, pastors should seek agencies that recognize the God-given role of accountability, authority, care, and oversight afforded to the office of pastor in the New Testament. An agency that fails to ask hard questions about its applicants’ doctrine of the local church will only continue to reproduce superficial ecclesiology abroad. Choose an agency that shares your heart for the church.
Engagement and support: Your sending church should not just be a spectator but an active participant in the mission work. Choose an agency that welcomes and values input from the sending church. One cannot overstate the blessing of having a strong support team. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us that two are better than one, and the same is true in cross-cultural missions.
Choosing a missions agency is a significant decision that requires both prayer and discernment. By understanding the inherent challenges and needs in missionary work and what makes for a strong missions agency, you can make a more informed and effective choice. In doing so, you position yourself better to fulfill the Great Commission, supporting those who go out to make disciples of all nations.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Focus on the Family on October 24, 2023. Used with permission.