There are a few different ways to approach this question. We often think of the missionary’s role in the global Church, but the missionary also plays a critical role in their local church. We can also turn this question around and ask what the church’s role is in the life of a missionary.
What is the missionary’s role in the global Church?
Like all believers, missionaries are part of a much bigger story than what they see in their local context. For one, missionaries prevent the Church from getting stagnant.
One missionary described it as cross-pollination. When missionaries interact with believers of other cultures and worldviews, we share our understanding of who God is, and they share their understanding with us. This ultimately helps deepen our relationship with Him.
Equally as important, Jesus called the global Church to go and make disciples of all nations. But this is impossible without people who are willing to leave their homes for other lands. Missionaries help the Church fulfill Christ’s command by going to places where the Gospel hasn’t been preached or where discipleship is lacking.
What is the missionary’s role in the local Church?
At all stages of their service, missionaries have experience and knowledge that can help get their local churches personally engaged in missions.
In the preparing stage, missionaries get to teach their churches about spiritual needs around the world. They get cast a vision for the work God can do through them. And by asking church members to partner with them, these missionaries help give everyone a role to play in God’s global mission.
Current missionaries get to tell their churches about all the amazing things God has done abroad. They have real life experiences of God moving and working that can encourage and motivate their local church body.
Returning missionaries can help prepare more workers for the field by mentoring aspiring missionaries in their congregations. (Check out our previous article on how to identify future missionaries in your church.)
They’re also in the unique position to speak into the local church’s mission board. Their experiences give them unique insights that can help mission boards better support their missionaries and help other members of the church live on mission for Christ.
Finally, let’s reverse the question.
What is the role of the church in the life of a missionary?
The church’s job is to send the missionary out into the world to proclaim the Gospel to people who haven’t heard. But that’s not just as simple as writing a check every month.
Sending a missionary means helping that person determine whether they should become a missionary. It means giving them guidance as they think through the possibilities and the challenges of this work. It means providing spiritual, emotional and financial support throughout the missionary’s journey — including when they return.
This is why TEAM doesn’t just equip individuals to go to the mission field. We also want to make sure every church is equipped to send and support workers who can thrive on the mission field.
You see, the roles of the global Church, the local church, and the missionary are all intertwined by God to bring the Good News of salvation to all people everywhere. We’re all called to this work, and none of us can do it alone.