It’s common vernacular to call missions agencies like TEAM “sending agencies.” But really, this label is a misnomer.
While agencies help assess, prepare and place missionaries, they do not send them.
And this distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics. Knowing who sends missionaries is a critical distinction that shapes our understanding of the local church’s critical role in global missions.
At TEAM, we say that our purpose is to help churches send missionaries. That may sound simple, but those words are intended to convey an idea that is fundamental to everything we do.
We believe the church is the real missionary-sender, not the mission agency.
Why Missions Agencies Don’t Send Missionaries
The Bible talks about the church sending missionaries, not agencies. While we love TEAM and other organizations, we can search through the New and Old Testaments and never find a missions agency listed.
Instead, Jesus charges a community of believers — the church — with the Great Commission.
We see this in Scripture when God called Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. The Holy Spirit first prompted the church to commission them (Acts 13:1-3). And throughout his missionary journeys, Paul thanks his sending churches for their commitment to God’s work through his ministry (2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Philippians 1:3-5; 4:17).
Why Missionaries Need Their Local Church
Of course, a church’s role isn’t just about sending someone off and supporting their work financially. When missionary life becomes hard, missionaries need the church.
Some experts estimate the average missionary faces stress levels up to six times that of North Americans not serving cross-culturally and are at risk of developing stress-related illnesses.
So how can missionaries continue to serve under such stress?
One main difference between the missionaries that continue to labor and those that must return to their home country is the support they receive from their sending community.
Missionary success depends on having a safe place where missionaries can receive prayer, rest and encouragement from those who know them best.
When a local church sends out a missionary but leaves the work of encouraging and supporting that missionary to others, that church misses out on the rich blessings of seeing God move globally. They will miss out on the miracles God performs, the ways He provides and the joy of being a vital part of someone hearing about Christ for the first time.
If Churches Send, Agencies Support
So what does it mean for a church to be the sender?
Those may seem like big responsibilities, and they are certainly a commitment! But that is where agencies like TEAM can help you get the resources and tools you need to send your members on mission.
Missions agencies work alongside the church to share their experience navigating the complexities of global ministry.
For TEAM, this means we help churches in missionary assessment and preparation, connect potential missionaries with teams on the field, process donations, provide financial oversight along with insurance and benefits, facilitate a global member care network and much more. We also coach churches who are just beginning to engage in global missions.
The local church sending her members locally and globally is the backbone of living the Great Commission. It is our joy as a missions agency to serve the church as they send missionaries to make Christ known.
Every month, TEAM sends out new resources to help churches send their members well. Sign up here to receive your monthly resource.