By: Dr. Verne Ward
Global Missions Director, Church of the Nazarene
Now there were these prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch…. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, after they had fasted and prayed and placed their hands on them, they sent them off.”
God’s people are a sent people. God calls each church to preach the gospel to its Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the furthest ends of the earth.
In being sent by God, sometimes the local church sends missionaries to areas beyond the congregation’s immediate reach to fulfill Christ’s words in Acts 1:8.
God calls and the Church sends. It has always been this way. Before there were denominations, local churches sent missionaries. Within individual congregations, there were people who sensed and accepted the Spirit’s call to preach the gospel to places and peoples where the Church was not yet. These local faith bodies anointed, commissioned, and supported these gospel emissaries.
Today, the ancient responsibility for preparing, discipling, and sending missionaries still rests primarily with the local church. Who, besides the local church, is better positioned to walk with them in discipleship as they explore the shape of their call? Where better to provide opportunities to gain critical experience and vital skills for cross-cultural ministry? Where else will experienced leaders mentor them as they grow into spiritually mature Christians? Who will fervently pray for and support them if not those who discipled and sent them?
Over our denomination’s 100-year existence, responsibility for walking that journey with missionaries has shifted from the local church to the global denomination. Yet, a small global or regional team cannot disciple missionaries-in-training as effectively as the local church can—and is called to—do.
To return this responsibility to the local church, we have created the Office of Engagement, a small team within Global Missions, led by Rev. Joyce Tempel. Joyce works with Regional Engagement coordinators, and these teams are tasked with coming alongside and resourcing candidates and the local church as each fulfills God’s call.
As you communicate with local churches, you may have opportunities to answer questions about the church’s role in sending and how Global Missions can help. In Mesoamerica, please contact Scott and Emily Armstrong (firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com) with your questions or to request resources.
In December, I spent time with Nazarene leaders in Korea, bringing them this message: Missions is the heart of God for the lost! The Church of the Nazarene needs you to accomplish missions.
“This is a message we haven’t heard before from the global church,” they told me. One leader added, “We always saw the USA as the big brother who doesn’t need our help.”
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Just as the local church meets its pastor’s needs so that the pastor is free to care for the church, local churches and districts around the world sustain Nazarene Global Missions with their support. As a result, we can pioneer where the church is not yet and develop and resource the local church as God’s primary agent of mission in the world.
God calls the whole church to missions, and the local church sustains missions. May we live into this call as we start a new year together in His mission.