Stephen Kneale wrote a great post today regarding what missions work his church supports, and what they expect of their congregants (who are themselves often quite in need). One of the aspects of his writing and ecclesiology1 that I quite appreciate is rooting doctrine and practice in Scripture (Acts and the Epistles, primarily) and not in acquired tradition. It’s an approach that my church, Church Project, has put a lot of focus on. Kneale points out that the only Scriptural model of missions is church based, and focused on church planting.
We want to support church-based ministries because God’s plan A is the church and he has no plan B. The early church sent out individuals to plant churches and appoint elders. Paul could consider his work completed in a certain region not because he had shared the gospel with everyone there but because he had planted churches in the region and they would continue that work. The New Testament knows nothing of individuals other than those sent by churches, working from or with churches, sharing the gospel and then planting other churches where there were none making Christ known….it would be inconsistent to support ministries we similarly don’t see in the Bible or for us to shun the only forms that we do.
(Via Building Jerusalem)
This is a missions approach I also appreciated in the PCA denomination. Sadly, many modern evangelical organizations seemed to have divorced missions and ministry work from any focus on the local church body. It’s unclear to me whether this is the result of or a contributing factor to our individualistic, non-community American Christianity.