Becoming a Missionary

In decades past, mission boards have done the job of approving or disapproving missionary candidates. They would determine this based on education, health, testimony, willingness to suffer, and many other factors. Today the Independent Baptist mission boards have taken on the position of the handmaid of the local church and have left the decision of who should be sent largely to the sending church and pastor. This puts the responsibility on the church where it belongs and increases our responsibility to be diligent to elevate the position of missionary and ensure the success of the future missionary by doing due diligence to evaluate the candidate for readiness for the field.

The following areas are some areas of advice for the local church for how to evaluate the family or individual desiring to be sent as missionaries:

  1. Is the candidate “well reported of by the brethren”?
    • When Paul took Timothy with him, he did so based principally on this requirement. Acts 16:1-2
    • Action step: Ask yourself the question: Would the staff and deacons of this church want this candidate to serve long term on the staff of the church with them? If you don’t know, ask the deacons and staff in a private, confidential setting. Ask the reasons why not if the answer is “no” so that the candidate can work on these areas in his life.
    • Another question: Is the candidate serving in a leadership position of the church? If not, why not? If so, what do those he is leading say about his leadership?
  2. Does the candidate meet the requirements of a pastor (1 Tim. 2) and deacon (Titus 1)?
    • The missionary on the field is the example of the believers. He is the oldest believer they have ever known in many cases and the leaders will copy him. He must be of the highest character according to God’s standards for a leader in the church.
  3. Does the candidate have any debt?
    • A missionary is given the responsibility of a salary and a work fund. If he does not effectively manage the his personal finances it can be expected that he will not effectively manage the finances of a ministry on the field.
  4. Has the candidate finished an approved course of study?
    • This course of study may differ according to the goals of the ministry that this missionary will be participating in. As a church planting missionary, a minimum level of study should be the Bible Institute or another undergraduate Bible college.
    • If the missionary is a single lady and will be working in a support role, this requirement may be relaxed.
  5. Does the candidate have the necessary ministry experience?
    • In Acts 13:1-4 the Holy Spirit called the two leaders of the church to the work of church planting among the gentiles. We should not be in the habit of sending inexperienced ministers in their own culture to do the ministry of church planting in another culture.
    • How much teaching/preaching experience does the candidate have? A minimum should be the equivalent of one year of weekly preaching where the candidate prepared his own sermons (52 sermons). This could be accomplished in a Sunday School or another setting in the church.
    • How much administrative experience does the candidate have? Has the candidate ever developed a new ministry in the church and organized people to reach the goals of the new ministry while working with leadership above him in a healthy way? Has the candidate been involved in carrying out tasks given to him by the pastor or staff? Has the candidate participated in regular staff meetings of the church? This will be what the missionary will do on the field so he needs to do it in his home church first.
    • Has the candidate reached anyone for Christ and discipled them to faithful maturity? Who? Can you point to any baptized believer in the church who is faithful to weekly services and is serving in some way who would point to this candidate as his spiritual father? The person does not necessarily need to be led to the Lord by the candidate but what we want to see is proficiency on the part of the candidate in the work of bringing new believers from infancy to a greater level of maturity inside of a mentor relationship. If the candidate never has done that in the US, the chances that he’ll be able to do this in another culture are small. Discipleship is the basic building block of missions. A church is built by doing this a number of times in a row.
  6. How strong are the interpersonal relationships of the candidate with others?
    • What is the working relationship of the candidate with the pastor and staff? Paul and Barnabas obviously had a deep brotherhood relationship with the other men serving at the church.
    • A missionary must work with people well. His job is all about people.
  7. How strong is the relationship of the candidate with his wife?
    • Is there any history of infidelity?
    • What is the testimony of the wife and marriage among other godly women?
    • Is the candidate faithful to his wife with his eyes? Meaning, is he well known to make other women uncomfortable in the way he looks at them or interacts with them?
    • How spiritually mature is the candidates wife? Is she looked at as a leader of other young women? The ability of a man to disciple others will be seen first in his ability to lead and disciple his own wife.
  8. Does the candidate have the habit of evangelism?
    • Meaning, is the candidate well known as a preacher of the Gospel to the lost? Is he out on soul winning visitation? Is he trying to reach his co-workers and neighbors with the Gospel? Has he brought any lost people to church in the last year? Do others who know the candidate well hear him speak often of sharing the Gospel with others?
    • A man will only do more there of what he is already doing here without being paid for it. If he is not well-known as being passionate for evangelism here, he will surely not involve himself in it much on the field in a language he is uncomfortable with.
  9. Does the vision of the candidate line up with the vision of the church?
    • WHY is he going? Does the candidate have a strong understand of the theology of missions?
    • Does the candidate want to plant church or dig wells? What is the philosophy of the church? WHAT is the candidate plan to do on the field?
    • HOW does the candidate plan to do the work? Does his strategy and philosophy of ministry line up with the leadership team of the church? Can he effectively articulate in writing how he believers ministry will be carried out where he is going?
    • WHERE is he going? Do others in the church leadership have a burden for the place he is going? Is he going to plant a church in a needy area or a very evangelized area?
    • WHO is the candidate going to work with? Is there a person on that field that the candidate will go train under for a minimum of the first two years of ministry? If not, the requirements will need to be very strictly upheld. If there is some trusted mentor on the field, some of the areas may be further developed on the field.