The missionary’s timeless role
From the earliest days of our Movement, our AG forefathers
placed great emphasis upon world evangelism. Since then this emphasis has been
evidenced by two fundamental subthemes: the pioneer missionary and the
perpetuation of ministry.
Among those attending the first gathering of the Assemblies
of God were several missionaries who had been serving independently and wanted
to join the fledgling Fellowship. Others were soon commissioned and sent out by
the new General Council. Documents from those early years show evidence of the
value our forefathers placed on missions. Churches were willing to
sacrificially support missionaries and missions endeavors, offering a powerful
demonstration of the priority missionaries had in our understanding of our role
and responsibility before God.
But AG missions goes beyond the missionary to include
ministry partners on-site. Missions also involves local people, because the
recognized goal of the missionary is to train national leaders to build
churches around the world. Our missions endeavors are not about expanding our
own influence. Instead, missions is about raising up brothers and sisters
around the world to further the cause of Christ.
Training national leaders was the priority of our missionary
pioneers. Those on new fields focused on training, even while doing the initial
work of evangelism and discipleship. The ultimate goal was to train national
leaders so that the spread of the gospel could continue long after the
Our greatest examples for both our pioneer efforts and our
teaching ministry are found in the discourses of Jesus and the New Testament
pattern given to us by Paul and others in the Book of Acts. As churches have
matured into different phases around the world, the missionaries’
responsibility has changed. Where they were once pioneers sowing the seed and
proclaiming the message of the gospel, the primary function of missionaries in
many countries now focuses on training.
For example, several missionary families have served in
Brazil for generations and are effectively involved in various forms of
training. The same phenomenon is taking place among the longer-established
churches in Africa and areas of Asia. Much of the responsibility of our current
missionary personnel is to train those who can carry the message of the gospel
and continue widening the missions vision of the mature local church.
Yet even as our missionaries transition from the role of pioneers
to partners, their value remains immeasurable. In recent years some in our
constituency have begun to underestimate that value, assuming that
long-established and diverse church fellowships around the world no longer need
or benefit from our partnership. Nothing could be further from the truth. The
missionary is the essential link to our Fellowship’s God-given function of
serving His church worldwide.
While many projects are worthy and important, they cannot be
realized to their fullest potential without missionaries. The missionary is
essential in every phase of ministry development, whether in church planting or
compassion ministries or Bible training or the ever-growing avenues of media
outreach. Missionaries are involved not only in linkage, but also in training
people who can perpetuate the missions process. This process, we believe, is
God-given. Missionaries have no substitute and are as essential today as in the
beginning. We continue to support the role of the missionary wholeheartedly,
and we continue to pray that God will raise up more laborers to go into His
fields of harvest.
L. JOHN BUENO is executive director of AG World Missions.
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