|Westgate Baptist Church Philosophy of Missions
Part I Biblical Foundation
The Purpose of the Local Church
The ultimate purpose of the church is to glorify God (Psalm 96:3; Isaiah 48:9-11; 1 Cor 10:31; Eph 3:21). As Christ was given one mission by the Father (John 17:4) He in turn gives only one mission to His church (John 17:18; Matt 28:19-20). The church exists in the world for the same ultimate purpose for which Christ came – to reveal the glory of God in the gospel to all men (2 Cor. 4:15; 1 Peter 2:9). This is also the Great Commission, the mission of the church, to see God’s glory declared among all nations, continuing to manifest His glory to a dark world (Eph 3:10) – until He personally returns to the earth to extend His kingdom and His glory throughout the whole earth (Psalm 2; Rev 19).
The fourfold means by which every local church accomplishes this ultimate purpose on earth is: (1) by exalting God in Worship (Jn. 4:23-24; Rom. 12:1ff; Heb. 13:15), (2) by expositing the Scriptures (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-4:2; 1 Pet. 4:11), (3) by edifying and equipping the saints (Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 3:12-14; 10:24-25) through the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16-4:2), the cultivation and training of church leaders (Acts 14:23; 2 Tim. 2:2), and the mutual employment of each member’s spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:3-8; 15:14; 1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), and (4) by evangelizing the world (Mt. 28:18-20; 2 Cor. 5:17-21) with the end goal of making disciples through the planting and establishing of God-centered, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered, Bible-expositing, indigenous local churches among all the peoples of the earth (Acts 14:21-23; Rom. 15:14-29).
The Primary Focus of Outreach
The Great Commission given by the Lord Jesus Christ to make disciples of all nations is not an option but rather a biblical mandate that is binding upon His church until the end of the age (Mt. 28:18-20). Therefore, it is both the privilege and responsibility of every local Church body to zealously carry out this commission by faithfully proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit to every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Acts 14:21, Rev. 5:9), baptizing new converts into the name of the triune God (Mt. 28:19), teaching them to obey all that Christ commanded (Mt. 28:18-20; cf. Acts 14:22), and gathering them into indigenous (self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating) churches (Acts 14:21-23; Rom. 15:14-29) able to fulfill their Christian calling among their own people.
The Great Commission is more than “evangelizing,” it is “disciplizing” (i.e. disciple making) with the end result always being the establishment of a local church. This is not only the mandate, the privilege, and the responsibility of every local church but also the primary focus of missions in the church. The church today is being pressured on many sides with many tasks, all in the name of outreach. Therefore the church should be focused in the understanding of its disciple-making mission as the utterly unique task of the church and all its outreach activities should be constrained by the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church.
Part II Biblical Objectives
Promote the Truth and Sufficiency of God’s Word
It is the solemn responsibility of the Church to both protect and promote the truth of God’s Word (1 Tim. 3:15, 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:13-14, 2:2, 4:2). The reason for this is because God’s Word alone is fully inspired, inerrant, infallible, authoritative, and sufficient for everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Tim. 3:14-17; 2 Pet. 1:3-4; 16-21; 1 Thess. 2:13; Mt. 5:18; Lk. 16:17, 19-30; Jn. 10:35; Ps. 19:7-14; Ps. 119:89; Ps. 138:2). According to 2 Tim. 3:15-17 the Word of God alone is sufficient to save us (2 Tim. 3:15), to sanctify us (2 Tim. 3:16) and to suit us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17). Therefore sound doctrine must inform the church’s thinking about missions. Rightly dividing the Word (2 Tim. 2:15) and faithfully preaching and teaching it (2 Tim. 4:1-5) in all of its fullness (Acts 20:27) by the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:1-5) must be at the forefront of any biblical missions philosophy. The pastoral leadership of the local Church must vigilantly guard and protect its members and missionaries from error (Acts 20:28-32; Tit. 1:9; 2:1, 7) and make sure that they are consistently being nourished on the words of the faith and sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:6, 13; Eph. 4:11-16). From start to finish missions draws its life from God’s Word (Deut. 8:3; Mt. 4:4).
Teach the Place and Priority of the Local Church in Missions
Christ gave Himself for the church (Eph 5:25) and promised to build it in a way unique to the local church (Matt 16:18). Christ Himself has given gifted leaders to the church (Eph 4:11) so that the body might be built up (Eph 4:12). In the book of Acts missionaries are sent out from the local church (Acts 13:1-3) and then reports are given to the local church (Acts 14:26-28).
Therefore, the responsibility of the Great Commission falls to the church, and not directly to para-church organizations or mission agencies. For the church to give this responsibility to other organizations is to relegate God’s primary means for missions to a secondary role. Although para-church organizations and agencies are useful aides to the church, the authority, responsibility and impetus for missions belongs to the church.
Prioritize Direct Church Planting Missions
Church planting is the target of the Great Commission. The disciple-making demands of the great commission explicitly include more than simply evangelizing the lost. Making disciples involves baptizing them (Mt. 28:19; ‘baptizing,’ cf. the pattern in Acts 2:41-42 where people are baptized and then added to the number of the church) and teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded (Mt. 28:20). Both baptizing and teaching are closely connected with the local church.
The pattern of missions in the book of Acts is evangelism, incorporation into a local assembly and then devotion to the teaching of the Apostles. This pattern was evident in the church at Antioch (Acts 11:9-26, cf. 13:1-3): People turned to the Lord (11:21), the people were considered a church (11:26), and Barnabas and Paul taught them for an extended period (11:26). Acts 14:21-23 makes it clear that establishing churches with elders was the norm and not the exception (cf. Tit. 1:5). If the goal of missions was only evangelism it would be impossible for Paul to say, “so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19) and to speak of having “no further place in these regions” (15:23). Paul could make these statements only because church planting was the goal of missions.
It is essential that the church consistently seeks to bring their missions effort in alignment with the emphasis that the Scriptures lay on church planting. In other words, the more closely a ministry is connected with this ultimate aim of seeing churches planted, the more it is deserving of missions focus. To do missions biblically is to have a mission’s effort that reflects the same emphases the New Testament does. Therefore, missions will be prioritized in the following order:
1. Church planting. Church planting is the establishing of local, indigenous Churches characterized by true worship of God, effective biblical nurture of believers, and evangelization of unbelievers, to the end that these churches will reproduce themselves. Church planting efforts will require an initial evangelistic strategy and a strong, ongoing gospel witness and teaching ministry for the effective building up of a living body of believers. Although many servants aide in a ministry of this nature, the primary means God uses to bring a church about is a resident, fulltime, pastor/teacher.
2. Leadership training. Churches cannot be planted unless there are pastor/teachers to plant and grow them. Therefore, training men to be those who can handle God’s Word effectively as they lovingly shepherd God’s sheep is essential to missions. Involvement in leadership training includes training pastors at home to be sent out to plant churches as well as sending out teachers with the specific goal of training nationals for the work of the ministry.
3. Strengthening Existing Churches. Strengthening ministries are those involved with equipping and building up existing local, indigenous Churches so that they are able to evangelize and reproduce Churches among their own people in an effective way. Efforts to strengthen local Churches may include such activities as shepherding, preaching, teaching, discipleship, and partnering with Christian nationals in evangelism and outreach ministries.
4. Support Ministries. Support ministries provide various support services to aid those engaged in Church planting and equipping ministries. Support ministries may include such activities as bible translation, women discipling other women and children, administration, medical work, aviation, community development and other services.
Develop a Biblically Motivated Commitment to Missions
The local Church will not be missions-minded unless the leadership of the Church is missions-minded. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that the leadership of the Church inculcate in God’s people a biblically informed vision and contagious passion for world mission’s (global church planting and strengthening; training and equipping national pastors/shepherds/leaders). God’s priority and passion to gather an innumerable host of worshippers from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Rev. 5:9, 7:9-12) into local assemblies (Acts 14:21-23) to be shepherded and taught (Mt. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11-16) must be clearly communicated as the visible priority and passion of the Church leadership.
Practically speaking, this educating and energizing of the congregation can be accomplished (1) by periodically preaching on biblical missions, (2) by periodically offering classes on missions, (3) by hosting mission’s conferences, (4) through regular short-term mission’s trips to encourage, support and serve the church’s missionaries as well as to promote interest and raise awareness, (5) through ongoing prayer support as needs are communicated by the church leadership (6) by providing frequent missionary updates and reports (7) by investigating and publicizing field needs, and (8) by cultivating a mission-minded atmosphere (i.e. provide books and resources on missions, circulate missionary newsletters, set up display boards/tables, create a website for the church’s missionaries, etc.).
Cultivate a Biblically Informed Heart for the Lost
Although propelled ultimately with an aim to magnify God through obedience to the Great Commission, the church must strive to cultivate a deep-seated compassion for the lost. We must cultivate God’s heart for the lost, as manifested by God’s desire that none should perish (Ezek. 33:11), the Father’s joy at the repentance of a sinner (Luke 15:20) and as uniquely displayed in Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matt. 9:36; 23:37; Mark 10:21). In addition, the sober reality of eternal, conscious suffering for all those not covered with the righteousness of Christ must inform our view of the lost (Is. 66:24; Matt. 25:46; Mark 9:42-48; Rev. 14:11). Thus, there is the utmost urgency in missions to pattern our passion for lost souls after our Father’s and to view them through the lens of the eternity that awaits them apart from Christ.
Identify and Pursue Potential Missionary Candidates
It is the responsibility of the local Church to not only pray for God to raise up workers (Mt. 9:35-38) but also to identify those whom God is raising up in the congregation (Acts 13:1ff). This is done through: (1) character (the Spirit’s work in producing a life of holiness in the potential candidate- 1 Tim. 3:1-13; 2 Tim. 2:21; Tit. 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-3), (2) call (evident giftedness and desire- 1 Tim. 3:1-2; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), (3) competence (the candidate will be encouraged to pursue church-based seminary training- 2 Tim. 2:2, 15; Tit. 1:9) and (4) creed (the candidate will clearly demonstrate faithfulness in both doctrine and practice- 1 Tim. 4:16), (5) confirmation (the Church leadership (along with the congregation) will affirm the candidate- Acts 13:3; cf. Acts 6:6).
There are a number of practical ways to help identify and promote missionary candidates in the local Church, such as (1) congregational prayer for God to raise up workers (Mt. 9:36-38), (2) promotion of biblical missions, (3) involvement of potential candidates in local evangelistic outreaches, and (4) involvement of potential candidates in visits to the mission field (short-term mission’s trips).
Evaluate, Test, and Train Potential Missionary Candidates
The priority of the local Church should be on training men for Church planting ministry, as this is clearly the biblical priority and emphasis (Acts 13:1-4; 14:21-23; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:5-9). This doesn’t mean however, that women have no role to play in missions. Women are equal with men in dignity and worth (Gen. 1:27; 1 Pet. 3:7) they are however different in function and role. Women are not to have authority over men or to occupy a position of leadership in the Church (1 Cor. 11:2-16; 14:34-35; Tim. 2:11-15), they do however play an important role in support ministry (evangelism, ministry to women and children, ministry to their husbands, etc.) (Jn. 4:39; Tit. 2:3-5; Gen. 2:18).
According to 2 Timothy 2:2, it is the role and responsibility of the pastoral leadership of every local Church to reduplicate itself. In other words, leadership training and development is a biblical mandate not an option (Acts 14:23, Tit. 1:5). Therefore, the leadership is called not only to identify men in the Church who are “faithful” (character) and “able to teach others” (gifted) (2 Tim. 2:2) but also to spend themselves, as leaders, in this great and glorious task of evaluating (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Tit. 1:6-9), testing (1 Tim. 3:10) and training (2 Tim. 2:2) others for full-time pastoral ministry work on the mission’s field.
Once the leadership of the Church has identified those men whom God is raising up (clear demonstration of character, giftedness, and faithfulness in serving the local body) there are a number of practical ways to evaluate, test and train them for ministry. For example, (1) weekly leadership training and development meetings, (2) weekly preaching practicum seminars led by one of the pastors/elders/lay leaders where men are given the opportunity to preach on a rotational basis, while being critically evaluated and shepherded in the process, (3) home bible studies or Sunday School classes, where aspiring church leaders/missionary candidates are given an opportunity to preach and shepherd God’s people while being closely mentored by a member of the pastoral leadership team/an elder/or lay leader, (4) evangelistic outreaches and short-term missions trips led by the pastoral staff/elder/or lay leader, where potential missionary candidates are given opportunities to minister (preach, teach, shepherd, evangelize) and serve, (5) opportunities for potential missionary candidates to serve on the missions committee and personally care for existing missionaries. (6) in addition to the biblical, theological and pastoral training, missionaries will also need to undergo intensive language and cross-cultural training before they are properly equipped to enter the field.
We strongly desire and recommend that all candidates for missions support have completed seminary level training (at a church approved seminary) and have demonstrated a clear competence in the following areas: (1) biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, (2) biblical exposition and homiletics, (3) systematic theology, (4) apologetical methodology, (5) pastoral leadership/training, (6) biblical counseling, (7) church history, (8) bible knowledge (OT/NT introduction and survey).
Send, Support, and Sustain Existing Missionaries
It is the responsibility of the local Church not only to test and train men for international ministry but also to send, support, sustain, nurture and care for them while they are on the field. Every missionary supported by the local Church is considered to be an integral part of the extended church family and thus it is both the privilege and responsibility of the local Church to meet the financial (1 Cor. 9:1-18; Gal. 6:6; Phil. 1:5; 4:15-20; 1 Tim. 5:17-18; 3 John 5-8), physical (Mt. 10:5-10; Lk. 8:1-3; Rom. 12:10-13; 15:24; 2 Cor. 1:15-16; 2 Cor. 8-9), spiritual (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:1-3; Eph. 4:11-16; Heb. 13:17), prayer (Mt. 9:36-38, Rom. 10:14-17, 15:31-33; 2 Cor. 1:11; Eph. 6:18-20; 1 Thes. 5:25; 2 Thes. 3:1-2; Eph. 6:19-20; Col. 4:2), and training needs of each individual missionary (2 Tim: 2:2).
In an effort to faithfully shepherd and care for our missionaries on the field we emphasize quality of relationship rather than quantity. Therefore, the financial support of the church will be directed to a smaller concentration of missionaries, who are truly gifted, called and qualified to effectively carry out the work in a biblical and God-honoring way. This enables us (1) to more effectively shepherd each missionary (2) to be more intimately involved in their ministry work through continual prayer, regular correspondence and periodic field visits and (3) to provide a level of ongoing training and encouragement through the sending of resources (books and articles), counseling, teaching seminars on the field, and missions conferences.
Part III Policy
Prioritization of Support Levels
Our financial prioritization is based on our biblical objectives. We will prioritize support levels according to the following three categories:
1. Ministry Assignment – (1) Church planting; (2) Leadership training; (3) Church strengthening; (4) Support roles (directly tied to 1-3).
2. Training/Preparation – (1) Seminary level training; (2) Bible college level training; (3) Church based training
3. Church Involvement – (1) Member actively serving in a leadership capacity; (2) Member actively serving; (3) Non-church member actively serving in a leadership capacity in a like minded church; (4) Non- church member actively serving in a like minded church
It is also our desire to emphasize quality of relationship over quantity. Therefore, financial support will be directed to a smaller concentration of missionaries at a higher percentage of the missionaries overall support.
Missionary Candidate Qualifications
These considerations form the basis for evaluating the suitability of candidates for support:
Character and Giftedness
· Manifest the character qualities of a shepherd as listed in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5.
· A demonstrated ability to clearly articulate the full biblical gospel.
· Competence in rightly handling the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15).
· See under Biblical Objectives, “Identify and Pursue Potential Missionary Candidates” and “Evaluate, Test, and Train Potential Missionary Candidates” for additional qualifications.
Doctrine and Philosophy of Ministry
The candidate (both husband and wife in the case of married couples) must give satisfactory evidence of being in complete harmony with the doctrinal statement and the Philosophy of Ministry of the church, and shall sign the agreement form to this effect.
Education and Training
As stated in our Biblical Objectives we strongly desire and recommend that all missionaries complete seminary level training and demonstrate a clear competence in the following areas: (1) biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, (2) biblical exposition and homiletics, (3) systematic theology, (4) apologetical methodology, (5) pastoral leadership/training, (6) biblical counseling, (7) church history, (8) bible knowledge (OT/NT introduction and survey).
Missionary’s Relationship to WBC
We regard our missionaries as an extension of our ministry staff. We therefore expect them to meet the same qualification and performance standards expected of our resident Pastoral Staff, with similar accountability, and in keeping with their level of responsibility. This would include but not limited to (1) regular communication, (2) submit annual report, and (3) advance notice and consultation for any significant ministry changes.
Shepherding and Encouragement
As stated earlier in this policy, it is the desire of the church not only to train, send, and support our missionaries but also to sustain, nurture, and care for them while they are on the field. Our commitment is to be involved in the missionary’s life and ministry through continual prayer, regular correspondence and periodic field visits. We hope to provide a level of ongoing training and encouragement through the sending of resources (books and articles), counseling, teaching seminars on the field, and courses from The Expositors Seminary. Lastly we will make every effort to bring our missionaries home on a rotating basis to attend our own scheduled conferences.
Selection of Mission Agency
New member missionary candidates shall confer with the Missions Committee prior to formal affiliation with a mission agency or acceptance of a field or ministry assignment. It is the desire of the Missions Committee to work closely with member candidates both in the selection of an agency and in the decision respecting their ministry assignment. The Committee shall approve agencies and mission boards as meeting the standards defined in this policy.
As a condition of receiving support, all missionaries are expected to maintain regular correspondence with the Missions Committee on at least a quarterly basis. Newsletters, prayer requests, progress reports, audio and video briefings are encouraged and welcomed. At the end of each year a summary annual report should be submitted with an updated annual budget. Workers who fail to communicate satisfactorily are subject of support suspension or termination.
Candidate Approval Process
Here’s how to apply for support:
1. Candidate must carefully read the WBC missions policy.
2. Contact the church office to schedule a meeting with an elder of WBC
3. The interviewing elder must then recommend the candidate to the Missions Committee
4. Missions Committee gives initial consent to proceed with the candidate approval process.
5. Candidate completes the WBC application for missionary support
6. Application is reviewed simultaneously by the Missions Committee and the elder board.
7. Candidate is interviewed by the Missions Committee with respect to his qualifications as outlined in this policy.
8. The Missions Committee recommends the candidate to the elder board for final approval.
The purpose of short terms missions trips is to expose teams from the local church to the international ministries of workers the church supports in an effort to serve and encourage them, meet specific needs, and strengthen the local church-worker bond. The biblical priority in missions is clearly church planting (Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 14:21-23; Rom. 15:14-29), which is ultimately a long-term process requiring a full-time commitment. Therefore, short-tem missions by its very definition can only serve to aid, assist and support this long-term endeavor.
Definition of Short-Term Missions
Short term missions is the sending of a believer or a group of believers to a cross-cultural field to visit a church supported or approved missionary for an appointed period of time (i.e. less than 2 years) to accomplish a need that is in agreement with the stated goals of both the sending church and its missionary. Short-term trips should always be in association with a church supported or church approved missionary who is part of a growing church or an already established church. Short-term trips that work apart from churches leave ministered people without hope of being further discipled by a local church in their area.
Purpose of Short-Term Missions
In order for the local church to be effectively involved in short-term missions it must understand what short-term missions can and cannot accomplish. The purpose of short-term missions is to enhance an already effective long term involvement in missions. Short-term missions can be used to increase the effectiveness of a church’s involvement on the international field in several ways. (1) Short-term missions can serve to raise interest and awareness, as well as to energize and excite the local church in regards to global missions, (2) short-term missions can help both the local church leadership and potential missionary candidates to assess their calling to full-time, career missionary service, (3) short-term missions provides a tremendous opportunity to shepherd, encourage and support international workers already on the field, as well as to further equip and train them for maximum ministry effectiveness, (4) short-term missions can also be used to accomplish specific goals, tasks and projects (these range from preaching and teaching to pastoral leadership training and evangelism to work-related construction projects), (5) short-term missions serves to help the local church gain a better understanding of the field needs of their international worker (i.e. prayer, resources, training, construction, etc.).
Guidelines for Short Terms Missions Trips
1) All short term missions trips must be fully consistent with WBC’s stated goals and purposes as delineated in this missions policy and approved by both the elders and the missions committee.
2) All short term missions trips must be led by a WBC elder, staff member or elder-approved lay leader.
3) All short term missions trips must be directly tied to a known church-based ministry approved by the elders of WBC (preferably a WBC supported missionary).
4) All short term missions trips must be approved by the missionary to ensure that the trip will actually be a benefit and help to their ministry and not a burden or hindrance.
5) All short term missions trip participants must meet the stated requirements of this policy (see below).
Requirements for all Short Term Missions Trip Candidates
Short-term missions trip candidates must meet the following criteria: (1) a genuine saving faith in Jesus Christ and evidence of the fruits of the Spirit in ever-increasing measure, (2) a genuine Spirit-wrought passion for world missions, (3) a spiritual maturity commensurate with the field of service, (4) an ability to clearly and cogently articulate the gospel, (5) a clearly demonstrated ability in the desired field of service (i.e. gifts and graces that will serve to benefit the missionary and accomplish the stated goals of the trip), (6) a wholehearted commitment to the stated mission, purpose and goal of the trip, (7) must be an actively serving WBC member; actively serving non-members will be considered on a case-by-case basis, (8) must fill out a short term missions application and complete an interview with the trip leader, (9) each candidate must be willing to submit to the authority of scripture and the appointed leadership of the trip, (10) each candidate must successfully complete the necessary pre-trip training and reading requirements as established by the team leader, (11) each candidate must raise their own support for the trip.
The Role of Para-Church Organizations
For the purposes of this policy a “para-church” organization will be defined as any ministry whose organization is not under the control or authority of a local congregation. Inherent in this definition is what I would consider to be a fundamental problem. Biblically speaking, Christ’s Church is the sole entity which God has ordained to build, bless and manifest His authority, power, and glory through (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 1:20-22; Eph. 3:10-11; 21). Christ didn’t die for the para-church; He died for the church (Eph. 5:25), that’s His sole bride (Rev. 19:7-10), which He loves, nourishes, protects & builds, like no other! God’s mandate that the Church maintain sound doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13-14; 6:20; Tit. 1:9, 2:1; 2 Tim. 2:2) and individual accountability of every Church member (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17) requires that para-church organizations be fully accountable to the local church. Therefore, since para-church organizations by their very definition cannot meet that standard we don’t think that the local Church should directly support or work with para-church organizations as a corporate body.
 It is our policy not to directly support Para-church organizations.