I have frequently been asked about resources for local church missions programs. In 2015, Steve Beirn, Global Ministries Pastor at Calvary Church in Lancaster, PA, published Well Sent: Reimaging the Church’s Missionary-Sending Process. Steve served at our sending church in Holland, Michigan before going to Calvary so I know him well. He writes with passion and experience. In the introduction he writes:
This book seeks to elevate the role of the local church in the sending effort. The trend in missions today is to place the individual at the center of the sending process. Sometimes the agency is placed at the center. This book places the local church at the center of the sending process. – Well Sent, p. 17.
In placing the local church at the center of the sending process, the book balances healthy partnership roles for agencies and the individual. Well Sent is arranged into four parts:
- “Owning the Church’s Special Task,”
- “Owning the Church’s Special Path,”
- “Owning the Church’s Special Relationships,”
- “Owning the Church’s Special challenges.”
Chapter 1 explores the perception that sending missionaries is antiquated, tied to colonialism, too risky, etc. Chapter 2, written by George Murray, provides a solid biblical base for the local church to be the center of the missionary sending process. Chapter 3 shares the blessing of the local church as the center of the sending process.
Sending is a powerful way to personalize the Great Commission corporately and individually. (p. 59)
Starting in chapter 3, each chapter concludes with “Action Points” that provide discussion questions.
Chapter 4 identifies mobilization keys for a local church sending program: teaching a high view of God, providing role models, developing the financial capacity to send, and developing advocacy among church leaders. Practical approaches for each of these keys are provided in the chapter. In chapter 5, Beirn develops the important role the local church has in the mobilization process. The local church is the ideal context for developing ministry competencies. The local church can provide a community in which personal assessment, spiritual growth, ministry experience, and mentoring can take place. The local church’s role in evaluating the missionary call is the subject of chapter 6.
The example of the early church demonstrates that the local church should sense and affirm the call of an individual in preparation for a lifetime partnership of cross-cultural ministry. (p. 99)
The relationship between the local church and the mission agency is the subject of chapter 7. In brief, Beirn writes:
The church is to be the sender of the missionaries, and the agency is to be the facilitator. (p. 109)
Chapter 8 focuses on the strategic relationship of the local church, agency, and missionary to engage the unreached.
This last section articulates the challenges facing sending churches in three chapters. Chapter 9 explains why the local church must bond with both the missionary and the people to whom they are sent:
While we bond with these missionaries, we need to also bond with their passion for the people they seek to reach. We must love the unreached as we love the sent. (p. 142-3)
Chapter 10 deals with the problems of mission creep and mission drift. (When Everything is Missions by Spitters and Ellison is also very helpful on this issue.) The final chapter (11) explores the challenges the missionary might experience in finding a sending church. Beirn distinguishes a sending church from a supporting church:
A sending church is a local body of believers who affirm, support and sustain their own membership while crossing barriers of distance, language and culture to help make disciples in cooperation with a mission agency. … Alternatively, a supporting church is a local body of believers who participate in cross-cultural ministry by supporting missionaries who do not originate from their church membership. -164.
When an individual senses a call to cross-cultural ministry while a member of a local church with no missionary vision, Beirn carefully discusses the options of being a catalyst for a missionary vision or joining a different church that has a missionary vision.
A resource for the church, the mission agency and the missionary
The book includes 10 appendices that are practical resources for the local church, missionary, and mission agency. Steve Beirn recommends that local church missions leadership teams read and discuss the book together. It is a great resource for developing a local church missions program and for reviewing and refining. I would recommend that all missionaries and agency leadership also read and discuss this book. Agency leadership involved in mobilization and member care would particularly benefit from studying Well Sent: Reimaging the Church’s Missionary-Sending Process by Steve Beirn.