Send Your Best Men Out on Mission
By Scott Thomas
Acts 29 President and Director
It won’t hurt the church if people are called away to go and make disciples elsewhere. It will hurt the mission if they stay. As I read about the church in Jerusalem and Antioch, I see them identifying, equipping and sending men to plant churches.
In Acts 11:19-26, the Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to the city of Antioch. They didn't send just any schmuck. It is reported of him, "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" (11:24). The first thing Barnabas did was to recruit Paul/Saul from Tarsus and take him to Antioch to work with the church. Barnabas then spent the year equipping Paul and doing ministry with him among those who were first called Christians.
In Acts chapters 13-16, the local church at Antioch sent Baranabas and Saul on the first missionary journey. They took John Mark as a young man to equip. The Holy Spirit was central to this process. He called them (13:2), sent them (13:4), filled them (13:9), and directed them (16:6-7). But even after the Holy Spirit said to set apart Saul and Barnabas, the church fasted and prayed before they laid their hands on them and sent them off. The whole community of believers in Antioch fist bumped them on the way out.
The problem I am seeing is that we are so desperate for good men that we are not sending them into the field. We take men designed to be warriors and we make them into ecclesiastical pacifists. All men start out as a jackass, are designed to be stallions but the church tries to make them mules: sturdy, less volatile, sterile. I think the church has a dysfunctional codependent relationship with its men. Some pastors need affirmation from other men generally because their own absentee father never did. Conversely, the men need the pastor to do the work of the ministry so they don’t have to. As a result, the pastor works slavishly, often at the expense of his family, for affirmation and the men pay tithes and compliments to avoid the work of mission so their lives aren’t distracted away from their own goals—often financial gain or recreation. It’s a convenient relationship, but it’s not Biblical.
I attest that every local church should be constantly and intentionally discipling, training, developing and then sending its best men out into mission—to make disciples of all nations. We have to get out of the mindset of building up one single church and start developing a Kingdom mindset; a movement mindset. The mission of the church is about the movement of God and not about the monument to our self or our denomination or our tribe.
While not the most popular position, Acts 29 teaches that this office of an elder and pastor is reserved for males. I’m sure that you have already picked up on this. Darrin Patrick wrote in his forthcoming book that women, according to Scripture are co-equal with men in worth, dignity, value and the ability to serve in vocational ministry. Women have access to the same spiritual gifts as men. This position (called complementarian) is tied to the created order, not to a cultural context. Men should serve as “first among equals” in both the home (as husbands and fathers) and the church (as elders and pastors). We all know that the home would not function properly without active female involvement. Likewise, the church is dependent on female involvement.
God has established order within the family (Gen. 3:16; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-21) and the church (1 Tim. 2:11-14; 1 Cor. 11:8-9). Even within the Trinity there is a Divine order among the triune Godhead even as all possess the same essence. Jesus said, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). Jesus willingly submitted to the Father and the Father exalted the Son (Phil. 2:8-10).
Pastors can serve God in an established church or a church plant apart from being the lead planter. Some very good pastors would make average church plant leaders. Some pastors of existing churches would make great church planters. That call from God to plant a church might be a call to go join a team led by another man to help plant a church, or it might actually be a call to financially support so others can go.
Who are your Paul and Barnabas types that should be sent out? Send the best.