The following are presuppositions that drive us to be purposeful and intentional in seeking to spread the Gospel and win people to Christ in the local area around Maranatha Bible Church. It is these assumptions that compel us to action in our evangelistic efforts.
Man is Hopelessly Lost in Sin
From the beginning, mankind has rebelled against God’s plan and purposes (Rom 5:12). As a result, all people are naturally under the condemnation of God and are at odds with Him (Col 1:21). God cannot and does not have a relationship with those who are sinful and rebellious (Is 59:2). Thus, He must punish those in sin by pouring out His wrath upon them (Rom 1:18) and subjecting them to everlasting torment in hell (2 Thess 1:9).
God Seeks to Redeem and Save
Despite man’s desperate condition, God seeks to redeem lost sinners and save them from their sin and His judgment (Ps 103:2-4). Though He is just, He is also the justifier and seeks to remove the sin that separates fallen man from Himself (Rom 3:26). By nature, He is slow to anger, compassionate, and forgiving (Ex 34:6-7). He desires all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) and does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
God Has Elected Those Who Will be Saved
In order to ensure salvation, God has sovereignly chosen, before the foundation of the world, whom He will save (Eph 1:4-5). He has appointed many to eternal life (Acts 13:48) and has predestined and called them to be saved (Rom 8:30). Not only does God desire that people are saved, He graciously and unconditionally elects out of the mass of fallen humanity those whom He will save (2 Tim 1:9), having given them to the Son in eternity past (John 6:37, 39; 17:2). Thus, evangelism is finding and winning the elect to Christ while at the same time offering the Gospel to all. This tension ensures that in our evangelistic efforts to all people, some will be saved.
Jesus Christ Has Made Salvation Certain
Jesus Christ has come for the purpose of redeeming sinful and fallen mankind (Mark 10:45) and rescuing them from the domain of darkness (Col 1:13). This He did by being born of a virgin, living a perfect life, dying for the sins of the world on the cross, and raising from the dead having conquered sin and death (1 Cor 15:3-4). His sacrifice was completely sufficient to pay for all sin (Heb 10:12) and it is only through Christ that people can be saved (John 14:6).
The Holy Spirit Has the Power to Regenerate
One of the responsibilities of the Holy Spirit is to apply the work of redemption by Christ to the heart of sinful man. It is through the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit that dead sinners are made alive and brought to salvation (Titus 3:5). Thus, the Holy Spirit causes sinners to be born again (John 3:5-8), thereby overcoming the rebellion in their hearts and bringing salvation.
The Word of God is the Means by Which the Spirit Saves
It is through the living and abiding Word of God that the Holy Spirit causes the new birth and brings about salvation. The Word of God is powerful (Heb 4:12) and accomplishes what it is designed to do (Is 55:11). It is capable of turning a sinner from his ways (Ps 19:7) and causing them to be born again (James 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23).
The Power of the Gospel is Universal
So powerful and comprehensive is the Gospel that people from all over the world will be saved from their sin and granted eternal life. Through Christ’s death, God will purchase people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:9). This is our confidence as we seek to win lost people to Christ both locally and globally.
God Has Charged Believers and Churches to Spread the Gospel
God has left believers on earth, rather than taking them to heaven immediately upon conversion, for the purpose of winning others to Christ. We have been saved and adopted into God’s family in order that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet 2:9). We are charged to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19) and to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 1:8). We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20) and, therefore, we must be serious in our charge to spread the Gospel.
The following principles explain the necessary and vital components of our philosophy of global outreach. These principles have direct impact on the kind of strategy we will employ in reaching people for Christ as they both determine and direct our approach to worldwide evangelism. These principles are particularly important in helping us decide what opportunities to give ourselves to. Because we have only limited resources to devote to global outreach, we desire to give ourselves to the opportunities that will bear the most fruit for eternity.
1. The focus of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 is not simply the multiplication of individuals but the multiplication of local churches – This is evident from Jesus’ promise to build His church (Matt 16:18), His charge to make disciples (Matt 28:19-20), and the fulfillment of both of these in the book of Acts as churches were planted. Acts 1:8 shows that the object of the Great Commission was an ever-expanding spread of the Gospel through the establishment of local churches which would carry out the mandate of making disciples.
2. The local church is central in God’s plan for this age, both as the means to and the goal of missions – Jesus commissioned the Twelve to make disciples and promised them power to do what He called them to do (Matt 28:19-20; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:6-11). As the strategy unfolds in the book of Acts, it becomes clear that the aim is the multiplication of local churches. First, the Jerusalem church was founded which was devoted to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42-47). Second, a local church was established in Antioch where leaders were trained and equipped (Acts 11:19-30). Third, qualified leaders from Antioch were sent from Antioch (Acts 13:1-3) to evangelize strategic cities (Acts 13:1-14:26), instruct the new Christians (Acts 14:22), and organize the communities of believers into local churches (Acts 14:23). The local church was both the means to and the goal of these missionary efforts.
3. Paul’s missionary strategy is an appropriate model for us to emulate in global missions – This is true for at least three reasons: 1) His model coincides with and is supported by clear biblical teaching in other portions of Scripture (Matt 16:18; Titus 1:5); 2) His model is the only biblical model we have and the Holy Spirit included it for a purpose; 3) While there may be other viable extra-biblical models, their viability is in direct proportion to the degree to which they measure up to clear biblical teaching. The attitude that Paul’s methods and strategies are too simple and outdated for the present sophisticated times must be avoided.
4. The core of Paul’s missions strategy must also constitute the core of our missions strategy if we are to avoid discarding several important directives – This strategy involved: 1) Founding a sending church – Paul helped establish the church at Antioch where many were won to Christ (Acts 11:21, 24), believers were equipped (Acts 11:23, 26), leaders were identified and trained (Acts 11:25-26), and other churches were networked with (Acts 11:29-30); 2) Sending key leaders – Leaders of the Antioch church prayed and fasted (Acts 13:2), were led by the Holy Spirit to select certain men (Acts 13:2), and sent those men to plant churches (Acts 13:2); 3) Evangelizing strategic cities – Paul and Barnabas brought the Gospel to people (Acts 13:4, 14, 51; 14:8), taught in religious centers (Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1), and preached in the open air (Acts 13:44; 14:8); 4) Establishing the local church – Paul and Barnabas gathered believers into churches (Acts 14:23), encouraged and strengthened the disciples with instruction (Acts 14:22), appointed elders (Acts 14:23), and passed their baton of leadership on to the elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17-28); 5) Reporting back to their home church – Paul and Barnabas returned home and reported what God had done through them (Acts 14:26-28).
5. Missions can be defined as: The sending forth of qualified leaders by a local church to facilitate the establishment of functioning, multiplying local congregations in a community of people – The key components of this definition are: 1) Sending: Missions is not based on individual initiative, but rather on a corporate body of believers sending out from their midst. Thus local churches must view themselves as sending bases not ends in and of themselves; 2) Qualified Leaders: The selection of who went was a crucial issue based on the Holy Spirit’s guidance, proven faithfulness and giftedness. Thus, churches must faithfully prepare their people for scattering by equipping all to maturity and some to leadership for the purpose of commissioning a few to missionary work beyond their local sphere; 3) Local Church: The sending base was a local church where “like begets like;” 4) Facilitate: The first church planters were primarily facilitators, helping local men become leaders such that there was no painful transition from missionary to local church leaders; 5) Establishment of Churches: The goal of the missionary effort was establishing local churches, not merely winning individuals to Christ.
6.The local church has the authority and responsibility to send and support missionaries not mission agencies or other para-church organizations – While God has used many para-church organizations greatly, our job in the church is to work towards the biblical ideal of the local church being integrally involved in missions. The biblical pattern demonstrates that each local church can be an autonomous organism (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Pet 5:1). But these autonomous churches also networked with each other (Acts 11:29-30; 15:1-35; 1 Cor 16:1-4). The only way for a real and vital relationship to be reestablished between specialty agencies and the local church is for the specialty agency to become subordinate to and under the authority of the local church. Missions organizations can be a great asset to helping churches (assisting with visas, helping missionaries with health insurance and taxes, helping local churches work together in targeting strategic locations, etc.), but the autonomy of the local church must be guarded. Specifically, local churches must be ultimately responsible for training and sending missionaries, must be vitally involved in major decisions that affect the missionaries’ ministry, and must intentionally care for the missionaries it has sent. These responsibilities will not be delegated to para-church agencies.
The following strategy represents our attempt at MBC to be purposeful in global missions. This is the “nuts and bolts” and the practical “how-to” for mobilizing Maranatha Bible Church to worldwide evangelism. While The local church has the authority and responsibility to send and support missionaries not mission agencies or other para-church organizations – While God has used many para-church organizations greatly, our job in the church is to work towards the biblical ideal of the local church being integrally involved in missions. The biblical pattern demonstrates that each local church can be an autonomous organism (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Pet 5:1). But these autonomous churches also networked with each other (Acts 11:29-30; 15:1-35; 1 Cor 16:1-4). The only way for a real and vital relationship to be reestablished between specialty agencies and the local church is for the specialty agency to become subordinate to and under the authority of the local church. Missions organizations can be a great asset to helping churches (assisting with visas, helping missionaries with health insurance and taxes, helping local churches work together in targeting strategic locations, etc.), but the autonomy of the local church must be guarded. Specifically, local churches must be ultimately responsible for training and sending missionaries, must be vitally involved in major decisions that affect the missionaries’ ministry, and must intentionally care for the missionaries it has sent. These responsibilities will not be delegated to para-church agencies.
we may not employ this entire strategy at any given time, it gives us something to shoot for over time.
General Principles for Missions at MBC
- We will develop and maintain a specific strategy for planting churches and sending men to existing churches.
- We will gather detailed information on specific opportunities God brings our way and consider MBC’s involvement.
- We will spend consistent time in prayer seeking the Lord’s guidance on where He desires us to be involved in world missions.
- We will primarily support church planters and outreach workers who directly contribute to the establishment, growth, and expansion of local churches (understanding that there are valid support ministries that are viable to the degree that they integrate with and assist in the establishment of local churches).
- We will seek to identify those in our midst whom God may be calling to this work. Primarily we will be looking for men who are Ephesians 4 type equippers (those who are able to equip others to do the work of the ministry). We will help them assess their call to ministry by working through the objective qualifications (1 Tim 3; Titus 1), their subjective desire (1 Tim 3:1), and the body’s collective affirmation.
- We will seek to train them to the best of our ability at MBC and use other resources to assist in this training (i.e. Bible college, seminary, etc.). Because they will be an extension of Maranatha Bible Church, we will also encourage their ordination through MBC.
- We will seek to set apart teams of qualified men to be sent out whose gifts complement each other. Those that are sent out must be elder qualified and proven in faithful ministry in the body of MBC.
- We will send them as an extension of MBC such that we consider them staff members serving in another location. As such, we will take seriously the responsibility to maintain communication with and support of those whom we send and seek to mobilize our entire body to express this support. Though the “hands on” details of the missionary family will be delegated to the mission agency, MBC still has the responsibility for the overall guidance and oversight of each missionary.
- We will aim to send short term teams, elders, families, etc. to those we send out to encourage them personally and to be exposed to the ministry the missionary is engaged in. These short term teams may involve work projects, but we desire that the teams primarily focus on helping the missionaries do the work of the ministry (i.e. evangelism, discipleship, equipping, etc.)
- We will aim to support those we send out at a higher financial level to minimize their need for prolonged deputation and exhausting visits while on furlough. This will likely mean fewer missionaries supported at a higher level rather than many at a lower level.
- We will seek to link the missionary families with MBC in as many ways as possible such as: Adopt-a-missionary ministry, consistent updates to the church body regarding missions, a yearly missions emphasis where we educate our congregation about the ministry of our missionaries, etc.
- We will seek to maintain a Missions Action Team with at least one elder, a TES student, and other members of MBC. The aim of this team will be to keep the vision of missions alive through educating and stimulating the congregation as well as providing care for our missionaries.
Specific Vision for Missions at MBC
- We desire to establish 3 churches in 3 strategic geographic centers over the next 10 years. This vision will need to be shaped with much prayer and dependence on the Lord as we wait on Him to show us how this vision might be fulfilled. What this might look like specifically:
- One strategic local opportunity (in West Michigan)
- One cross-cultural area where local churches have been gathered, but assistance is needed in establishing them
- One cross-cultural area that has not yet been reached with a local church presence
- It may be necessary to team up with other like-minded churches to accomplish this endeavor
- We desire to assist existing churches in church equipping and leadership development. What this might look like specifically:
- Partner with the Central African Preaching Academy in Malawi to assist in training pastors in that country who will establish the church there
- Train and invest in students of The Expositor’s Seminary at MBC who have the giftedness and passion to plant churches cross culturally
- Host a regional conference in Western Michigan for church leaders who desire to be more intentional in training men for ministry and establishing the church worldwide