Missionaries Should be "Immersed" in Church
By Walter J. Chantry

As the Lord Jesus understood His earthly mission, His church was on His heart.  “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).  Our Savior’s ministry cannot be adequately described without mention of His church.  “From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride; with His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died” (Samuel J. Stone).  Our holy Lord pledged, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18) through the apostolic witness to Himself.

All missionaries should be sons from the womb of the church sent as messengers of the church to establish and strengthen the church.  Evangelism of an individual has not been effectively completed until he is integrated into the life of the church.  Missionaries then must be familiar with and appreciative of the worship of the church, the fellowship of the church, the doctrine of the church, and the government of the church.

Too many individuals and activists have had a “better idea” than the church.  With disparaging remarks about the weaknesses, failures, and inefficiencies of the church, movements are begun “beside” the church.  Claims are made that such persons or agencies are working “alongside” the church, stressing that their efforts are “parallel” to and “supportive” of the church.  However, that which is “alongside” is still “outside” the church.  How zealous and self-promoting are such “para”-church organizations.  Para-church works can only justify their existence by criticism of the church.  How different this is from our Lord’s concept of missions and evangelism which builds up the church.

It is a strange phenomenon that para-church organizations, whose reason for existence is the failure of the church and their superior ability to carry out the tasks Christ gave to the church, cannot continue in existence without taking men and money from the church.  Those who are saying, “We can do what you cannot,” are constantly appealing to the church to give them their best men and support them with gifts.  In this way, those who criticize the church further sap her strength.  Even so, para-church groups find the “weak” church’s resources sufficient to keep them from demise.

Our Savior’s concept was one of church-centered ministry and missions.  Apostles were foundation stones of the church.  Our Lord Jesus was Himself the chief cornerstone of the church (Ephesians 2:20).  Although the Apostle Paul had an independent calling as apostle to the Gentiles, it was necessary for him to experience church life at Antioch before the Holy Spirit told that church to send him to establish Gentile churches.

Young men preparing to serve the Lord as missionaries or gospel ministers must immerse themselves in the life of the church.  Experience of the church’s worship, fellowship, and government are as important as college and seminary training.  Active participation in the church should parallel all preparatory studies for serving the Lord.  Tragically, some have pursued studies in isolation from the church, imagining that academic institutions were sufficient to make them ready to take the gospel to others.

Strangers to the church find themselves ill-prepared to serve the church and unlikely to be sent by the church, in desperation these may flee to para-church organizations only to find that men cannot serve with independent agencies unless the churches provide support.  Frustration and alienation only deepen.  If a man is called of God to preach the Word, he must never allow himself to be severed from the body of Christ.  Only with the church will he find the experience, guidance, and support to fulfill his calling.  Apart from the church he has no calling from the Lord of the church.