At ITM, we believe the local church is God’s Plan A for global missions. Or, said another way, we believe missions starts from local churches and is for the planting and strengthening of global churches. Your church has a vital role to play in God’s global mission. And, we want to help equip you to understand that role as well as help you partner and work to plant and strengthen churches around the world, who will, in turn, make disciples and plant new churches. Local churches are the beginning and end goal of global missions. God’s global mission flows through your local church to the planting and building up of local churches around the world, who will, in turn, make disciples and plant new churches.
We believe missions starts from local churches and is for the planting and strengthening of global churches.
We put a lot of weight on the local church in how we see and understand the task of global missions. We do so because we believe that the local church is the center of God’s plan for the world. The local church is described in Scripture as the body of Christ, the family of God, a holy temple and it is through and from these local redeemed communities that the message of Jesus’s kingship and salvation are displayed and proclaimed in the world.
Let’s unpack two basics related to how this plays out practically:
1. Local Churches Are The Foundation and Fuel for Global Missions.
God ordained the local church, your church, to be the foundation and fuel for global missions. Missions organizations and educational institutions play a vital role in missions (and should not be undervalued!), but their work should serve to complement the equipping and sending done in and through the local church.
God ordained the local church, your church, to be the foundation and fuel for global missions.
Local churches raise up and prepare missionaries. It is in the context of a local church body that the future missionary learns and develops Christian character, learns foundational doctrines, participates in the functions of a church, and is equipped for engaging, evangelizing, and living out his or her role of seeing churches planted and supported.
Local churches send missionaries. Evangelists, teachers, and church planters are not only equipped and prepared by the local church for missions, they are vetted and sent by their local body. There is no such thing as a self-appointed missionary.
Local churches support missionaries. Transition, adjustment, and starting ministry in a new context should be done in cooperation with the sending church. Sending churches have valuable roles to play in the ongoing care and ministry of those they send.
2. Healthy, Reproducing Local Churches are the Goal of Global Missions.
Biblical missions seeks to plant and strengthen local churches globally because congregations are the who and where of disciple making. No matter what the role or task of the missionary is, the goal is to align the missionary’s work to the starting and flourishing of churches that display and proclaim the gospel. Alignment to this task is key to healthy missions.
The objective in missions is to see local churches that have biblical frameworks in place for things like church leadership, meaningful membership, expository preaching, teaching/equipping, congregational worship, gospel advance, and, when possible, relationships with other local churches for encouragement, strengthening and cooperative mission. Global churches should be contextualized to their local setting while aligned to biblical characteristics of a healthy, multiplying church.
At ITM we seek to fuel a vision for missions (whether it is short-term teams, summer volunteers, or long-term missionaries) that is not only faithful to Scripture but practically serves local churches in their efforts to engage the nations. We desire to be partners that help local churches intentionally and increasingly own the responsibility of preparing, sending, and supporting missionaries as well as aligning their missions efforts to the planting of healthy, reproducing churches in global cities and dark corners of our world.