The Role Of The Denominations In Missions

Avery Willis
Latin America 2000
Panama/Denominational Leaders Track
December 27, 1996

We are part of the Denominational Leaders Track at AD2000. What is the significance of the denomination in missions? Although denominations led out in the modern missions movement, mission societies became the primary means of sending missionaries. Today the parachurch movement is an enlargement of the mission society. Many denominations in the United States have lost much of their missions fervor and in fact have retreated from the mission field. Parachurch church movements have surged to the forefront in the AD2000 movement.

What is the role of denominations in missions? To answer that let's look at four things:

  1. The Biblical Base of the denomination
  2. The benefits of denominational missions
  3. The ways that denominations need to contribute to the goals of AD2000
  4. The ways denominations should lead in the implementation of the efforts of AD2000.

The Biblical Base

I need to confess to you that I have a bias -- I believe that God's means to reach the world is the church. (Matt. 16:16-18) Denominations are made up of church who want to work together. The questions that arise are:

  1. Is there a place for the denomination?

    Look at several summary statements:

    1. The concept of the people of God is inherent in the denomination.
      • A chosen people
      • A people with an identity - a covenant with God
      • A people on mission
      • A people of destiny
      • A kingdom people
    2. New Testament churches networked - Acts and the Epistles
    3. Antioch asked Jerusalem church for advice
    4. Missionary churches helped the Judean Christians
  2. Is the denomination a sin or an expression of bigotry?

    I see denominations as a result of Christ's command for unity and cooperation.

  3. Do denominations divide the Body of Christ or are they an expression of it?

    I see them as manifesting the exhilarating variety in God's Kingdom.

  4. Are denominations passing away?
    1. Denominations are the practical organizations needed to accomplish the larger work of the church united.
    2. Denominations do a comprehensive (holistic) work instead of a single focus.
    3. Denominations still provide the people and the resources.
    4. Sometimes denominations do overlook basic truths and God raises up parachurch organizations to provoke them to jealousy so the denominations will embrace the lost or neglected truth.

    The Benefits Of Denominational Missions

    1. Denominations are made up of churches to whom the Great Commission was given.
    2. Missions is an extension of the local church and should produce local churches. Churches know best how to start churches and develop churches.
    3. Denominations enable churches to do more, quantitatively and qualitatively, than individual churches can do on their own.
    4. Denominations tend to do comprehensive missions rather than special emphases which are the hallmark of parachurch missions.
    5. Denominations provide continuity of support and continuing outreach. Many denominations fully fund their missionaries and do not require them to raise their own support, freeing them to concentrate on the mission.
    6. Denominations also contain the people who support the parachurch ministries.
    7. Denominations demand accountability from their missions and missionaries as a normal part of the process.
    8. Denominations educate their leaders in schools, Bible Institutes, TEE programs, and seminaries.
    9. Denominations supply short term volunteers for specific projects.
    10. Denominations can provide synergy for creative approaches.

    The Ways Denominations Need To Contribute To The Goals Of AD2000

    1. Lead the way in planning to work together with all missions organizations to reach all the unreached in their respective countries.
    2. Supply the workers and train those who will be missionaries and pastors.
    3. Mobilize members to give sacrificially to missions.
    4. Send missionaries to the unreached peoples.
    5. Provide for research and utilization of it for the most effective strategies.
    6. Give to those who are reached a sense of identity with the larger Body of Christ by teaching their distinctive beliefs and appropriate culturally sensitive traditions.
    7. Require accountability by their missions and missionaries to evaluate progress and future planning.
    8. Meet human needs as a part of their outreach.
    9. Develop networks with other denominations and Christian organizations to maximize the impact of the mission work.

    Ways To Lead In The Implementation Of AD2000

    1. Call together all entities in your country to make a concerted effort to accomplish the task by AD2000.
    2. Cooperate with all entities to create synergy and creative approaches for the entire effort.
    3. Make available all research and research capabilities to the combined consortium.
    4. Provide volunteers and funds for special human needs projects needed to reach the unreached.
    5. Provide continuity and stability to the movement in the country.
    6. Send missionaries to other people groups outside their countries.
    7. Lead out in evaluating progress or lack thereof in reaching common goals.