“Secret Password, Please.” NT Church.4

Series Intro: What is a New Testament church? It is not a building. It is not a social club. It is not something you “do.” NT Church.4

OverviewPart2; Part3;

I would suggest that there are certain components which must be part of any assembly which would call itself a biblical “church.” Without these you cannot have a church:

  1. Gospel believing individuals
  2. Baptized in demonstration of their conversion
  3. Recognizably covenanting together
  4. Regularly meeting around God’s Word
  5. Under legitimate leadership
  6. Administering Baptism and the Lord’s Table


Let’s take a look at the third essential component of a NT local church: Recognizably covenanting together

A covenant is an agreement. In this case, it is an agreement between believers in Jesus Christ to fulfill the Lord’s commands and the one another passages of the NT. When I covenant with you and others to be part of a NT church, I am stating that I will love you, protect you, admonish you, pray for you, minister to you, confront you, etc. I am also asking the others to do so for me.

Why would we say that there needs to be a recognizable covenant between these baptized believers?

First, because the NT shows this was the case.

A. In the NT, ”Disciples” and “Church” were interchangeable (1 Cor 1:2,10; 1 Thess 1:1,4; 2 Thess 1:1,3; Phil 1:1; 4:15 Col 4:15,16). When Paul addressed a church he was addressing individual believers. When he was addressing believers, he was assuming they were in the church.

B. In the NT, The Disciples were part of specific churches (Acts 13:1; 3 John 10; Rev 1:4,11; 2:10,23; etc.).

C. In the NT, The elders were responsible for specific churches (Acts 13:1; 14:23; 20:17; 16:4; Jas 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1-3; Phil 1:1 cf. 3:17; 4:9). This demonstrates that the elders had certain individuals over which they had to exercise care. They would have to give an account (Heb 13).

D. In the NT, Churches accepted members from other churches (Paul – Acts 9:17-29; 11:25,26; 13:1-3; Barnabas – Acts 4:32, 34-37; 9:27; 11:22-26; 13:1-3; Apollos- Acts 18:27,28; General- 2 Cor 3:1; Rom 16:1,2)

Second, without a recognizable line, one cannot restrict access or expel those who Christ has restricted.

A. Logically: A boundary clarifies those who are in, and clarifies those who are out. Try kicking someone out of a group that doesn’t exist.You have to have a group to kick them out of it.

B. Biblically: The NT demonstrates the existence of a boundary marker Acts 2:44-45; 2:41, 47; 4:4 (Acts 5:1-11); 6:1-2; 11:22, 26; 12:5; 13:1; 14:27; 15:3, 4; Heb 13:17; 1 Cor 5:13


The church is the Body of Christ made up of those individuals who have been redeemed, baptized, and are now covenanting together.

What other evidences of this would you add?


Helpful resources:

Anyabwile, Thabiti M. What Is a Healthy Church Member? Wheaton: Crossway, 2008.
Leeman, Jonathan. Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus. 1st ed. Crossway, 2012.
Harris, Joshua. Why Church Matters: Discovering Your Place in the Family of God. Colorado Springs, Colo.: Multnomah Books, 2011.

Spritzing, Splashing, Dunking, and other forms of getting wet: The NT Church.3

Series Intro: What is a New Testament church? It is not a building. It is not a social club. It is not something you “do.” NT Church.3


I would suggest that there are certain components which must be part of any assembly which would call itself a biblical “church.” Without these you cannot have a church:

  1. Gospel believing individuals
  2. Baptized in demonstration of their conversion
  3. Recognizably covenanting together
  4. Regularly meeting around God’s Word
  5. Under legitimate leadership
  6. Administering Baptism and the Lord’s Table


Let’s take a look at the second essential component of a NT local church: Baptized in demonstration of their conversion

A common questions is as follows: “Should someone who has been sprinkled be re-baptized?” Lets take a look at what baptism is, and then answer that question afterwards.

Kevin Bauder did an excellent job at succinctly defining these points in Bauder, Kevin T. Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order. Schaumburg: Regular Baptist Press, 2012. Much of the following outline, if not taken from, was influenced by that work.

To be baptized according to the New Testament, you need the:

A. Right Subject: those professing belief (Acts 16:31-34). One is not baptized for their salvation, but in demonstration of their salvation. It is an outward action symbolizing an inward reality.

B. Right Meaning:

  • I am in Christ – As Christ Died, was buried, and rose again, so am I. (Rom 6:3-5; Gal 3:27 [water baptism is a picture of spiritual baptism])
  • I am with Christ (his disciple) (John 12:23-26 [following Jesus])
  • I am obedient to Christ (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 2:38; 10:48) In, following, and obeying Christ

C. Right Mode:

  • Immersion (John 3:23; Mark 1:10; Acts 8:38)
  • Symbolism: All other forms – sprinkling, pouring, or trine immersion do not convey the picture baptism was meant to symbolize, so cannot be considered a true, or real, baptism as adopted by the NT church.

D. Right Administrator: the Local Church

  • Jesus commanded baptism from his disciples and the disciples of his disciples (Matt 28:19-20).
  • Because the local church is the way in which the Universal Church can be seen, it confuses the matter when baptism is performed outside the local church. (If you are baptized but not part of a local church, how can you really claim to be part of Christ’s Body?)

So, “Should someone who has been sprinkled be re-baptized?” If the above evaluation is correct, there is no such thing as “re-baptism.” The individual should be baptized, what they did the first time was get wet.

The church is the Body of Christ made up of those individuals who have been redeemed and publicly baptized in demonstration of that belief. Let’s not forget that.

What other evidences of this would you add?

“With” by Alvin L. Reid

With: a Practical Approach to Informal Mentoring by Alvin L. Reid 

Product Details

  1. Publisher: NavPrss
  2. Date Published: 2012

Point: You can mentor others by involving them in the everyday elements of your life.

Path: Reid explains why we must mentor others and how we can do so in our everyday life. In four short chapters he gives definition to the word “mentoring,” the example of Christ, and practical examples of how it looks.

Sources: A lifetime of ministry experience and books such as “The Be-With Factor” by Boshers and Poling, and “The Master Plan of Evangelism” by Coleman.

Agreement: This mentality is commonly ignored in the land of bountiful programs and busy schedules. We would rather fill out an outline with a “disciple” than fill a grocery cart or work around the house.

Disagreement: This is a short book. There could have been a lot more written. I would have appreciated hearing a little less about the pastors of mega churches, and heard more practical ideas for mentoring.

Personal App: Am I involving others in my life to help move them toward Christ?

Favorite Quote: “We overestimate the impact of our words when we stand before a group to teach” (loc. 95)

Stars: 3. 5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it. I am looking for a more comprehensive book, but one that is still accessible.

If this review was helpful, let me know here.

Paul wasn’t writing to babies, bunnies, or blasphemers: The NT Church.2

Series Intro: What is a New Testament church? It is not a building. It is not a social club. It is not something you “do.”

NT Church.2


I would suggest that there are certain components which must be part of any assembly which would call itself a biblical “church.” Without these you cannot have a church:

  1. Gospel believing individuals
  2. Baptized in demonstration of their conversion
  3. Recognizably covenanting together
  4. Regularly meeting around God’s Word
  5. Under legitimate leadership
  6. Administering Baptism and the Lord’s Table


Let’s take a look at the first essential component of a NT local church: Gospel believing individuals

A. Gospel:

  • The reason this is the first word of the first sentence of the description is deliberate. The church is centered on the Gospel.  Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection on behalf of sinners is the foundation of faith. It is the bond which is deeper than race, thicker than blood, and stronger than any other tie.
  • Galatians 1 is clear. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by God the Father (1) after giving himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age (4). If any man or angel attempts to preach another gospel besides that of Jesus Christ, let him be accursed (6-9).

B. Believing Individuals:

  • Not unbelievers. It is true that we cannot tell the heart and therefore cannot judge the soul, but we are commanded to judge actions (1 Cor 5). They must profess Christ as Savior and practice obedience to Him. Paul routinely called those in the church to whom he was writing, “Saints” and reiterated their partnership in the gospel (Eph 1; Phil 1:1-11; Col 1:1-8; etc.)
  • Not pre-believers. It may be true that our children will grow up to be believers, but they have yet to believe. Saul (later Paul) was not accepted into the church until he had professed Christ. It was in God’s foreordained plan to save him, however there had to be a point in time where he went from unbeliever to believer.
  • Not non-humans. This may seem ridiculous, but not in light of our definitions of other institutions. (Plus, at my grandfather’s funeral someone showed up and tried to check their dog into the nursery. True story.) Christ came to redeem all things, but not all things are accepted into our church. I squish spiders and set traps for mice. They may be “in” the church building, but they are not allowed “in” the church.

The church is the Body of Christ made up of those individuals who have been redeemed. Let’s not forget that.

What other evidences of this would you add?

Gilead: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson – worth reading!

Book: Robinson, Marilynne. Gilead: A Novel. Macmillan, 2004.


Audio: 8.8 hours

Point: Life can be sweet. Life can be hard. Life can be disappointing. Life can be fulfilling. Almost never is it spectacular, but also never is it not worth evaluating.

Path: This novel is set in rural Iowa and reads as the final memoirs of a Congregationalist minister who had lived in that town his whole life. You hear his loves and his heartaches, which are not necessarily experiences, but people.

Sources: Excellent representation of the inner thoughts of a small town pastor.

Agreement: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It made me think of my grandfather ministering in a small town in Montana, and my wife’s grandfather and the various ministries he held over his years as pastor. I felt as though it were written to me and I was opening a treasured journal of a beloved grandfather.

Some may see it as having no plot, but that is part of the beauty of the writing. He was a small town pastor whose “plot” of life was not defined by great experiences, but normal people. John Ames, the writer of the memoirs, spent much of his time sitting, thinking, and writing. Something each of us could do more of. The plot of the book is his working through various issues in his heart and life.

The reader of the audio book was fantastic. I have not heard a better voice to book relation in all of our book listening.

The book also walks through the various stages of Protestant Christianity in the US. There are abolitionists, fighters, pacifists, liberals, and small town pastors.

Personal App: Do I wrestle with my true thoughts and character as I should, or do I sweep them away under the rug of busy living?

Favorite Quote: “We agreed it [magazine article] must have been fairly widely read in both our congregations, because on one page there’s a recipe for that molded salad of orange gelatin with stuffed green olives and shredded cabbage and anchovies that has dogged my ministerial life these last years, and which appears at his house whenever he so much as catches cold. There should be a law to prevent recipes for molded salad from appearing within twenty pages of any article having to do with religion” (145).

Stars: 5 out of 5

It would be worth another read and I would recommend it.

If this review was helpful, let me know here.

Here is a great series of blog posts about how to read the book

Why you don’t just “do” church: Essential Components of a New Testament Church

 “My family and I are our own church.” “I will be having church with my buddies on the golf course this Sunday!” “I am the church.” “I am going to church.” All of these statements reveal something about what an individual believes a church to be.

Many believe that a church is defined by a building – so they go to church. Some would suggest that a church is such because it has been given that title by the government, or some other entity. Some would call any gathering of believers a church. Others see the universal church as the only reality, and therefore any visible local gathering is just an extra.


But is this the picture that the New Testament paints?

I would suggest that there are certain components which must be part of any assembly which would call itself a biblical “church.” Without these you cannot have a church:

  1. Gospel believing individuals
  2. Baptized in demonstration of their conversion
  3. Recognizably covenanting together
  4. Regularly meeting around God’s Word
  5. Under legitimate leadership
  6. Administering Baptism and the Lord’s Table 


I would like to go to one passage to demonstrate the existence of these. The dangerous part of this endeavor is that I am selecting a passage that shows the church in it’s seminal form. At this point the seed has just burst, and the seedling is beginning to grow. As of yet the branches, leaves, and fruit cannot be clearly distinguished. I believe, however, that this early description of the church points us in the right direction as we continue to study the New Testament.

Acts 2:37-47: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ 38 And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

  1. Who is the “they” in vs 42? Those who had believed the Gospel (37-41)
  2. What had they done following their belief? They were baptized (41)
  3. How did they view themselves? As being added to a group (41)
  4. What was their focus? The apostles’ teaching (42)

What we don’t find specifically mentioned here are the final two components: legitimate leadership and administering the Lord’s ordinances. If we look further, however, I believe there is reason to believe they are present.

In the context, who is exercising leadership by teaching? The apostles. We see as well in chapter 6 that the apostles were in leadership over the growing church. A complaint came to them, they were involved in preaching the word of God, and they led the rest of the believers to make a decision.

What was a common practice of the early church? fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. The reference to the breaking of bread is not restricted to the Lord’s Table, but is most likely includes it. We also have seen in this passage the administration of baptism.

These are the six components of a local church. You can have one of these, and still not have a church. You need each of them.

This is not to say that every element must be present at every gathering. For example, if there is no baptism or celebration of the Lord’s Table at a given gathering, the assembly does not cease to be a church. So also when a church loses a pastor, it does not cease to be a church. But to continue without these, and the intention of once again returning to them, the church quickly becomes simply a Bible study group.

It also does not mean that these components look the same in every context. In North America, membership is often a written record. In persecuted cultures, however, this is extremely unwise and dangerous. In my situation, a building is often associated with the congregation, but I have a feeling that will change in the coming years.

What is this all suppose to mean? I want to clarify the essential components of a local church so you can be sure to be part of a key factor in your sanctification. This will be expanded upon in future posts.

What do you think? Would you add any or subtract any as you understand the New Testament?

Resource Review: Setting Captives Free

Resource Review: www.settingcaptivesfree.com 

Setting Captives Free offers a biblically based, interactive, free resource for those struggling with specific sinful behaviors. It has courses on Food Issues, Sexual Purity, Gambling, Substance Abuse, Self-injury, and then other general Bible studies.

I discovered this resource while in seminary. One of our professors recommended that we go through at least one of the courses in order to know enough to pass it on to others as a counseling resources. It has been an encouraging experience and I highly recommend it for these reasons:

The focus is on Christ. The courses are not merely intent on breaking an annoying habit, but leading someone to godly repentance through a proper view of Christ. Jesus is presented as the Christ, the Son of God. He is the fountain of living water and only satisfier.

The lessons are based in Scripture. It is not like the “power verse” mentality where one selection of words is ripped from its context to prove a point.

It presents the Gospel not as merely a way to erase everything in the past, but to have victory over it. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation – with both past, present, and future ramifications. We need the Gospel every day to be saved.

They ask tough questions. They do not pull punches, but ask you to be honest.

They give hope. They do not label you or relegate you to a category for the rest of your life. You are not merely a “recovering ________.” Instead they teach you how Jesus can free you from the domination of sin. They don’t tell you that it will be easy, or that you will never struggle, but those in Christ have been given victory and have sufficient grace to live in light of that reality.

There are many lessons. I cannot give the number of every series, but I imagine they are all similar (50-60 lessons). This tells me that the creators understand sin (that it is ingrained), people (that we need repetition), and habits (that it takes time).

The lessons are are long enough to be significant, but not too long. Each lesson will take 15-30 minutes, a great investment of time. Doing a lesson is not like taking on a two hour challenge, which makes it easier to commit every day.

The lessons are interactive. Each lesson has questions to answer through multiple choice and essay. They ask you to share your thoughts, experiences, and struggles.

There is review. After each lesson you receive an email with an additional thought and your answers from the day. It also repeats key principles throughout the series which have been learned earlier.

There are mentors. An individual, someone who has been through the course before, can connect with you and encourage you throughout the course. They pray for you, email you, and remain open for questions.

The course is flexible. If you miss a day, or two, it picks up where you left off. You can choose to do one lesson a week, three lessons a week, a lesson every day, or a mixture of any of them. They encourage consistency, but they also understand that life happens.

There is an app for that. No excuses. If you delete a social media app off your phone you will find more than enough time to do this course!



This is not a replacement for one to one admonishment in the Scriptures, but it would go great with regular counseling. It is not feasible, nor wise in many situations, to meet with someone everyday for 50-60 days. However, if you met once a week and helped someone through this course there would be incredible potential.

We could learn a lot about biblical counseling from how they operate these courses.

Take a course. Even if you don’t feel like you struggle with one of the options, someone in your church does. Start taking it, then invite someone to join you. Set up a time to talk about it regularly.

So, since you just went and started a course, what are your initial thoughts?

Missions Sundays: the fearful feat of hosting a missionary – how to survive to tell about it

This is a guest post by Jonathan Templeton. He and his family are going to be partnering with the Fulks and others in facilitating a Church Planting Movement in the least-evangelized spanish-speaking country, Spain. You can check out their website here.



Over the last twenty months of deputation our family has traveled approximately 35,000 miles, communicated our ministry in four countries, three languages, and fourteen states. Naturally, we are invited to share many a meal with folks. To be precise, my wife and I have dinned out 89 times and eaten a formal meal in someone’s home 65 times. God graciously has provided for our family through many who invited us over to share a meal in their home. You can imagine however, how hard it is to keep off the pounds!

More to the point, we have learned first-hand how you can host missionaries and make them feel welcome in your home. In addition we have learned from numerous families the valuable lesson of how we too can be good hosts. Yet some have timidly asked, how should I host a missionary? Let me share with you a few a ways you can entertain missionaries and not feel uncomfortable or have your missionary guests experience an awkward meal.

1. We are NOT more-holy-than-thou.

Often times a question communicates more than is intended. In this case the question, “how should I host a missionary?” certainly does. It communicates that one, the missionaries are difficult to host or two, they are difficult to relate too. I won’t deny that the first can be true. Yet the later more frequently tends be the case, and this is due to the fact that missionaries are oftentimes placed on a spiritual pedestal. Naturally it will be difficult to relate to a missionary who you may view as one of heaven’s elite and therefore distant. Missionaries are NOT more-holy-than-thou. We have the same sinful tendencies and wrestle with the same issues as you do. Our vocations are different, but we hit our funny bone just like you do. Do not feel you are inferior in some way to your guest missionary.


2. Be willing to split an apple in four.

An Italian friend once challenged me to invite people over to our house even if all we had was an apple to split four ways. He went on to say, that there is something about a meal that creates fellowship and fosters friendships. Perhaps the middle-eastern cultures are not too off the mark in placing great value in sharing a meal with someone. And so conversation around food oftentimes cultivates a relationship for food becomes a conversation piece that allows for two or more individuals to share something in common. So don’t be afraid to have a missionary couple over to your house even if you only have an apple and peanut butter to share. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the relationship that results.


3. Come prepared with thought provoking questions.

Sometimes we arrive at a home, and it is clear they feel intimidated by us and are somewhat bashful in striking up a conversation. Here is a useful tip that we try to use when going to a home for dinner. My father taught me this. Come prepared with a handful of questions. Your kids can even participate in this. And you already have one leg up on them since you know what they do and where they live. So ask them one question at a time, but search for a follow-up question. This does require listening and not just hearing. Don’t be too focused on your next question or you will miss catching a good follow-up question. If during the conversation you learn they have a particular interest, gear your questions toward this subject. Being a well-rounded reader will enable you to ask questions on a variety of subjects. Recently I was listening to an audiobook on a submarine from World War II. It just so happened that the music director from this church was a submariner. That book went a long way for me in conversation.


4. Don’t keep us guessing.

The moment we walk into your home, a dozen or more questions swarm into our minds. Should I take my shoes off at the front door or keep them on? Should I stay standing in the hallway or head to the family room and have a seat? Where do I sit at the table; at the end, in the middle, by wife? There are many more questions swirling through our minds. It’s helpful to know what are the unspoken customs in your home. We are so accustomed to them that we forget to tell our guests. The last thing I want to do is sit in papa bear’s chair. Simply put, tell us what to do. This helps us feel at ease and comfortable with you in your home.

Would you add anything?

For other posts on Missions, click here.

Mission Sundays [Part II]: How churches can discourage visiting missionaries

This is a guest post by Scott Fulks. He and his family are headed to Spain in the next month, so I asked him to share some thoughts on the deputation process.
You can read post one here.


Mission Sundays [Part II]: How churches can discourage visiting missionaries

In the previous post, we considered five ways by which churches can encourage visiting missionaries. Whereas the overwhelming majority of Missions Sundays are uplifting, from time to time, these visits can lead to discouragement. By the following five encouragements, a congregation can evaluate whether their interaction with a visiting missionary can inadvertently dishearten them.

1. Keep yawning through the songs.

Through our deputation travels, I have seen virtually every style and flavor of worship; this does not discourage. What does discourage is to scan an auditorium and see a majority of people disinterested, unimpressed and unconcerned with the majesty of our Lord. A missionary who is as prone as any believer to wander spiritually, forget the glory of grace, and cave to temptation is certainly disheartened to run the Christian race when he is surrounded by a host of witnesses who demonstrate spiritual apathy and carelessness.

2. Talk to me as if I’m Dr. Phil.

While I refuse to wear my mission board’s name badge while attending other churches [I don’t need any help sticking out like a sore thumb], from time to time I feel that I have one on. It must read – Dr. Phil. When your talking to him, it’s all about you. Though I do not in the least bit desire to be the center of attention or crave popularity, it can certainly be deflating to endure an entire conversation, meal or evening when the several-hour-long conversation revolves entirely around the other person. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to others and about their lives – there is so much to learn! Yet when not one question about our ministry, background, or interests arises, one can wonder why we ever visited. Though this experience is certainly not common, unfortunately it is not rare.

3. Assume I’m single.

We have stayed in some unbelievably gigantic and gorgeous homes and some petite but welcoming residences. Most hosts bend over backwards for our arrival. The hosts who are least prepared are those who fail to consider the needs of the entire family. In my case, our two infants pose potentially difficult Sunday afternoons and little forethought in this area leads to undue stress. Whereas the male missionary is assured of speaking arrangements, technological details and housing arrangements by the pastor, the rest of the family can, on occasion, be neglected or overlooked for its unique stage in life. Failure to know the missionary’s family can lead to the missionary’s failure to communicate well.

4. Bolt out of town.

Though I have not encountered this myself, I speak from the (frequent) experience of others on this matter. It is not uncommon for missionary candidates to arrive at a church only to learn that the pastor is away on vacation. While the missionary was assured that he could have the morning sermon, it was only to fill pulpit not to evaluate potential for partnership. This misguided tactic informs the missionary that the host is preeminent and that the guest is secondary, at best.

5. Convince me of your hobby horse.

Every once in a long while, I have left a church exhausted because someone has cornered me for what seemed like an eternity. While enduring a one-sided conversation, I have heard some Christians trying to convince me that their method of schooling is exclusive, that their perspective on the fiscal situation in Europe necessitates my close study, or that their technique to reach the Roman Catholics is unequalled. A member that is quick to speak and slow to hear can cause tremendous, though unintentional, consternation.

How do you perceive Missions Sundays? Are you a catalyst for encouragement in the lives of your guests or are you a detriment to the perseverance of your brother or sister in Christ? I speak not as one who desired better than I deserved, but as an increasingly seasoned traveler who desires to implement principles among my congregation from my own observations. May God use us to demonstrate “hospitality to one another without grudging.” [1 Pet 4:9]

Missions Sundays [Part I]: How churches can encourage visiting missionaries

This is a guest post by Scott Fulks. He and his family are headed to Spain in the next month, so I asked him to share some thoughts on the deputation process.

With display curios and prayer cards in tow, hundreds of missionary families make the trek to their next destination each and every week. Upon arrival the car is parked, the kids and bags are unloaded and the front door of the church is opened. What is in store for them on this Missions Sunday? The answer rests squarely on the condition and preparation of the church.

Our family of four just finished pre-field ministry. For the past 19 months, we have traveled to scores of churches and were often immensely encouraged and, at times, deeply discouraged. In this two-part series, I seek to assist churches by laying out a number of incomplete but useful ways through which a congregation can first, encourage, and then, discourage, visiting missionaries.

1. Be a church led by a number of men in godly leadership

Without a doubt, the healthiest, most vibrant and effective churches across the United States are those led–officially or unofficially–by an expanding group of godly men. Where men are absent or passive, churches are lifeless and void of vision. Where few male leaders are present, the product is shallow and void of needed assessment. A missionary is immensely thankful to attend services which a number of leaders have dedicated their efforts to preside over a God-honoring and Christ-exalting service. To observe several men who are actively serving, discipling others and promoting the spread of Jesus’ fame is both exciting and stimulating to any missionary.

2. Be a church who contemplates the details

It is a pleasure to open the front door of the church and be welcomed with a genuine smile, be greeted by one’s name, and have a display table prepared for use. It is a breath of fresh air when a church has been encouraged for weeks to visit the missionary’s website. A church who has become familiar with our location of service, our sending church and our teammates is exceptional but certainly revitalizing to those of us who must repeat these mundane facts to countless inquirers. These small but significant tokens of care put your guests at ease and make them feel at home.

3. Be a church where grace is primary

One Sunday afternoon, I sat across from a pastor in his living room when he asked me the best question I ever had to answer. He looked me in the eye and asked with sincerity, “What is the gospel?” As the only one to have asked me this question throughout the entirety of our recent travels, it was refreshing, unassuming, and penetrating. Whereas many missionaries experience those who are ready to debate divisive points of theology, this question remembered that which is of first importance [1 Cor 15:3].

4. Be a church who is genuine with us

As a missionary, we perceive ourselves as fish-out-of-water since we have to travel around the country and miss our own church’s gatherings. We appreciate immensely those who see us as friends, not strangers and potential partners, not passers-by. We welcome those who see our glaring weaknesses and graciously point us to Christ. We are deeply touched when those we visit recognize our less-than-perfect life situation. Often one touch of care is a means of sharing with us that you recognize our humanness. We remember well those who filled up our gas tank, provided a hotel for a change, or carried in our display bags; these were sentiments from genuine friends.

5. Be a church who is upfront about potential support

Financial support is often the elephant in the room which both the church and the missionary know is present. Churches can alleviate this burdensome situation – and thereby encourage their guests – by informing the prospective missionaries of the feasibility of financial partnership. If consideration is possible, give them a reasonable expectation of the process which is to follow – don’t leave it vague or awkward for the missionary. If the answer is no, it will not hurt our feelings, so please tell us. It is better to know that support is not reasonably possible than to be led along to the contrary only to great disappointment later.

How does your church reach out to missionaries on deputation?