The Biblical Example For Sending Out Missionaries Vs Today’s Approach

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Here is one instance from Acts 13:2-3 of how missionaries were sent out,

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

The call came during worship.

They heard the call and recognized the call as being the voice of the Holy Spirit.

They fasted, prayed, laid hands on them and sent them out.

How does that compare with how we send people out today?

Is this still happening?

My contention is that our selection process is quite a bit different with different criteria involved. There is rarely a listening process. We don’t expect this to happen in worship, where God speaks back, and I have never seen hands laid on and fasting done in preparation for the sending.

This is just my own experience. I realize yours may be different. Have you seen anything remotely resembling this in your church?

I have heard stories from overseas about Christians discerning that God was calling someone to mission but the people didn’t know who so they prayed and asked and prayed and asked until it became clear. This person was sent out immediately.

I realize it won’t always happen the same way as God doesn’t always act by way of formula but I do think there are valuable lessons to be learned (and practiced) from Acts 13.

First, we need to learn to listen for and to the voice of God.

Second, we need to expect things from worship that we don’t normally expect.

Third, fasting is essential to our humble obedience to the call.

What do you get from these verses and how it might be lived out today?

2 Responses

  1. If we back up to verse 1, we are told that there were prophets and teachers within the church at Antioch. Is it possible that perhaps the Holy Spirit spoke through one of these prophets? Many modern day believers believe that the role of the prophet no longer exists. I know that there are several self proclaimed prophets still around today and some of them don’t seem to be legitimate, but does that fact alone mean that the spiritual gift of prophecy no longer is given? Might this explain why we don’t see the practice shown here at Antioch less common today?

  2. As an active missionary and from a family of missionaries, this is a question that has been part of my life, for more than 50 years now.
    Some of the criteria I have encountered:
    1. Must have a Bible degree (but not from the “wrong” Bible College.
    2. Must not have a Bible degree, but must have graduated from our favorite Preaching school.
    3. Must have a Missions degree.
    4. Must not have a degree in anything but Bible.
    5. Must not teach in a school or university in the target culture (“that’s not evangelism, and it may be a conflict of interest”)
    6. Must not plan to do anything that looks like benevolence (“that’s not evangelism”)
    7. “How little do you think you can live on, over there?”
    8. “You can’t buy a car… none of those people have one, and you don’t want to put on airs.”

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