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Should We Still Send Missionaries?

By Mark Bates, Mar 21, 2023

As home to dozens of ministries like The Navigators, Compassion International, and Focus on the Family, my city of Colorado Springs is often viewed as a Christian “Mecca.” Yet, even with all the ministries that call her home, the city desperately needs the gospel. Only 25% of the residents attend an evangelical church. While the exact numbers might be different, your community is probably similar. That raises an important question: With such great spiritual needs in our communities, why should we send missionaries across the world? After all, sending cross-cultural missionaries is expensive and inefficient. Wouldn’t it be a better use of our energy and resources to reach the people in our own community than trying to save those across the world?

It is true that our communities need the gospel. We need missionaries who will tell our friends and neighbors about Jesus. The good news is, God already has hundreds of thousands of missionaries in our American communities. They are the members of our churches. The great need is not for more missionaries, but to equip and deploy God’s people to be His witnesses where they already live, work, and play.

Yet, the situation is different in other parts of the world. Here are just three of the reasons why we must continue to send missionaries to other regions of the world.

1. We need missionaries to reach those who have never heard.

Only 0.5% of the people of Japan are Christian. The situation is similar in India, Cambodia, and the countries in the Middle East. Even in England, which is officially a Christian nation, less than 5% attend any church of any kind. In Scotland, the home of Presbyterianism, only 2% of the people are evangelical Christians. Most people in these countries will live their entire lives without ever hearing the truth about Jesus and the hope of the gospel. “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14–15a).

2. We need missionaries to help young churches.

While it is true that sending global missionaries is expensive and seems inefficient, it is highly effective. There were only 9 million Christians in Africa in 1900. By 2000, there were over 335 million. By 2025, that number is expected to double to nearly 700 million. Clearly, missionary evangelism efforts to reach the people of Africa have been effective.

Yet, even in the case of Africa, there is still a great need for missionaries. To a large degree, the gospel that is being preached in Africa and other parts of the world is no gospel at all, but man-centered religions of legalism and the prosperity gospel. It is not transforming lives. The theological education is so poor that people have exchanged one form of spiritual bondage for another. As MTW’s International Director for Africa and native Zimbabwean Victor Nakah has noted, the African Church is suffering from a severe lack of discipleship. “If our problem is discipleship, it then means that the best thing the American Church can do to help the African Church is help disciple the leadership of the church,” Victor said. “We need pastors who will come alongside African pastors to disciple and mentor and coach and help mature the leadership of the African Church.

3. We need missionaries to be obedient to God’s mission.

Jesus’ commission to His Church is not merely to make disciples, but to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19–20). God’s mission is to bring salvation to all nations. That means that the gospel must spread from one culture to another culture until it spreads to all cultures. For the gospel to spread from one culture to another culture, someone must leave the comfort of their own people and culture and go to another people and culture. There is no other way to accomplish God’s mission for God’s people than cross-cultural missions.

God’s vision for the world—a vision that one day will be a reality—is that people from every tribe, nation, and tongue will gather to worship Him (Revelation 7:9). Until that vision becomes a reality, it will be the mission of the church to make disciples of all nations. In order to be faithful to this mission, the Church must continue to send and support missionaries.

We have many ways to serve. Browse opportunities at mtw.org/serve.

Mark Bates
Mark Bates is MTW's senior director of U.S. Operations. Mark has a B.A. in Greek from Bryan College and a master's degree from Reformed Theological Seminary. He served as youth and singles pastor at Orangewood PCA in Maitland, Florida. In 1991, Mark and his wife, Tricia, founded University Presbyterian Church in Orlando. From 2007-2021, Mark served as senior pastor of Village Seven PCA in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Mark and Tricia have three daughters.
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