If you believe the Lord is leading you to the mission field, then you’re likely trying to answer what I call “the big three” life questions: Where? With whom? and Which organization?
The #1 reason most missionaries leave the field early is interpersonal conflict. For this reason, my wife and I looked for teammates who agreed with us theologically and enjoyed us personally. During our first few months training at Radius International, we spent weekends speed “dating”—as weird as it sounds, it really felt like that—everyone on our campus, until we eventually hit it off with our future teammates.
Once we found them, our discussion turned to location–where should we go? As a team, we initially decided to pursue the Middle East (this has since changed), and so we began interviewing every organization we knew of who had resources in the Middle East. One organization stood out above the rest, and you can probably guess which one. In this brief post, I want to share why we chose—and why you should consider choosing—Reaching & Teaching as your sending organization.
Local Church Oriented
Many mission organizations work separately from the local church. I’ve heard some missionaries say “churches just don’t understand missions.” Generally, these missionaries work for organizations that mean to support the church but functionally work outside or even around it.
But Reaching & Teaching is committed to and consciously submits itself to local church partnerships. In other words, they function as a true parachurch ministry–they come alongside local churches to partner with them for the purpose of obeying the Great Commission.
I remember something Ryan Robertson, the president of RTIM, said during a Q&A. Someone asked him a good question: “Why haven’t you guys sent anyone to unreached and unengaged people groups?” He responded, “We would love to, but we haven’t been commissioned by any local churches to do that yet. We are looking for churches who will, and we’re hoping your churches will be the first.” This answer spoke volumes to our team. Missions organizations exist to serve the local church, and Reaching & Teaching clearly gets that.
In order to join Reaching & Teaching, you must be committed to a baptistic understanding of the church; you must also sign either The Gospel Coalition’s statement of faith or the Baptist Faith & Message. Beyond this, there are other theological distinctives that come out strongly during the interviewing process that make for a robust, organization-wide theological unity.
First, there’s a common understanding of what a healthy local church looks like. Sadly, this clarity isn’t common in the missions world, and the results are regrettable. But when a sending organization clearly defines a healthy church and requires its missionaries to adhere to that definition, at least two things happen. First, there’s a clear sense of trust. Second, there’s a clear sense that we’re all aiming at the same goal: bodies of baptized believers who actively carry out the Great Commission, who meet regularly for the right preaching of God’s Word and the right administration of the ordinances, and who are led by qualified leaders.
Second, there’s a common understanding of the sovereignty of God. Some may balk at this point, assuming it’s not relevant for missions, but I respectfully disagree. Our convictions about God’s sovereignty shape our methodology, our counseling, and of course our preaching and teaching. When a missions organization partners with a church, they’re taking on a responsibility to coach and counsel their missionaries on the field. Knowing that our regional leader and member care personnel have the same understanding of how God works in the world gives both us and our sending churches a peace of mind.
Third, there’s a common understanding of gender roles in the church. Reaching & Teaching is unashamedly complementarian. This conviction is especially relevant when it comes to church planting and raising up qualified elders for new churches. For example, what happens when a missionary team gets into a situation where there’s a body of new believers but no qualified men to lead them? Or what if all the men on a team get called off the field and only single women are left? While unthinkable where we live, these situations are common on the field. And we need to know what to do when they happen.
Commitment to Support the Work
Our team was the first commissioned by Reaching & Teaching to do frontier church planting. I admit, we wondered if the organization could adequately support work they’d never done before. Would they be able to access the resources to help us with language acquisition, church planting strategy, security issues, and counseling should we need it? Although we are on the very front-end of our work, we have every reason to believe the answer is “yes.”
Shortly after signing on with Reaching & Teaching, Ryan Robertson and the staff met with experienced frontier church planters to put together a game plan for our next 20 years. They’ve added member care support staff, a regional leader with church planting experience, and Jeremy Pierre, the chair of Biblical Counseling at SBTS, to consult with member care personnel. The organization has even switched to more secure channels of communication to accommodate workers in sensitive locations. All these moves—and probably more I don’t know about—demonstrate their commitment to support their workers and local church partnerships as best as they can.