If you had to nail down the most important component of missions, what would you say it is? I really don’t know what I would have said before two years ago, but I think I have a better understanding now than then. I would say the most important component of missions would be that of training men. Without men a ministry will not grow, continue, or expand. Pastor Austin Gardner, teaches our missions team that our “touchdowns” are men trained for the ministry. Why the emphasis on training men? Let me give you three things to consider.
First, by training men you grow and expand the ministry. The way typical missions has been done through the years is that a missionary will go for four years and start a church. He will go home for a year and return to start another church. If he keeps up this trend for twenty years (which is almost unheard of–how many missionaries do you know that have stayed on a foreign field for four terms?) he will start four churches. This can be multiplied if the missionary goes with the focus of training leaders. If, during his first term, the missionary can find two or three young men to train for leadership in the church, then he has one man that can take over the church when he goes home on furlough, and one or two waiting in the wings to help start a new church or two new churches right away when he returns.
Secondly, without men a ministry will not continue. I have heard of missionaries who worked for 30 or 40 years, and when it came time to go home, had no one that could take over the church. They had to ask another missionary to send someone from his ministry to take over the work. A flock needs a shepherd, and it is the missionary’s responsibility to see to it that the flock has one to take over (see Titus 1:5, Acts 14:23)
Third thing, and the main reason: it is Biblical. We see the pattern of men being trained all throughout scripture. Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Timothy, Paul and Titus. Paul, by training Timothy, Titus, and others, was able to multiply the effectiveness of his ministry. He was able to send Titus to Corinth to straighten out some matters, and then later he sent Titus to strengthen the believers in Crete. Not only do we see this in Paul’s life, but more importantly, in our Savior’s life. For three years He had a public ministry where He healed the sick, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and preached the Gospel. At the beginning of those years He called twelve men unto Himself. Those twelve men would be with Him for the next three and a half years. They would see Him in public and in private. He would share with them His knowledge and wisdom (John 15:15). He trained them, and this was probably the most important aspect of His earthly ministry. There was no plan B. Those men were the only plan. Someone would need to take the message of the death, burial, and resurrection to the world. It would be those men. We are here because of them; we are here because Jesus trained men. I close with a quote from Aaron Bashore, who is a missionary to Muslims in North Africa. “If you do everything but train men, you have failed.”