Six Components of the Missionary Task
In light of the full testimony of Scripture, we believe that the core missionary task has six components: ENTRY, EVANGELISM, DISCIPLE-MAKING, HEALTHY CHURCH FORMATION, LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT, and strategically planned EXIT. Because prayer is central to our strategy, it is not a separate component of the task, but rather is an essential element in every part. Prayer must permeate every aspect of the missionary task.
ENTRY – In order to carry out the missionary task, we must have access to people who need to hear the gospel. This part of the task includes four elements: research, presence, identity, and communication ability.
EVANGELISM – Evangelism is the responsibility of every follower of Jesus. Evangelism is an element in the job description of every IMB missionary. Even in areas where the focus of the work is on leadership training, and local believers and churches are actively sharing the gospel, IMB missionaries must engage in evangelism as a model of what is expected of every believer.
DISCIPLESHIP – The central command of the Great Commission is to make disciples. A disciple is more than a person who has mastered a set of information, or practices a set of spiritual disciplines and shares the gospel. Discipleship involves the intentional transformation of the heart, mind, affections, will, relationships, and purpose, without pitting the importance of one against another. Essential tools for discipling new believers include the word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God.
HEALTHY CHURCH FORMATION – A church is a group of baptized believers in Jesus Christ who are committed to each other to be the body of Christ to one another and who meet together regularly to carry out the functions of a biblical church. The Twelve Characteristics of a Healthy Church are not a checklist for exit but describe what a sustainable church should be. We will also encourage church leaders to regard these characteristics as essential for church health. For this reason, in addition to planting new churches, the missionary task also can include strengthening and even revitalizing existing churches, helping them to grow into greater health.
LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT – Biblical leadership is essential to the well-being of every local church, and God calls different people to lead in different ways. As already discussed, the New Testament specifically identifies two offices of church leadership: pastors/elders/overseers, and deacons. We see in the New Testament that the apostles appointed elders in every church, while deacons (servants) seem to be chosen on an as-needed basis. As we develop leaders in local churches, we prioritize training pastors/elders/overseers. Healthy churches require faithful, well-trained pastors, and we must have healthy churches led by such pastors to fulfill the Great Commission.
EXIT – Our goal is to complete the missionary task in each people group or place and then to exit, with the new churches from that place or people as our partners in the ongoing task of global evangelism. We begin our work with this end in mind, and then continually evaluate toward this end as we go.