Developing a Sending Culture in the Local Church

By: Kiley Ham

In the context of the local church, I believe most members would quickly agree that missionaries should go to “all the places” and share the good news of Jesus. That may be as far as this understanding goes. But, if we think this is foundational in living out a gospel-centered life, it seems that we need to know why and how. 

Why do you need a “sending culture” in your local church? God intended for the nations to know Him and praise Him (Psalm 67). Jesus gave us a command for how this is to be accomplished (Matthew 28), and for it to be done, we must send workers to do it. This is not just New Testament thinking. God’s plan from the beginning has been for the nations to praise Him. He said this when He first organized “His people” under the covenant with Abram (Genesis 17:1-4) and during the age of prophets like Isaiah (Isaiah 2:2) when He described the worship He would ultimately receive from all people. The width and breadth of Jesus’ command to Christians to make disciples of all nations and peoples (Acts 1:8) means it applies to us as well. That’s the “why,” and the church’s example of how they sent out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2-3) is the “how.” The early church set a precedent for a sending culture that our fellowships need to emulate.

So, what does a sending culture look like in the context of the local church?

  • Live sent. Culture in a fellowship is churchwide. There needs to be constant messaging to the entire body that being a Christian is a call to be a disciple-maker. Missionaries are Christians who are led to be disciple-makers in another context and culture, but all of us are commanded to be doing that work regardless of where the Lord places us.
  • Pray. This seems simple, but it is fundamental. When Jesus prepared his disciples to go out into ministry (Luke 10:2), He said that their first responsibility was to pray that the Father would call and equip more workers for the harvest. Like other times in Scripture, God is described as the one Who will provide, but He directs us to ask. We must pray that God will accomplish His work according to His instruction and encourage your church to pray for nations and peoples by name.
  • Proclaim truth. It is no secret that the direction of a church usually falls closely in line with the message preached in the pulpit. As Paul challenged Timothy (2 Timothy 4:2), “preach the Word” in a way that clearly communicates Jesus’ expectations of those who bear His name. Challenge your congregation that they will all either be “senders” or “goers.”
  • Involve all ages. Developing culture begins early. If you are going to lead the church to understand that some of them may need to go to places where the gospel has not yet gone, start early! Teach your preschoolers, children, and students what it means to pray for the nations and introduce them to heroes of the faith through missionary biographies. 
  • Be consistent. This means that you are constantly thinking about a sending culture. It becomes a core value. It impacts the decisions that you make. Consider how God would have your church be involved in disciple-making daily and how you should engage in mission efforts around the world. Take responsibility for the equipping of the saints for global mission and ministry.

Author: Kiley Ham, Global Discipleship Pastor, Colonial Heights Baptist Church