The elders of our church are in the process of drafting a missionary policy to assist us in decisions the church makes regarding missionary support. To help us, we read a book by Andy Johnson called ‘Missions’ (available to borrow from the church library). Also, I have been writing a series of bulletin articles outlining some of the ideas that the elders are considering. We’ve seen that we think should expect our missionaries (i) to be members of a local church; (ii) to have the qualities of deacons and elders, (iii) to have a relationship with us at Drummoyne; (iv) to be primarily supporting local churches.
Today I want to suggest that we should only support missionaries that are in theological agreement with us. Yes, they must be morally pure, but they should also have sound doctrine/teaching.
Paul says to Timothy: ‘Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers’ (1 Timothy 4:16). The importance of doctrine is right there with the importance of leading a holy life.
We need to check the doctrine of missionaries because there are many missionaries and parachurch organisations that call themselves ‘Christian’, but may not actually be Christian at all. And some may be Christian, yet hold to some very unsound doctrines that easily lead into serious sin.
Therefore, we should expect our missionaries to be in theological agreement with our understanding of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
But what is it we believe at Drummoyne Baptist? Of course, that’s where our statement of faith is helpful. It clearly articulates what our members believe about the nature and unity of the godhead, the deity and humanity of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures, sin, atonement, salvation, the church, baptism, the Lord’s supper, the return of Christ, the resurrection, heaven and hell.
Sadly churches and missionaries sometimes do not want to check for theological agreement. Johnson writes in his book: ‘Often churches and individuals seem hesitant to evaluate too deeply the theology and quality of the workers they might support. This seems entirely wrongheaded to me. If a worker is offended that you want to explore the contours of his or her theology, that should be a huge read flag….Initially, you might ask them to affirm the theological statement affirmed by your church…Specifically, you want to probe a missionary or missionary candidate on two things – the gospel and the church. I’ve met missionaries who, I trust, love the gospel but couldn’t clearly articulate it to save their life…More often, I’ve encountered persons sent out with the title of church planter who were stymied when asked, “What is a church and what does it do?” Some just didn’t know; others gave answers steeped in personal preference and devoid of Bible. But a few, with the loving tone of a man describing his wife, launched into a Bible-saturated description of the essential marks of a church and its biblical function. Support those missionaries.’
So let’s make sure that our mission dollars are supporting work that is in theological agreement with us. After all they (and we through them) will be propagating and encouraging their doctrines. Joel Radford