Are mission boards biblical?
Question: "Are mission boards biblical, or are they taking the place of what the local church was designed to do?"
Answer: Mission boards are groups of people who oversee, to a lesser or greater degree, the activities of missionaries on the mission field. Mission boards can be as simple as a few people in the local church who choose, pray for, and support one or more people from their own church who feel led by God to the mission field. Or a mission board can be as large and complex as a parachurch agency that facilitates large numbers of missionaries with such things as fund raising, Bible translations, seminaries, aviation, broadcasting, publishing, camping, hospitals, and schools for the children of missionaries in appropriate locations. Whether the mission board is small and oriented to the local church, or large and world-wide in scope, the objective is the same—to fulfill the Great Commission of Mark 16:15: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
There are those who believe missions to be the responsibility of the local church only and that parachurch missions agencies are usurping the work and direction of the local church. Because there is no biblical precedent for a parachurch organization of any kind, they believe, no such organization should exist. They cite the example in Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit worked through and with the local church in Antioch to send forth missionaries. The example of Acts 14 is also cited, wherein Paul and Barnabas reported back to the local church following the first missionary journey. Those they reported to were simply God’s chosen servants in the local church at Antioch. While these things are true, those “chosen servants” in effect made up a mission board.
Whether missionaries are sent and supported by the local church, a denominational mission board, or a formal, parachurch organization, certain principles do apply. For one thing, finances must be handled in an appropriate manner. If a large missionary organization is draining funds from the local churches to be used primarily for operating costs including salaries, the local churches that support such an organization are not practicing good stewardship. But the same can be said for local churches supporting just a few missionaries completely on their own. There must be accountability from those on the field to ensure that funds are being used wisely. This is a difficult and delicate situation for most local churches to navigate, and many are more comfortable with an outside mission board that can handle such things objectively and impersonally.
Although there is no biblical model for the modern mission board or agency, neither is there a biblical prohibition against them. Christians trying to decide how to fund and support missionaries should begin with prayer for God’s wisdom, which He has promised to grant “without finding fault” (James 1:5).
Recommended Resource: Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper
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Questions about the Church
Are mission boards biblical?