Acts 13:1 begins with a list of the equipping leaders in the church at Antioch. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, The Holy Spirit lets them know that He has a work to for two the leaders, Saul and Barnabas, and the leaders are to set them apart for that work He had called them to. The rest of the leaders left behind would continue the work of establishing the church at Antioch and Saul and Barnabas would be sent out for the Gospel expansion work of evangelizing strategically, establishing congregations, and passing the baton by entrusting the deposit of the Gospel to faithful equipping leaders.
The leaders, after hearing the message from the Spirit, fasted and prayed, and laid hands on Saul and Barnabas to send them off. This laying of hands is symbolic of the authority of the local church in commending ministers of the Gospel. The local church is the mediating sending authority, not the mission board, not the Christian college, not any other parachurch organization. If the church is responsible for the realization of the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) since it is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), then the church is responsible to send out her ministers. The laying on of hands that occurred in Acts 13 to send out the ministers of the Gospel, testifies to the significance of the authority of the local church in this action. It is the church accepting responsibility in missions under the authority of Christ.
But not only is the symbolism of laying on of hands to send out ministers symbolic of the church’s responsibility in the Great Commission, it also symbolizes the delegation of that task to worthy individuals under her authority. It is the church that recognizes the call of the individual and trusts and affirms it, because it is the church that recognizes faithful leaders in 2 Timothy 2:2 and invests in them with the expectation that they do the same as they are placed in ministry. The church identifies these leaders, trains them, tests their effectiveness and calling, and affirms them through the laying on of hands. When the church reaches the stage by way of affirmation of laying on of hands, the church is identifying with that individual in their call and ministry and delegating her authority to that person to carry on the task.
The connection of the laying on of hands unites the local church and the one sent forth in the common purpose of evangelizing, establishing congregations, and entrusting to faithful leaders. There is mutuality in responsibility for the task as the minister of the gospel represents that local church and the local church supports them through the various means such as prayer and finances available to them and as necessary. The church goes with them, goes by that person, stands with them, prays with them, sacrifices with them and helps in support as much as she can.
The church assumes great responsibility and authority for the one being affirmed to gospel ministry. The church therefore has the ultimate authority and responsibility as the mediating sending agency, not the individual, mission board, Christian college, or other parachurch organization.
But if this is true for the church’s side of the laying on of hands, then there is a parallel truth for the one who has the hands being laid on them for sending to gospel ministry. The individual who receives this recognizes the authority of the church as the sending agent, has identified with that church body as being part of it, believes in the accountability and authority of the sending body of the local church, and will not forgo his responsibility to be a faithful representative of that church.
So from the example in Acts 13:1-3, it can be observed that:
1. “God called the Antioch church leadership to commend Paul and Barnabas. God did not directly call Barnabas as individuals, but worked through the church.
2. God selected men that demonstrated ability to minister in a local church setting (11:25-26).
3. Ministry directive came in the midst of worshipping and fasting.”
Michael Griffiths in his book, Who Really Sends the Missionary?, upholds this NT concept and fleshes out the relationship between the church and the missionary in a refreshing NT way in four chapters as he observes that:
1. “Ministers and congregations have the chief responsibility for the selecting and sending of new missionaries.”
a. The local church possesses the responsibility to act as the sending authority and financial base.
b. The volunteer missionary practice is suspect on biblical and practical grounds.
c. Missionaries selected by local churches are ore able to create and sustain a vital church relationship that strongly contributes to the commitment and financial support of the congregation.
d. They are supporting roles that are valuable for mission agencies.
2. “Ministers and congregations have a crucial responsibility for the retraining and encouraging of furlough missionaries.”
a. Home churches have the potential of making strong contributions to the life of missionaries.
b. Local congregations should accept a larger share of a few missionaries than a small portion of a larger number of missionaries.
3. “Ministers and elders have the central responsibility for ensuring that missions are a principle passion of their congregations (and not a peripheral program for the super saints).”
a. The missionary calling is the burden of the whole church.
b. It is in the greatest interest of the health and obedience of the local church and its members to participate in global missionary work.
4. “Ministers who are experienced pastors/teachers have a certain responsibility to consider missionary service themselves.”
a. Those chosen to be missionaries in the NT churches were ministers already.
b. The greatest need in missions is missionaries with church experience.
c. Experienced, matured leaders have a responsibility to train up younger ministers with the experience and ability to minster cross-culturally.
Is there a role for organizations outside of the local church to be involved with the expansion of the Gospel if the local church is the mediating sending authority? The answer is yes, with some qualifications.
· The parachurch organization recognizes the authority of the local church in the roles of identifying, training, testing, and affirming gospel ministers and relates their cooperation in relation to that recognition.
· The members in parachurch organizations are under local church leadership themselves and those involved in coming alongside the church and assisting the church in Gospel expansion have been affirmed as a minister of the gospel by their local church leadership themselves.
· They are not looking to replace ministries that are going on in the local church but assist and propel them on if they do exist, or if the organization exists to fill the lack of a ministry that exists in a local church, they operate as a spoke in the wheel of ministry with the local church as the hub of centrality. The parachurch organization is a tool for the local church, not an end in and of itself.
· If a local church cooperates with a parachurch organization, and a need to operate under the policies of that organization is assumed, then the local church voluntarily places themselves under those policies and guidelines in order to cooperate, but has the freedom to withdraw due to the autonomous nature and authority of the local church.
 p. 28 Leader’s Guide for Acts: Keys to the Establishment and Expansion of the First Century Church. BILD Leadership Series.