In Matthew 16, Christ promised to build His church on the truth of His identity as the Son of God. This new entity of the church that Christ would build shortly would be laid on the foundation of His words and would be on the winning side despite the hatred expressed by Satanic onslaughts against it as the authority and power of Christ Himself would stand with His church. Mission work then must participate in the building of Christ’s church.
This progressed into Jesus’ instructions to His Apostles before he left them so that they would know how to accomplish the work he delegated to them of participating in the enterprise of building his church. They were to make disciples by going into all the world to preach the gospel in evangelization, baptize converts into the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, and their identity of the church, and edify them with continued instruction of all that Christ had commanded them. The local church is hinted at in this Great Commission as the task of missions is outlined.
Where we really see the centrality of the church in the practice of New Testament missions is in the book of Acts, where the Sprit’s power is unleashed in Jerusalem and a church is launched. This church is organized and established with rhythms in Acts 2:42-47 and the Satanic opposition against it in the form of persecution results in disciples fleeing persecution and taking the task of missions with them and other churches being launched in more Gentile regions.
Eventually one of these churches becomes a strategic launching base, and Antioch becomes the leader in mission work among the Gentiles as some of its particular leaders are chosen to evangelize for the purpose of pioneering the work of new churches through the propagation of the Gospel.
The strategy consisted of Paul’s preaching the Gospel, discipling converts, and organizing the disciples into churches that were led by appointed elders to continue the shepherding process and teaching after Paul left.
This practice in Acts confirms Jesus words in Matthew 16 that He would build His church and shows that He builds His church by using leaders and faithful disciples to plant and establish churches. This IS the work of the Great Commission—to not simply see individuals evangelized and edified—but to see the process of discipleship to continue of individuals through the vehicle God has chosen to display His glory—the local church.
It is the local church that sends and supports missions and the workers of missions.
Missions is the work of planting and establishing churches and churches are to do the work of planting and establishing churches according to the practice of the New Testament.