SUM Missions Philosophy

Psalm 96:3  Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

Ephesians 3:10-11 “...through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Revelation 7:9-10 “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb!”

Mark 16:15 "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

The Foundation for Missions:
God’s Glory and Word

The beginning and end of missions is the praise of the glory of God!  God has commissioned the church to bring the good news of salvation to the ends of the earth so that those from every tongue might confess Jesus as Lord and worship God. Missions is temporary, for it will one day be no more.  God is truth, and every word he speaks is authoritative and true.  We receive the Bible as sufficient because it is the self-attesting word of God.  In defining missions we should be cognizant of separating the definition of missions from the means of carrying it out.  Although we are all commanded to proclaim the gospel, we are not instructed on how to do this in every detail and in every situation.  In many places the Bible gives clear commands, and elsewhere it provides a model. This is most prominently seen in the book of Acts and Paul’s epistles.  God’s holy word sufficiently defines and models our mandate for missions until the full number of God’s elect is brought in.

Definition of Missions:
Cross-cultural disciple-making

A Biblical Description of Missionaries

Not everyone is a missionary

While every Christian ought to be concerned with making disciples because the Great Commission was given to the entire church not everyone is a missionary.  Missions is not simply disciple-making, there is a further biblical concern with tasking a select few to do a special work.  The New Testament models this.  In Acts 13:1-3 only those marked out by the Holy Spirit were commissioned to leave the church at Antioch.  

Missionaries function as elders

New Testament missionaries were duly authorized representatives of the church commissioned to conduct the primary activities of evangelism, teaching, church planting and the building up of the saints. Therefore, we see NT missionaries as being akin to or virtually synonymous with the office of elder.  The tasks of teaching and church planting necessitate that those who partake in such activities be elder qualified.  The definition of “missionary” that we use is: an elder qualified man and his wife who is commissioned by his sending church, who are sent to cross-culturally teach, preach, baptize, disciple, plant, develop, and strengthen local churches.

Missionaries need support workers too

Just because the Missionary Proper is limited to elders, this does not rule out support roles. The apostles were often accompanied by others (e.g., Luke, Aquilla, and Priscilla) to assist them. Also, apprentices such as John Mark and Timothy accompanied NT missionaries. However, it is clear that missionaries such as Paul and Barnabas were specifically gifted and set apart by the Holy Spirit in a way that the others were not.  

Where missionaries go

Toward unreached people groups

One of the priorities of disciple-making is that we are to go and make disciples of all nations.  Going into all nations emphasizes God’s priority of gathering a people for himself from every nation, tribe, people and language.  The priority of missions is toward those people groups that do not already have the gospel.

Toward other cultures

Special effort must be taken by missionaries to cross cultural barriers to the gospel such as learning another language and to eliminate every dividing wall of hostility.  The reason why many people groups remain unreached is because they exist far away in distant cultures.  It takes concerted effort to break down the barriers erected by sin.  This victory of the gospel over cultural divisions was demonstrated on the Day of Pentecost.

The Sending of Missionaries

By the Holy Spirit

God is the ultimate determiner of who goes where and when.  He gifts the members of his body uniquely for his purposes of building and strengthening the church.  Not everyone is gifted with the ability to cross cultures well.  In addition, not everyone has the desire.  The first evidence that the Holy Spirit is setting apart an individual for the work of missions is that they desire to go, in the same manner that those who might be qualified to be an elder must first aspire to the office.

By the Church

The church recognizes the work of the Holy Spirit.  We believe that the local church is the sole God-ordained institution for authorizing and conducting missionary activity. New Testament missions were a church centric activity. Missionaries were identified, commissioned, and funded by the church.  

Means of Missions:

Wisdom through Local Churches

The Identification and Development of Missionaries

At SUM we want people who have exampled a heart for evangelism in their own community. When their local sending church sees this example and believes they are ready, then SUM will send them to work alongside veteran missionaries in the field for a period of training and testing to see if the Holy Spirit has marked them out for such service.  We are surrounded by masses of unsaved people. Future foreign missionaries should be identified by the concern and efforts they first demonstrate locally under the watchful care and guidance of the local church. There is nothing magical that happens when you board a plane and go to a foreign country. If you are not doing ministry in your own local community you will not be doing it overseas. 

Oversight and Funding of Missionary Activity

We believe that local churches (not para-church organizations) should be setting the agenda for missionary activity and use of missionary resources.  The church which sends the missionary should set the broad agenda for what types of activities the missionary should engage in and hold the missionary accountable to that agenda.  The local church on the mission field, if there is one, should direct the specifics of that activity.  If there is no local church present, then the activities of the missionary should accord with wisdom and the council of his sending church, other missionaries and any missions sending agency.

Related Questions

Q: Why does SUM differ from other Sending (para church) Organizations in its approach to missions?

A: We believe that our definition of missions should be rooted in God’s holy word, not in the common practices of the modern church or in our own presuppositions. We believe the New Testament (NT) contains more than just a historical record of first century missionary activity.

In examining the NT record of missions there are varied approaches to how these accounts should be interpreted. Some might say that these accounts are simply narratives that provide us with an historical record and, therefore, we are under no obligation to adopt any of the same practices. At the other extreme is the idea that the NT missionary record is strictly instructional and to be followed in every detail. This approach is problematic since there is no way for us to emulate NT church activity at every point, nor is it necessary.  We certainly have an imperative to conduct missionary activity, but we do not have specific instructions on every detail for how to accomplish this task.  

When the Bible does not have clear commands, we believe that the best way to understand the NT passages regarding missionary activity is to view them as a model for the kinds of activities the church through the centuries should be involved in, but not containing the instructions for how it should be done in all instances.  We believe that adopting the NT as a model or framework for missions is the safest and best way to please our Master and to effectively carry out the work he has given to His church.

Q: What about those who don’t go as missionaries?  And how do US-based “missions” fit with a biblical understanding of missions?

A: The core imperative to make disciples is not exclusive to missionaries but is applicable to all Christians.  Our disciple-making though is qualified with various priorities.  We encourage all Christians to be involved in missionary activity in whatever capacity they are able. This means praying for and supporting the advancement of God’s kingdom in other lands and cultures while remembering that we are first called to share the gospel and live holy lives within our own spheres of influence.  As for going or not, all Christians are either sacrificial goers, sacrificial senders, or disobedient.  The priority of missions is placed upon cross-cultural evangelism.  While that can happen in a local context to a degree, for the most part that is an extension of the work that every Christian is called to do in evangelizing our neighbors.  Those neighbors whom we interact with are essentially reached because we are the ones interacting with them.  The burden still remains to take the gospel to places that do not have access to the gospel.

Q: What is the role of short-term missions?

A: When a lot of people hear the words “short-term missions” they typically think of the youth group traveling somewhere for a week or two.  We do not call these youth “missionaries,” instead we define them as short term missions support.  Today it is commonly felt that we need to expose young people to the mission field with the hope that some of them will develop the desire to become full time missionaries. We believe such thinking should be reversed.  Young people must first have a heart for local evangelism, and then perhaps work alongside veteran missionaries in the field at some point to see if the Holy Spirit has marked them out for such service. We believe that indiscriminately sending as many young people as possible on costly trips does not fit the NT model and is not the best use of church resources.

Q: What is the difference between a Missionary Aid/Support Worker and a Missionary Apprentice/Intern?

A: A Missionary Aid/Support Worker is a person sent to provide evangelistic, teaching, humanitarian, logistical, linguistic, or other support needed to promote missionary activity. A Missionary Apprentice/Intern is someone who is sent by their local church to spend extended time training with a veteran missionary.

Q: What should the role of parachurch organizations be in missions?

A: We believe that the local church is the sole God ordained institution for authorizing and conducting missionary activity.  NT missions were a church centric activity. Missionaries were identified, commissioned, and funded by the NT church. Today para-church organizations have taken on significant responsibilities and resources which were originally handled by the local church. We believe para-church organizations are helpful to the kingdom of God.  But we believe that they should augment the local church in areas where the church is not structured or mandated to meet specific needs, not supplant the primary ministries of the local church.  In the NT, local churches organized and sent out missionaries. When a para-church organization conducts a mission project, local church financial resources are often used either directly or indirectly to fund it. We believe that local churches (not para-church organizations) should be setting the agenda for missionary activity and use of missionary resources.  Parachurch organizations are helpful in supporting the work of the church insofar as they do not supplant that work. However there are some non-negotiables as a sending agency that SUM must have.

  1. All missionaries who are under the umbrella of Straight Up Missions must have a proper understanding of freedom in Christ or Christian Liberty, they must exercise that freedom in accordance with Biblical principles (Read 1 Corinthians 8:7-13). They also must be aware of and sensitive to the culture in which they are ministering; for example, alcohol use, clothing, language etc.
  2. All missionaries under the umbrella of SUM also must be willing to submit themselves to the Scriptures according to principles in the home; for example, how are you disciplining your children, how are you loving your wife, how is the wife treating her husband (Read Ephesians 5;22-6:4, Colossians 3:18-21, 1 Timothy 3:4-5, 11).
  3. All missionaries under the umbrella of SUM must be willing to submit themselves to their fellow missionaries who are elders serving alongside them,  albeit a local elder or fellow missionary elder. (Read Ephesians 5:21, Hebrews 13:17).

Q: How do good, humanitarian-focused activities fit with a biblical understanding of missions?

A: We do not believe modeling our present day missionary endeavors after the NT model negates humanitarian focused activities such as medical missions, construction activities, or relief work; it is merely a reflection of priorities and focus. It is good to seek the physical welfare of others, and we are commanded to do so. However, we should always ensure that the core missionary activities have primacy. Preaching and teaching of God’s word is always first and foremost.

In Conclusion

The Goal and Vision of SUM

We at SUM want to be an organization of missionaries not professionals who “know” how missions should be done and therefore will tell the church. We never want to supplant or take the place of the church. In many countries around the world today it is a necessary legal requirement for the missionary to have a sending missions organization (para church organization) to enter the country on a religious work visa.

We desire to help the church in being the “boots on the ground” in countries where we currently have missionaries serving. If we do not have missionaries in a particular country where a missionary and his sending church see the Lord calling them to go we will make efforts to connect them with other fellow missionary/elders in that country in hopes that said missionary will be the “boots on the ground” in that country to help future missionaries and their churches.  When a church sends a missionary to a country that has SUM missionaries we will help them with paperwork, logistics, cultural adaptation, learning the language, introduction into the local church in which they will minister, etc.

The goal is to get the missionary up and running without such heavy dependence upon the sending agency and to get the missionary and his sending church functioning together in the country in which they desire to work.

The sending church and the missionary need to understand SUM does not desire to be the authority over the missionary or to replace the missionaries accountability to his sending church. The missionary is under the umbrella of SUM in the country in which he is working and therefore must agree to the non negotiables listed above for SUM. Understanding that although the missionary is accountable to his sending church he will also be accountable to his fellow elders on the station/area he is working in as well as his fellow elders in SUM.

SUM will have many missionaries under its umbrella. If the actions of a missionary/missionaries put at risk the work of everyone else under the umbrella, then the fellow elders inside SUM would first approach the missionary/missionaries and if no resolution was agreed upon SUM Leadership will speak to the sending church with the missionary and if there is still no resolution SUM will remove itself as the umbrella for the said missionary.