As we continue to look at true apostolic ministry and the impact of this ministry on evangelism today we see in Acts 13 (the church in Antioch) our third major truth. Principle #3: Those being considered for membership on an apostolic team that is being formed to “go into all the world and make disciples” must first have proven themselves on the home front within the ministry of the local church. In my experience there are many who want to travel to a foreign nation to minister – I have requests almost weekly from people wanting to travel with me. However, most have not proven faithful and fruitful in ministry in their local church.
There is a saying I share a lot; “If it does not work at home, don’t export it.” In other words, if you are not winning the lost within the evangelistic ministry of the local church you attend – don’t even think about going overseas with an apostolic team to evangelize and plant churches. First be faithful and fruitful here on your home territory and then think about becoming a part of a team that is going overseas. If you can’t win the lost here – you will never win the lost there … wherever “there” is.
When Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were sent from the church in Antioch, they were already faithfully serving as part of the leadership team in that local church. As well, their ministry had been very fruitful during their stay in that city. In Acts 13:1 they are part of the team meeting together described as “certain prophets and teachers.” They didn’t get launched to the mission field after sitting lethargically on the back row of the church; they were already actively involved in ministry. And their ministry had been proven and was fruitful.
If believers do not have an effective ministry in their home church, why should we consider sending them as part of an apostolic team to minister in some distant land, where they will face inevitable barriers of language and culture? Although there are times when someone thrives in a foreign ministry even though he has had “no honor in his own country” (John 4:44), the general principle is that those we are faithful in little will be entrusted with more (Luke 16:10a).
If we are not fruitful in the part of the Kingdom where God has placed us, it may be just wishful thinking to expect great results is we are sent somewhere else. Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, served for a time with a missions agency, screening new applicants for the foreign mission fields. He was amazed to discover that the vast majority of the people wanting to travel overseas to minister had never led anyone to Christ back home! The moral of the story is that it takes more than crossing the sea to make a person a valuable member of an apostolic missions team.