Missionaries don’t stay

Paul as churchplanter 5

“the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them””, Acts 13:2. After they have stayed in Antioch for at least a year, Barnabas and Paul have three other men who share leadership responsibilities with them in Antioch. Then they get a shocking message from the Holy Spirit: they have to move on. They were the missionarie who built up this church. But now there is local leadership, and it is time for them to go. Barnabas just ‘happened’ to end up in Antioch. And he had invited Paul to help him. But now for the first time they are clearly sent out with a missionary purpose. They learn an important lesson: a missionary is not a pastor. Maybe they felt very at home in Antioch. Maybe they felt they were indispensable for the young church. But the Holy Spirit calls them to move on.

There are two very reasons why missionaries should not be pastors. First, they give a foreign flavour to the church, and that is a barrier for growth. Nowadays, when much larger cultural difference need to be bridged than Paul did in his time, that is even more true than it was for Paul. Second, there are so many people who have not heard the Gospel yet. Therefore missionaries should build up local leaders and go on to the next place. It is not easy to know when is the right moment to go. From the beginning the nascent church needs to be prepared for the departure of the missionary. And the voice of the Holy Spirit, who leads in all truth, needs to be discerned. What best fits the spiritual gifts that the Lord gave you: serving him in one place, or being on the move?

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