Some argue that missionaries are to only be working with unreached people groups. I don’t think so. Undeniably… far more missionaries (Christians in general) need to to be where the gospel is proclaimed the least. But does that mean that these are the only places where missionaries should serve? In the early church missionaries worked outside of the church, but not strictly where there were no churches. I would like to suggest three places where missionaries should work.
1. Where the local church IS NOT. If there is no local group of believers who can reach out to the local population, then missionaries are needed… for awhile.
2. Where the local church HAS NOT. Sometimes there are local churches, yet they haven’t carried out an important part of their role. For example, many local churches only reach out to a certain social, racial, or economic demographic in an area while ignoring others. A missionary may be needed to open doors to areas the local church has been blind to, and to inspire them to take up the task.
3. Where the local church CANNOT. Some forms of ministry are outside of the skill set of the local church. These could include a radio ministry, Christian education, mission training, or medical care. A missionary may be needed to help the local church gain the material and skill assets to carry out this work.
As you can see, all of these situations should be temporary. A missionary is needed where the church is not… until a 3-self (or 4-self) church is developed. A missionary is needed where the church has not… until the church is inspired and trained so that it is. A missionary is needed where the local church cannot… until it can.
The problem comes when missionaries come in and set up churches where churches already are… or develop what the local church is already doing… or do what the local church already can.