An IMB missionary is a disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit, sent out from the church, and affirmed by the IMB to cross geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers as part of a missionary team that is focused on making disciples and multiplying churches among unreached peoples and places.
- “A disciple of Jesus set apart by the Holy Spirit, sent out from the church” – At the most basic level, a missionary is a “sent one” who goes out from the church in the power of the Spirit as a representative of Christ. (See the original apostles plus Paul in Mark 3:14; Luke 9:1-2; Mt. 10; Acts 9:15; 1 Cor. 1:1. See also Barnabas in Acts 13:1-4; 14:4, 14; Andronicus and Junias in Rom. 16:7; James in Gal. 1:19; and Epaphroditus in Phil. 2:25).
- “And affirmed by the IMB” – The IMB establishes strategies and processes for mobilizing, assessing, affirming, training, supporting, and leading missionaries who serve as representatives of the IMB.
- “To cross geographic, cultural, and/or linguistic barriers” – A missionary crosses one or more of these barriers for the spread of the gospel. (Acts 13:4ff.; 22:21).
- “As part of a missionary team” – IMB missionaries serve on teams in which different people have different roles and responsibilities in the missionary task. See “Missionary Team” below.
- “To make disciples and multiply churches” – The work of the missionary team involves evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and/or leadership training all aimed at seeing disciples made and churches multiplied. (Mk. 3:14; Lk. 9:1-2; 24:27; Acts 8:4-8; 13:13-52; 14:1-23; Romans 15:17-23; 1 Cor. 9:16; Gal. 1:15-16).
- “Among unreached peoples and places” – Missionary teams plant churches and/or facilitate church planting among unreached peoples and places, [(Rom. 15:20-21; 1 Cor. 3:6-11; 4:15; 2 Cor. 10:13-16). See churches begun in Philippi (Acts 16:40), Thessalonica (Acts 17:4), Berea (Acts 17:12), Athens (Acts 17:34), Corinth (Acts 18:8–11), and Ephesus (Acts 19:10; 20:17)] entrust leaders of the church with responsibility for mission (i.e., equip them to shepherd the church and send out missionaries), (Acts 14:21-23; 20:32; 1 Thess. 1:4-10) and then move on to plant the church among other unreached peoples and places. (Acts 13:6, 13; 16:40; 18:1, 18, 23; 19:21; Romans 15:20-24)
In the New Testament, disciples on mission most often serve on teams in which different people have different roles and responsibilities. (Luke 10:1; Acts 13:4ff.; 15:36-41; 16:1-5; 18:1-4; 19:29; 20:1-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; 2 Corinthians 1:1-2; Philippians 1:1-2; Colossians 1:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2; Thessalonians 1:1-2; Philippians 1-3, 23-24). Beyond this biblical precedent, Scripture points to strong personal, practical, and pastoral reasons for disciples on mission not to serve in isolation from others (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; Hebrews 10:24-25). Even evangelistic reasons exist for disciples to exalt Christ in the context of Christian community (John 13:35; 17:20-23; Acts 2:42-47). Consequently, we believe it best for IMB missionaries to serve on teams in which different people have different roles and responsibilities in the missionary task. A missionary team is an identifiable group of disciples who meet together regularly, care for each other selflessly, and partner with one another intentionally to make disciples and multiply churches among particular unreached peoples and/or places. Teams may be comprised of IMB missionaries, national believers, and/or other Great Commission partners. The IMB provides multiple pathways through which missionaries may serve on one of these teams, each of which carries unique qualifications, involves various types of training, necessitates appropriate measures of accountability, and includes different levels of financial and/or other support.