It’s pretty much a given that mission work is launched from local churches. I say “pretty much” because I’m not sure it’s conclusive. The more natural flow, to me, is that Church is launched from local Mission. Think about it. The mission is to make disciples. Eventually, those disciples will gather together and form local gatherings. Those local gatherings form networks of believers and become “The Church” in a geographical region. The Church of Corinth, Ephesus, and Antioch are but a few examples. We find no evidence in the New Testament of a church building on a corner in a specific neighborhood.
These networks of gatherings are consist or make up the “churches” referred to in the New Testament. We do know that these “churches” were not considered temples, synagogues, or like definitive structures. We all take our modern conception of “church” and impose it on the commonly understood form of the local church “back then.”
A guiding principle for the New Testament Church is to voluntarily to support the needs of others (Acts 2:45; Romans 15:25-27), support Christian workers (1 Corinthians 9:11-12; 1 Timothy 5:18), and expand Christian outreach (Philippians 4:15-16). In other words, the associations of local gatherings were to primarily serve others by and through mission. The mission has the church, the church doesn’t have a mission. God builds His church by direct action and through the agency of others.
It is common thinking that church members serve others “through” the local church, which in most cases is that building on the corner. It is also assumed that one has to enter into that local church and be sent out from that local church to do mission. In essence the local church becomes a turnstile and assumes the control of mission’s entrances and exits. Church planting, if we’re honest, is often the desire to plant a mission making machine instead of establishing a missional mode. But, is that biblical?