What a Missionary Desires from Churches

Earlier this year I posted What a Church Desires from Missionaries in which I said that churches desire faithfulness, communication and relationship from missionaries.  Now turn about is fair play.

During 20 years of ministry in missions, I’ve experienced and observed three characteristics of churches that, when existent, radically alter the experience of the missionary on the field:

  1. churches that make and keep commitments
  2. churches that demonstrate concern
  3. churches that show care

For the rest of this post, pretend that your job is to live among and share the gospel with people halfway around the world who speak a different language than you do and live an utterly different existence from you including food, transportation, clothing, values and worldview.

Commitment:  Affirming the Missionary

Commitment refers to the financial commitment that a church makes to a missionary.  I’ll let you in on a little secret.  Generally speaking, most missionaries would not seek partnership with churches if the system were not set up that way.   If it were up to the missionary, most of them, I venture to say, as a personal opinion, would just as soon go it alone.

Certainly, prayer support would be asked for and a general sense of ‘who is with me’ would be sought after, but most missionaries are independent, self-focused, ‘I’d rather do it my way’ kinds of people.

Does a missionary value visiting 40 churches over the course of 9 months during home assignment?  That’s 40 church visits in 36 weeks.  Somehow the math doesn’t add up.

No, a missionary prefers to worship in one church during home assignment, to connect deeply with that fellowship, to experience rest, while also visiting a handful of churches who are committed to the vision to share what God is doing.  But missionaries go along with the system that we have set up and that God has permitted because they are compelled to share the good news.

For the missionary a committed church:

  • gives regularly according to their pledged amount
  • gives extra when possible because it means the church is behind the missionary
  • keeps lines of communication open
  • communicates ahead of time if the church needs to alter or stop their giving pattern

A missionary feels affirmed every time a church says “Yes, we will partner with you.”  A missionary feels re-affirmed every month or quarter or year that the church makes a gift.  Yes to my ministry.  Yes to my vision.  Yes to God.  Yes to me.

Concern:  Demonstrating Loyalty to A Missionary’s Ministry

Missionaries appreciate when churches show concern for their unique life and ministry context.  Even though a missionary would be happy to go it alone, she deep down does not want to be alone.  She wants to know that churches and individuals are kindred spirits in her ministry.  She desires that missions committees and pastors give a hoot about the vision, the outworking of the gospel and the changing of a community to the glory of God.

Churches can best show their concern by asking relevant, helpful questions:

  • Tell us about your praises and challenges this year.
  • What else can we do to partner with you?
  • How can we best pray for you?

When these and other questions are followed up with relationship and communication (just as the church desires from the missionary), then the missionary feels that this church is genuinely concerned for the ministry and the partnership.

A lack of interest as observed in a lack of communication makes missionaries think that the church is sending the money without their hearts attached.

Care:  Showing Love to the Missionary’s Heart

Care is a dangerous word.  Use it once and you create expectations that you might not be able to back up.  Use it often and you run the risk of sounding like a sissy.

Cross-cultural ministry is dangerous too, so dangerous, that without care a missionary or church planter may exchange a fruitful life for a successful ministry.

Missionaries may not say that they want to be cared for.  That is one reason I am writing this post, on their behalf.  But if you ask them How can we care for you? you will bless them beyond measure.

Churches, you know how to care for missionaries.  Ask them for their needs and then meet some of them.  Give them special surprises.  Help them to find housing and transportation during home assignment.  Send them to a marriage refreshment weekend or give them a gift card to Outback Steakhouse.

A missionary who feels cared for will change the world.

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  1. Conversations in Mission: Ordinary Missionary, Committed Pastor, Gracious Giver « FULFILL - December 2, 2011

    […] This committed pastor wanted to know best how to support this missionary.  Read more about what a missionary desires from churches. […]

  2. Missionaries: The Last Frontier of World Missions? | FULFILL - July 11, 2012

    […] What A Missionary Desires From Churches […]

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