Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.
This is episode 68 of Missions on Point. We're in the last of a six-part series on The VISION of a Sending Church, and today's topic is nurturing. It involves the deployment process, the final stages before the missionary leaves the field and sending them off and then shepherding on the field.
A lot of what I'm going to talk about in deployment is actually pre-deployment. It's that final checklist of all the things that you have to do in order to be ready to go. It includes things like having a passport, having visas for the candidate, knowing that they have fulfilled all the agency checklist after being accepted as an appointee, as a missionary. Approval of the initial landing place. Not all missionaries even going to the same country land in the same place and start out their life and language learning in the same place.
They need to have a plan for soul care and communication, just the mechanics of how it's done and the frequency and the expectations. But in some countries, particularly closed countries, there needs to be a specific plan for how are they going to nurture their spiritual life on their own and walk through that with the right resources. It may be a lot of electronic books on their Kindle machine or their iPad or their laptop. It may mean sermons on their hard drive or an external hard drive that's filled with sermons.
There needs to be some time given to orient the congregation to proper expectations. It's not like they're just moving down the street, and we certainly don't want the missionary expected to have to spend hours and hours of time on Skype or FaceTime or WhatsApp with video communication with people when they're supposed to be doing the job of getting acculturated and language study and all the things they have to do to adjust to a new culture. Set reasonable expectations regarding priorities and staying on task for both the health of the missionary and the ministry and also your congregation.
There needs to be thoughtful, goodbye communications sent out to friends and family and supporters. There needs to be appropriate personal business taken care of for banking and medical and power of attorney documents, insurances, retirement, a will, even a living will or a medical power of attorney, address changes and mail changes. All of that has to be cared for in order for them to make a smooth transition to the field.
Some of the things that have to be done are simple like risk assessment. How risky is it going to be to be there? What kind of neighborhood are you going to live in and how do you set up yourself for security and contingency issues? They need to do like a pre-field pack. I know too many missionaries that pack after midnight on the morning that they leave, and it's just harrowing to try to go through that and jump up and down on suitcases and to make everything fit. There are going to be choices that they make for things that are priority to take and other things that are not priority and ought to be left.
Obviously, they need to have the right kind of plane tickets and whatever international permissions and visa and immigration papers they need in hand to go to the new field, and of course, the church will want to have sendoff parties, a special commissioning service on a week or two before they actually fly.
I also strongly encourage that the church make a way for the missionary couple or family that's leaving to have a couple of days off ahead of this rush of the final goodbyes and the commissioning service. That they have two days or even a week where they're resting and relaxing, getting themselves ready for the rush of adrenaline as they leave and go to a new place.
This last thing we're going to talk about in The VISION of a Sending Church in the nurture area is shepherding, it's field visits, it's taking care of people remotely. It involves their spiritual health and nurture. How do you check in on them? What kinds of things do you ask? What kind of communication that you have that's not oppressive, but stays personal and if necessary, intimate with regard to their concerns, their cares, their needs. It fuels, especially the church leaders prayer for specifically how to be aware of the concerns that the missionary has on the field. It may include mission advocates within the congregation or the Barnabas team or the pack team as we've mentioned before. It may also include someone who is a specific best friend of the missionary guy or the missionary girl who knows them very, very well and can kind of read between the lines of what's going on in their heart and their mind.
So if and when you do a field visit, how often should it be? I suggest not more than once per year. It may have something to do with how far away they are and how complicated it is to get there. Early on in the first days, you want them to be very focused on learning their new environment, language, culture and not interfere too much and too long with field visits. When there is a visit, whoever it is needs to have both the framework and the leadership role to ask direct accountability questions regarding their personal life, their spiritual walk, their marriage, their family, their relationships in the team, perhaps sin issues or what's tempting them to sin. It needs to provide an atmosphere of grace and ease for the workers to communicate about whatever their concerns and issues are.
The field visit is definitely not trying to usurp the agency's authority, so work in concert with your missionary's team leader or field leader. It should not be burdensome or micromanagement of their time. They know better than you what their time flexibility is and what demands they have and the stresses they have in their new situation. It should not build a sense of fear and judgment. It should be coming alongside. It should be a paraclete, comforting, encouraging kind of ministry.
Pastors and missions' pastors and missions' team leaders or chairman often ask me, "What kind of things do you ask of a missionary on the field visit?" Knowing that there is a sense of accountability, you always ought to have a coffee table kind of discussion regarding a series of significant things that help you get an idea about what's really going on. So you need to ask about their personal spiritual life. Definitely ask about their marriage and family relationships and if they're married, you need to ask the spouse the same kinds of things because his or her answers may be very different than the other person.
Ask about their team relationships and if possible, ask their team leader about how their team relationships are doing. Ask about their relationships with locals and observe what their relationships with the locals are like in the couple of days that you're there.
Certainly ask about their language and culture learning and their progress in the language learning scale moving toward release from formal language learning responsibilities. Certainly try to find out about their stresses and needs and concerns. It may be as simple as a dietary restriction or something that they need as a supplement in their diet.
Talk about their finances and how they're doing in their support and how they're handling finances now on an international scale. Talk about their communication, their frequency and the depth of their communication. Talk about their priorities and goals. Talk about what strategy and methodology they're employing to reach those goals. Talk about their personal health and maintaining their personal health. Talk about their agency relationship and how their agency is facilitating their work and ministry on the field.
If you keep good notes over time, a couple of years time, you'll be able to see some patterns develop that will be very helpful in your ministry to them. I know of a missionary family on the field who's supporting church shepherded them so well as biblical counselors. They knew that this couple needed some extra attention in their marriage relationship and provided it in a marvelous way. One of the biggest blessings of the church is this nurturing stage in the process of missionary sending. It's helpful to the missionary. In fact, a really good sending church that nurtures their missionary well is the envy of all the other missionaries on the field. Very few missionaries have such an attentive and warm relationship with their sending church.
If you take the ideas of ownership and nurturing of these last two episodes of Missions on Point and put them together and start implementing them within your church body, your missionaries will be very well cared for and they will love it so much. It'll help them stay faithful on the field even when many others might be so discouraged they could leave.
So let's just do the little overview of the missionary sending process with the word vision as our acronym.
Values are the leader's responsibility, to both understand biblical values and roles, establish some guiding principles and teach the church about those values.
Identity is very significant because in this step, the church discovers and designs who they are and who they want to be as they lead the church into missions with the idea of people from their congregation being sent out.
The third one is strategy, and this is understanding the mission's opportunities that are before you, including some research and thinking and praying through what is our strategy as a church and focus in ministry so that we can have a larger impact on a specific area or people group of the world.
The next one is implementation, and it has to do with discovering, finding, selecting, training, and implementing the training for missionaries coming from your church. Implementation is where a lot of the roads come together in an intersection for finding that missionary, preparing that missionary, knowing the field beginning to set the stage for them to go out.
And the last two we've discovered in the last two episodes are ownership. That is the church understanding all the sender roles that they can claim as part of their role in the great commission and nurturing the care for and deployment and shepherding of your missionary out on the field, and that will last as long as they're on the field.
I hope that these ideas have been stimulating and helpful to you. There are a number of articles on propempo.com that expand on little elements of these things. The biggest part is a training that Propempo has done in years past that lasts about two days that walk step by step through these in more detail with more resources.
As always, we welcome your comments and ask you to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions or questions you might have.
May God be pleased to enrich your church with a fantastic opportunity to raise up and send missionaries from your congregation to the mission field for his glory.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, propempo.com. Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
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