Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propemp perspective on Church and missions.
Good day and welcome to Missions on Point. This is our fourth in a series of four on your church missions profile. The church missions profile tool is available online at propempo.com. It is kind of unique in the missions world in that it gives you an assessment based on benchmarks of the most effective churches in 12 areas of missions ministry. So I hope that you will go back and pick up the earlier episodes if you haven't. Subscribe or follow Missions on Point to catch the flow.
Today, in this fourth episode, I'm really excited to talk about missionary care, mission strategy, and missionary training. These three areas are often weak or even non-existent in most local churches. I take great joy in helping churches think through their values, their relationships in world missions, and how that can be leveraged to create a clear mission strategy for the church with a view toward training missionaries from their congregation to be sent out to meet those very specific and individualized needs.
Your church missions profile uses a scale of one to six. We call it the P scale, to define from the lowest performance or effectiveness to the highest. It starts with possibility and then project, program, priority, purpose, and passion is the highest. We're going to look at each of those markers, each of those definitions in the areas of missionary care, mission strategy, and missionary training.
The area of missionary care could be described perhaps as one of the most effective things that a local church can do for their missionaries to keep them on the field long term. The problem of missionary attrition is huge. By missionary attrition, we mean, missionaries returning home from the field permanently because of preventable reasons. Missionary care presumes a committed relationship that is growing in depth and scope so that the church understands their missionary very well. And the missionary trusts the local church to do what's best for them, including perhaps encouragement, admonition, correction, counsel, help, not just financially, but in every area of their life and ministry and spiritual walk.
So let's get into it. The church on the possibility scale says, "Our church would be open to a caring relationship with a missionary." May not even have a missionary in mind, may not even be supporting a missionary, on a personal level. The project level is "We help missionaries on a special needs or case by case basis." And this is usually when there's an emergency of some kind on the field, whether it be a natural disaster or a huge medical need for the family or particular financial need because of circumstances.
The third level is the program level. These churches say, "Our church proactively seeks to discover and meet certain missionary needs." In other words, the initiative begins to turn toward the church, which is great because the local church should be taking that kind of interest to seek and develop a relationship where they're able to ask their missionary "What special needs do you have?"
The fourth level of priority, this church says, "We try to build strong supportive relationships with the missionaries with whom we are especially connected." Now, they may do this in a variety of ways. We've heard of many churches that do a special Christmas offering or they take time to recognize the missionary's birthdays or anniversaries. That's all really good, and it's a great start toward developing highly effective missionary relationships in missionary care.
The fifth level, the purpose level, says, "Our church actively shepherds resources and assists each of our missionaries beyond routine financial needs." So sure, you may have monthly support going on, but do you regularly ask your missionaries for special needs or track with their newsletters in such a way that you can read between the lines and figure out, this family needs a little extra care. It may be something as simple as providing some resources for them to get away for a little retreat or vacation or get a break from the stress of their cross-cultural ministry.
The highest level is passion. A church that is passionate about missionary care says "We treat our missionaries with as much interest, assistance, and care as our local staff. We are committed to them and their goals." So this kind of church really does know their missionary intimately. There's often communication back and forth, not just by email, not just by snail mail, but probably Skype or WhatsApp or video calls so that they understand what's going on. The people in the congregation actually know the names of the children, it's known that well to the church. This level of missionary care provides lavishly for them. When the missionaries come back home, the church makes sure that the missionary family has housing, has a vehicle, has phones, has internet access, has names of doctors and mechanics and whatever they need. They find out in depth what the missionaries need during this particular home assignment and seeks to help them so that when they go back to the field, there's no more needs on the list.
Now we're going to move into the advanced section of church missions profile, which includes mission strategy, little understood by most churches and missionary training, which is kind of scary, but it is a delight to enter into this mode.
So I just want to alert you just walking through the church missions profile and the descriptors for each level, is an education of itself, so that you know what the possibilities are. You may feel like you're not scoring very well on the profile, and yet now you have descriptors to aim for the next step and the next step, up to the highest effective level. On missionary strategy, the lowest level of possibility says "We get involved when and where opportunities may come along." This is sort of a serendipitous, laissez fair kind of attitude of, well, when something comes along, maybe we'll get involved in mission strategy.
The project level, our church says this, "Our church looks for a specific missions project or goal to adopt and complete each year." So at least on an annual basis, there is some kind of a goal for raising funds for a short term missions team, for direct involvement in some way to assist or complete a particular field ministry goal.
The program level, this church says, "We try to develop annual goals and plans for missions involvement and growth." So there is a factor here of growth toward a particular area or particular goal so that the church actually as a body, understands, we're growing in missions in a particular direction.
The priority level church says, "Our church has clear priorities and ambitious goals and plans for missions ministries." This may include everything from how missions is perceived, accepted and acted on among the church body at large, but it also includes field ministries and what those goals are, and it assumes that the church actually knows what the goals and plans of their individual missionaries and ministries they support are. So that they can enter into that and become a part of fulfilling those plans and goals. The purpose level Church says, "We are committed to specific field-based results and mobilization of resources to achieve them." I'm thinking of one church in the past who knew that underground training of church leaders, house church leaders, primarily in a particular closed country, was significant and they felt like their church wanted to supply in two week chunks, actual teaching and training from among their congregation, people who were qualified and had studied and prepared for teaching those classes. And they fulfilled three years every two weeks of sending people, having them train local underground church pastors in discreet locations and fulfilled that whole thing in three years.
One of the results was one of the guys that went repeatedly over that period of time was a single guy, a great teacher of bible and theology, the kinds of things that underground church pastors needed, and he became engaged to a local Christian gal, got married and stayed and lived there and became the coordinator before the end of the three years was out. How's that for local church mission strategy involvement?
The highest level is the passion level and a passion level church says this, "Our entire congregation is fully committed and engaged in pursuing specific strategic long-term results on the field." This obviates that the church leaders have chosen well and communicated well with the whole church, what the strategic missions focus is, and that the people in the congregation understand that and relate to that and help and assist that as a body. Now we come to the last of 12 categories in the church missions profile.
It's in this advanced section and it's on missionary training. This is a passion of mine. I love helping churches understand properly how it is that missionaries are well trained pre-field to get to the field and stay long-term even in the most difficult circumstances and situations.
The remaining unreached people groups are unreached for a reason. It's hard to reach them, it's hard to stay there. Some of the statistics on attrition show that in some of the more antagonistic fields, it is unusual for a missionary worker to stay longer than five years, and I'm here to tell you that five years in these challenging fields is not enough to see a vibrant, biblical, healthy local church planted and sustainable and reproducing in those kind of circumstances.
So missionary training becomes an exceedingly important aspect of church missions development. How you give your people over to missionary training and have them complete their training well, qualified as church leaders locally, as well as overseas will make a huge difference in their long-term effectiveness.
The church that is on the possibility level says this, "Our church is open to hearing from members called to missions about appropriate training." Usually the churches on the lower end of the scale here, look to the mission agency to stipulate all the requirements for pre-field training. I'm here to tell you those requirements are not enough.
Biblically, we want to see missionaries trained in such a way that they qualify to be church leaders in their own church before they get sent to the field to be church planters and leaders in a foreign culture church. Usually that takes more time than what the mission agency allows for. Understandably, the mission agency is looking for the lowest bar of qualification to get somebody to enter into their agency and go to the field. The church shouldn't settle for the lowest level.
The second level is the project level, and this kind of church says, "We personally encourage anyone who pursues missions as a vocation. Of course, they want to be encouraging, but they still may not be entering into, "How do we develop this person as if we're developing the next pastor of our church?" So to speak.
The program level church says, "Our church publicly recognizes and encourages those who feel called to missions and prays for God's direction in their lives." So there's a little bit more activity, a little bit more initiative there on the church's part, not leaving it entirely up to the missionary candidates.
The fourth level is priority level, and this church says "We recognize and take an active role in assisting and guiding those who are interested in a missions career." That means that the church doesn't leave it to the individual to make the decision about where they're going, what ministry they're doing, and what agency they go with. The church enters in as a partner because actually, they are going to be a partner probably for the mission's career life of that missionary.
The fifth or purpose level church says this, "Our church encourages members to consider missions and maintains a regular program to track and assist the training of missionaries from our congregation." So there may be actual stepping stones that are defined by the local church that the missionary needs to go through in order to be recognized as a missionary by the church.
The sixth and highest passion level church describes themselves this way, "We proactively challenge members to consider a mission's career and require church-based training for our own missionary candidates." So this church is saying yes, we not only have a couple of descriptors or stepping stones, but we have a whole program that we expect our missionary candidates to fulfill even before, perhaps, they apply at a mission agency so that by the time they apply at the mission agency, they're overqualified according to mission agency guidelines and requirements, and they're for sure going to get accepted and received with great joy by the Mission Agency to be sent out into those challenging fields.
So there you go. That is your church missions profile. We've walked through all 12 categories of missions ministry in the local church. I trust that you find this encouraging, stimulating, instructive, and that you will help Propemo fulfill its vision for re-energizing your local church missions ministry by taking an active part yourself in using some of this information to encourage your missions team, your church leaders to adopt and grow in each of these 12 areas. Please do consider going to propempo.com and click on the big button, "Start your church missions profile" to start the process online and get the final results report, which is 15 plus pages of information that show what you assessed for your own self-assessment and how you can grow with specific resources into the next level in every one of the 12 areas.
Bless you. May God use this for His glory in the church. 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 prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
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