Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions On Point, the Propempo Perspective on Church and Missions. Thanks for tuning in to episode 94 of Missions On Point. I'm so glad you're listening. I would appreciate it if you would subscribe or follow and share it with others. This is episode 7 of 14 in a series on church-based missionary training. In this issue, we're going to talk about mentoring and accountability. In the process of developing missionaries from your church, you need to think about the end goal and some of the attributes and features that you want to see in that end, and then you can work toward that end steadily, even in the training and development process. This whole idea of accountability is part of it. If you want your missionaries to be accountable, it's good to build-in accountability into your relationship culture early in the process so that they know they're not an independent agent and they have the wisdom of the church leadership and the church body behind them as they go out to serve the Lord in very challenging fields.

One of the early dynamics that you need to create in a mentoring relationship is to put the onus of responsibility on the mentee to report to and ask questions of the mentor. Typically, a mentor assigned to a missionary, even if it's only for part of his or her development as a missionary, the mentor is a very busy person and it makes sense for the mentee who desires to qualify as a missionary, to have the responsibility to contact them, to keep appointments, to stay on time, to not miss, to let the mentor know if there are issues or problems in their fulfilling their assignments and accountability. This perspective on developing the relationship of the mentor and mentee is important in any mentoring situation, but especially so for the missionary who, if in God's providence they go to the field, will be separated by time zones and culture in so many ways.

It needs to fit in their schedule and they need to report back to the mentor rather than have the mentor constantly pursuing and bugging them to have a conversation to report, to be accountable. In a way, it's also a litmus test of the mentees sincerity in wanting to fulfill that calling. If they're genuinely sincere about it, then they will easily take the responsibility to go after the mentor, to spend time with them, to share with them, to open up with them, and to have that relational accountability. That's important. If on the other hand they're too casual about it and they don't see the importance of it, then very likely they won't see the importance of it in the long term and that, in itself, may be one of the key disqualifying factors for someone who's a missionary candidate. They don't want it bad enough to go for it and to interact with, relate to and be accountable to whoever their assigned mentor or mentors are.

We're going to start mentoring and accountability with that whole concept of spiritual disciplines. We have an inventory that we use for missionary candidates, which starts with the Bible. And we use the five elements really taken from the navigator's hand illustration to help them understand what we mean by their personal spiritual disciplines with respect to the Bible. Listening to God's word, reading the Bible, studying the Bible, memorizing Bible portions and meditating on the word of God. These ought to comprise a standard regular practice of spiritual disciplines in the candidate's life. In addition, there's prayer. So you want them to describe their personal prayer life and perhaps give them some reading or some outside assignments to help them develop in their personal prayer life. Next on the inventory is the idea of personal worship or quiet time or devotions in which the mentee should describe their frequency and duration and what kind of qualities are in their discipline of personal worship.

They should be encouraged to define what is their ideal quiet time or personal worship time as opposed to what is the normal or actual personal worship time. Taken together, these may actually be a part of journaling as a personal discipline to record what they're doing, how it affects them, what they're praying about, what they've read. Another area is fasting, and although this is not often discussed in conservative evangelical circles today, it ought to be. It is a legitimate biblical personal discipline to understand fasting, to know how to apply it, when to do it, and maybe when not to do it. Another discipline is giving. Generously giving to God's work in particular, but generosity as a part of life in general. Another personal discipline is singing. Although someone may not be particularly gifted in vocal singing, music may be a very big part of their personal spiritual disciplines, whether they're listening to it, playing it on some instrument or singing.

Another personal discipline is witnessing. What is their witnessing life? As a missionary, every missionary should be experienced and trained in witnessing, in presenting the gospel, in encouraging people to consider the gospel. Another personal discipline is solitude or silence. Are there times that are segregated for simply praying and thinking, waiting upon God in silence? They should be encouraged to discuss what is their strongest area, their weakest area, how they can improve, because when they go to the field, they're going to be, in a sense, feeding themselves spiritually and they need to have these skills to be able to survive in the desert of spiritual input on many fields. There is another survey type instrument we use for the sake of discussion. It's not to disqualify people from going to the field, but to help them qualify by having victory in these areas of their lives. In sexual health, medical health, mental, emotional and psychological health and financial health.

You could add to it others as you will, like relational health, which covers everything from parents to siblings to friends to other relationships in their life. Their coworkers, their boss, the people that they work with and around. With regard to each of these areas, it is wise, I think, to pry in a very specific way so that you get candid, confidential information from them about how they're doing in each of these areas. So you talk about whatever their past history has been in each of these areas.

What is their present status? What is their trajectory? What are their aiming for in each of these areas and how can they actually represent the church, represent Christ, represent the gospel in such a way as to have an unblemished reputation and testimony for the sake of the Lord and his glory when they're living overseas? We know of missionaries that have gone through the standard gauntlet of mission agency preparation, including a formal secular, standardized psychological testing and come up short when they get on the field because no one pried enough or asked enough questions of accountability to discover that they had some major problems in sexual health or in relational health or in medical issues that they tended to skim over or cover up.

Now is the time to get nitty-gritty honest in the details so that the church can help this person gain victory over what areas they need victory in and qualify to go to the field. Often neglected or assumed answers don't do the job. We've seen folks that had major marital problems on the field because no one cared enough about them to ask them about some of the little things that they observed that showed or indicated a potential for bigger problems down the road. Something like 50 years ago, two really great missions pastors among the first of those in the United States who were really recognized as full-time missions pastors as a staff position in a significant local church, wrote a paper together called Missionary Preparation, the Responsibility of the Local Church. It's a great little paper and has lots of details, but I want to use that at this point to just highlight some of the major things that they're thinking about.

It's Woody Phillips who at that point was missions pastor in Minnesota and Carl Palmer, who was a missions pastor in California. And they say clearly that the first responsibility of the church is to recruit the missionary candidate. Secondly, to disciple them. Third, educate them, and that means scripturally, theologically, mythologically to educate them. Fourthly is to counsel them, and that's getting down into the nitty-gritty of the stuff we're talking about today regarding longer-term extended counseling and mentoring discipleship of the missionary candidate. The fifth step is assigning, which helps them discover a field and a mission agency, and then to thoroughly evaluate what's going on. And seventh, last, is to send them. The authors admittedly say that this process is long. It could easily take seven or eight years altogether including both informal and formal training, but it includes things like some formal training, perhaps in a Bible school or seminary, an extensive reading list, and this longtime growing relational accountability with the leader or leaders in the local church that are responsible for his development, and then eventually his accountability on the field.

Good habits, which sometimes includes some training in communication, in writing skills, perhaps in some technology and computer skills, as well as all the practical experience of ministry. This last concept is very key in the missionary's development to have practical ministry skills and good understanding of ecclesiology, which is everything having to do with the church, its leadership, its organization, the messiness of shepherding real people, the development of leaders. All of those things are necessary experiences and skills for church planting on the mission's field. There is a great article by Mark Collins entitled, Your Bad Ecclesiology is Hurting Us. It's been republished in several forms in different ways. You'll find it on 9Marks. It may have a slightly different title. You'll find it on the Gospel Coalition. The essence of it is this. So many missionaries, including church planting missionaries, have such a poor understanding of ecclesiology that they're not able to discern and define what is a church, biblically.

They have no idea. Even though they're supposed to be church planting in teams, they don't know how to raise up leaders because they've never been raised up to that standard. You understand that missionaries who are going to plant churches, the guys should be elder qualified according to 1 Timothy 3, and that doesn't happen with a young, still, recent college graduate just zipping out to the field as fast as possible. So it does take a lot of time and effort to develop good ecclesiology sent out to the field. To develop people who are actually biblically qualified to be church leaders. To develop people so that they have a good grasp and understanding and framework for Bible, for theology, for relationships in every area of their life. Christ is Lord, and they're working toward pleasing him in every respect. Fighting sin, and overcoming bad habits or bad consequences of previous behavior. If they're married, exhibiting and showing strong relationships in their home, husband, wife, relationships with the man taking the lead and spiritually leading and shepherding his home and his children.

If you haven't picked up on it by now, you should realize that whoever is assigned to be the mentor or guide or leader for the missionary candidate has to devote a significant amount of time and effort into the process. It is an intensive relationship that may take place over a course of years. There may be periods of time where there's less interaction and accountability and less to do for the mentor. Overall, if there is a mentor or a sequence of mentors or a set of mentors, they have to realize that this is serious work to develop this diamond in the rough so that it will shine brightly on the field. Please hang in there with us.

We're going to discuss the training curriculum, then move through other curriculum and particular issues for the missionary's development, moving toward that final commissioning service in which they are evaluated and given a green light to go to the field. You can leave comments on your podcast app, but if you have specific questions or concerns, just email us 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, 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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