Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on Church and missions. Welcome to episode 96 of Missions on Point. This is number nine of a series of 14 on church-based missionary training. In this episode, we'll talk about practical studies and research. Some of you may be thinking, I don't know if this series on church-based missionary training applies to me. Please let me assure you that it does. If you are thinking about missions, if you know someone who's thinking about missions, if you're someone who is specifically trying to prepare and train for the mission field, certainly if you're a church leader who may be responsible, even in a tangential way, for missionary preparation of those in your church, then you need to be involved and understand what this is. Even if you're just a missions concerned Christian, you want to know what it takes to train up a missionary and what missionaries should study and think and do in order to prepare to go to the field.

Everyone has a part, at least in prayer and encouragement, but many have a part in specific mentoring and helping with training and facilitating the kind of preparation it takes for a missionary to go to the field. So please do listen to this series and encourage others to listen to it. It'll help you pray. It'll help you be aware. It'll help you understand. It'll help you empathize more with your missionaries and your missionary candidates. Now, let's talk about practical studies and research. What do I mean by practical studies and research? There are things that a missionary candidate ought to study and research besides the academic and even some of the informal things that he or she is going to go through in pre-field preparation. Of course, there should be some kind of information training, teaching, reading in overview of the Bible. We typically call this Bible Survey for Old Testament and New Testament.

They should also have some sense of mastery of systematic theology. There are many good and historic one volume systematic theology books out there. They're thick. Sometimes they're heavy with vocabulary, but the missionary candidate needs to be aware of a good framework of systematic theology because they're going to be confronted with many things on the field, which cause them to question whether or not this thing is cultural or sinful or somewhere in between. They're going to be confronted with theological challenges to their understanding of biblical truth, so they need a good framework. They should be encouraged to find and discover whatever is written about the mission's history of the area that they're going to. Not too long ago, in my own research, I came upon a series of amazing periodicals called Missionary Review of the World. These issues date from 1878 to 1923, and they are absolutely fascinating about missionaries recounting the culture, the evangelism of many nations and countries and people groups around the world.

I was simply amazed and greatly informed by the type of work and the insight that earnest missionaries had from back in that era about their time and place in ministry among the peoples that they served for the sake of the gospel. Digging and finding great gems like that are the privilege of missionary candidates and those preparing to go to the field because there is information out there from both Christian and secular sources, whether it be anthropological studies, if they dig deep enough, they're probably going to find something of great interest and usefulness to them in ministry, especially now that much historical information like this is available online through the internet if you dig deeply enough. Another whole area of practical studies and research has to do with finding missionaries that know something about the target people and ministry and people group to which your missionary is going.

There are missionaries out there, perhaps elderly missionaries, more experienced missionaries that have had some kind of contact, so they need to research what mission agencies have been in that area, in that region, what missionaries were assigned to people like that. Often missionaries from previous generations traveled through unreached people group areas and documented some of their findings even though they never stopped there to do ministry. Again, talking to and interviewing, finding references to those people, calling them over the phone, doing a Zoom or Skype call, emailing them, finding some memoirs or journals are a great, great find and of much help as you enter into that new culture. And that leads us to another major area, and that is linguistics and linguistic preparation and the language of the people that they're going to, even if it has never been a written language, if they have no Bible portions or New Testament in their language, there's much that can be learned before you go to the field.

In a couple of our missionary training classes, we actually invited a linguistic expert to come in and teach our class the specific phonemes, that is the specific sounds that were made in the language of the majority group of the area that we were going to. One of the greatest crimes that Americans do all over the world with other languages is we attempt to sound out the sound of the language as it sounds to our ears using our own American phonemes. So you get someone say from Texas or from Boston or from Louisiana or from Chicago, pronouncing things much differently than each other because they're using the sounds, the phonemes that are familiar to them, rather than learning to reproduce the exact phonemes, the sounds of the actual language that they're trying to study. When that is the case, that means that all the nationals, the indigenous people, will recognize that you are not a native speaker right away, and it's not by how you look and dress.

It's because you sound funny. So if your candidate needs to take a semester or two of linguistic studies to better understand the structure, the sounds, the way language operates, the grammar of the target language that they're going to before they ever arrive on the field, that will put them far ahead in their language study and proficiency. Another area of practical studies and research has to do with finding a similar culture locally. Most of the metroplexes of the United States have a very diverse cultural and ethnic composition and demography. There are plenty of resources of information in census data and demographics of your metro region. So if you begin to open up and dig a little bit in this information, you're probably going to find some people that are at least from the region of your target. But it's also probable that you'll find people that are actually very similar or close to the target culture. And often regionally, target cultures share many of the same kinds of values of practices, of traditions, of holidays and those kinds of things, which can be very instructive to the missionary even before they go to the field.

So learning what kinds of foods and cuisine and cooking is important, learning what they value most in their family, what kind of holidays, how they celebrate those things, what is the traditional style of dress and what are the types of occupations that people would have in that region? All of those things you can learn about and experience, make friends with some people, and get to actually have firsthand encounter with that culture that's very close to your target culture. Even if you can't find a group or some families that are close, they're probably going to be some from at least the same nation that have some awareness and understanding of what those people are like, and having an evening, having a coffee, having a daytime walk around the park and just interviewing them and asking them a bunch of questions can be really helpful in building bridges of understanding even before you leave the boundaries of your own home country.

If the church and the candidate have already decided on a mission sending agency or close to that, certainly you should be making inquiries of the agency about their resources, their history, their personnel that have experience touching close to at least the target area or people group that you're going to. Later in the training, we talked about doing a field visit or a vision trip to the area. It should be conducted by more than just the candidate, him or herself, but by others involved in their support. And sending that trip is one of the most important capstone experiences of all of their training. It comes after almost all of the bookwork has been done, all of the classroom type of work, all the private mentoring and biblical counseling and all the interpersonal interaction, the experiences of growing in ministry. All of those things have been largely accomplished already.

And now what remains is this actual visit to a place that is near to or actually into the target population that you're going to. If the missionary candidate has done their homework and practical studies and research well, they'll know things to look for. They'll have their antenna up and they'll be fully engaged in observing and learning all that they can from interaction with people on the trip. They also need a thorough debriefing to process that information and see what additional things that they've learned from real contact versus the virtual contact of studies and interviews and third person kinds of things. One of the most important things that can be done in this debrief from a field visit is to just figure out where is their heart? In what ways is the Lord using these experiences and all of this training to move their heart, to love the people for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ? Meaning that they're willing to give up so many things that they're familiar with in order for them to be the representative of Christ, the gospel, and the church to go and bring the gospel to those people.

Hopefully, the field visit will put some realism in their imagination regarding what it's going to be like to live there. What are the living conditions, the housing conditions, the transportation conditions, the conditions of climate and atmosphere, and all of those things that are just assumed in our day-to-day life here, but over there, you can't assume that. Will they have electricity regularly and what kind of electricity? Will they have internet at all, or will it just be slow and sluggish and intermittent internet? What kind of home appliances might they have? What is the standard way for people in their area to get around to move from home to work, to field, to neighbors, to a potential place of worship? What is the cost of living and how much will it cost to go and live there? What kinds of immigration and visa restrictions might there be?

What is the legal process to become a legal citizen, or at least a legal resident there? What kind of financial impositions might a foreigner have in the country with regard to taxes and fees and moving in and out of the country? Do they have demands for how long they can stay before they have to do a visa hop? That is to leave the country and then come back in and restart that clock again? What kind of shopping is there? What kind of groceries? How do you get food? How do you cook food? What kind of medical facilities are there? What is the role of the United States diplomatic presence in the country if it has it at all? How do missionaries interface with each other? Does presence in the country require them to have a legitimate business? And what business would it be or what does that look like and what kind of restrictions does that bring along with it?

Does the missionary actually have the skills to run and manage and own that kind of business? And what is the plan for the business with respect to the larger ministry plan for planting and developing a local church and developing indigenous local church leaders? So this rounds out most all of the pre-field preparation, the training, the education, the formal and informal stuff, the experiences, the practical studies and research for the missionary planning to go to the field. We're going to be moving from this into some other significant issues for our consideration as the church plans on moving them out to the field and caring for them while they're on the field. Please feel free to let your friends and church leaders and potential missionaries know about Missions on Point.

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.

Comments (0)

Please login to comment.

Register for an account