Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to our podcast.  We are so glad that you have joined us.  This is episode 188, and we are so grateful for God’s kindness to us in providing for this ministry through listeners like you.  We are now in the second of several episodes talking about Church Partnerships.  Last time we saw a little bit of the biblical basis of church partnerships, seeing especially how the New Testament epistles demonstrated that churches should partner together for both the advance of the gospel and the physical support of needy Christians everywhere.  We need church partnerships because we need help in ministry and life, whether that be in the sending of missionaries because churches struggle to do that all by themselves or really in any other aspect of ministry, churches need support from other churches.  But we also need church partnerships as the avenues through which we can lovingly support and care for needy Christians all over the world. 

For example, what if you hear on the news about a hurricane that devastates some part of the world far away from you.  Of course, our hearts sink within us for the destruction and turmoil in people’s lives.  And we usually think that it’s far away and there is not much we can do about it.  But how does our thinking change when our church has a special relationship with a church that is in the center of the affected area?  Even more so, what if we have a missionary that we have sent who is in the middle of that area.  Now we have believers there whom we know personally and who we pray for regularly and who might turn specifically to us and call out for help.  Church partnerships make the world a little smaller. 

In today’s episode, I would like us to consider church partnerships from the perspective of the missionary.  How should the missionary think about church partnerships?  Ultimately, I want to argue, as I did in the previous episode, that a church partnership is the final goal of the missionary’s work.  We’ll expand that a bit more here, but before we do I want us to think about two aspects of the missionary’s job, of which missionaries often begrudgingly fulfill as a part of their necessary duties.  These aren’t the glamorous aspects of missions work.  But, I hope to spark a bit of hope and motivation into the missionary today as they consider this work as not simply a necessary evil, you might say, but as a vital part of ministry today, not simply a means to an end, but as a good thing in itself to do for the glory of God and the good of the church.  One of the things that makes these two works of the missionary meaningful is how valuable they are for strengthening church partnerships. 

Here are the two works of a missionary that help support church partnerships. 

  1. Missionary support raising.

This is the work of a missionary before he is even sent out on the field.  And more often than not, this is the work that a missionary has to continue to do throughout their ministry, especially when they are on home assignment.  The missionary has to go to churches and individuals to raise support.  Very few people would say that they actually enjoy this part of the work.  Some people like to ask others for money, but most people feel at best awkwardly uncomfortable.  And it’s not hard to see why.  Furthermore, to exacerbate the missionary’s frustrations, this work does not feel especially meaningful.  Missionaries are typically zealous people who are eager to get to the missions field.  They don’t want to wait around raising support, they would much rather be out there doing the work that they have an excitement to do.  And in a sense, they are right.  Their desire to be on the field evangelizing the lost and building up the body of Christ should be their driving passion.  And their desire to get out there should motivate them to do the work of raising support, because it is worth it. 

But what I would like to convince the missionary of is that there is value in their efforts even beyond the simple means to an end.  Raising support is not only valuable as a way of getting to where you want to go.  Raising support is valuable because it strengthens church partnerships.

Now, how is a missionary accomplishing this? 

This where the centrality of the church in missions really helps to give us a paradigm shift in the raising of support.  If the church is central to the sending of missionaries, then the missionary is not all alone.  The missionary is sent out by their church and they represent their church in the work they are doing.  In a very real sense, the missionary’s work is the church’s work through them.  And so, when another church or an individual is considering whether to support a missionary, one of the first questions in their minds ought to be, “who is your sending church?”  Because when you are supporting a missionary, you are not just supporting that one individual, you are supporting the church that sends them. 

This becomes evident when you consider the church-planting missionary.  If you are supporting a missionary who is all about planting churches in a new place, and you know the church that that missionary is coming from, then you know that they are going to be planting a new church that is very similar to the church that they have come from.  So, in other words, when you support a missionary who is not being sent from your own church, you are effectively saying, “I know the church that they come from, and I like that church, and I want to see more churches just like that started through this missionary’s work.” 

This is the important distinction between supporting a missionary and sending a missionary.  The sending church has the authority to guide and influence the work, often helping the missionary to establish a church in a similar fashion as the home church.  But those who are supporting a missionary are essentially supporting the sending church. 

And this is perhaps the unexpected blessing that arises out of this process.  Two churches that may not have had any contact otherwise now have a natural affinity for each other because they both are supporting the same missionary.  They both have the same value of seeing this missionary succeed.  This is especially true if the sending church is a smaller church and they are not able to fully carry the financial burden of sending their missionary.  How thankful they are that there are other churches and individuals who are helping them to send their missionary out. 

And this is a blessing that the missionary can rejoice in too.  All Christians ought to desire to see the unity of churches in fellowship with each other.  And it’s my opinion that there is nothing that brings churches together better than our unity in Christ coupled with a common vision around the Great Commission that Christ has given us.  How important it is for us to be in unity with other churches, because we need each other to send out missionaries. 

And so to the aspiring missionary who is in the difficult early stages of raising support, be encouraged.  You are not waiting around to do ministry.  The work that you are engaged in presently has a special benefit to it.  You are helping to connect churches together that may have otherwise not had any relationship.  The missionary helps to form church partnerships in the sending of the missionary.

Secondly, we not only think of the missionary before he is on the field as being valuable for the strengthening of church partnerships, but we also think of the missionary who is on the field already.

  1. Missionary ministry updates.

The next area of ministry that a missionary needs to be involved in, which they often drag their feet with, is the infamous missionary newsletter.  However frequently they have committed to do so, missionaries often reluctantly head to their keyboards to once again type out an update letter.  It feels overly simplistic and reductionistic.  It feels impersonal and fraught with the temptation to romanticize and glamorize what is so often messy and intangible.  The missionary feels the pressure to produce results, to prove to supporters that their investment was worth it.  Worse yet, measuring ministry with metrics seems to produce the most excitement back home.  Quantifying the number of disciples made or churches planted or Bibles handed out, nothing else seems to draw more accolades when you write a newsletter.  The nuance and complexity of personal ministry gets lost when you have to summarize and write a report every month or every quarter of a year.  Now, this is not always the case.  There are many churches who do a good job of encouraging their missionaries in this area.  Many churches relieve their missionaries of this undue pressure because they are genuinely interested in the people that are being discipled.  Healthy church relationships with missionaries see them asking for specific prayer requests about the burdens and difficulties in ministry.  Furthermore, it is not hard for a missionary to become skeptical and cynical about the effectiveness of their newsletters.  Does anybody read them?  Everyone back home seems busy and distracted by all that they are involved in.

Some of this frustration is inescapable living in a fallen world like ours.  But a lot of it can be mitigated with a church that is highly engaged with their missionary.  And why would a church be motivated to eagerly know about the missionary’s life and ministry?  Because the missionary provides something that they cannot get any other way. 

The missionary is a bridge.  He and his family are a bridge between two different cultures, able to show to both cultures how the gospel crosses such barriers.  We each get a glimpse of heaven when we see people from a different tribe, culture and language worshipping the same risen savior.  We cannot overstate how important it is for us to rise up out of our cultural confines and learn a bit more what is universally true about the faith that was once for all handed down to the saints.  While we never lose our cultural trappings, we can learn to discern what aspects of our lives are secondary and which ones are truly connected to being a Christian.  More important than this though is the idea that missionaries are a bridge between two churches.  As a church prays for the new disciples that a missionary baptizes and the new elders that are installed in a new church plant, a unique relationship is formed between the sending church and the new church plant.  The missionary is the bridge between the two, often acting as the only person who knows both languages, and the only one who is communicating between the two. 

We can easily undervalue the prayer requests that a missionary sends home, naming individual people and their needs.  But why else would God give to us so many divinely inspired missionary prayer letters in the New Testament.  It is quite remarkable how many personal greetings are given in the epistles.  Local churches at a great distance from each other need to know each other and pray for one another and support each other.  And there is no one better to provide that connection than a missionary.

So, this is the missionary’s objective.  Not just to bring the Bible to that language.  Not just to see new disciples made and formed into a local church.  Not just to see the church rightly ordered with elders and deacons.  But to see the growth of a brotherly affection, a mutual partnership in the gospel, and a bond between brothers and sisters in Christ that stretches across thousands of miles and goes on into eternity.  God is glorified in the unity of the church, and the missionary has the grand privilege of taking the next step every day toward that more glorious future. 

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at and We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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