Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo on church and missions. Thanks for joining us today on episode 161 of Missions on Point. This episode is about missionary mentors. We're talking about how local church-centered missions is implemented. This is number 20 in the preview of a book I'm writing on the centrality of the local church in missions. This particular episode is going to talk about missionary mentors. And what I mean by that is mentors within the local church who are coming alongside missionary candidates to help them in the fullness of their pre-field preparation so that they can be well-qualified missionaries in every way and be faithful on the field for the long term.

When we accept that the local church is central in missions, we also accept that the local church is the leader and guide for missionary preparation. There is a parallel in terms of preparing church leaders, that is, men who are going to be elders or on the leadership team, or pastors of the church. Many times a church will assign someone to be a prayer partner with a missionary candidate that is checking up on them and praying with them, but this is more than that. This has to do with accountability and a deeper level of personal counseling and guidance for the missionary's preparation for the field.

It does not have to be someone who is a professional. It does not even have to be someone who has missionary field experience. It does have to be someone who is recognized by church leadership and the mission's team and the mission's leader as being a godly Christian who does have concerns about missions, may be willing to learn a lot about missions alongside the missionary candidate, and to walk through the missionary training and preparing for the mission field. It does mean that the mentor or mentors need to understand what are the steps involved, so we'll review that a bit.

Amazingly, this is something that is just neglected or a dark hole in the gap of missionary training, having someone in the local church that takes such a personal interest in the missionary candidate so as to ensure that they're actually doing the stuff to get ready for the field. Often a missionary-sending agency in today's world will assign a coach after the person has been accepted into the mission agency, and the coach is going to specifically coach them about some steps that may have been assigned to them for missionary preparation, but particularly in the area of fundraising, of financial support development, because once they're into the mission agency as a member or as an approved missionary candidate, the mission board basically wants to get them to the field as fast as possible so they have whatever minimal qualifications they may need, and then the support raising happens, which is often a large chunk of time and effort involved in making that happen.

When we accept the local church's centrality in the whole process of missions, the local church is going to simplify the fundraising process a great deal and probably shorten it a great deal as well because the local church is going to get involved in helping to raise the support through their network of affiliations and relationships. But the local church is going to be in charge of the qualification process and make sure that the missionary is really well-qualified, not just minimally qualified. If the missionary candidate is a single individual, then it would probably be a same-gender individual mentor. Some churches may choose to use a team of people that are sort of tag-teamed based on their expertise or interest in particular areas of development so that one after the other of the mentors is working with the missionary candidate to ensure their qualification in the particular area to which they are assigned.

It also means that if there is a sending agency involved, that the agency needs to know the mentor's name and their role because they're going to refer to and defer to the mentor in areas of specific qualification as the mentor tracks more closely and in relation to the missionary candidate in the church. It also should be said right up front that the local church is not the master of all areas of missionary qualification. It's that the church is responsible for it. So similarly to us educating our children and delegating quite a bit of educational input into their lives through whatever schooling or co-op kind of situation that they're in, the missionary mentor and the church may delegate formal training and/or informal training outside the church to cover things including biblical training, theological training, linguistic training, maybe some cultural training. The mentor has to have a good reputation in the church and have strength of character, godliness, and a good walk with Christ, as well as good relationship with the church leaders.

They ought to have the ability to counsel and guide others. Part of that means they'll have the ability to speak the truth in love and to lovingly, patiently counsel, encourage, reprove, and rebuke someone under their discipleship to move them along the path to become a fully-qualified missionary. It's not just someone who loves missions and loves missionaries. It's someone of proven character and strength, somewhat available to the missionary candidate in order to have a lot of contact with them over the years of their development. The mentor should have freedom and be able to ask a lot of penetrating questions as well as listen well and to be able to pray with the candidate through this whole process.

Certainly a mentor for missionary candidate needs to have a warm feeling about cross-cultural experience if they haven't had positive cross-cultural experience themselves. They need to have an accepting curiosity about aspects of other cultures. It should not be someone who is highly opinionated and extremely nationalistic about American culture and American ideals. The mentor should have an idealistic kind of goal in mind for what the missionary candidate will be and be able to do and be able to know as they approach the finish line of qualification.

I love this statement of David Livingstone, the historic pioneering missionary to Interior Africa who when asked in 1882, gave this statement about qualified candidates: "Missionaries ought to be highly qualified in every respect. Good education, good sense, and good temper are indispensable. A sound mind and a sound body, independence of character, strength of judgment, aptitude both to learn and to teach are of great consequence. An ability to acquire and retain languages, tact in managing others so as to conciliate and yet to retain proper dignity and self-respect are of great importance. There should also be an intrepid spirit of enterprise, decision, cool courage to meet sudden emergencies and to overcome dangers, gentleness, powers of endurance and temperance."

We want our best, most able, and greatest men to do the highest and most important of all work, making known Christ's gospel where it has not been hither to heard. So the mentor needs to be ready to walk with the candidate, whether they are an early high school student or a college grad or Bible school grad, and walk through this kind of missionary candidate training curriculum. First with regard to calling and character. This is the being aspect, who they are, what kind of person they are. They need to sense an internal compulsion to be involved in missions and have strong personal spiritual disciplines. And it relates to how they handle God's word and prayer and giving even in witnessing themselves. They need to have strong sense of interpersonal relationships with their own family, with their community. They need to have elder and/or qualifications like elder or deacon depending on their role target on the field. And an elder is defined in 1 Timothy 3 in Titus 1 as having lots of great godly character.

They need to have a reputation of integrity. That means wholeness, without flaw in it. Not entirely without flaw, none of us are that, but it needs to be consistency in emotional, moral, spiritual, mental, and financial areas of their life. The second major area is that of conviction. That is knowing things and being able to apply things. So Bible knowledge, including principles of interpretation, theological knowledge like systematic theology and historic theology, church planting knowledge, global missions knowledge, including best practices and current trends, global awareness of what's going on in the world, and timeless missiology, not just current trends, but timeless missiology. And then lifelong learning skills with a strong ecclesiology and biblical vision, knowing how to set priorities and have a to-do list or a plan or a goal that is followed day by day. They need to have a thirst for continuing Bible knowledge and a value for indigeneity, a vision for their future ministry.

The third major area has to do with competence. This is ministry skills and experience. It's the doing part. And often missionaries fall down in preparation in this doing part. They maybe have had Bible school. They may be pretty good in character and have a good reputation, but they don't have any experience in actually doing work of ministry. And that is a challenging thing that the mentor needs to help them with because it requires people work, which is often messy. They need to be tested in the local church with regard to skills and leadership and using their spiritual gifts in the right context, and ability to teach. They need to have skills and experience and assets outside of ministry skills, just workplace skills, business skills, human relational skills, communication skills. They need to have some competence in missions strategy, about the team and how it operates, about immigration and bureaucracy, about the role of affluence in a poorer culture, and discipleship and leadership training methods.

They need to have some short-term missions experience and probably exposure to a field that is most like the one that they're going to. They need to have other kinds of skill development and support raising and use of technology, even personal safety and security and contingency planning. They need to build an advocacy or Barnabas team, which probably includes the mentor that's been working with them maybe for a couple of years at this point, because they need prayer support. They need to raise financial support. They need advocacy at home. They need a mission-sending agency, and this is something that I believe in a local church-centric missions philosophy, the mission-sending agency is not selected until quite far down the line of missionary preparation. They need to have assessment and an interview and a worksheet for that. How do you assess how they get along with other people, and what other input and insight do you have from people around them?

Then they finally need to have chemistry. That is an ability to get along with people and understand all the different roles they're going to have on the mission field as a missionary, as a foreigner. And this moves right into cross-cultural capacity. It's another soft skill that shows up when they have attitudes with a foreign culture and international experience and current relationships with internationals. They need to understand how culture shock may affect them and even do demographic and anthropologic studies regarding the culture, religions, history of missions, and missiology in their specific field, maybe some case studies from missionaries that have gone on before them. So the missionary mentor in the local church is a very important role, and it's one that can make or break whether the candidate actually qualifies and how well they qualify. If per chance the missionary mentor does not agree that the missionary is qualified, that could be providentially the grace of God in their lives to redirect them.

Realize that missionaries going out to the field from the United States to unreached people groups cost a lot of money. The stewardship and the commitments made by people around them and by them themselves are crushed if they have to come back from the field too soon or earlier than expected because of a lack of preparation. You may recall, I've said it before, but really good pre-field preparation is the solution to unrealistic expectations, which is one of the main reasons why missionaries come back from the field for preventable reasons. The missionary mentor is a very significant job. And by God's grace, they're used in the life of a beginning missionary to enable them to withstand the rigors of life on the field by tracking with them, encouraging them, challenging them to fully qualify for the long haul, for God's glory.

Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our website 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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