Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and Missions. This is episode 158 of Missions on Point. Thank you so much for joining us. We're in the end of a series called Restoring Missions in the Local Church. If you've been listening, you know my favorite name for this is Repatriating Missions to the local church. It's number 17 in our series on the centrality of the local church and missions, and this particular episode is going to deal with sending and shepherding well. We talked about raising up missionaries in episode 153. I will touch base on that for pre-field missionary preparation by the local church, or at least managed by the local church. I've been approached by many churches who wrestle with gnarly missionary problems because things have gotten outta hand or there's trouble or even a crisis within the missionary family, the missionary marriage on the field, the missionary team, all kinds of things happening, and I'd like to say this old adage and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

One specific church, I was talking with a pastor that he said, elders have invested something like 100 hours of counsel and care for a really bad missionary situation on the field, and it seems like if they had done more with understanding before they ever went to the field, that time would've been cut down to just 10 or 20% of the total. Here's the big, big picture. There are two primary categories of preventable attrition. That is missionaries leaving the field before they were expected to or wanted to or had planned. And those two primary categories are unrealistic expectations and lack of a relational accountability. Unrealistic expectations can be cared for and prevented by having proper pre-field preparation if there is thorough and proper pre-field preparation. The missionary doesn't have unrealistic expectations. They know the stresses, the strain, the pressure of living on the field, and it's not going to disturb them or upset them.

I've talked to a number of missionaries with tears in our eyes because they just didn't realize how tough it was gonna be, including some of the relational things on the field, and they came home after just a year or two years or three years instead of a career on the field like they had expected. Lack of relational accountability is solved by the sending church. Relational accountability with the sending church is what helps prevent the crisis. Most often when mission agencies do what they call member care, it's entering in when there is already a crisis in full-blown conflagration. It is terrible and hard and almost impossible to heal and repair and put the pieces back together once it's reached that level. However, the sending church can have this relational accountability relationship with the missionary, so that weekly, monthly, on a regular basis, they're communicating nitty gritty beneath the surface kind of stuff with their missionary, praying for them, caring for them in such a way that they discover the needs and the fissures in their mindset and help them to overcome it.

Apply the right kind of counseling in the right time and ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Let's talk about how that is done. It is very significant for the local church or the missions team to assign a mentor or a mentor couple for a missionary candidate. Couple for the missionary candidate in training. The mentor is a godly person in the congregation who will learn missions as the missionary candidate is learning missions. That is the mentor will track with and have accountability with the missionary candidate as they go through all the pre-field training, but they will also just walk alongside them, pray with them, have regular meetings with them to find out how it's going, what is unusual, what kinds of things do they need, how can we help you in your preparation? The second big thing is to have an actual master plan for pre-field training.

And often mission agencies are looking for the lowest possible bar. They don't have a very intensive or thorough pre-field ministry training for most mission agencies. Frankly, in practical terms, it's enough to have somebody who's willing to go to the field and do the minimal preparation to get there. They don't necessarily think about the depth and breadth of prefilled preparation that's needed to stay there. So really good prefilled preparation is gonna take, being, knowing and doing, or we say character conviction and competence. Character deals with their calling, their personal spiritual disciplines, their interpersonal relationships and their elder or deacon kind of qualifications to go to the field. Their reputation of integrity conviction is biblical and theological training that is comprehension and knowing things in Bible knowledge, theological knowledge, church planting knowledge, global missions, global awareness and timeless missiology, things like indigeneity and what's your plan for establishing indigenous leaders in the ministries and the churches that you will be planting, God willing, and then a commitment to lifelong learning.

The third major area is this area of competence that is ministry skills and experience, and this is actual experience, not virtual experience. It's local church testing. It's skills and experience and assets outside of ministry, skills like workplace type of experience, mission strategy, short-term missions, experience, skill development specifically for the task of missions and communication and technology and safety and security. It is building an advocacy team and chemistry with people, which is sadly given very little attention. And lastly in this area is cross-cultural capacity. That is the ability to embrace language and culture and people of other ethnicities and to value them and understand them and even study something about the religious studies and history of ministry and missiology in the place that they're going to. So when the sending church gets involved in helping the missionary candidate do those things and acquire those skills and experiences and character necessary for long-term success on the field, they are deeply woven into the fabric of that person's life and relationships.

And that's what it takes for preventing attrition on the field because the church can put their arms around them and say, we know you. We know your strengths and your weaknesses, and we are going to help you stay on the field just because something has happened on the field that's made you upset or stressed. We can help you work through that and get to the other side of long-term ministry effectiveness and faithfulness. I should say that there is such a thing, aspr preventable attrition that is coming home permanently for unpreventable reasons. And I just want to tell you, I know that exists. There are lots of real things that cause missionaries to come home for unpreventable reasons. Now, I've spoken about the church raising up a missionary, but what about missionaries that just come seeking support? Well, you should do the same kind of thing in overview and ask them the kind of questions that would determine the fittedness of a missionary for your church.

Similar to a missionary candidate, you're not gonna go in as much depth, but you're still gonna ask them the questions. Are they really qualified in character, conviction and competence? And find out the details of that. You're gonna ask them about the goal and strategic plan for their ministry, and what about doctrinal alignment with your church and even doctrinal alignment of their agency with your church, and what is the relationship that they have to your church body? Those things are really important. And then discerning exactly how they fit in to your mission's. Focus as a local church, as the relationship develops with your church missionary candidate, then you want to build an accountability team. I call it a Barnabas team. We've touched on this in some other episodes of Missions on Point. You can kind of go back and listen to those in the formation of a Barnabas team.

It's a team that may be outside of the missions team, but it's a group of people that specifically want to love on this missionary and care for them. They should have regular meetings. They should pray for the missionary, correspond regularly with the missionary, and they have certain areas of responsibility on behalf of the mission's team and on behalf of the church. The first area of responsibility is encouragement to come alongside the missionary to affirm and assist and resource them in helping them feel loved and appreciated in their place of service. The second area is logistics, and this function includes all the practical concerns of the planning process, including travel and shipping and managing the care and disposition of stuff. The third area is communication. And this is a little more tricky in today's world with more secure communication going to countries that are limited access kind of countries.

So you have to be careful about how and what you communicate, but you do need to communicate. This. Barnabas team then relates to others in the church with regard to communication to continue to pass along a channel of prayer requests and news and information about the missionary family. The fourth area is prayer. It goes without saying this is a significant priority in the spiritual life of the missionary, and they need to be supported in prayer, in finance. The next area. There's a whole lot of things that can be done that people don't realize with regard to the legal aspects and financial aspects of their wills. Power of attorney bank, account management, stateside housing, or household goods. All of those are financial concerns, financial stewardship and counseling them about financial stewardship with their support, their family, their children, children's education. All of those things have a financial aspect to it.

And the sixth area is MK, Missionary Kid, education. Decisions between available options, local national schooling or private school or MK school, boarding school, perhaps even someone in the lower grades where you have someone like a governess or a nanny that does homeschooling on behalf of the parents who are learning language. Those kinds of things are just excellent. There's all kinds of other choices with regard to how you use internet and how schooling is funded, including textbooks and shipping those textbooks, educational materials. So making those decisions is really important in the life of the missionary and his family, but it's also having an impact on their ministry on the field, how their kids relate to national kids. Are they going to learn the language? They should learn the language, should they interface and be friends with national children? Obviously they should. The seventh area is on field security and technology, and you need someone who is good enough in those things to make recommendations and assist and resource on field security, family and home security, even vehicle security, contingency planning and preparation, evacuation readiness, perhaps technology with regard to application and equipment.

So all of those things belong to the Barnabas team to work with the missionary as they get closer to going to the field. And then as they are actually on the field, a lot of churches call the Barnabas team a prayer and care team. Often it is someone from the Barnabas team that maybe delegated the responsibility and the privilege of going to visit them on the field. The Barnabas team maybe knows that missionary best and whoever that may be, they can go. I highly recommend that at least half of the time, a husband, wife couple go to visit the missionary on the field. The missionary wife should have a lady to relate to. I say many times, uh, kind of tongue in cheek that if you wanna know what's going on in the activities of ministry on the field, you ask the husband if you really wanna know what's going on with their relationships and family, you ask the wife.

Of course, the Barnabas or PAC team will ramp up their activity when the missionary comes home because the missionary then has to deal with housing and transportation and phone and internet and health issues and financial issues while they're home. The Barnabas team can assist them with that hands on when they're on the home side. It's my contention that if the sending church is really involved, they prepare the missionary very well for the field and they have a relational accountability that will cut off preventable attrition. That attrition rate will decline from something like 75, 80% of mysteries in the long haul to be a much higher level of commitment and tenure. That is long-term service on the field. May God give us well qualified missionaries sent from loving sending churches that have an ownership in their ministry and shepherd them well on the field.

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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