Audio Transcript:

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

Thanks for joining us in episode 87 of Missions On Point. We're in the fourth of a four-part series on sending missionaries from your church. And this last one focuses on partnership and shepherding. We've gone through identifying candidates, missionary training and qualification, direction and guidance, and now partnership and shepherding. Some of the things we'll talk about in this episode are mentioned in other episodes of Missions on Point and also on the website, I mentioned this to bring to light a couple of requests we've had repeatedly. One is the possibility of turning the audio broadcast of the podcast into a written form that is more searchable on the internet, and the other one is to have a ongoing listing with live links to the content of all the other episodes that has have a master list that is updated regularly. I think those are great ideas, but we need the Lord's help and enablement to be able to do it, so pray with us to that end. Also, if you have comments and suggestions, just email us at Now, let's dive into partnership.

So the progress is such that we have walked through identifying missionary candidates, helping them with ministry training and qualification, particularly in and through the local church, and given direction and guidance for key decision points along the pathway to the field. Now we're going to look at partnership as they begin to go to the field and they get settled on the field. We're going to talk about different roles that the church has in particular. The first is support them as the sending church in every dimension, not just financial. We covered this in the previous episode a bit, so I'll leave that to you to discover if you haven't listened to that.

Supporting them as senders is full-orbed, just about everything in their life that has to do with preparing and going to the field, and it's not simply giving them money to enable them to get to the field. The second area of partnership has to do with partnering with the mission agency that is facilitating, they're going to the field. So most likely, they're going to connect with an agency or a group of people or a partnership in some form in which the church is partnering with a mission agency to see your people get to the field and get settled properly and have good field supervision and accountability. That is a partnership of the church.

So the church leaders need to be aware of who are the field leaders, what kind of field structure administratively is there, and how do your missionaries relate to that. In fact, I say that at least one church leader, the key missions leader, needs to know by first name basis all the people up and down the chain of command of your missionary so that you can interact with them and literally consult, counsel, communicate, and partner with them in the management and development of your missionary and their ministry on the field.

The third one is related to that and drills down a little bit to partnership with their field team. If they're assigned to a field team as most missionaries are, you need to know who those people are. You need to pray for them because they're working together. If your church actually has an ownership responsibility of the ministry on the field, you need to know who they're working with, who are their teammates, and how are they wired and are there things that your church can do for them as well to make them more effective in working together. Partner with their field team.

The fourth area is partnership with the donors. This is a little bit more subtle and there may be some sense of confidentiality. However, it's important if you are the sending church that the donors of the missionary know that you are the sending church, that they are being commissioned and sent out from your church. It also means that you have something of a sense of accountability for your missionary's ministry and focus and faithfulness, effectiveness on the field. So if there is something that causes a hiccup or a problem, probably the donors need to be brought into the prayer chain at very least for solutions, God's solutions, to whatever that problem may be.

This doesn't mean that the sending church is in correspondence with the donors on a frequent basis, but it does mean that you want to have a picture of the landscape of donors for your missionaries and have access to communicating with them so that particularly other churches that are supporting them kind of know the score of what's going on, how are you keeping track of them both as a good model for them as churches, but also as a sense of responsibility and accountability to those who are making it possible for your missionary to be on the field.

The second major topic in this episode is shepherding, and by this we mean care for your missionaries, but pastoral care in a sense of taking care of them in every part of their life. So you need to care for their spiritual life. You need to have some kind of regular, normal question about how they're doing in their walk with the Lord day by day. Are they reading the scriptures? Are they praying regularly? Do they have a devotional life? Do they have resources to make that happen? In some closed countries, they may have to bring digital resources in with them because they are not accessible in that country. It is fairly normal for highly restrictive countries to prevent people from going to Christian websites from within the country. So your missionary may need to bring things along with them. And as part of your care for their spiritual life, you need to make sure that they have the resources to continue to walk with the Lord, to grow spiritually, to fight sin, to grow up and mature spiritually in their personal walk with the Lord.

You also have a concern for their marriage and family life. How is their marriage getting along? Whatever issues they may have had in the States will probably be larger and more significant and more trying for them in a foreign culture, in a foreign field with all the pressures they have of language and work and ministry in a different place. So you need to really check up on that. I'm so grateful to know of some churches that have taken large responsibility for ongoing routine, regular marriage counseling for a missionary couple or family on the field so that they continue to get the kinds of resources and accountability to help them stay on track and to grow and develop and actually have those potential conflicts and issues resolved over time.

Also, family considerations are a big deal. There are a lot of pressures on children and parenting in the foreign field, so you need to check up on that. How are their kids coming along and developing? What is their school life like? What is their relationship with other children in the neighborhood and how are they developing in language skills as well? Marriage and family shepherding is an important aspect.

The third one has to do with other concerns that are normal on the field, they're normal sort of in life, but they also grow in magnitude and importance on the field, and that is team relationships, relationships with their neighbors, potential conflict with their team, with their teammates, with their team leader, with their neighbors, with people that they are friendly with in the mission field setting. So when that happens, the church should know about it and take it as a matter of concern, at least for prayer if not initiative, to help to resolve those things. Often, missionaries find that they fight depression at one level or another. This is an area in which the church can come alongside with shepherding care, wrap your arms around them, tell them that you love them and things are going to be okay and you're going to help them through the tough spots so they can continue to serve the Lord in their place of appointed service.

The fourth major area for shepherding has to do with field visits, and I have said many times in the course of training missionaries and training people who care for missionaries that when a missionary goes to the field, you can almost set your watch on it right at six months there is a small crisis. It may feel to them like a large crisis, but pretty much every missionary ever has had a six months crisis. And what do I mean by that? Well, at the point of six months, all the fine shiny veneer of living in a foreign country and being in a foreign culture has worn off. They realize how little they know of the language. It's daunting. It may feel like they're at the base of a 1,000-foot cliff and will never ascend to the top. They are depressed because they feel like it's an impossible task. In human terms, it really feels like that. If there is care for them and someone who may visit them and refresh their spirit at six months, that may be perfect timing to help them over that hump.

I know that there are some missions that restrict field visits in the first year, but there may be a way around that if you have a good relationship with the team or the mission sending agency. In any case, be aware that that is a special point of concern. And whether it is an in-person visit or an extended series of Skype or video call visits, then maybe you should go for that. Pretty much a year later, about 18 months is another critical point. By that time, they should have a much better handle on the language depending on what type of language it is. They may not have great proficiency, but they're feeling better about it. And it's a time of readjustment and reevaluation about their priorities and how much time they spend on language versus how much time they may give over to, we'll say biblical proclamation kind of ministry, where they're actually talking with people and doing ministry tasks besides the ministry task of language learning.

And then about every two years, most often in today's missions world, missionaries come home about every two years usually in the cycle of schooling. So they're home for the summer, which is very different from how our family did things, but that is the standard way these days. About every two years, maybe three years, they come home for some part of the summer, they visit with family and friends, they're sending church and other donors and friends, and then they go back to the field within a three, four months period of time. If they don't come home in two years, it's a good time to visit them perhaps.

If they do come home, then you've got special opportunity to give focused attention and time to their needs and their shepherding concerns, including all the things that most missionaries have to do on home assignment, which includes doctoring, dentists, educational checkups, acquisition of schooling things, and all the normal family events that happen, which then leads to the fifth area of shepherding, and that is debrief and counsel when they have home assignment. The typical old-fashioned term was furlough. Now, most missionaries call it home assignment. What missionaries do on home assignment is they need a time of debriefing and council. How did it go? Really how did it go? How do you feel about it? What's your outlook for the future? What is your trajectory toward reaching that final ministry goal that you set and we agreed to? Do we need to refine your expectations and priorities? How about your communication? In every area of their performance we'll say, in language, in communication, in spiritual walk, in teammate relationships, in relationships with the nationals and pursuit of their ministry goal, those are things that are fair game to ask them and debrief and counsel them.

If they're having very significant and multiple areas of need and concern, then you might need to consider being a little bit more intense about this shepherding care and counsel. If they're truly deficient and have failed repeatedly after lots of communication and care, then you need to reevaluate what is the long-term prospect for them even staying on the field. That is a really hard thing. However, it is something that is not only the purview and sphere of responsibility of the sending church, but it is something that ought to take place. You ought to step up and think about these kinds of things for the good of the ministry and the good of your people.

There you have it. Sending missionaries from your church involves identifying candidates and then monitoring and shaping their ministry training and qualifications in a biblical fashion in a way that fits their field ministry and expectations. They need direction and guidance at key points of their development and decision making. And then they need ongoing partnership and shepherding so that it will sustain them to stay in the field long term and be faithful and effective. We pray that God would raise up missionaries in your church in the near future. May it be so.

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 prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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