Missionaries need spiritual shepherding, too!
One of the most frequent causes for missionary failure is their inability or unwillingness to make their personal walk with God through personal spiritual disciplines a priority. Missionaries may become blinded by “doing God’s work” to their own need for spiritual nurture, personal spiritual growth (read that: change), and holiness. No one automatically becomes unassailably “holy” by virtue of position or title. Missionaries must fight all the harder, due to adverse environment, even spiritual oppression.
The missionary’s home or sending church pastor has an essential role in keeping the spiritual accountability and vitality of his missionaries on the forefront of his ministry to them. No accountability question should be assumed. We’re aware of missionaries who have, at best, coasted spiritually, or, at worst, left a destructive trail of immorality in their wake. The simplest reason why such spiritual downfall happens is that pastors allow public reports to imply that everything is OK spiritually.
Sometimes missionaries need rebuke, correction, and instruction. Pragmatism sometimes get in the way of doctrinal integrity. It is the pastor’s duty and responsibility to insure that the missionary’s life and ministry is accurately portraying what your church would do or want done in their situation. They are an extension of you and your church. You need to get into “their stuff” and find out what’s really going on.
In order to minister to them, the pastor must have a comfortable line of direct communication open to each sent (if not also those supported) missionary. Today’s world offers electronic communication, mobile phone access, Internet connections through email, VOIP, video phone, etc. There’s really no reason why a pastor couldn’t arrange to have some direct communication with each missionary at least annually and for special occasions or concerns. A pastoral visit on the field would facilitate and help the relationship and accountability.
Let your missionaries know about the greatest recent book you’ve read, the highlights of church family news, ask a challenging question, find out about the quality of their marriage and family relationships.