#11 in a series devoted to sending churches. The content of this post is adapted from BMW’s 6-hour apoLuo workshop. Numbered articles are intended to be read sequentially for maximum benefit.

A missionary colleague of mine expressed some time ago that the people in his church were very hesitant to get involved in personal evangelism. When I questioned him further, he told me that to him—and to his congregation—personal evangelism was synonymous with door-to-door evangelism. Cold calling. I was not surprised, then, that people weren’t lining up to take evangelism training. I encouraged my brother to train them in day-to-day evangelism rather than door-to-door. Most people are intimidated by the prospect of knocking on the door of a person unknown to them and immediately launching into a conversation about why that person is going to hell.

I recently saw an ad for a course on “warm calling”. Though geared toward the business community, the principle is germane to our discussion of how missionary appointees make contact with prospective ministry partners. The business idea is to make sure one is acquainted with a potential client before becoming acquainted with a potential client–to research pertinent aspects of the client in order to serve the client in the best possible way and forge a mutually beneficial, long-term relationship. Current technology aids this process.

Having turned the tables on the idea that missionary appointees come to prospective partners to seek funding for their own agendas, we now teach them—as already mentioned in previous posts—that they need to make themselves available to churches to help them realize their missionary goals. (Remember—missionaries also support churches, churches don’t just support missionaries.) One way to do this more effectively is to employ the principle of warm calling.

Before a missionary appointee contacts a church to speak with the pastor or other decision-maker to arrange a preliminary discussion, first meeting he or she should get online and read everything there is to read about the church. Very few churches today have no online presence, so it is simple to get sufficient information to make an informed decision about whether to proceed.

Reading a church’s website will accomplish two things:
1. It will determine whether or not the church would be a suitable ministry partner. If the congregation is doctrinally sound, philosophically compatible, committed to the same missional goals, interested in the same people groups or geographical regions, etc., it is advisable to make contact. If these things are not so, it is not only inadvisable but also unethical to seek funds from the church.

2. Once compatibility in the above areas is established, the missionary can contact the pastor and say, “I have spent an hour (or however long it took) reading your church’s website. I see that we are doctrinally and philosophical compatible and equally passionate about _________________. I would like to take you out for lunch or coffee so we can talk about how my family might be able to help your church to accomplish some of its stated Great Commission goals. What would be a convenient time for us to get together?” The missionary will establish contact on the basis of the church’s posture and agenda—not his or her own, as has historically been the case—and the pastor should be more willing to talk with the missionary since he or she has already spent some time learning about the church he serves.

We’re not advocating a manipulative approach, as when a lawyer uses a witness’s words against him in cross-examination. Missionaries should be able to assume that what appears on a church’s website is a true and accurate representation of its beliefs, philosophy, and goals–and that if those are compatible with the missionary’s, a partnership is not only possible, but worth pursuing. This kind of preparation takes a great deal of pressure off the missionary and provides a platform of credibility and compatibility that would otherwise be missing.

Encourage your missionaries not to waste their time with “cold calling.” The same time could be spent doing research that would eliminate dead ends and enhance first contacts with potential ministry partners.

Rob Heijermans, Biblical Ministries Worldwide