#15 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.

You may have a mental image of a beautiful girl sprawled on the floor, out cold. A reasonable guess, given the title of this post, but that’s not where we’re going with this. Quite in the other direction, actually.

The model we’re talking about is the traditional missionary support-raising model, and the reason it’s soon to be concussed is that we’re gonna turn it on its head. So stand back, and give us some room…

PASTOR (after his secretary has already deflected four other attempts from this caller): Yes, this is Pastor Schmiggenhopper. What can I do for you, young man?

MISSIONARY (reading from a dog-eared script): Well, Pastor, me and my wife and seven children are called by God to the Ogimbuji tribe of Hangutandi, and we are raising our support to go and minister to the desperate needs of this forgotten people group. Would you be willing to have us come to your church and present our ministry to your wonderful congregation? We are still lacking 80% of our support, and we would absolutely love for you and the people of (sound of paper rustling) …um, your church to serve along with us in this incredibly important and challenging pioneer work. Among this forgotten people group. In Hangutandi.

Pregnant pause and sound of clicking keys and a squealing mouse as pastor searches feverishly for Hangutandi in Google Maps.)

PASTOR: Uh, well, son, I’ve never actually heard of Hangutandi, and certainly not of the Ogibogi tribe—

MISSIONARY: Ogimbuji. Sir.

PASTOR: Yeah, Ogimbuji—what did I say? Is there no other work already being done among these folks? If they are such an important people group, why were they so tragically forgotten? How many of them are there, anyway?

MISSIONARY: Over 300, Pastor, and they have had almost no contact with civilization. Nobody else has ever tried to reach them, and no white man has ever lived in their village.

PASTOR: Did you say village? Singular?

MISSIONARY: Yes, they all live in one place, which would make ministering to them a very efficient process. All we would have to do would be to build an airstrip in the valley about 30 miles south of the village, then paddle up the Kuzibuzu River to the base of the mountains in which their village is situated. We could whack out a trail without too much trouble—there may even be one there already—and when we’d reach the village, Bam!–there they’d all be. Of course we’ll be raising some additional funds for an airplane and a hangar, and we’ll need a good boat, preferably a Boston Whaler, to get us around on the river. The Kuzibuzu River.  And we’ll have to rent an apartment in the city, of course, for when we leave the jungle to re-tool and re-group. These poor people need a chance to hear the gospel! You do think everyone deserves a chance to hear the gospel, don’t you, Brother?

PASTOR: Uh…well—yes of course…So, how long have you been on deputation, did you say?

MISSIONARY: Six years, Pastor. Six long, frustrating, exhausting, agonizing, heart-rending years. It seems like God’s people just don’t care if the Ogimbuji tribe goes to heaven or hell. (Choking back a sob) I can’t understand why anyone would want these dear people to go to hell, can you, Brother?

PASTOR: How did you hear about them?

MISSIONARY: I read about them in National Geographic. When I finished reading, I had a burning in my soul to go and reach them with the gospel. It was like the Holy Spirit Himself had written that article. Have you ever had a burning in your soul, Brother?

PASTOR: Occasionally, yes. (Especially after I eat tacos.) So, just another question, son. How old did you say your children are?

MISSIONARY: I didn’t say, but the oldest one is nine and the youngest one is three months and all the others are in between.

PASTOR: Uh-huh. Well, I’m intrigued with your idea and very excited that God has called you to these people and I just know our church would—Oh! Would you look at that? I’m late for a deacon’s meeting. I’m sorry, son. I really need to get my things together for this meeting. I sure do appreciate your call, though, and I wish God’s richest blessing on you and your ministry. And if there’s ever anything I can do for you, anything at all—like putting you in contact with my colleagues in the denomination or–

MISSIONARY: Denomination? What denomination? What church did you say this was?

Well, that’s the old model. Wearing a clown suit, to be sure, but still recognizable to far too many of us.  At BMW, we are proposing a biblical, rational, practical alternative:

  1. The missionaries’ sending church provides the lion’s share of their support.
  2. Along with their sending church, the missionary appointees write a list of criteria that every ministry partner will have to meet.
  3. Their pastor introduces them personally to his ministry colleagues and contacts within 50 miles of the sending church and advocates for them as they seek to develop partnerships with these churches.
  4. The missionaries, having harvested potential ministry partners from the BMW database or other sources, spend time on the website of each church learning all they can about its doctrinal and philosophical compatibility, its missionary aims, and its missionary support procedures.
  5. If any church clearly does not meet the criteria, no contact is needed and none is made.
  6. If a church does meet the criteria, the missionaries contact the pastor or key decision maker with regard to missionary partnerships, meet them personally by taking them out for lunch or coffee (preferably with their home church pastor or a member of their DEP Squad.)
  7. At this meeting, the missionaries explain to the potential partner that they have studied their website and, based on what they’ve read, they can help the church to realize its missionary vision by forming a partnership. (This is the “churches-don’t-support-missionaries-missionaries-support-churches” that Dr. Robert Alderman describes in his excellent article, “We’ve Changed Our Minds About Missions,” available in the LIBRARY section of this blog.) The missionaries briefly outline their ministry, giving the pastor or other contact person any materials he may need to take back to his church for further consideration. The missionaries make it clear that their ministry will not start when they reach the field—they desire to be used by the Lord to make an impact in the lives of whomever God brings across their paths as they are raising their support, and that their aim is to serve God’s people however they can.
  8. We encourage our missionaries to visit compatible churches, even if no meetings are scheduled, just so they can meet people and discover other platforms for presenting the opportunity for those congregations to expand their outreach through them. (We insist that they make the pastors aware of the fact that they are there and are not seeking to garner support without the church’s approval. This arrangement should be discussed at the initial contact with the pastor.)
  9. We understand that sending a check each month is the simplest part of supporting missionaries. Real participation with them in realizing the church’s missionary vision is far more demanding, but we want our missionaries to enlist partners who understand that and are willing to go with them into the trenches—through faithful and frequent intercession, regular contact, financial investment, interest and encouragement, expert consultation and advice, visits to the field, and advocacy at home.
  10. We recognize that we cannot expect the missionary enterprise to survive if we continue to fund it as we have for the last two centuries. This is why we have introduced new approaches to forming partnerships, such as the Carpenter’s Guild. (You can view the PowerPoint presentation describing this approach in the RESOURCES section of this blog.)

May the Most High God be glorified and the gospel “speed ahead and be honored” (2 THE 3.1) as you form substantive, fruitful partnerships with those whom the Lord has called into ministry and brought into your circle of influence!

Rob Heijermans, Biblical Ministries Worldwide