Dear Missionary, Pastors are not an Obstacle
Dear Missionary, pastors are not obstacles to ministry, they are your enablers. I know that the form of ministry has created a false dichotomy between both. Somehow the created perspective is that purposes of both are different enough that they must ‘compete’ for the same resources in order to complete God’s will. The mindset has created a battle for time and opportunity between pastor and missionary, but it does not have to be this way.
The truth is that function and purpose have been distorted. The functions of pastors and missionaries are different, but the goal to glorify God by making disciples remains the same for both. Therefore, no conflict exists but instead the two serve together for the same leader by fulfilling different roles. For missionaries then, pastors are not barriers to completing God’s plan, but they are enablers who help fulfill it. This view requires that missionaries change three perspectives about our engagement with churches.
Perspective Change #1: From Required Appointments to Relational Advancements
The first change to initiate in the missionary perspective is to end the view that visits with churches are merely required appointments and instead see them as relational advancements. Visits with fellow believers in the body of Christ are opportunities to form relationships. It may be that God uses your visits to form lifelong bonds that serve his purposes far beyond what was anticipated. The body of Christ is to function as a family, which implies relationship and intimacy that are intentionally built on a common love for God.
Perspective Change #2: From Being Served to Serving
Missionary visits are often underscored by some need. Sometimes the need is implicit and other times it is implied. Regardless, missionaries enter a church visit knowing that they need people behind them in ministry. From the opposite end of the view, church leaders and members often look at missionaries as ones who are in constant need and have come to fulfill that need through them. I have no shame in saying that those in ministry are often underpaid for their work, and most have unrealistic expectations of the work those in ministry should be doing. So yes, a support need often exists. However, trust in God indicates that church visits are more than trying to get our needs met, but about serving God’s people for God’s glory. We must enter churches not with the mindset of ‘How can you serve me?’ but instead with the view ‘How can I serve the church?’
Perspective Change #3: From Necessity to Opportunity
This perspective change is related to number two. We missionaries can frequently enter church visits financially lacking, emotionally spent, and spiritually weakened. As a result, church visits often exist out of necessity, with the recognition that if ministry is going to continue, we need to gather the church around us. However, church visits are more than a necessity, they are an opportunity. Missionaries have the opportunity to serve God by proclaiming his truth and revealing the reality of the world in which we live. Often God uses missionaries’ visits to instill the command and incite movement, stirring hearts to join in missions through their support or by becoming a missionary themselves.
Pastors (and church leaders) are not merely obstacles that missionaries must get through in order to partner with the church. They enable missionaries to engage in ministry, both on the field and off the field. Every church visit is an opportunity for furthering God’s agenda. Because our mission is the same, our position is not competition with pastors but partners with pastors.
Note: This is a follow-up article to “Dear Pastor, Missionaries Are Not Your Competitors.
Picture: courtesy of www.building.uk.com