More Than a Badge of Honor
American faith-based missions ask the sending church to commission and send, but they expect the missionary to secure his own support by appealing to other local churches. Denominations like SBC/IMB receive funding from their churches and then make the decisions about who to send.
A ministry of BMW, working with national churches in closed countries to help them send their missionaries, encourages an alternative. The national sending church commissions and sends but does not require the missionary to secure his own support. Instead, after being the first to contribute, the sending church seeks support from other national churches. One reason for this approach in closed countries is that the missionary may put himself and his church at risk if he seeks his own support. Reports from one country suggest that terrorists are not only seeking the missionary but also from where he came. In other countries, hostile governments and religions seek to stop the spread of the Gospel.
Would this alternative be helpful here in America? Not long ago, I was included in a Missions Conference where one of the couples was raising their support to go to Spain, join other co-workers, and plant a church. I was stunned when the husband told me that this church was the 189th church where he and his family had visited with the hope of raising their support. The next week, they would travel to church number 190.
Sending American missionaries has become very expensive. It is difficult to keep a support estimate down due to all the requirements of overseas living and mission board requirements. Some have turned to supporting nationals for this very reason. Although nationals do have advantages of knowing language, culture and lifestyle, let it be clear that the Great Commission is not going away for the American churches because we found a cheaper way to do missions. It is the call of God that rules the day, not the cost. If God has called, nothing- including cost – must be allowed to stand in the way of sending the called to the mission field – NOTHING!!! Yet we find many missionaries still seeking support after 3, 4, and even 5 years. What???? Did he miss the call of God (was the “PC” he saw in the sky calling him to plant corn, not preach Christ)?
Let me argue the case for a more careful selection process:
Is he called? A very serious question that must be answered by the individual and his sending church. Was the calling a result of an emotional appeal, a pleading for volunteers, a family member’s urging? Are we done with volunteers yet?
Perhaps an even larger question: Is the church behind him? A discipleship plan that I have shared in numerous countries has a hidden reason for why I share the plan. The plan describes a process from salvation to spiritual maturity. It includes tests to determine whether to continue the process or delay it until each test is passed. Three tests are included – baptism, membership, and leadership in one’s spiritual gift. Over time, the person is discipled, trained, interned and ultimately recognized by the congregation as a leader in the use of his spiritual gift.
What is the real reason for sharing this plan? What a blessing for any church to have a group of spiritual leaders. Most of those leaders will serve in the local church for a lifetime; BUT HERE IS WHERE YOU FIND YOUR MISSIONARY WHO WILL GO FROM YOUR CHURCH TO REACH YOUR WORLD! And everyone in the church shouts for joy!! We know him, one of us led him to Christ, we discipled him, we trained him, we gave him ministry, he has served us well and we endorse his call to missions.
But, instead of simply saying “Go with God” as he prepares for the mission field (including his support), what can we as the sending church do to get our man of God to the field of his calling? Being the sending church of a missionary is more than a BADGE OF HONOR! What can we do? Who can we call? Where should he go to find support? He is called of God and MUST GET TO THE FIELD NOW!
As other churches learn of the sending church’s zeal to send him, they can be inspired to join the team as supporting churches. This would narrow the search by the missionary to find churches to present his proposed work and convince them of the call of God on his life.
Adaptations of this plan are certainly necessary. Sometimes a sending church is not where a person was led to Christ, discipled, and /or trained. But, it must be where the man has served with such distinction that the congregation is fully behind his call to missions.
This will eliminate the graduate of a Bible College/Seminary immediately applying to a mission board. It will pause a qualified individual from simply walking in the door of the mission without experience. Instead, it will bring to the mission board those who have a crowd already standing behind him and wondering “WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?”
Set the BADGE aside if you are not going to wear it. If you are going to wear it, sew it onto every garment you own. Dr. Buck (BMM) was telling us once that he had a hard time remembering to wear his BMM pin each day. He told us he kept forgetting to take it off his pajamas in the morning.
Do you resemble that passion in your zeal for the called of God to get to their appointed mission field?!
Hey! What’s taking so long?!