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Posts Tagged ‘mission support’

To summarize my previous posts, the primary issue I see with the way churches of Christ support and oversee missions are Selection, strategy, financing, and spiritual/physical care are all in the hands of a small group of men who have no firsthand knowledge of missions, who do not have personal relationships with the missionaries, who at best have limited exposure to mission theory, and who often have a broad palate of other responsibilities in their congregations to compete for their attention.

I must repeat: these elders, deacons, and mission committee members are good men and well-intentioned. The system, the model is what is flawed.  I would like to put some ideas out there to start a serious conversation about a new model for missionary oversight/support that would have the following characteristics:

  1.  Make relationship a greater part of the formula
  2.  Open the system so that the people who care the most about a work can be more directly involved.
  3.  Determine leadership according to gifts, not by who controls the checkbook.

Let’s suppose that , because of the inspiration received through points of contact with this church and because of participation in short-term missions sponsored by this church, this member of our church wants to become a full-time missionary and announces this to his/her fellowship circle at the church.

Because this happens often in this church and because this church is of moderate size, the church has appointed two or three people with gifts and training in what Scripture calls discernment to help this person be sure of their calling. If a congregation is small or lacks such gifted people, then they reach out to other congregations or to mission organizations that could provide this service for them.

After having worked through this phase and if both the applicant and the church still agree on the calling, then the Hopeful is asked to gather a group of spiritual supporters to walk with him/her through the First Decisions. These spiritual supporters should be prayerful people, people who already have a relationship to the Hopeful, people who are supportive of the Calling, and people who are willing to commit themselves and their gifts to the Hopeful.

Now, the task of the Hopeful as well as the entire spiritual cohort is to prayerfully make those important First Decisions: selection of field, selection of type work, developing a team (if appropriate), and making preparations by filling the gaps of knowledge, skills, and spiritual formation.  Following the advice of the Apostle James, if the group finds it lacks wisdom—or any other input needed for these important First Decisions– they should ask for it, first from God and then from people whom He has prepared with such wisdom. That list might include current and former missionaries, missions experts, people with cross-cultural experience—whomever God has gifted with experience or information that might be helpful in making these important First Decisions.

After the Hopeful and his/her Co-Walkers have prayerfully agreed upon a plan, including the path of Preparation, the financial resources to implement the Calling must be addressed.

Most probably, the cost of the Preparation itself will be the first financial question. I would assume that the later cost to finance the mission itself will be something that is learned later during the preparatory period as more information is gathered. Working to estimate and raise the cost of Preparation is probably a better first step toward the Calling than trying to start with the larger financial needs that will certainly come later.

And how should these first funds be gathered?  Those with the most invested already will likely be the first to commit financially. The Hopeful’s spiritual support group has walked this far already, has prayed intensely for the Hopeful, has invested time and gifts in the Hopeful—I can’t imagine that these people will not be interested in supporting this Hopeful financially.

And if that is not enough, then who will ask others? Who will vouch for the selection, the path for preparation? Who will be more persuasive in asking others to join them in supporting this Hopeful than his/her Co-Walkers??  And won’t this all happen rather naturally? And won’t  these requests be between friends as opposed to our current model that sends Hopefuls out alone to strangers?

Certainly the home church would be asked, but the difference is that as with individuals, so with churches, contributions do not come with an assumption of oversight. Oversight of this Hopeful is in the hands of his/her Co-Walkers. They know the person, the needs, and the plan better than anyone else in the world. They are invested spiritually, emotionally, relationally—and now financially–in this mission!

No accountability is lost in this model. The Hopeful is accountable to his/her Co-Mission group. The individuals in this group are still accountable to their elders! Perhaps not all of the Co-Mission group members even belong to the same congregation. That is not a prerequisite. It would be not only be foolish, but difficult and inappropriate for a set of elders to micromanage the group by reason of authority.

But who collects and handles the money?  Not the Hopeful!  The Co-Mission group. It volunteered for spiritual duty, not funds collection and management. If you leave it in the church coffers, the money/power problem remains! So what do you do with the money practically to avoid power issues?

That’s the next post. Stay tuned!

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