Posts Tagged ‘selecting missionaries’

With the exception of the Antioch church sending out Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13), we really have no model of missions being initiated by a local congregation. Persecution drove Christians out of Jerusalem, and certain people moved between early churches, working as evangelists, but even to the very conservative among us, it should be clear that there is no explicitly prescriptive revelation about how congregations should organize, support, or oversee missionaries.

Without crossing the rather artificially determined boundaries of congregational autonomy, and while respecting our historical rejection of missionary societies , I believe we can improve our paradigm for missions considerably.

In light of the selection/support/oversight issues that I have discussed in preceding posts, I would like to suggest the following goals for any new paradigm:

  • A clear and accessible path through selection, first decisions, and training, allowing more people to become missionaries.
  • More Christians involved both relationally and financially in sending more missionaries.
  • Spiritual, personal, and financial oversight of missionaries by those people in the best position to know and understand both them and the work they do.
  • Elimination of control mechanisms used for mission work driven primarily by financial support.

If we can find ways to meet these goals, then I believe we can expect to be a fellowship that is sending many more missionaries better prepared to many more fields, better supported in both visible and invisible ways by many more people who themselves will be blessed richly, all of which will result in the spread of God’s reign on earth.

Improving the Selection Process

As I stated earlier, most potential missionaries self-select based on inspiration! That a person should strongly desire and feel called to missions, I would consider essential. But I do feel that we can do better in both the areas of selection and inspiration.

For decades, the World Mission Workshop for Christian college students has concluded with an invitation to commitment to missions. Literally hundreds of our finest students have responded—although only a handful has actually made it to the field. But what this tells me is that we have hundreds, if not thousands of people in our church buildings right now who have unfulfilled desires to serve as missionaries.

Let’s begin shifting our paradigm by making home congregations—no matter the size—the first place of inspiration and where the first opportunities for selection take place.  What would it look like if it were the norm in our congregations for children to hear missionary stories, for middle schoolers to make short  service mission trips, for high schoolers to move toward faith-sharing mission experiences,–but it didn’t stop there!

What if the college students were encouraged and enabled to do longer summer missions, and young families were encouraged to take their children with them on missions, if parents of teens did mission trips with their teenagers, and grandparents took their grandchildren with them.

What would it take for your congregation to make this kind of involvement the norm at your church (and, by the norm I mean where those who did not participate were in the minority!)?

  • Every church leader (yes, including ministers and elders) would need not only to affirm commitment, but lead from the front by going and supporting those who do!
  • Intentional planning at every age level for inspiration through every avenue at the church’s disposal.
  • Planting the seeds in the hearts of all new members who become a part of the congregation, whether through conversion or transference of membership.
  • Taking this stance as an ongoing way of congregational life, not a new program.

A church—regardless of its size– that created this kind of environment would expect to have many more of its members want to become missionaries! This church is always providing the first seeds of inspiration, and those seeds will be watered and nurtured for years with intentional love.

Now, not only is the pool of potential workers much larger, but the first level of the selection process would also be moved into a much more natural and advantageous position! The leadership of the church, the fellowship of believers, all are more intimately acquainted with those of their own who desire to become missionaries, so they can help them evaluate their own sense of calling and provide spiritual discernment that is often impossible to obtain from professors or missions experts who have little if any personal history with the applicant.

If the vast majority of missionary candidates were selected first by their home congregations, we could end most of the wanderings from church to church by missionary hopefuls who have self-selected.  We would put an end to using the ability to raise support as the primary tool of discernment. 

Wouldn’t that be better?

Some of you are already sweating heavily because you wonder where all the money is going to come from because your church couldn’t support all those who would want to go! Well, I’m going to just postpone that question for a while—but we will get back to it, I promise.

Next we will look at creating a clear path through decisions about which field, what type of work, and how to prepare for the mission. 

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