Pastors, I’m asking for the personal privilege to speak directly to you with this post (and, Southern Baptist pastors, be sure to read my note at the end). The title of this post states my single point: all of us simply must develop more relationships with missionaries. Here’s why:
- God has called us to reach the nations, and we’re more likely to do that when we know missionaries. I have never seen a strong missions-minded church without a senior leader whose heart beats for the nations. Ever. This burden often begins with knowing missionaries whose fire then becomes our fire. Pastor, your church will send out more missionaries when they know some because you introduce them.
- With the opportunities we have today to meet missionaries via technology, we have no excuse not to connect our congregations with them. Long gone are the days when we could only meet missionaries who were spending time in the States on their furloughs. The issues of security for missionaries and their national partners are still real ones, but the options to meet them via technology while they’re on the field or furloughing elsewhere in the States are numerous.
- Missionaries need the support of local churches. In fact, they want our support – but they shouldn’t have to be the initiators in every relationship. They lose precious time on the field when they have to seek out churches that ought to be seeking them first.
- Missions becomes real when we know names and faces of missionaries. An internet story or a journal article might be interesting, but nothing carries the weight of a live person who’s giving his or her life for people who need Jesus. A pastor who doesn’t know missionaries will produce a church with the same neglect.
- Missionaries remind us what really matters. When I spend time with young families starting their missionary service or long-termers who’ve served for years, I’m reminded how silly some of our church and denominational squabbles are. The world needs the gospel.
- Missionaries need and want our prayer, and we’ll pray more for them if we know them. A generic prayer for God to “bless all the missionaries” is a start, but it won’t lead to lasting, heartfelt prayer. We really start praying when we can name a name, see a face, and lift up a need.
- Missionaries can teach us how to reach our global neighbors. If you want to know how to reach your Muslim or Buddhist neighbor, talk to somebody who does it every day. That’s often a missionary.
- We’ll have more missionaries in the future if we know missionaries in the present. Many servants on the field today first learned about missions from a missionary visiting their church. They met a person, heard a story, saw a picture, or even ate something “weird” that they never forgot. We pastors must provide the same opportunities for the next generations in our churches.
- The children in our church need missionary heroes. They’re going to develop their own heroes anyway (though, sadly, many of them will be fictional); if so, we at least need to introduce them to men, women, and other children who are serving God in unique and often dangerous places. If missionaries become their heroes, they’ll, too, consider following in their footsteps.
- Pastors might just be called to the nations via a missionary. Every pastor must at least ask, “Does God want me to use my training and experience in an unreached, hard-to-get-to place around the world rather than in North America?” Knowing missionaries will force you to consider this question and will provide resources for wrestling through the decision.
So, what do we do? As pastors, we do whatever it takes to get to know missionaries and introduce them to our congregations.
Then, a word to my Southern Baptist pastor colleagues: it’s not accurate that our missions-supporting Cooperative Program keeps us too distanced from our missionaries. It’s not the CP that’s the problem; it’s (and I say this with all the love and respect I can possibly have) leaders who aren’t burdened enough to make those connections. Contact the International Mission Board or the North American Mission Board, and somebody will help you meet a missionary.
What are your thoughts?