Borrowing Brains: How Do You Keep Missions Before Your Church?

Earth from Apollo 17I’m enjoying preaching on Matthew 28:18-20, and the Lord is using the study to revolutionize my thinking about the Great Commission and the part I must play in it. I’m praying that the Lord will work at TCBC in this way, as well, making us passionate about our participation in various facets of carrying out the Great Commission.

One thing I’m desiring is some creative ideas to keep the Great Commission “front and center” before our people. I’m thinking of a variety of things: how we budget, how we utilize the missions money we budget, having missionaries in, planning mission trips and projects, promoting missionary biographies, etc. I recognize that the Lord of the Harvest alone can send laborers into the fields, but I also want our church to do what we can to participate in that, both corporately and in our homes. In time, I’ll share some of the ideas we have. For now, I’d love to hear what your church does (or what you’ve heard other churches do) to promote the cause of world evangelism. Also, I’d love to hear from missionaries regarding the things the Lord particularly used to work in your heart for missions—a sermon, a trip, an example, a book, etc.

Please chime in with your thoughts. Perhaps the Lord will use this sort of discussion to burden others for this great work. Thanks!

_________

Link: John Piper provides some practical ideas regarding the promotion of missions at the end of this message, along with a good overview of Matthew 28:18-20. It’s worth a read or listen. If there are other messages that you think would help, please link to them, as well.

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36 Responses

  1. […] Anderson asked a great question: “How do you keep the Great Commission and Missions front and center before people in your […]

  2. Chris, this is a great topic. I wrote a pretty lengthy response to you over at BeMyWitnesses.com. I look forward to hearing what others have to say!

  3. Excellent, Eric.

    Your #1 hit me hard this last week. TCBC is passionate about many of the things I’m passionate about: the gospel, Bible study, worship, etc. However, the church isn’t as focused on the Great Commission as it should be in large part because I’m not. In fact, I just addressed that issue in part 1 of my sermon on Matthew 28:16-20. What a devastating thought. You’re exactly right.

    The message can be found here. (I apologize that the quality is so poor. We’re working on it.)

  4. Ah, a subject near and dear. . . . :)

    The two books that have probably influenced me most for missions-thinking have been George Mueller of Bristol and the 2-volume biography of Hudson Taylor by Howard and Geraldine Taylor. In my opinion, everyone ought to read these books at least once a year. (And be prepared to have your toes soundly trounced.) An interesting connection between the two biographies is that George Mueller–the pastor/orphanage founder who depended entirely on God for support–was one of the primary early supporters of the young missionaries of the infant China Inland Mission. (Ponder that thought a moment!) The 2nd volume biography of Hudson Taylor reprints a letter from Mueller that accompanied one of his many financial gifts to the missionaries, encouraging them as an elder brother in the Lord that God could always be trusted to provide for their needs. I can never read it without tears.

    Several ways that we try to keep missions in the forefront of our thinking include:

    1. Fewer missionaries for more dollars. In the spirit of “where your treasure is, there will your heart be, also,” this has allowed us to know our missionaries personally and intimately. They are real people with real needs to us and not merely names (and perhaps faces) on a bulletin board or world map.

    2. Look for every opportunity to have missionaries in our homes.

    3. Email is wonderful! We use it to stay in frequent contact with our missionaries. This lets us know their heart, their circumstances, and their needs so that we can pray in a timely manner. It is trivially easy to maintain inexpensive calling cards so that, in urgent situations, one can pick up the phone and call (always remembering the time difference).

    4. Be disciplined prayer warriors! Pray daily as families for your missionaries (and that is part of the idea–make them “your” missionaries!). It is humbling to have our children remind me to “pray for so and so” or ask if God has yet answered those prayers! It is thrilling and encouraging, both to us and to our kids, to see God’s answers to prayer! And words cannot suffice to tell how much it means to missionaries to be able to share an urgent prayer request or need and know that they will be kept before the throne of grace.

    5. Encourage families to adopt a couple of their church missionary families. Learn their birthdays, and send them cards and/or small gifts at birthdays and Christmas time (check with the missionaries as to how to send so as not to incur duty charges). Get your children involved in doing things to encourage the missionary kids (it’s easy to be pen pals via email). This will have the side benefit of keeping the work of missions before our children.

    6. Be alert to urgent missionary needs, and be prepared to drop everything and pray, make phone calls, or give sacrificially to meet the need. (I’m convinced that, as we pray for God to supply the needs of our missionaries, He often burdens us to be part of that solution, whether it is a gift of time or money or both.)

    7. Visit the mission field! However, do NOT do so merely to use the missionaries as a convenient “bed and breakfast” for your sightseeing (you’d be amazed how much I have seen this happen!). Be sensitive as to how you can encourage and aid the missionaries both practically and spiritually.

    8. Minister spiritually and practically to missionary wives. Many times, they labor under unique burdens that makes everyday life extremely difficult and, at times, frankly discouraging. Encouraging and blessing missionary wives can go a long way to helping a family stay on the field of God’s calling.

    9. Pray as parents and church members that God will call our children to serve in His harvest fields. And, when He does, support them sacrificially both in terms of prayer and financial support.

  5. Good stuff. Thanks, Lyn. I agree with your post about maximizing dollars per missionary supported. I’m hoping to post on this soon, and I’ve been encouraged to hear others trumpeting the same cause. Though I don’t believe TCBC is an ideal missions church in some ways, we do have a commitment to support fewer missionaries for more dollars. At this point, our largest support amount is $550 per month, our least $300. It’s a start anyway.

    As for Piper’s ideas from the message to which I linked, here are the somewhat transferable ones:

    1. Set a prayer commitment for the rest of this year for a people or a missionary – for your own soul and vocational change.

    2. Get a loose change can and let it remind you to pray as you give. (They collect this for special projects.)

    3. Buy a good missions biography or other book on missions. Get a book and begin to read. Be warned. It is one of the most wonderfully dangerous things you can do to undermine your addiction to the American dream.

    4. Come to Missions in the Manse at my house this Friday at 7:00 PM. We will find out what God is doing among us and stir each other up to the fullest engagement in missions. Noel and I will pray for you by name each day the rest of the year.

    5. Two hundred of you should register to take the Perspectives Course on the World Christian Movement to be offered here as part of TBI (their Bible Institute).

    Beyond that, they have church goals, a staff member to promote missions, etc.

  6. For what it’s worth, I believe that much of the debate over fewer missionaries at higher support levels vs. more missionaries at lower support levels hearkens back to the pastor’s view of the church (universal, local church only, or both). The rationale that I have heard for lower support levels with more missionaries is that “each particular church, by itself, must do its utmost to fulfill the Great Commission by going into all the world. If we’re only supporting 10 missionaries (for larger amounts), we’re not going into all the world.” I have begun to think that, before we will see a large-scale movement toward higher support levels for missionaries, we will have to address Biblically this issue of ecclesiology.

  7. Lyn, actually I think the idea of fewer missionaries at higher support levels is gaining a lot of steam. Most churches I talk to seem to be moving in that direction. The debate you mention swings on the question of whether a church “doing its utmost to fulfill Great Commission” means multiplying dots on a map or maximizing actual ministry effectiveness on the part of the missionary and the church. I think more and more are seeing that the latter is the only logical answer!

    Eric Zeller
    bemywitnesses.com

  8. That’s encouraging. May your tribe increase! :)

  9. I’ve heard of churches starting up “book clubs” or “reading groups”. Perhaps somethig on a larger scale – like having all the adult SS classes engage in book studies of missionary biegraphies…just a thought.

    #2 from Eric’s article is a vital point. I don’t think many of us in the pew tend to have a very lofty view of missions. As you indicate, Chris, many pastors don’t have a passionate, high-view approach to missions. As the pastor gets “fired up” and brings this to the forefront of the church consistently, I think you’ll see the church follow in kind. The greatest “missonary churches” I’ve seen have had very missions-minded pastors. I know I’m not addressing your question very well, so I’ll stop typing now….

  10. Actually, Ellis, I think that’s a great idea. We’ve done that with “The Gospel Primer,” “Pilgrim’s Progress,” etc. To do so with a missionary biography could be great.

    Speaking of missionary biographies, the bios Piper does from the pulpit are exceptional. This one on John G. Paton is particularly good. Better yet, in the Paton bio, Piper commends doing this sort of sketch in your own church. I think it’s a tremendous idea.

    Another thing I’d like to do is have our kids reading age-appropriate missionary bios. Our 3rd-6th grade kids do so as part of the requirements for Buckaroo Bible Club, which has been good. But I also need to fill our shelves at home with bios at different reading levels. My kids are all about Nancy Drew, which is fine, but why not have them reading something edifying, as well?

    FWIW, my brother Dan is a missionary in Brazil, and said that the things which impacted him toward the mission field were times at the Wilds, mission trips, the lives of a few choice missionaries (including my disabled uncle—an amazing story I’ll share sometime) and the reading of missionary biographies.

    Good thoughts, all. Post some more!

  11. As I read this post, I began to think over the churches that support us. There are some that send money once a month and that is all we ever hear from them, there are some that we hear from once or twice a year as they are preparing for a special missions emphasis and would like some information from us, and then there are those that from our perspective are missions minded, we are a part of their church. What makes them different? I do not think it has so much to do with how much they support us for. While I agree that more support from a church affords us the opportunity to spend more time with that church on furlough in order to really get to know the people, one or two weeks out of every 4 or 5 years is not that much time. While higher support levels are beneficial in allowing a longer visit, that visit should be the beginning of a relationship with the people that is nurtured by constant communication. When I say communication I do not just mean writing me an email. The communication that benefits the church and the missionary the most is the communication that goes on when our supporting churches are on their knees bringing our need and struggles before the throne of God. It is almost always the churches that have good communication with God concerning the needs of its missionaries that seem to have a heart for what we are doing. I have noticed that when we visit these churches we feel like we are members of their church that are on an extended missions trip and not like some unknown family from a far away land. They want to know our prayer requests and pray for them. When we send prayer letters the pastor actually reads them and get them before his people.

    Last January our family was in the States for a short three-week visit in order for me to take a class. We visited one of our supporting churches on a Wednesday evening. This particular church breaks up into groups of 2 or 3 for their prayer time. I found an older man and knelt down with him to pray. I expected to hear “What can we pray for concerning your ministry?” I was shocked to hear “How is your ministry with Petra going?” This man had never e-mailed me and never written a letter. I had not spoken to him since the last time I was in the states over 3 years ago. How did he know about my ministry so specifically that he could ask about those I minister to by name? I was deeply moved and a gentle smile of love came to his eyes as tears came to mine. This man was so concerned for me as a missionary that he did more than read over a prayer letter once and saying a quick prayer. He had prayed sincerely and consistently enough that he knew my ministry needs and could ask me in an informed manner about what is going on in Magdeburg, Germany. But when I really think about it, I should not have been shocked. This particular church emails monthly with a list of prayer requests that was printed the previous months as a missionary prayer list that they pass out to the congregation. They ask simply that we correct any old requests or add any new ones. It only takes a few minutes out of my schedule. That is really all the regular communication I have with this church outside of my monthly prayer letter.

    In contrast, I have visited churches where even the pastor did not know basics about my ministry. What city do we minister in? What type of ministries and outreach are we involved in? When questions like this come I want to ask “Don’t you get my prayer letter?” But I know they do. It just sits there on a desk (or even worse gets tossed) as if it were any old piece of junk mail, when in fact it should be treated as a letter from a member of the church, one of the “our” missionaries, who is every bit a part of our church as old aunt Margret who sits on the third row every service.

    Higher support levels are good, missions trips are good, missions conferences are good – they all have their place and purpose in helping a church know their missionaries. But all of these are short lived opportunities. The real relationship with the missionary will be best nurtured when a church gets the prayer requests of the missionary before the people and the people respond with sincere and consistent prayer for the missionary.

    The leader of a mission society who had made a trip to India once said to a young William Carey “We saw, there was a gold mine in India, but it was as deep as the centre of the earth. Who will venture to explore it?” Carey responded “‘I will venture to go down, but remember that you must hold the ropes.” The leaders of the society responded, “We solemnly engaged to him to do so, nor while we live shall we desert him.”

    I believe that a church that is truly involved in the job of “holding the ropes” cannot and will not forget the missionary that is hanging on the other end.

  12. Hi Chris

    Just back from a week away, so catching up…

    The ‘more support, fewer missionaries’ notion has some merit. It isn’t efficient to travel around to hundreds of churches and receive only $25/mo from each of them. I am not sure that there are many churches actually supporting at such a low level. However, I have found that the reality of ‘more support, fewer missionaries’ contributes to the difficulty of raising support. When you are considering someone for support for $500/mo or more, the church tends to be much more selective. Missionaries have to travel further and present their work oftener to find the select few that will support them.

    Some might argue that churches should be selective. Yes, that’s true, but presumably that is what Mission Boards are supposed to be doing, right? I have found that those with the ‘star’ personalities, who are good at flash and making an impression find large sources of support more easily. The plodders [who often end up being the better missionaries] take much longer on the trail. (Of course, since they are plodders, they stick it out and it does benefit them…)

    My point is that the ‘more support, fewer missionaries’ notion needs balance.

    Another suggestion regarding missions is that I think pastors should get to know potential missionaries. Why not get involved in some way with a mission board, attend an orientation week, get to know new missionaries and recruit them for your yearly deputation calendar in your church? You would be a great boost to young missionaries if you recruited three or four couples a year, got them into your church, and promoted them to fellow pastors in your area.

    Finally, while I respect the work of Hudson Taylor, I have found his biography to be very off-putting. His Keswickian notions of holiness are bizarre. I am not a great fan.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  13. Don,

    Well, almost every missionary candidate I’ve talked to about this have been positive about the new trend, even if it means they don’t get the support. (Or at least they’ve said so. :) )

    I’d also caution leaning too heavily on mission boards to determine who we want to support. I agree, though, that plodders are often the best missionaries or pastors.

    As for getting to know missionaries, I recently talked to a missionary candidate who is spending a week at a church as a featured VBS speaker. That’s a GREAT idea, both to introduce missions to our kids and to get to know the missionaries we’re considering for support.

    Stephen,

    Good stuff. Thanks for that.

  14. I agree that opportunities such as VBS are a great way to expose missionaries to a church for a longer period of time.

    How about also having missionaries in to hold evangelistic meetings? They are evangelists after all, are they not?

    And how about scheduling missionary meetings on Tuesdays or Thursdays so that missionaries can get a bit more production out of each week?

    We have one church that supports us with a large amount of support. The church happens to be pastored by a friend from college days and I suspect we are fairly similar in style of ministry. I am grateful for the support and I can see that it is a help to have a large chunk of support from one church. But…

    there are other disadvantages as well. I have seen a recent situation where a missionary lost a large chunk of support ($1000/mo) from his HOME church when a new minister came on the scene and disagreed with his missionary strategy/philosophy. This is while said missionary is on the field.

    The risk of losing support when new pastors show up in home churches is always there. When all of your eggs are in one basket, it hurts more.

    So… I am not against the idea in principle, just don’t think it is the be all and end all that some think it is.

    In general, the biggest problem I think we have in supporting fundamental missions is not the amount of support per church but the dwindling number of fundamentalist churches overall. The pie is getting smaller.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  15. I hope this does not sound callous, but I’m not at all concerned about missionaries getting hurt on the field just because a church drops a big chunk of their support. Is our God somehow broke, to allow His work–His Gospel–to fail on account of mere money??? Is our God somehow less God than He was in Elijah’s day, when He roused ravens to feed His servant during a prayer-induced drought? than He was in George Mueller’s day when He provided for Mueller and his orphans day after day for years in direct answer to prayer? than He was in Hudson Taylor’s day when He provided for the missionaries of the China Inland Mission who went to China dependent on God alone for their provision? If these missionaries are truly God’s servants, obeying His call, God will not fail to supply their needs. He cannot deny Himself and His own promises! Our God is more than big enough to provide miraculously or to burden the hearts of His people to give sacrificially, and to give His servants, our missionaries, the grace to wait on His supply.

    I’m convinced that one of the biggest hindrances to missionary support is not the dwindling number of churches, but rather the dwindling number of believers who value the Gospel and the work of missions sufficiently to be willing to sacrifice for it. What would happen if God’s people chose to do without things we think so important–bigger houses, restaurant meals, vacations, newer vehicles, newer, faster, computers with bigger monitors, bigger screen TVs, e.g.–so that we might send the Gospel to those who have never heard? Somehow, I don’t think we’d be having missionaries spending two to three years on deputation or unable to get to the field because of mere money.

  16. Incidentally, all of my support comes from one church. Talk about putting all your eggs in one basket. :)

    I agree that our careless spending is much of the problem, Lynn. One author speaks of needing a “war-time mentality” (rations, every person involvement [think Rosy the Riveter], war bonds, etc.) as opposed to a “peace-time mentality.” The analogy between the mindset of the US during WWII and the mindset Christians (and churches!) should take toward missions is compelling, I think.

  17. Jesus doesn’t call us to jump off the pinnacle of the temple. Prudence is a virtue. In this conversation some have been touting the virtue of ‘more support, fewer missionaries’. I am simply pointing out reasons why this is not always the best policy. Balance and wisdom are what we need.

    And of course, if any of you are inclined to send us a big monthly check, send it to Baptist World Mission, Decatur, Alabama. Thanks!!!

    Of course God is able, but you try to adjust to an immediate reduction of your income by 25-30% and see how that works. The ethics of this particular case are extremely troubling to me.

    Chris, of course all your support comes from one church. You can look those folks in the eye every Sunday. It is quite a different situation when you are thousands of miles away and a name on a list.

    The particular church I am talking about is a fairly large one. They support a lot of missionaries for ‘big chunks’. The church/missionary relationship isn’t much different than smaller churches supporting a lot of missionaries for ‘little chunks’. Just a name on a list. Of course, it isn’t as impersonal as that. They do keep up, but it is easier to cut someone off who is somewhat out of sight.

    Anyway, as I say, just pointing out that there are advantages and disadvantages to both philosophies.

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  18. Sorry, one more thing… Yes we have a materialistic church. But it isn’t as simple as everyone going on war time rations. The demographics of fundamentalism mean less overall funds for missions. Yes, it would help if all were less materialistic and more sacrificial, but…

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  19. Don, I do agree that part of the problem is a shrinking support base. I believe that a large part of the solution must be church planting in the US. We think of it as “seed money.” The first church planter we supported is now supporting foreign missions. That’s one of many good reasons why we need to be planting churches, and budgeting for it.

  20. Well, BROTHER, (I write this in all caps, for obvious reasons)

    I am thrilled to see the work that God is doing in your heart and in your ministry as well. I give a hearty “AMEN” to much of what I read above.

    I believe that personal exposure to missionaries played a huge roll in not only my commitment to missions, but also in my wife’s as well. We both had exposure to missionaries in our homes. Our parents are pastors, and many times may have had the missionaries in their home as default because other people didn’t step up. Plan ahead on this, and get your visiting missionaries in as many homes as possible. That may mean staying in homes, or meals in various homes. It is exhausting at times to be in different homes while travelling, but the fellowship is SOOOOO worth it. We were just at Applebee’s for the second time in our life. Both times taken there by couples that wanted to get to know our family. What a blessing these times were. Hot dogs at the park can be even more rich in the sense of fellowship opportunities. Make a schedule and fill it through personal phone calls if necessary.

    I am heading to a fourth week of camp in Colorado. Two of these weeks, I was not the key note speaker, but the missionary speaker. I shared in the morning, challenging the kids for missions. They even took offering at one camp for a special need. The kids raised over $500 to help our Brazilian co-workers’ son to have surgery. So, invite a missionary to your camp, VBS, Family retreat, Couple’s retreat…

    Dr. Keltner was constantly challenging to people at Mesa Hills to give more toward missions. They used faith promise to establish their budget. Give him a call, and pick his brain. He would have a great deal to offer.

    Missionary biographies also played a huge part in my commitment to missions. Maybe you could have a scholarship plan for camp based on Missionary biographies that you select carefully.

    We spent our last furlough at a church in Arkansas. The majority of the support that was provided by God during that year was from people within that church that got to know us. See if someone in the church has a basement apartment or such that you could invite one of your missionaries to base out of your church for their furlough.

    Hope these help. We, as parents and missionaries, know that one of the greatest deterrents to missions is parents unwillingness for THEIR kids to go. Give them to the Lord, and seek His will for their lives. Challenge your people to do the same.

    His servant and your co-laborer,

    DAN

  21. Good stuff, Dan. Thanks!

  22. Men,

    As a lurker on this thread, I have appreciated the input.

    Dan’s comment about “one of the greatest deterrents to missions is parents’ unwillingness for THEIR kids to go” has been something that I have seen a number of times when I was working mroe directly with teens. I remember one teen in particular who repeatedly expressed interest in missions and felt that the Lord might be leading him that way, but his mom was adament that he was not going to the mission field, because he was the smart one who could become a doctor. She seemed to have been willing for one of her other kids to go to the mission field, but not the particular one who had repeatedly expressed interest.

    Ironically, this was one of my better families who seemed to have a love for God and a good home, etc. It was just this one area where there seemed to be a major blind spot.

    BTW, the teen in question is now an accountant, not a doctor or a missionary. (Not that there is something wrong with being an accountant.)

    In Christ,

    Pastor Frank Sansone

  23. Frank,

    You indicate that there is nothing wrong with being an accountant….I respectfully disagree. I’ve known many accountants in my life – there is definately something “not right” about that particular profession. :)

  24. In light of some of our discussion in this thread, I would like to call your attention to an article in the paper of my mission board by Dr. David Cummins.

    Here is the link:

    BWM World Messenger

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  25. Back to the original question … how to keep missions in front of your church/what helped you (as a missionary) to be burdened for missions?

    1) Hearing my pastor preach (harp?) about missions.
    2) Hearing missionaries preach about missions.
    3) Meeting missionaries.
    4) Reading books about missions.
    5) Reading the book of Acts and Romans 12:1-2.
    6) Going to visit a missionary on the field for a week.
    7) Going again to serve on the field for 3 months.

    I can think of no greater way to inspire fire for missions than to be totally ablaze yourself.

  26. 1. Every month’s third Sunday night was always missionary Sunday at our church growing up. I don’t know how many missionary presentations I saw growing up. Ooodles. I remember even as a young guy of about 6 or 7 years old, thinking to myself, “Man, the Lord probably wants me to do that, but I don’t want to do that.” I’m glad He worked in other ways than through a whale like Jonah. :-)
    Honestly, I learned so much through those missionary presentations. I regret majoring in Missions at BJ at the time. I think the program has improved much since my days there, but I learned so much growing up that I wish I would have majored in something else.
    2. Having missionaries in your home. I remember having missionaries and their families in our home for a whole week several times when we had missionary conferences. In fact, just last year on furlough I met a man and woman who had stayed in my home when I was about 7 years old, and I hadn’t seen them since. That was a neat experience.
    3. Our Christian high school did a readers’ theater entitled “The Bridge of Blood” about Jim Eliot and the other 4 men who were martyred on the beaches of Ecuador. My speech teacher asked me to be Jim Eliot. I didn’t want to, but I didn’t want to rock the boat either, so I agreed. That was one of the greatest things that the Lord used to break me into submission to His will. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”
    4. I have read some great missionary biographies. Mountain Rain by J.O. Fraser is great. 1000 Miles of Miracle by A. E. Glover is an incredible story of a missionary family and their escape from China during the Boxer Rebellion. (It’s not a theological work or about a mission work to speak, but their incredible journey is quite a story.) Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, and John Paton are all great stories to read.
    5. I went on a mission team with BJ to Mexico in 89 for 8 weeks and then returned in 91 by myself and stayed with another missionary family for 6 weeks. That was invaluable experience also.
    6. My mom used to have us to go the grocery store with her (All 7 of us kids together) and would send us up and down the aisles handing out tracts. That was invaluable although I don’t know if it would be allowed today. But, the habit of giving out tracts and being concerned for others’ souls is the same whether foreign or home missions. (How many people have ever given you a tract in your lifetime?–That’s probably how many the people around you have received too.)
    7. As a parent now, I recognize the blessing that Faith and I have of parents who “spared not their own children, but delivered them up” to the mission field. After supper, my father used to pray, “Lord, send my children into your service.” (I never liked that prayer either at the time, but the Lord has answered it several times.) Having children and now and living in Mexico City, humanly speaking, I don’t think I’d want them to come here when they were grown up. (But, I pray that the Lord would return them here or somewhere else in His field.) I know several other single missionaries with our same board (GFA) who are the only people in their whole families who are saved. They suffer great heartache and ridicule and discouragement from their family members who don’t understand at all why they are “wasting their lives.” Both my wife and I have had the full, not only support but also push of our parents and that is an incredible blessing. (I don’t mean “push” either in pushing even if it wasn’t the Lord’s will. Actively looking and praying for us to serve is the idea.)

    A few notes for churches:
    1. As Stephen King mentioned, it is an incredible blessing for a person in a supporting church to come up and say after your presentation, “Thank you, but I was wondering about so and so. I’ve really been praying for them and didn’t see them in your pictures.” Wow. That is an incredible encouragement.
    2. Try not to schedule other conflicting things the day that your missionary is there so that all the people in your church can see the missionary’s presentation. It is discouraging to want to present a work to the church but have several groups of different people in other meetings so they won’t get to see it.
    3. We have one supporting church where the pastor reads from the pulpit almost every prayer letter of every missionary they support. I attended that church for 5 years in Greenville and it’s an incredible encouragement to know that they still do that as they did when I attended there.
    4. Several churches send Christmas boxes and really try to get things that the family would like or need. They say that it is a real blessing to the people to do that for the missionaries. (I’m not asking. :-) Just trying to be a blessing. :-) They start the process in July and and it really keeps the missionaries before the people.
    5. Our home church has had the practice of putting addressed envelopes on a shelf once a month with each supported missionaries name and address. With email, it’s a lot faster today, but the idea is for people in the churches to communicate with their missionaries. That is always a blessing to hear news from home or a supporting church.

    Well, I suppose that’s more than enough information from one person.

  27. […] my dear friends and a faithful missionary to Mexico City, recently responded to the discussion on how to best keep missions before your church. His entire comment is worth reading—in fact, the entire thread is invaluable, I think, […]

  28. Since Chris brought this to our attention again, I thought I’d add a bit more.

    One thing that we do in our mission church is to print missionary prayer letters in the bulletin. Our bulletin is an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper folded in half, I normally use the front and back for articles of spiritual interest. Lately I have been printing some short articles by Dr. Warren Vanhetloo. But when letters come in, I try to print the whole letter (or letters) in that space. Sometimes I will add an insert to print three or four letters at once.

    We also post the letters on the bulletin board, but … how many actually take the time to read bulletin boards?

    One more thing. One of our supporting churches in San Francisco organizes its whole calendar around the annual missions conference. The church there, made up of folks from upper middle class to inner city, is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of missions and missionaries I have ever seen. The long time pastor of this church has retired, but is available for conference work. His website is:

    Keepers of the Light Ministry

    Regards,
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  29. Don,
    We do something similar in our church, although we don’t use a bulletin. We support 30 or so missionaries. In addition to posting the letters on the bulletin board, we have somebody read them aloud, in their entirity, to the congregation. We read a letter during both Sunday services and sometimes at the midweek service. This has worked quite well in keeping these missionaries in front of the entire congregation…AND all of have began looking forward to hearing the letter read during the service.

  30. Chris,

    I am still working this out in our church situation, so I know I do not have a lot of answers in this area. But since you brought attention back to the thread, I thought I would paste some things that I included in an SI thread that may be relevant here. (These were actually “throw away” comments on the thread. The whole thread is http://www.sharperiron.org/printthread.php?t=6091 and entitled “Mission Marketing (or, how to do deputation” and has some interesting comments on the big picture – as well as some sidetracks).

    “I also think that some practical steps can help churches and missionaries in these areas. In a larger church, a missionary committee can be responsible to keep tabs on the overall support level and other needs of the church’s missionaries. An “adopt-a-missionary” program where a family in the church (or more than one family) keeps in more specific contact with each missionary can also help keep the congregation aware of these things. Posting the missionary letters for people to read and making copies of them available for people to take home and pray over in their family devotions. Reading the prayer letters out loud to the whole congregation at Prayer Meeting or on Sunday nights. Making the prayer letters bulletin inserts into the church bulletin so that everyone in the church gets it (rather than just the “faithful few” who come on Wednesday night. Having each Sunday School class adopt a missionary – or adopt a region of the world to include all the church’s missionaries in that region. ”

    We are also having a Missions Sunday this Sunday at Fellowship Baptist Church in Salisbury with one of the missionaries that we support. The missionary and his wife are teaching Sunday School and he is preaching a morning service. After the morning service we are having a fellowship lunch and then an early afternoon service in which the missionary will be giving his “presentation” and taking questions, etc.

    At Hardingville Bible Church (where I served previously), we did a couple of other things that were helpful in this area. During our annual missions conferences, we tried to switch things up a little. On one of the nights of the conference, we had house meetings instead of meeting at the church. On that night, we split up the missionaries we had with us for the week so that all the missionaries had a separate host home for the meeting for the night. The host homes would then have food for everyone and the missionaries would show their presentation (usually in the form of a video tape) and talk about their ministry and answer questions. Since it was in a more informal setting and a smaller group, there were more questions – and more follow-up questions – and a greater understanding of the missionary and their field occurred.

    We also had a family from our church that was preparing for the mission field (they are with BWM in Papua New Guinea) at the time. This man went through our church’s internship program and was employed by the church as he prepared for deputation and the church took him on for about half of his support.

    Anyway, thanks for the thread and thanks for all of those who have given responses in this area.

    In Christ,

    Pastor Frank Sansone

  31. I loved this thread. Thank you.

    I grew up in a very missions minded church, and when I was a teen our parents went to Zambia as missionaries (I went with of course). So I have seen missions from both sides, and have survived the dreaded deputation process.

    A few thoughts to add perhaps:

    1) Several of our supporting churches had mission societies. Usually just the ladies meeting together once or twice a month. They’d read prayer letters, do nice things for missionaries and etc. The churches that had those were much more helpful and supportive and missions focused.

    2) This might be a no brainer, but design a nice looking missionary display somewhere in your church foyer. Maybe that is old fashioned and hopelessly out of date, but as a teenager those displays fascinated me. And almost without fail, the churches that had the best and most well kept displays had the biggest heart for missions.

    3) Also there is the mission’s closet, or food pantry. Especially for those on deputation, these were a Godsend. I know my Mom really felt spoiled and appreciated when churches had nice missions closets and freely shared with the missionaries.

    4) Put missionaries in your church people’s homes. [Although there was one home, and one meal in particular that…. I won’t get into it :) ] This is a great way to spread mission zeal around.

    5) Have a missions conference and promote it big time. Make it a big deal, get a lot of missionaries in, have slides and international dinners and what not. Sure this isn’t a Biblical necessity, but it does on a yearly basis bring missions before your church.

    6) Encourage short term mission trips with your teens and others. It seems these days such trips are much more common than before, but they are great for your church, and for the cause of missions.

    7) When the missionaries come to your church, let them participate. Let them preach or teach. Give them an adequate amount of time to share. What’s the point of bringing them there if you don’t?

    8) Pastors should stay connected with the missionaries and offer help and support. Take offerings when there are big specific needs, you may be surprised at what God will do through your church to help meet the need.

    Well these are just a few additional thoughts. If anyone is interested, I am heading up a team blog focusing on missions: Kingdom Surge. I want to utilize the growing blog interest and funnel that energy into thinking Biblically about and doing Missions. I’ll be linking to the discussion here.

    Blessings from the Cross,

    Bob Hayton

  32. Um that last smiley face is supposed to be a # 8. WordPress automatically converts it to a smiley I guess. Sorry.

  33. Chris,

    What a joy to read your post and feel your holy ambition to more actively puruse the Global Harvest of our Christ! I was notified of your post through my connections with a blog called “Kingdom Surge” and was immediately compelled to share my own less-than-two-cents! : )

    1) Be radically devoted to “finishing” the Great Commission, as a pastor and as a church. Does Romans 15:20 burn hot in your soul? This really is key, I think. As long as believers remain content to think and act like missions is some never-ending, chaotic, worldwide wax nose of ministry activity, we will still have people groups like the Pashtun, who at 45 million strong (larger than Canada or Australia or Argentina), still have not one indigenous church (!!!) and only a pitiful handful of church planters among them!

    Without belittling needful Kingdom enterprises and pursuits around the rest of the world, we must earnestly commit ourselves to prioritizing the most unreached peoples and places. Labor with all your might to educate your people so that, through sermons, S.S. Lessons, bulletin inserts, youth group activities, etc., your people became deeply familiar with the state of the Gospel in our world and are able to pinpoint the areas and peoples of greatest need. If you take short term trips, or engage in mission projects, or decide to support causes overseas, really ponder the value of letting such a priority of need govern your decisions.

    Didn’t Jesus Himself illustrate this kind of passion for us with His parables about the lost sheep and the lost coin, etc.? For Christ’s holy sake, where are the bloodearnest zealots who will so live and so work and so pastor as to gladly “leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it”? (Luke 15:4) I really believe and would commend to you the possibility of pastoring like this. John Piper is a great living example. (Charles Simeon would be a great historical example)

    At all costs, protect words and concepts like “unreached” and “missionary” from adulteration and hijacking–so that they can distinguish between unsaved Uncle Joe who lives in San Diego and the Digil Rahawiin people of Somolia who, as one of the “top ten” (Joshua Project) unreached peoples on earth, have virtually no access to the Gospel at all! This isn’t rocket science; an eight-year-old girl can “get” the concept of unreached peoples…as long as you do yourself.

    Do everything in your power to ensure that they conceive of the Great Commission as a task as measurable and finishable as it is epic and all-encompassing. Without denying or demeaning the necessary “Timothy-type” ministries that must continue to take place for the glory of God in all “reached” places (“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”–Matthew 28:19), the lazer-like focus of “Paul-type” pioneering needs to be wielded for the establishing of Gospel “beachheads” among every people group on earth. May passages like Isaiah 52:15 ignite and fan your innermost flames! Fire can’t help but spread.

    2) Be proactive and intentional in your missional pursuits. In other words, why on earth do churches sit around and “wait” for missionaries to write or call them? Why not the other way around? Why doesn’t the church have a particular missional agenda that it’s serious about, and then act from that foundation? Instead, most churches have no such agenda beyond a few passion-less and direction-less policies. They let their “agenda” form and morph “willy nilly” as different individuals come by, etc. It seems like in no other area of ministry are churches so lazy and carefree and unintentional than when it comes to missions!

    So, please, be different! Why not call the church leadership to spend an entire month in earnest fasting and prayer for specific direction (think Acts 13:1-3)? Would not God be pleased to answer the cries of your hearts and lead you in a unified and specific direction?

    I would loudly beg you to pursue some kind of “Adopt-a-People” program whereby you as a church (or as a group of churches) choose to “adopt” a specific unreached people group (or city/region) for sustained outreach and prayer.

    Why not the Pashtun? Or the Digil Rahawiin? Or the Ingush? Karachi, not Kenya. Over the course of ten or twenty years, what an impact you might be enabled to have upon the establising of the first chruch among them! Wow!

    Which means, you could go on the offensive. You could make the calls. Call mission agencies, denominations, etc., and seek out missionaries who are working (or hoping to work) among “your” people. Support them. Partner with them. Be proactive and visionary. Don’t let it be a passing fad. Dive in for the long haul. Do all you can to impart the fervor to others, by the grace of God, so that when/if you leave the specific burden won’t die or diminish.

    And this would also mean being very inentional about short term trips, etc. Don’t let all your missions decisions be made on emotion (we do this!). It is simple pyschology that a visit to Spain will bias that person forever towards ministry there. Be watchful that this doesn’t happen. If you’re committed to unreached peoples, and perhaps a specific unreached people: be zealous. Don’t get distracted. Without becoming proud or divisive, put all your blessed eggs in one basket! Take consecutive prayer walks into that “closed” peopel group. Engage in long-term relief projects, or etc., which can be contributed to meaninfully and sequentially year after year. If your church is large enough, or if there are several churches coordinated in this “adoption” effort, annual trips could be made that would build on each other and become very strategic.

    And this also means that your prayer life for missions would become intenesly specific, and hopefully much more earnest. Instead of just praying for God to raise up “missionaries” from among the youth of your church, you can begin begging and pleading with the Almighty to raise up “workers for the Pashtun,” with the statistics and the faces/names vivid in your mind’s eye. Claim your unreached peopel for the reign of Christ! Start a 24 prayer chain…for them!

    Chris, forgive me for going on and on. But I am so jazzed and so pumped about your passion for mission and for the glory of Christ. Please keep up the good work and set your face like a flint toward the remaining unreached peoples of our world!

    Until Jesus is Prized in Central Asia!

    “Jack”

  34. […] Today, I just want to point us all to a great post on the topic of how to keep missions before your church […]

  35. Two more (brief) encouragments, Chris:

    1) I realize that most churces already have significant committments and obligations when it comes to missions. But please remember that it is still very feasible to pursue an Adopt-a-People program of some sort. Just decide as a church that from here-on-out, all additional funds and programs will be directed toward the unreached People Group or City or Village that God lands on your heart. So you can still eventually get to the point where the church is focused 80% or even 50% on your particular “adoption.”

    2) Also, please know that by attempting to commit 100% to unreached peoples, you are not being narrow-minded or unbalanced. If you are tempted to feel this way, please know that “Tiomthy-type” ministries around the world have plenty of champions and funding (or at least infinitely more than causes for the unreached). So, your potential single-minded devotion to unreached peoples will be a very welcome move in the Body of Christ overall for recovering a balance between “Timothy-type” and “Paul-type” labors. Seriously, there is NO overabudance of ministries that are solely focused on reaching the unreached peoples! Never!

    Thanks for “hearing me out.” May God’s Spirit sovereignly and sweetly guide your heart and labors for the sake of His Name.

    “Jack”

  36. […] See this great post from Chris Anderson and the discussion in the […]

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