On the heels of the last post, part 2a, on “How do we fulfill the Great Commission?”, here are a few practical considerations for how to be a faithful supporter and sender of missionaries.
- Know your church’s missionaries. I mean both know of them and know them personally. The next time they are on furlough (visiting their home church to report back and raise more support, if necessary), introduce yourself and ask them about their ministry. You can’t support them if you don’t know who they are! And you will support them a lot better if you are familiar with their family and their ministry. At Grace Church, a lot of missionaries have monthly or bimonthly newsletters. See if your missionary has one and sign up for it so you can keep up with them. If your church has been around for more than a year and it doesn’t support and send missionaries, find a new church. (Barring any strange circumstances. I’m only half joking here.) Check if your church has a monthly missions meeting. That’s a great place to get updates about how and what the missionaries are doing. Learn to love your church’s missionaries and their work.
- Pray for them. As with any believer, your church’s missionaries need prayer. Sometimes they are at weak churches, and they might not have people who pray for them consistently. Sometimes they are in third-world countries with more day-to-day difficulties than we have here in America. In all cases, missionaries face the challenges of ministry and spiritual leadership: discouragement, attacks from gospel opponents, decision making in high-stakes situations. Add missionaries to your prayer list of family, friends, small group members, your Bible study, church… And if you want to provide even more encouragement, email your missionary and let them know that you are praying for them.
- Finance their ministry. As John mentions in 3 John, many missionaries do not take funding from the people they minister to. Some of them work full-time as pastors and receive a salary from the church they pastor. Others rely on support from senders. Check your budget to see if it’s feasible to provide financial support. Could you skip a boba drink or coffee every month? Could you eat out one time less? Even $5-10 a month is helpful, and sometimes that stretches pretty far in a foreign country. Missionaries may have expenses that you’ve never thought of, like healthcare and furlough plane tickets.
- Ask about their needs. If you want to do something more, ask your missionary if there is anything you can do for them from here at home. They might ask you to call their parents every once in a while to provide fellowship. They might ask you to make a few purchases and send them with some folks who are going to visit. They might provide prayer requests that aren’t on their newsletter. They might ask you to be a part of a short-term team. They might direct you to your church’s monthly missions meeting. They might ask you to maintain their newsletter, blog, or website. They might have a lot of needs that you can address from home–or none at all. But if you want to love them as fully as possible, it would be great to ask.
- Assist them on short-term trips. If your church sends short-term trips to minister to the missionaries, consider taking time to go on one of those trips. If planned well, the trips are an incredible boost to the missionaries, both in the love they receive from people coming to visit and help, but also in the labor that a team can accomplish. If you know a missionary personally and you are on close terms, you could plan a trip yourself for your family to visit them on vacation or make a quick stop to visit them as you pass through to elsewhere. The caution here is to make sure that all of this is cheerfully approved by the missionary as being helpful for him or her and their family. It wouldn’t be a great testimony of support to burden them because of your desire to visit or help. (For a more expansive treatment of this topic, check out Holding the Rope by Clint Archer. I’ve done a quick review.)
- Spend time with them when they come back. Most missionaries come back every once in a while, maybe every two years or so. Learn when they are coming back so that you can spend time with them. You can hear about their ministry and let them know how God is working in your life and in your church. This is a great time to grow in your love for them and provide a sweet time of fellowship to the missionaries when they return.
- Foster a passion for missions. Both in yourself and in others! Let a passion for missions be one of the things you develop as you disciple others, and take some time to cultivate a passion for God’s global glory in yourself. Here are a few resources to help with that:
- “Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death Defying Missions” by David Platt. Easily my favorite sermon on missions, because of the way Platt establishes confidence in God’s sovereignty to bring Himself glory from every tribe, language, people, and nation.
- Untitled sermon by David Platt. This one is my college pastor’s favorite sermon on missions. Also a good one.
- “Undaunted by Resistance: Sustaining Missionary Zeal for the Sake of the Nations” by David Platt. A more reflective, personal seminar from Platt on his trips to unreached people groups.
- Desiring God by John Piper. The two chapters on missions and money were formative in helping me think about how to serve my church and its missionaries and its furtherance of the gospel. Those thoughts are expanded in…
- Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper. This book focuses on developing a missiology, or a theology of missions. It addresses questions like “Why does missions exist?” and “Why is God’s plan aimed at people from every people group, rather than the greatest number of people possible?
Anyway, these are just a few ways that you can support your missionary. As you get to know them better and as God grows your heart for His plan to bring the gospel to “all nations” (Matt. 28:19), to “the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8), I’m sure you will find new and unique ways to serve the missionaries that you love!