Musing about mission – Serving as Senders

Continuing my notes from a staff meeting…….

Romans 10:13-15

 for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ (NIV copyright Biblica)

In this passage Paul is working back from the truth that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” to the steps that come before it.

  • Preaching the gospel
  • Being sent to preach the gospel

But maybe there is also another step behind these, people who support those sent.

The Lord sent out people like Paul and others to preach the good news. The need for people to go out hasn’t stopped – though it is constantly changing. However, sending people requires the development of a support team.

Which raises the question, what support do mission personnel need?

Most of what follows in these notes is taken from Neal Pirolo’s book Serving as Senders: How to care for your missionaries Neal has also written a second book on re-entry. Serving as Senders lists 6 areas and the premise of the book is that each person needs support in these six areas:

~ These are things we can encourage the local church (we are all part of one) to do

  1. Moral support. Living cross culturally is hard work – we all need encouragement. Cards, visits, gifts. “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 Thes. 5:11).
  2. Logistic support. Sometimes those who go need help on the home front. This might involve helping with financial matters storing personal items, looking after family, or sending care package – especially those items that cannot be obtained overseas.
  3. Financial support. Mission workers look to God to provide for their personal and ministry needs. Indeed God does provide – through friends, mission-minded individuals, relatives and churches who care for us and who believe in what we are doing.
  4. Prayer support. Often the biggest support we can give is to pray. “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
  5. Communication support. Keep in touch with your missionaries. Read their prayer letters and share your news with them too. “Like cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a distant land” (Prov. 25:25). These days that’s just as likely by zoom or skype.
  6. Re-entry support. This involves much more than applause when the airplane lands. People have practical needs but have a greater need to be listened to; to share their successes and their struggles. It’s been said that everyone comes home with an “emotional backpack” full of disappointments, strained relationships, stresses, and possibly a wounded soul.

One of the good things about mission support teams in churches is that they can work together to ensure a church does these things. (I and some of my colleagues often have conversations with churches on this subject as they think about how they can support their mission personnel).

We do this too

As a staff team in a mission organisation, we do things that enhance and focus on these areas among others:

  • Moral support: We aim to give encouragement as well as providing member care (both from the UK and internationally)
  • Logistic support: There is the practical support that we provide people when they start overseas (or arrive here in the UK) but also the ongoing work of organising medical and other insurance, visa applications, eligibility for NHS treatment, student finance etc etc.
  • Financial support: We handle gifts and gift aid, we arrange to pay money, handling national insurance contributions, pensions and retirement savings. We help with budgets!
  • Prayer support: We pray! We produce materials to encourage prayer each week.
  • Communication support: We keep in touch with supporters and churches, we produce materials to help people share what they are involved in. We talk about it on social media.
  • Re-entry support: We provide debriefing when people return. We listen and are interested in people’s ministry; we try to help people re-adjust back into their “home” country.

Editors note: that doing these things costs money is one reason why it is good to support mission organisations and the people who serve with them in office roles.

Questions to ponder

  • How can I support mission? (Both locally and across the world; through my work and through my involvement with a local church?)
  • Who can I encourage today?
  • Who do I support so that they can be involved in mission long term?
  • Who am I called to pray for?
  • Who do I know that I can encourage to be involved as well?

Other resources

Stewardship Services has produced a short article that takes the 6 support areas and expands them a bit, with an emphasis on the financial aspects.

If you are interested in Neal Pirolo’s views about returning mission workers, he was interviewed for the Global Missions podcast a couple of years ago.

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