HOUSTON (BP) – Sending global missionaries is one of my favorite topics of conversation with pastors and church leaders. Having been an international missionary myself, it always does my heart good when a pastor or church leader starts asking questions about how to get engaged in the Great Commission overseas.
I’ve been surprised by the amount of excitement this particular conversation has incited in Houston. For the last few months, I’ve been working on plans to help local churches equip potential international missionaries in partnership with the International Mission Board (IMB). As this has come up in conversations with various pastors, missions pastors and regular church folks, I can honestly say it has produced more excitement than any other topic I’ve addressed with churches since I began working at the association.
I think more churches are interested in this than we may know.
Perhaps the most significant first step for a local church is developing specific partnerships with a global missions team overseas. Partnering directly with a missionary team on the field provides many significant benefits for a local church that cares about reaching the nations with the Gospel. Here are five key benefits of developing specific global missions partnerships with missionary teams overseas.
1) It’s good for local church leaders
When it comes to global missions, many pastors both understand the importance of it and have a desire for their church to be actively engaged in the work, and yet they often feel they lack the expertise necessary to lead a church in the right direction. Having a partnership with experienced missionaries goes a long way in helping local church leaders develop a healthy vision for their church.
Missionaries on the ground can be a vital sounding board for local church leaders as they develop their ministry. Furthermore, pastors will get to learn firsthand about the work of international missions through the deep relationships that can develop with their missionaries overseas.
2) It’s good for missionaries on the field
Speaking as someone who has lived overseas, far away from family and church, I know it can be lonely at times. Church partners can be, and should be, a crucial lifeline for the missionary team. Healthy church partners provide significant support and care for their missionary teams through prayer, communication and sending short term and mid-term volunteer support to aid in the work.
3) It reaps a better harvest over time
A local church’s missions strategy should be a fire hose, not a sprinkler. When we hop from place to place, attempting to land on a new continent each time we go overseas, we overlook the importance of persistence in the same location. A healthy, short-term missions strategy for a church is like chopping down an oak tree. With each subsequent team, the church learns more about the area, understands better ways to engage in Gospel proclamation, begins to pick up language and culture and has the huge advantage of returning to continue ministry with the same people.
When I was serving in West Africa, our team had long-standing church partners that had visited the same villages for more than a decade. Those churches had watched children in those villages grow into adults. They had important relationships, and it allowed the work to progress in a way that trip-hopping simply cannot.
4) It helps without hurting
A good number of pastors and church leaders are probably familiar with the book, When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. The authors point out that sometimes, despite our best intentions, we provide aid in a way that actually hurts more than it helps. This is especially true when we cross significant cultural barriers to provide that aid. However, being in a real partnership with a missionary team on the field provides your church with cross-cultural workers who know that location intimately and can help you make wise decisions about what you’re doing there.
5) It is eye-opening for church members
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, long term partnerships with missionary teams overseas provide an important foundation for sending members of your own congregation to the nations. It is rare that I speak with an international missionary whose personal story does not recount the significance of a short-term mission trip in their own calling. When done well, engaging your own congregation in the work of global missions through time spent with a missionary team introduces them firsthand to the missionary task. Furthermore, missionary teams become partners in the work of identifying, equipping, sending and supporting more from inside your own congregation.
Clearly church partnerships with missionary teams are a key component in developing a healthy mission vision in a local church. The benefits above are only a sample of the rich reward that comes to a church when it links up with missionaries on the field to send and support.