September 15, 2017
Sending long term missionaries is a commitment on the part of a local church and one that needs to be considered wisely, before undertaking. There are merits in sending missionaries from a home church to a field, that are important to remember. These merits impact the church as a whole, members of the congregation, and the field where the missionary is active. There is also the personal benefit to the missionary, as they invest in mission, that merits consideration as well.
Reading through the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s report on what they call, Long Term Career Missionaries, (LTCM), I realized that there is a failure within the local church in Canada in understanding who missionaries really are, and what mission is all about. As Mr. Hiemstra, the author of the research document mentions, “More research is needed to understand why …a substantial minority of Canadian Evangelicals believe it is better to send money than missionaries from Canada.” So why should a local church in Canada send missionaries? What merit does doing mission have for the church?
Before we consider the merits of a church doing mission and having missionaries, it is good to realize that the idea of merit or benefit is giving human measures to part of God’s plan and purpose, and these measures do not necessarily reflect the “Big Picture,” of God’s ultimate sovereign plan for his creation. These merits are our benefits.
1. Merits of LTCM for the Sending Church
Looking from a human perspective, first let us think of the merit of Long Term Mission (LTM) and Career Missionaries (LTCM) to the sending church.
A. Provide a Greater Vision and Purpose
Having a defined mission and dedicated missionaries within a church, broadens the scope of vision and purpose as a congregation. As the church sends out missionaries and does mission they are faced with the challenge of making the gospel relevant to others within their various contexts and needs. This brings new light and life to the Gospel message as it is applied to new frameworks and problems. It helps the church realize the concept of a Living Gospel as they see the truth of Christ and the work of redemption as the solution to the human condition, where ever it is found.
B. Connect with the Universal church
Taking on a mission field that is outside of our home community helps us connect with the larger universal church. There are people of God who call Jesus, Lord, all over this world, serving, called to various places, coming from diverse backgrounds and denominations. Working as a missionary we must strip ourselves of the ornaments of distinction that are not based in Biblical truth and learn to focus on God’s word and His calling. Whether we wear head coverings or Tilly hats, should not separate us as we serve God in the area of our calling.
From personal experience, I have been challenged as an evangelical in my commitment and self-absorption while working alongside Catholic sisters who have committed their life to service for Jesus. I have learned the importance of door-to-door out-reach from those with the Church of Christ. I have seen the generosity and intention of the Pentecostals as they preach God’s word. Churches can appreciate the strength and gifting of others in ministry and learn to work to support each other, rather than try to duplicate.
C. Help to Fulfill the Call of Christ
The value of long term missions for a sending church is also in keeping with the call to reach Jerusalem, Judea and Beyond. They can actively engage in stepping out of their own congregation to those next door, those down the road and those across the oceans. Each of these steps is important and builds the church as a connection of believers world-wide.
D. Build up the Foundation of the Church
Long-term missions is also a way to keep focussed on the work of Christ, versus the often emotional and short-sighted appeals of many charities. It is building the foundations for the church around the world, so problems like starvation, disease, poverty and war, can be addressed from a Christian perspective. It takes about forty years to transform a culture, where you have second generation Christians. This is a long-term commitment and why the church needs to keep on task.
2. The Value of LTCM for Individuals in the Church is a (an)…
A. Source of purpose and direction to Disciples and new Believers
There are many different ways we look at the relationship of the church with the world. One of them is with the Church as the Bride of Christ. Another is that of the church engaging in Christian Warfare against our enemy, the Devil. Or perhaps we see ourselves as the hands and feet of Christ, caring for those Christ cares for. All of these concepts give purpose and direction to our faith, helping us to direct our role within the world we inhabit. For young people, young men especially, warfare is an attractive model. “Fighting the demons of darkness, lead us on into the fight.” This theme was popular during the first and second world wars and many Bible colleges have used a motto of “soldiers for Christ.”
Seeing ourselves as soldiers helps us to have an attitude of discipline and preparedness. It also helps to give vision to the many challenges the church faces with a world that is under the influence and control of Satan.
As the Bride of Christ we are called to purity and preparedness as well. What kind of bride do we want to be. As the hands of feet of Christ we are called to service and care for the least of these.
B. Example of following in the footsteps of Christ and the 12 disciples
Christ sent his disciples out on mission after a short time of training. It wasn’t a four year term they went on, but it served to help the disciples grapple with their faith and engage the world for change. Individuals who take short term missions have often become better supporters of mission work because of their change of view. Those who are challenged in their faith will need to dig into God’s word for answers. Following in the foot steps of Christ takes us away from our comfort and into unexpected profound places, where we can become more like Christ.
C. Opportunity for others to Share in the Mission
One merit of LTCM is the opportunity to share. Always, when we share, we are blessed. Sharing with missionaries is a two way blessing. For missionaries, supporters are family. We like to find ways to connect with them, visit and encourage them. For supporters, the relationship is one that stretches them in their personal lives, and enriches them with ways they can be part of the larger work of the church. What does sharing look like? It might mean financial support, a gift, writing a letter, sending a gift, taking time daily or weekly to pray, visiting, inviting others to join.
3. The Value of LTCM to their Field
The word, field implies farming. A place where you prepare soil, plant, water, weed, work and hope to see a harvest. Without a farmer the field would be just a place of wildness, or disorder. When engaging a field the farmer is thinking of many things and committing to a long term relationship. When going on mission there is also a commitment to “the field.”
A. Breaking down Barriers
This dependability of the missionary is one that works, as the waters of the tide, in softening and breaking down barriers and hurts within others hearts. One of our neighbours, whom we have known for over ten years now, has just begun to attend our church. When we first moved into the community she had been told lies about us and it took over five years for her to even have the freedom to talk to me, a foreigner. As we continue to share life’s joys and sorrows, we also share the hope we have in Christ and our confidence in His salvation. We are preparing soil, planting, watering, weeding.
B. Dependable to the people
LTCM are dependable people and others depend on them They embed themselves in the field. Depending on the maturity of the church in their area, they may find themselves engaged in full time support ministry, or the beginning of building relationships. Whatever their local role, they are known and seen as those who have a purpose and they are a source of encouragement, assistance, testimony and consistency. People may not speak to them, they may not befriend them, but they know who and what they represent, and as the LTCM keeps their presence within their “field”, they testify of God’s faithfulness, love and grace, in their daily lives, their relationships and their business.
C. An example of Christ among the people.
This is our role as missionaries, to be Christ among the people. We can fight the hordes of darkness, prepare as a Bride for the coming of Christ, and daily walk, as Christ did, among those whom he loves and died for. The merit of LTCM to the community within which they work is, for the community one that can be a valuable resource for betterment. But to have those relationships of trust and the opportunity to share takes time to build. Trust and respect between the “field” and the missionary are key parts to the success of the work. This might take a couple months, or may take years. LTCM are also a support and encouragement to others on the field. Sharing our calling with other missionaries we meet on the field is a great testimony of the “unity of Christ.”
4. The Merit of LTCM for the Missionary.
A. Career Missionaries have mission as their life purpose.
They live as sojourners and pilgrims.
“ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people,but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Peter 2:9-12
B. Committing long-term brings clarity,
Once you’ve committed, it’s best to remain that way. You can keep your eyes ahead, and like the farmer you are “putting your hand to the plough and not looking back.”
C. Greater influence as a living example of Christ-likeness within an area.
“The Son of Man has no where to lay his head.” Matthew 12.
If you want to grow in your faith, if you want to stretch your capacity in doing life, if you want to learn humility and dependence on God, become a missionary. The merit of being a missionary to the individual is a testimony each of us has. It is a testimony of abandonment, “Lord, where else can we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” It is a testimony of dying to self, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it abides alone.” We are the seeds planted, the Lord brings the harvest.It is a testimony of brokenness, “as clay vessels, so that the all surpassing power of God may be revealed through our weaknesses.”It is a testimony of learning to live, not as the world lives, but as though we have a home, somewhere else.