The widespread awareness of missionary work is a sure sign of the endtime. The Holy Spirit is stirring up the Church for an all-out involvement in the task of worldwide evangelisation. India the second largest populated nation has witnessed the mushrooming of hundreds of indigenous missions in the last three or four decades of the 20th century. Christians of both mainline Churches and independent assemblies are showing a renewed interest in reaching the unreached for Christ. Missionary sending services in Churches have become commonplace. But a full-orbed understanding of what missionary sending involves is sadly lacking. This article aims to teach Christians their multifaceted responsibility in sending forth missionaries.
There are atleast five groups of actors in the missionary drama. Missionary Paul lists them for us in Romans 10:12-15. They are Senders, Preachers, Hearers, Believers and Worshippers. Obviously the senders appear on the scene first, and nothing happens until they start acting! Sending forth missionaries is fundamental in missionary work. The act of sending involves atleast five activities.
1. Itís PRAYING for missionary work.
The "Pray therefore" of Jesus preceded His "Go therefore!" (Mt 9:37,38; 28:18-20). Jesus called for prayer before He chose the twelve disciples to be sent forth (10:1). Missionary work that is not born and bathed in prayer will not fit into Godís purposes. The task is ever much greater than the task force. There has never been a time in the history of the Church when there had been enough harvesters for the harvest (9:37). It will be so till the end. Here is where the supernatural enablement of God is absolutely necessary. The power of God is released in proportion to prayer, i.e., how desperately we cry to Him. More prayer means more power; less prayer means less power; and no prayer means no power.
Apostle Paul was successful in missionary work because he put prayer above and before anything else. He exhorted Godís people to "first of all" pray for all men and thank God for them (1 Tim 2:1).
Christians lose interest in missionary praying because of lack of fuel for the prayer altar. Besides the special needs which would be presented by missionary agencies from time to time, there are certain items which must find a regular place in praying for missionary work.
Pray for boldness for those who have gone forth to proclaim the gospel. Even a daring apostle like Paul pleaded with believers to pray for his boldness. "Pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel" (Eph 6:19,20).
Pray that God may open the hearts of the hearers. It was the "Lord" who opened the heart of Lydia to listen to and to accept an open-air message (Acts 16:14). Satan has blinded the minds of people lest the light of the gospel shines on them. Only God can command light on people to dispel darkness (2 Cor 4:3-6).
Pray for the opposers. They are simply instruments in the hands of the archenemy of God and man. It pleases God to work mighty signs and wonders when persecution is severe. His supernatural power silences the opponents (Acts 4:16,29,30).
Pray for the new believers. Itís so encouraging to know that Jesus has already prayed for all our missionary fruits. In His High Priestly prayer He said, "Father... I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word" (Jn 17:20).
Pray for the well-being of the missionaries. They must be mentally sound, physi cally healthy, spiritually strong, economically stable and socially pleasant. Prevention is better than cure. Pray that the missionaries may be kept from defilement, diseases, depressions, divisions and dangers.
Pray as inspired. Suddenly the Holy Spirit may burden you to pray for a particular worker or a mission field. May be there is a problem over there. There have been simply too many testimonies attesting this fact.
Pray as informed. Periodicals and prayer circulars from missionary organisations, and newspapers give us enough of prayer material. Operation World by Patrick Johnstone is an excellent prayer guide to pray for every nation on a daily basis. (Order from Operation Mobilisation, Post Box 2014, Secunderabad 500 003, Andhra Pradesh, India.)
Pray as imagined. There can be hundred and one things we can think of concerning the problems, challenges and needs of frontline evangelism. Turn imaginations into intercessions.
2. Itís GIVING to missionary work.
The Christian ministry can be broadly divided into two categories: (a) Planting of Churches and (b) Perfecting of Churches. Paul plants and Apollos waters (1 Cor 3:5,6). Using the allegories employed by Jesus, those who plant churches are fishermen, and those involved in perfecting the churches are shepherds. Of the five main ministers of the Church listed in Ephesians 4:11, apostles and evangelists are primarily church planters, whereas prophets, shepherds and teachers are essentially church perfecters. In another figure of speech, the first group is quarriers and the second sculptors. One leads to the other. They are not independent of each other but interdependent. As ministers empowered by the risen Lord they are to complement each other (1 Cor 3:5,6).
In Christian work thereís nothing called non-church ministries. Because the Church is a group with no saints outside and no sinners inside, ministries by Godís people under any banner are part and parcel of the Church. Some are local ministries whereas others are translocal. The Body of Christ has a local expression as well as an universal expression. This understanding will dispel suspicions and develop profitable relationships between divergent ministries.
Whatever money you set aside from your income for the Lordís work may be shared between the two categories of ministries explained above. You will then participate both in reaching the unreached and in teaching the reached. Missionary giving must be systematic and sacrificial.
a) Give systematically.
Missionary organisations have regular financialcommitments. To name a few: salary for the missionaries, educational expenses for the missionary kids, house rent, building and vehicle maintenance, outreach expenses, travel, etc. Donít say, "I will contribute whenever I feel like!" Will you accept a job where the employer says so? Make a commitment to contribute a definite sum each month. Budgeting then becomes easier for the mission leaders when they sit for annual planning.
Missionary organisations have various schemes you can choose from according to your taste and ability. You can partially or fully sponsor a missionary. You can adopt a mission field and underwrite its expenses. You can donate a lumpsum for the construction of a church building or missionary quarters. You can pay for a twowheeler or a fourwheeler. Or, you can make an endowment with which the missionary society may make a fixed deposit in the bank so the periodic interest can take care of a workerís salary. How much money parents pay as capitation fee to secure seats for their children in professional colleges in India!
b) Give sacrificially.
Christian growth means growing in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Giving is one of the graces. Apostle Paul urged the Corinthian Christians, "As you abound in everythingó see that you abound in this grace also" (2 Cor 8:7). The context of this verse is Christian giving. We must keep on increasing our giving until it affects us. The Old Testament practice of tithing is only a minimum. Itís a place to start, not to stay.
Foregoing a legitimate pleasure and turning that money over to missionary work brings boundless joy. No sacrifice is too great before that of Christ on Calvary. Sacrificial giving ascends as a sweet-smelling aroma before God. The world cannot be evangelized in any generation if Godís people wonít give more than a tenth of their income to His work. When Mary poured the costly perfume on Jesus the entire house was filled with its fragrance. Jesus instantly visualized worldwide evangelisation in that sacrificial act (Mk 14:9). The gospel of Christ is the message of the unique sacrifice in history. A spirit of sacrifice is inevitable to proclaim it.
If this year you donít give to Missions more than what you gave last year, it could mean that you do not vote for an annual increment to the salary of missionaries or that you do not want them to expand their work. Think!
3. Itís REFRESHING the Missionaries.
Missionaries are not angels. They are not super-human. They are ordinary men and women called to extraordinary tasks. Itís a known fact that most of the brightest and smartest of Christian workers stay back to work among Christians and donít go to virgin soils for pioneer missionary evangelism. Missionary work is a frontline battle. As such the missionaries need special care and support. Most of them live in hostile atmosphere. They are away from their kith and kin, living in a totally different culture. Except perhaps with his coworker, the missionary cannot speak in his mother tongue. What a strain! He feels like Abraham in Kiriath-arba, "I am a stranger in a foreign land" (Gen 23:4).
Jesus had known that the disciples He sent forth to preach the gospel would be subjected to all sorts of worries, tensions and exhaustion. That was why at the conclusion of His commissioning address He said, "He who receives you receives Me... Whoever gives to one of the least of My followers even a cup of cold water, he will surely be rewarded" (Mt 10:40,42). Let me suggest here certain practical ways of refreshing the missionariesó
a) Medical help
Overwork, non-availability of balanced food, poor sanitation, extreme climatic conditions, and such factors affect the health of many frontline missionaries. Poor medical facilities worsen the situation. Missionary organisations with their limited funds are unable to take care of all the medical expenses of their staff, especially for major surgeries and specialised treatment. Follow such needs as and when they are presented in mission periodicals and make special contributions as if you are spending for one of your own family members. Thank God for Missionaries Upholders Trust (MUT), a ministry dedicated to assist Indian missionary agencies in taking care of the special needs of their workers. (Contact address: Mr. J. J. Ratnakumar, MUT, 2/9 J-1 Barathidason Street, Kamalakshipuram, Vellore 632 002, India. Tel: 0416-2265187).
b) Childrenís expenses
Parents know how difficult it is these days even to take care of the basic needs of children. With a missionary salary it becomes all the more difficult. Good education is an expensive affair. Moreover most of the mission fields donít have good schools or colleges. The missionary kids have no option other than staying in hostels elsewhere. Very few sponsoring churches or groups think about this huge need of missionary parents. When the children are well taken care of, the missionaries are at peace and can have a better concentration in the work.
c) Clothes, gadgets, etc.
Jesus encouraged His disciples saying, "Do not worry about your body, what you will wear... Do not carry an extra coat... Because the labourer is worthy of his wages" (Mt 6:25; 10:10; Lk 10:7). This simply means that those who send the missionaries and those who are blessed throí them are supposed to take care of their clothing requirements. Missionaries must be well dressed. They are the Kingís messengers. I am not talking about extravagance but elegance. We in the Blessing Youth Mission provide blankets, sleeping bags and warm clothes because missionaries cannot buy these with their regular salary. We encourage supporters to bless the missionaries with water filters, mixer-grinders, cookers, etc.
d) Vacation and rest
Not many missionaries have relatives who will host them happily for weeks or months when they come on vacation. Write to mission agencies and offer to host such needy missionary families. It will be an excellent opportunity for all your family members to get to know the field situations and be challenged by the faith life of the missionaries in adverse circumstances. Missionary Paul was glad about Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus who "refreshed" his spirit (1 Cor 16:17,18). He appreciated the family of Onesiphorous who "often refreshed" him when he was in chains (2 Tim 1:16-18). He wrote to Philemon, "Prepare a guest room for me" (Phile 22). We have built a few Missionaries Rest Houses for weary missionaries to "come apart and rest a while" (Mk 6:31).
Stretch your imagination to find ways by which you can refresh the missionaries. Apostle John wrote to one Gaius concerning missionaries: "If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, because they went forth for Christís name, taking nothing from non-christians" (3 Jn 6,7).
4. Itís ENCOURAGING the work.
One of the major problems of the missionaries is loneliness. Those who labour in virgin soils and remote villages have very little fellowship. We cannot expect the new field believers to give the missionary the kind of fellowship he needs. Periodical visits of members of supporting churches and groups to the mission fields will boost the missionaryís spirit.
The field visits of supporters encourage the new congregations as well. The field believers are made to realise that they are part of a larger body. Unlike in Christian communities, those who embrace the gospel from idol-worshipping or animistic culture face stiff opposition from their relatives and neighbours. They pay a heavy price for their faith. When we visit their homes and fields, make personal enquiries of their lifestyle and culture, eat and worship with them, they are brightened up. Missionaries testify that such visits are a shot in the arm for their work.
Jesus did not sit back after sending forth His disciples. Historian Luke records, "The Lord chose seventy other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and villages He planned to visit" (Lk 10:1). Are not our children excited and encouraged when we attend their school functions? Personal visit to mission fields is a practical expression of wholehearted involvement in the work.
While the missionaries and new congregations are encouraged by our visits, we are challenged as well. Thereís nothing like seeing. Our prayers will become better focussed and more meaningful. The government and many companies give leave travel concession (LTC) to their staff and their families. Why not use them to visit distant mission fields? I urge Indians working abroad to include in their itinerary a visit to one of the mission fields when they come down for vacation. Sadly most of them visit only independent evangelists in cities to get some more blessing prayers! Think seriously and see which is more important. The heart of the Good Shepherd is after the shepherdless multitudes (Mt 9:36-38). Join Him in His search operation.
5. Itís INVOLVING in personal evangelism.
"Go or Send," is a missionary slogan coined by Canadaís great missionary statesman Dr. Oswald J. Smith (1890-1986) in order to motivate Western youngsters to actively involve in reaching the third world with the gospel. But as far as India is concerned, and that in times like these, this slogan is a luxury we cannot afford. We have no choice between going and sending. Every Christian must go wherever he can go and he must help sending others wherever he cannot go. "Go and Send," should be our slogan which incidentally is much closer to the Scriptures.
Jesus sent His disciples into the harvest field and He also went. The same was the case with Paul. Frontier missions is actually an extension of neighbourhood evangelism. This is best illustrated by the four ever-widening circles drawn by the Resurrected Lord just before His ascension (Acts 1:8). Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the whole world! It is not one after the other but each alongside the other.
Missionary supporters must be personal soulwinners. It will be a tragedy if supporters in the church outnumber soulwinners. Pillars are necessary but imagine a hall filled with pillars! Mission leaders are at times over- enthusiastic in raising supporters that they overlook their responsibility in challenging the congregations and channelising them into neighbourhood evangelism. Here lies one main reason why we donít get sufficient quality candidates from churches for fulltime missionary work. The local church must be a training ground wherefrom soldiers can be released for the frontline. Paul and Barnabas were the first batch of cross-cultural missionaries of the early church and they started off from a local church (Acts 13:1-4).
If missions supporters are not soulwinners themselves, they will lose their vision and passion in course of time. Only the excitement of fishing and the joy of harvest will keep them aflame. Otherwise mobilisation of support for missionary work will become like another secular business. Only soulwinners can understand the struggles of soulwinners. Whether it is soulwinning in the neighbourhood or in the frontiers, it is a spiritual battle of liberating captives from the strongholds of Satan. Missionary Evangelist T.L. Osborn wrote, "A revival that propels every Christian into personal soulwinning will be the ultimate restoration of New Testament Christianity!"
To summarize, Missionary Sending involves praying for the work and the workers, giving liberally, refreshing the missionaries, encouraging the work and new believers by visits, and involving personally in neighbourhood evangelism. If these things are faithfully done, the senders will be rewarded exactly like the goers! (1 Sam 25:13; 30:24; 3 Jn 8).