Sending Missionaries in Ways 'Worthy of God'

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"You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God" (3 John 1:6).

In this passage a senior elder of the church commends Gaius for the way that he took great care of people who “went out in the Name” of Jesus. He asks him to continue doing so “in a manner that will bring honour to God.” As we, John and Anne Span, reflect on almost 20 years of being sent out as ambassadors for Jesus, we would like to reflect on the ways that churches and individuals have done the same.

  • A person half-way across Canada (who taught Anne by distance education) consistently writes an encouraging note when we send out a newsletter.
  • A pastor of one of our supporting churches drives over one hour to pay a pastoral visit and to take genuine interest in our lives, our souls, our hopes, and dreams and our family.
  • A missionary family from a country much poorer than Canada, who struggle to raise their own support, press two bills of one-hundred Euros each into our hands in order to be a blessing.
  • Someone phones our house and asks, “And how is your son, David? And how are his headaches?” Then they say, “I pray for him every day.”
  • A person jots down a two-line note after a presentation at a church and says that they could sense the Holy Spirit speaking through our words.
  • A leader at a mission organization takes us out for lunch and asks pointed questions about the challenges that we face.
  • A person responds to a need to make our house a home when coming back from North Africa, and says, “Hey, I can help paint your place.”
  • A senior pastor says, “Why should you have to walk around with your hat in hand to beg for funding?” “Let me take some of the pressure off of you.”
  • A group of people from partner churches mobilize a fund-raiser, BBQ, auction, and send-off. We see the power of a supportive community.
  • A person calls and asks, “Can you please explain why your studies are so important?” I respond and tell them that they will likely influence how missions to the 1.8 billion Muslims in this world is done. He asks, “Has this kind of study, which looks at what is not working too well in this area ever been done before?” I respond, “No, this is ground-breaking work.” He responds, “I get it, how can I help promote your work in our church?”
  • A church wanting to do ESL outreach calls Anne and says, “We want to tap into your experience.” “Can you come and train us?” This makes Anne’s day as she loves to train other teachers.
  • A family invites us over for coffee. They want to know about the challenges that missionaries face. They ask probing questions, as they have a close family member who is considering missions.
  • A family and also a group visit us while we were living overseas. They blessed us with listening ears, were willing to undergo a lot of discomfort, they brought comfort food, clothing for the poor of that country, and even supersized fluffy towels.
  • A missions’ representative at one of our supporting churches consistently brings news of the mission enterprise to the congregation and the pastor consistently prays for missionaries and their families.
  • A kind family with a cottage suggests that a family who is somewhat tired from making cross-cultural adjustments, enjoy the loons at their lake, and then some.
  • A group of deacons decide that some good Dutch cheese, Dutch licorice, and other Dutch treats will be a joy to our family. Indeed! Next year we hope that another group of deacons will favor Anne with some French toast, French coffee, and French croissants.
  • A church that we have never visited sends us a Christmas card every year
  • A missions’ organization sends us signed birthday cards and produce our prayer cards, and
  • A church hosts a mini-conference on reaching out to neighbors of another religion. Their teachable spirit, and passion to reach the lost, encourage us greatly.
  • A church hears that due to power outages we have to manually wash our clothes, or wait until the power comes. They have a fund-raiser to buy a large inverter which can run from our solar panels. Sleep is much sweeter when you are not doing the wash at 2 in the morning.

What do you see in this list that you could adopt or adapt for your church?

John and Anne Span

Serving in a partnership with Resonate Global Mission and another agency.

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Hi John, Thanks for this post. I have a comment on one point in particular.

"A senior pastor says, “Why should you have to walk around with your hat in hand to beg for funding?” “Let me take some of the pressure off of you.”

This pastor's idea that fundraising is "begging, hat in hand" missed the point of mission work. That attitude is a secular idea that gives power to money as the primary relationship in our lives. For Christians money does not have that power. In the Christian life and especially in mission, God is primary.  God says the only  relationship that matters is your relationship to me.  When in a relationship with God the fact of having or not having money is irrelevant. Inviting others to come to know God through Jesus is what is important. If extending that invitation costs money than those who have money freely give it as one way to participate in the biblical call to mission and ministry. The act of giving money becomes as much an act of worship as praying, teaching or preaching. Asking for money is extending an invitation to join God's Mission to redeem the world. There is no higher calling than that. 

  Thanks Larry:

     Yes, I agree that giving is certainly a vital part of Christian worship. Glad you highlighted that. What the pastor was getting at is that fundraising has become a greater and greater part of the job description of missionaries. That is to say, it takes more and more time, energy and resources. I think of missionaries who return to the place to which they have been sent by their mission agency, simply exhausted from the rigors of their deputation schedule where they sleep in a different bed almost every night, and travel thousands of miles in doing so.

      As we conferred with these colleagues, many of them have asked if there is not a better way to be sent in a way 'worthy of God.' When a senior pastor suggests that he will serve as a missions' advocate to speak on our behalf, and to make introductions to donors, this is huge. Sure, we must still present the need and the vision, but much of the spadework is done.Was his phraseology of 'hat in hand' out of place? I guess it depends if you are the missionary, like some who feel a certain pressure to be like a salesperson who has to "close the deal" with every relationship they have. I guess it also depends if one is feeling increasing pressure to bring in enough each month to reach the financial targets set by their agency, and the resultant despondency when these are not being met. For some missionaries this is a huge stress, while for others it is not. I still think the pastor's sentiments were magnanimous, and likely a response to the fact that he did not have to ask for his monthly salary.

      I fully agree that we need a Christian view of money.  Thank you again for your comments.

Blessings in Christ

John   

Hi John,

I agree that the home service model is out of date. The current model belongs to a time when travel was measured in weeks or months not hours. It has to change.

There are also some language terms that need critical analysis. Mission work is an invitation to participate in God’s plan of redemption and not a sales deal to be closed. So yes, I do think that the pastor’s phraseology is also out of place. Whether magnanimous or not the language is an indication of a misperception of the act of asking for money. Asking someone to participate in God’s mission is an opportunity to respond faithfully to God and not an onerous task.

It is also incorrect to say that the North American pastor does not have to ask for his monthly salary. Every CRCNA pastor in Canada or the United States relies on fundraising for his or her salary.  They in fact ask for their salary every Sunday when a church budget offering is announced.    

I also want to recognize that stress does comes with not achieving financial targets. Having this conversation is a step toward addressing that stress and changing attitudes toward asking for money and being asked to contribute. By discerning our relationship with and to money, we dig deeper into our personal and corporate relationship to God. As a fundraiser I want donors and churches to know that we are not “closing a deal” with them. We are inviting them to get to know God better. The result, whether a “widows mite”  or a seven figure “major gift” is all the same to God who is simply asking his followers to be faithful to him.

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this timely and sensitive topic.

Blessings to you as well.

Larry