The most wonderful of problems
Ever since I have arrived, there has been an unending stream flood of missionaries wanting our church and our people to support them. It has been an excruciatingly painful problem for me. Why? One, with my background, I want to say yes to every one of them. I am delighted by anyone being called by the Lord to pursue full-time ministry, especially to the uttermost parts of the earth. Two, we as a church (or even as individuals) have a limited amount of resources that we can invest in supporting missionaries. As a result, of the vast number of missionaries that have crossed my desk in the last 8 months, I have to say “No” to 99% of them. So, the challenge has been trying to come up with a strategy for how Maranatha will continue in choosing and supporting missionaries.
How to choose?
Our Missions Committee recently discussed several things to consider as we look at prospective missionaries: their level of intimacy with Maranatha’s ministry, the level of lostness in the place they are called to serve, and their long-term model or plan for missions on the field. Let’s look at these one by one.
Level of Intimacy with Maranatha’s Ministry
When looking at a prospective missionary’s level of intimacy with our ministry, it is helpful to consider the following questions:
1. Are they/were they a member at Maranatha or a sister church?
2. Is their platform for ministry (i.e. adoption, sports camps, pastoral training, ESL, etc.) a type of ministry Maranatha feels called to support?
3. Are they targeting a people group that Maranatha can minister to locally, so our ministries can overlap?
4. Is there an opportunity for Maranatha to partner with them, beyond finances and prayer, in the ministry they doing?
The greater the level of intimacy they have with Maranatha’s ministry the more we need to consider our responsibility to support them in their calling to missions.
The Level of Lostness in the Place They are Called
Since we believe that missions is about taking the Gospel to the lost, especially in places where they have little or no access to the Gospel, it is important to prioritize funding missions work in the most unengaged, unreached areas. A tool like the Joshua project is useful in considering this criterion. (https://joshuaproject.net/)
Notice the large section of red, these are the people that are the least reached or most lost in the world. As a church, we should be seeking to see the Gospel proclaimed among those people both through our prayers, our labor, and our giving. More practically, consider the missionaries that are going to be sharing with Maranatha during the months of September, October, and November. They are trying to reach Somalis, Irish, and Brazilians respectively. Consider these charts from the Joshua Projects:
Does that mean there are not lost people in Brazil or that ministry in Ireland is less important than to Somalis? Not at all, it just means that the work of missions is furthest along in Brazil and there is a higher percentage of evangelical believers among the nationals there.
The point is, that as we evaluate how to be the best stewards of the money that God has entrusted to us regarding missions, we need to consider the level of lostness among the people group that a missionary is called to reach. That like Paul we can say, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” (Rom 15:20).
Their Long-term Model of Missions
The final thing we consider is the missionary’s long-term model of missions. There is a limitless number of ways that a missionary can carry out their ministry. It may be through reaching students, helping orphans, training pastors, street evangelism, sports ministry, etc. The question is not what platform they use for doing missions. It is what is their model. Do they have a plan to multiply their ministry into national leaders? Are they seeking to train up new national believers to a point where the ministry can become fully maintained by nationals and the missionary can move on to another field? Are they going to be the center of the ministry or will they train up nationals to be at the center? Will the ministry continue if they have to leave? Does their model include some form of Model, Assist, Watch, and Leave? You see the end goal for all missions should be passing the baton to national believers. It may take a month or over a decade, but the end goal of the missionary should be to leave a self-sustaining work in the fields in which they labor. We want to support multiplying missionaries. We want to maximize the investment by seeing them train up faithful men who can do likewise no matter what platform they use for ministry.
The Missionary We Are Looking For
As the endless flow of missionaries continues across my desk, our goal will be to find those that: are intimately connected to the ministry of Maranatha, have a passionate calling to take the Gospel to the least reached, and are committed to building a self-sustaining, self-supporting ministry that could continue to multiply until Christ returns.
How to Support?
The second thing to consider once we have chosen missionaries to support is deciding how we can best support them. Since our resources are limited, we must decide if we are going to give the smallest possible slice to the largest number of missionaries or to give larger amounts of support to a smaller number.
From a missionary’s perspective, I can say that missionaries want to be fully funded, but what they really want most are partners in the ministry. They want people and churches that know their names, know their children, know their struggles, and know their ministries. They want people that are passionately praying not out of duty but out of care. They want relationships that are real and meaningful. They want people they can call when they have questions and prayer concerns. They want to have people that keep up with what is going on in their lives through praying regularly for: their spiritual growth, their families, their struggles, and their national partners. They want email and packages that are personal and show not only a generous heart but an intimate connection. They want churches that take ownership in their ministries and responsibility for their well-being. They want places that feel like home when they are in the U.S.
As a church, we need to decide how we can provide THAT kind of support to the missionaries God gives to us. We need to consider not only our financial limitation, but also the limitations of our time and commitment.
This coming year we will add several people to the Missions Committee to enable us to expand our perspective as a team and help us evaluate how we can be effective in providing the kind of support that missionaries need and want. We will be discussing how to keep the Maranatha family up to date and connected with our missionaries and their ministries. We will be looking at how to help you develop a relationship with at least one of the missionaries we are supporting as a church. We will be looking at plans for ways both our adults and youth mission trips can coordinate with and support our missionaries on the field. We will also be looking for ways to let our missionaries help us to be more effective and faithful in reaching the lost right here in Columbus. Ultimately, we want to choose the best possible missionaries and provide the best possible support. Praise the Lord for His faithful work in calling so many wonderful people and families to the field for indeed the harvest is plentiful. May He grant us wisdom to know how we can continue to grow as we labor together with those He calls out and may we see more of our families, children, and grandchildren called to take the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world.