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.
In fact, I’ve been surprised in recent months at the amount of excitement this particular conversation has incited here in Houston. For the last few months, I’ve been working on some plans to help local churches equip potential international missionaries in partnership with the International Mission Board. As this has come up in conversations with various pastors, missions pastors, and regular church folk, 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. To that end, here are five key benefits of developing specific global missions partnerships with missionary teams overseas.
It’s Good for the 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 a right direction. Having a partnership with experienced missionaries goes a long way in helping local church leaders develop a healthy vision for their church. The missionaries on the ground can be a vital sounding board for the local church 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.
It’s Good for the Missionaries on the Field
Speaking as someone who has lived overseas, far away from family and church, it can be lonely or isolating 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.
Impacting the same place over time reaps a better harvest on the field.
A local church’s missions strategy should be a fire hose, not a water 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, we had long-standing church partners that had visited the same villages for over a decade. Those churches had watched children in those villages grow up into adults. They had important relationships, and it allowed the work to progress in a way that trip hopping simply cannot.
Helping without Hurting
By now, I imagine a good number of pastors and church leaders are familiar with the book When Helping Hurts, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. If not, you should [check it out](http://put in Amazin affiliate link here). Corbett and Fikkert 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—that is, as long as the local church listens to the missionary team concerning best practices for their engagement.
Identifying your own for sending through international missions partnerships.
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, long term partnerships with missionary teams overseas provide an important foundation for sending your own 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.
Of course, once a church is convinced of the need to develop these partnerships, the next step is figuring ou how to find the right partners. And in the next article, I will provide five simple questions to guiding a church in finding the right missionary partners.