Matthias and his family survived the robbery, even though their lives had been threatened and all of their worldly goods stolen. The testimony of how God intervened and used this situation for good is astonishing! So is Anne and Myriam’s survival in a head-on car collision, or how Holger and Laarni sacrificially gave all they had to help the poor in the midst of a recent flood.
There are also amazing testimonies of those who have lead hundreds of people to Christ and those who have labored in very difficult circumstances to see individual lives transformed by the power of God. These are the testimonies of salvation, healing and deliverance that capture the imagination of those listening to their missionaries when they return to visit their sending churches.
Time, effort and sacrifice
What is often left unnoticed in the dramatic recounting of such exploits is the time, effort and sacrifice prior to those events unfolding. In order for missionaries to be successful, they had to learn at least one new language, understand a new culture, and learn how to communicate the eternal truths and values of the Gospel in that culture. In order to develop a ministry that is self-propagating, self-supporting and self-governing, they must select, train, and release into ministry those disciples who demonstrate leadership potential.
Good missionaries must also first learn to be good administrators of what has been entrusted to them. Then they need to become good leaders who can build effective teams that can win the lost, disciple the saved, empower the disciples and release them into service. They have to be church planters, community developers, counselors, and much more, depending on the type and place of their ministry.
Expertise in various disciplines of evangelism, leadership training and church development
Over they years they develop expertise in various disciplines of evangelism, leadership training and church development. Furthermore, they have to learn to do this within other cultural parameters. That means missionaries can bring a unique perspective and added insight to church issues that could assist many pastors and congregations. Missionaries have more to give than just a testimony!
Perhaps this is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote to the Philippians: “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone.” Philippians 4:15
It is true that missionaries need to receive the love, prayers, encouragement, and financial support of congregations who are committed to the Great Command of bringing the Gospel to the whole world. Those whom God calls need to be adequately supported in order for their ministries to be fruitful and growing! Surely, though, we could learn more from our missionaries if we spent time asking them questions that apply to our own church situations.
As an example, here is a short list of some questions you might like to ask:
- How do you select potential leaders?
- How do you train them as disciples?
- When and how do you release them into ministry?
- How did you build a cross-cultural team?
- What difficulties did you have to overcome in the process?
- How do you rebuild broken trust in your team?
- How do you go about starting a church plant?
- What can you teach us about working with people of different cultures?
- How do you work transitions from one leader to another?
- How do you deal with dissenting voices in your midst?
- What about issues regarding women and families in your work?
- How can we learn from your experience?
In asking questions of your missionaries, you might learn much more than you ever could by simply listening to a testimony! One final note: As the world continues to evolve into a global village, so does the migration of people groups traditionally isolated in the past to particular locations. Local churches are now discovering multi racial and multi cultural societies on their front doorstep.
Poverty and child homelessness become increasingly apparent in cities where it was virtually unknown, posing a major challenge to churches unaccustomed to working with people from backgrounds vastly different from those of people within their congregations. But these are the people with whom missionaries work all the time. Their experience can greatly benefit those churches who are willing to learn from them. In this way, more churches could share in the matter of giving and receiving!