Chuck Lawless, online at chucklawless.com, is vice president for spiritual formation and ministry centers and professor of evangelism and missions at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) — All of us need to develop more relationships with missionaries. Here’s why:
1. God has called us to reach the nations, and we’re more likely to do so when we know missionaries.
An internet story or a journal article about missions might be interesting, but nothing carries the weight of a live person who’s giving his or her life for people who need Jesus. The issues of security for missionaries and their national partners are still real ones, but the options to meet them in person or via technology while they’re on the field or furloughing elsewhere in the States are numerous.
In fact, many servants on the field today first learned about missions from a missionary visiting their church. They met a person, heard a story, saw a picture, or even ate something “weird” that they never forgot. We must provide the same opportunities for the next generations in our churches.
Our children need missionary heroes, so we at least need to introduce them to men, women and other children who are serving God in unique and often dangerous places. If missionaries become their heroes, they’ll consider following in their footsteps because their work matters.
2. Missionaries need the support of local churches.
In fact, they want our support — but they shouldn’t have to be the initiators in every relationship. They lose precious time on the field when they have to seek out churches that ought to be seeking them first.
And we’ll pray more for them if we know them. A generic prayer for God to “bless the missionaries” is a start, but it won’t lead to lasting, heartfelt prayer. We really start praying when we can name a name, see a face and lift up a need.
Pastors, this responsibility to lead churches to support missionaries begins with us. Indeed, I have never seen a strongly missions-minded church without a pastor whose heart beats for the nations.
(See some suggestions to missionaries following this column.)
3. Missionaries remind us of what really matters.
When I spend time with young families starting their missionary service or long-termers who have served for years, I’m reminded how silly some of our church and denominational squabbles are. The world needs the saving work of Jesus.
When we recognize what really matters, pastors and church members alike must at least ask, “Does God want me to use my training and experience in an unreached, hard-to-get-to place around the world?” Missionaries we know can help us wrestle with this question.
So, what do we do? We do whatever it takes to get to know missionaries and introduce them to our congregations. I encourage you to contact the International Mission Board or call 1-800-999-3113 or the North American Mission Board or call 770-410-6000, and somebody will help you meet a missionary.
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Source: Baptist Press