I truly believe that every cross cultural worker needs to be “sent” from a church. I believe one’s calling into cross cultural missions needs to be in community and not simply an individual's calling. I believe often the calling starts in a person’s heart but it needs to be shared, prayed through and confirmed within a community of believers.
I really believe this is the model we see in Acts 13.
I found this from Urbana 81 by Gordan MacDonald.
There are many churches; there are relatively few sending churches. Let me define a sending church. We can do it by way of a historical model, the church in Acts 13 in which the Holy Spirit was free to speak because he would be heard. That church called Saul and Barnabas and sent them out to the uttermost parts of the earth. That was a sending church. It was a church marked by intercession for world evangelization, marked with caring for the needs of hurting people, marked with a hunger for the teaching of the Word of God. It was a church marked with leaders who really believed the mandate of Acts 1:8. Into that sort of atmosphere the Holy Spirit can quickly move. So when he said, "Set apart these men," the church laid hands on them and "sent them off' (v. 3). It was a sending church.
Here are a few thoughts I have had over the years of church planting, pastoring and being a cross cultural worker in regards to "sending" churches.
• They confirm the giftings and calling of the missionary and family if married.
• They find ways to prepare and equip the missionary to go out.
• They pray over the missionary and send them out. In Acts 13 you see the “laying on of hands”. I think this came once they knew the Holy Spirit was sending them and they confirmed this calling and blessed them.
• The sending church maintains contact with the missionary while on the field even once the new wears off. (I found a great link for this and will try to post tomorrow)
• The sending church should hold the missionary accountable while on the field. I believe this accountability deals with the spiritual, character and strategic aspects of the missionary.
• The sending church financially supports the worker as needed. I say this for I believe there are some missionaries who do not need the financial support or as much financial support from the church for they work in jobs in these countries. They do still need these other aspects of support.
Check out Skybridge Community or Marketplace Intiatives if you want more context about "tentmaking" or "Doing Business As Missions".
• They find ways that they can be involved in the work and strategic ministry of the missionary. I think as a church sends out a missionary that they are also committing to supporting the ministry in which they are going to serve. One way that I think this can work is when churches build their mission's strategy around the people whom God has called to missionary service. This may not always be a possibility but I think it can work. This facilitates long term involvement with the missionary team that is sent out and meaningful mission's involvement for the church.
For example if a church has a couple / individual coming overseas to serve as church planters what are some other ways their church can engage in the city? Obviosuly prayer should be a given.
- Could international business people from the church look to come to that city to take a job with thier company?
- Could a football or basketball player from the church try out for a professional team in Europe and play a sport?
- Could the church rent an apartment in the city and send short term workers for three months at a time?
- What about the international business people from the church who may make trips to that city? How can they be strategically used to think missionally while doing business abroad?
- What about college students from their church looking to study abroad? Could they study in that city?
The list can go on and on. You are more creative than I.
Just sending one person or family could be the beginning.
A couple of opportunities for conversation:
If the missionaries are being sent through a mission agency strategy conversations need to take place regarding who makes strategic decisions once on the field.
As time goes on for the people that were sent on the field conversations need to continually be revisited in case there is a change of ministry in the life of the missionary or if the church chooses to go another strategic direction in their missions. What happens if the church and the missionary have differing strategies? What gives?
LifePointe Church in Smyrna (near Nashville, Tennessee) and The Upstream Collective will be putting together a "Sending Church" conference early in 2010. I will keep you updated on the dates and info on that as we plan.