We all love Missions. We love the Great Commission and seek to be churches who work hard at getting missionaries to particular field, keeping them there, and enjoying the eternal fruit of their ministry. For many, however, the process is a bit clunky–often impersonal and even random.
The elders here at CBC have put on paper a process that would help us in discerning just who God would have us partner with. Like everyone, we wish we could help all of those who God puts us in contact with. I get on average 4-5 inquiries from prospective missionaries and the expectations are all there. These good people are wanting an opportunity to share their ministry with us. It’s a tough job to wade through the information and seek God’s direction. So we put it on paper to help guide us. Here is where we are at this moment. We want to continue to review the process and make sure it is doing what we think it will do for. I would love your input. It’s probably not ideal, but it seeks to place out in front of us the priorities that God has given us.
Process for Approving New Missionaries
God has created us relational people and has given us two great commands: Love God and Love People. Getting to effectively know missionaries is vital to a ministry relationship. Our goal at CBC is not merely to give a monthly check to our missionaries but to partner with them in the ministry that God has called them to. This means that the people of CBC, starting with the elders, should have a personal relationship and ministry knowledge of the people with whom they are partnering.
The process of getting to know the missionary in the present state of missions is a difficult task. The deputation mandate that is necessary for a missionary to garner the necessary support makes the relational process even more problematic. However, to work through this, the Elders of CBC seek to place the emphasis on establishing a ministry relationship of transparency and accountability with each missionary we support. In order to make this happen, a process is necessary to help mold our relationships for better partnership in missions.
Step One: The Introduction
Typically a missionary makes the first contact. This is usually accomplished by written documents, emails, or phone calls. At this point, the missionary is asked to send any written documents that they have concerning who they are, where they are coming from, what they believe, where they are going, who they are going with, and what mission agency they are going out under? While this doesn’t give all the needed information, it is the place to start if there is no previous relationship with them in the past. These documents often give substantial information that is helpful to discern their doctrinal and philosophical values but does not tell you all you need to know.
This process is rarely skipped, but can be if there is an existing relationship with an elder. However, a file on this missionary family should be started in the office that will have all the necessary information on them and the church secretary should keep this file up to date.
Step Two: The Interview
After the written documents are read, a person-to-person meeting is then set up at a time when the missionary can stop by Columbus. Usually this will be a lunch, coffee, or just a stop by the office. Elders are invited to come to this part of the process if they are able. Extra eyes and ears are important in this key area of the process. This is not a step that should ordinarily be skipped. The goal of the interview is get to know the missionary in four areas of importance:
1. The Missionaries Love For God. Stemming from the first of two commands that God gives all believers it is vital to discern the missionaries’ love for God (Mark 12:30). We will ask questions regarding:
a. His/Her Salvation
b. His/Her personal walk with the Lord
c. His/Her relationship with the church
It is an undeniable fact that people who love their God talk often about their God. This certainly ought to be true of a missionary. The conversation should include much about God, the person and work of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit and less talk about their work, their life, or their ministry. God and His Kingdom work should not be merely “understood” or even a buzz-word but should be an intentional part of the conversation.
2. The Missionaries Love For People. The second commandment is just as important – we are to love our neighbor (Mark 12:37). Love for people shows itself in two areas.
a. A general love for people – Is there a general passion for people that the missionary shows? How are their people skills? What is motivating them for ministry? Who are they discipling at this time?
b. A specific love for people that they are called to – This will show itself in more than just a knowledge of statistics about culture and country but specifically with names and persons of whom they are working with or are praying for and discipling. It ought to be common for the missionary to speak of by name the people they are personally discipling.
3. The Missionaries Family. It is preferable to have at least the husband and wife there together. If the children can come that is good but often they are with grandparents or friends in the area. How does the husband treat the wife? How does the wife respect her husband. Is the husband more intent on speaking of his ministry or is he taking care of his family? Is the wife jumping into the conversations and correcting the husband at awkward moments? Are they at ease with each other? Are the children controlled, obedient, and respectful?
4. The Missionaries Mission. What is their view of their mission? Is there a plan? Is there a plan in place about deputation? Is there a plan for the first few years of ministry? What are the tools of ministry he/she will need to fulfill the plans? What is the philosophy of ministry that will carry them? This will apply whether or not the missionary is going as a pastor/church planter or he is going in some support capacity.
Step Three: The Visit
If there is good agreement from the elders then a meeting is scheduled for the missionary to attend CBC with the hopes that the missionary will get acquainted with what God is doing in the church and the church as a whole can get acquainted with the missionary. It is important that solid relationships can be built so ministry can be accomplished with a team effort. Good relationships are forged through a unity of the Spirit in mind and understanding of God’s Word. This is a vital step in the process. However, this process may be skipped if the elders sense there is already a good relationship being built and there is a good fit for ministry. The missionary then could go directly to step four.
Step Four: Deputation Meeting
The missionary is asked to set up a meeting when they can come and present their ministry to the church as a whole. This is best done on a Sunday. We would ask they would come and possibly speak to a Sunday School class, attend and enjoy the morning worship service, eat a lunch with several families (if possible), and then take the speaking part of the evening service to speak to CBC.
The missionary will asked to do two specific things:
- Preach a short challenge. This is to reveal his heart for God and for people. Ideally this is not a time of merely statistics, but more of a God-focused, Christ-centered view of missions and ministry and revealing his passion for what God is passionate about.
- Show Presentation. Here is where the missionary speaks to his burden that God has placed on him for the people and land to which he is called. The purpose is to demonstrate a God-focused, Christ centered view of people, their greatest need, and how their ministry will address the need.
A love offering will be taken for the missionary. This is a prime opportunity for the people of God to express their love for the missionary. A healthy church will be a generous church. However, it is often the case that if the missionary has not been effective, it can show up in the offering as people will react to what they have seen.
Step Five: Elder Recommendation
The elders at some point will meet to make a recommendation regarding the missionary. This will include a review of the steps above, a review of the budget, and a recommendation either for support, postpone support, or no support, or a timed support.
Step Six: Congregation Vote
If there is elder agreement and recommendation it then goes to the congregation for vote. Like everything else that is done through the budget process, there must be sufficient proof that the budget can support the candidate. The congregation then votes on the candidate. The candidate should receive 75% vote approval.
Step Seven: Mutual Accountability and Ministry
If a recommendation is given the following should be then understood:
- The missionary and the elders both become accountable to each other for ministry. The missionary should regularly communicate to the elders/church of their work.
- The elders/church should begin to schedule trips to visit with the missionary with the goal of seeing first hand the growth of the missionary and the growth of the people they are discipling.
- After a period of time if a missionary is not working sufficiently from his prescribed philosophy then the church reserves the right of altering the financial agreement with the missionary. This accountability should be looked at by the missionary not as a threat, but as a simple aid to his effectiveness at reaching the people God has given to him.
- A meeting with the Elders of CBC should be arranged when home on furlough by the missionary and possibly with the church to give a report on what has happened in the ministry.
- If after several conversations and visits there seems to be an obvious turn from the stated philosophy or if the missionary is no longer effective in his mission, the church elders will make a recommendation to the church for a change in the financial agreement. A simple majority vote will alter this agreement.
It is the goal of CBC to support a team of missionaries who seek to be biblical in every area as well as gifted to do the work God has called them to. CBC realizes other countries and cultures often dictate very different methods and the results will vary. However, CBC relies heavily upon the Holy Spirit and discernment to make good decisions regarding the stewardship of the finances and ministry God has given to them.