The Test of An Effective Missionary Sending Agency – part 30

I am seeing a trend that disturbs me. Someone inside a fairly large church gets the vision for unreached people groups, and decides to start a missionary sending agency. He may not even know that it is called an agency. He (or she) just knows that they wants to send missionaries. He puts together a team and they begin to look for candidates inside their own church or movement. They are not the missionaries. They themselves have no intention of being field missionaries. They won’t be living on the mission field, learning another language. They will stay behind the lines, trying to remotely fulfill the command of Christ. They are practically living out their fantasy of being a missionary through others. They put their candidates through a few years of training and then start to do short-term trips to the mission field.

Once on the mission field, they get in contact with every missionary and ministry they can find and spend a few days picking their brains about missions and, presto, overnight they are now missionary sending experts. Unfortunately, these missionaries by proxy and even their candidate’s do not listen very carefully to the missionaries they interview on the field. Most do not meet with them to listen. The meet to pick and choose what they think sounds correct to them. They take bits and pieces of what they like and make up their own missionary mechanism. This would not be so bad except that, in most cases, they reject the importance of learning the local language, Bible-translation, and, slow, time-consuming discipleship. They reject one or more of those three. Otherwise, all power to them. Go for it. It will be better than not doing anything.

This is the advice I give to all self-made mission agencies. Imagine for a minute that you are finally in your remote unreached people group. You have found a miracle door to be accepted into the community, you have all the training you need, and you start to learn the language after a few years and the good-intentioned mission agency wants you to come home. They are anxious to see you and to hear about all your adventures. A worse case scenario would be that the director of the agency or church members want to come and visit you. These are not good ideas. They need to know that you should be staying with your people and that any visit could jeopardize your door God opened for you. Also you need to be staying in your group for all the reasons I discuss in the previous articles. You should not be in constant contact with them even if you by chance have internet.

You will not be going anywhere for the next twenty-five years. After learning the language and culture you will have to translate a good portion of the Gospels in order to start making disciples. After that, you will have to take at least three years to make two solid disciples so that exponential growth can happen over the next ten years. Start adding up the years and you will find this is a life long task.

Creating discipleship movements among remote unreached people groups is slow and time-consuming. It will take many years

I call the new trend, “pretending to be missionary sending agencies.” I sounds a little harsh but if you think about it, all agencies started out inventing their own protocol. These new agencies might even possibly work to some degree, if the leadership understood that the missionaries they send are going to need at least one year of the linguistic and language learning training I have mentioned many times. Then take twenty or more years to help that people group mature into adult Christians who are going and sending to other unreached peoples.

The problem with the pretend mission agency is they have picked up all their missiology on the fly and real, practical long-term mission work does not appeal to many of them. The heads of these agencies have little or no experience working in remote unreached people that are resistant to the Gospel. None of the founders or leadership will ever be field missionaries, so they cannot possibly learn how to send missionaries correctly. My three red flags of a group pretending to be a missionary sending agency are that they are not concerned about language learning, Bible translation, and slow, time-consuming discipleship. What would happen if you apply those three tests to agencies that have been around for years? Below is a test to see if your missionary sending agency is going to produce solid mature adult Christians that make disciples.

Test of your missionary sending agency:

  1. Does your agency stress slow, time-consuming discipleship?
  2. Does your agency require its candidates to have language-learning training?
  3. Does your agency require all its candidates to translate scriptures?
  4. Does your agency focus on totally unreached people groups? No missionaries, no Christians, no scripture.

The third point will tell you if the missionaries are going into remote unreached people groups, or if they are going where there is a small church that has the Bible translated. If your agency or sending platform is missing one of these four parts, you will cause many problems on the mission field. You will damage the mission field for future long-term missionaries coming in. You will also damage the reputation of your agency when your people return home after only a few years, claiming all kinds of reasons why they did not reach their people group.

The majority of these groups pretending to be sending agencies are usually located on the edge of the remote unreached people group need. They are usually on the outer edge of area three of what I call “the missionaries’ reach.” I will discuss this in the next article.

If you do start your own mission sending agency, movement or whatever you want to call it, try to follow the guidelines I put forth in this blog. My wife and I started our own training center (slash) non traditional mission agency several years ago. I thought long and hard about how to do it. I gathered protocols from several sending agencies in our country and the Holy Spirit told me continually, “Go to the New Testament Gospels”!

I finally listened and started to look at Jesus’ model. I really wanted to have a sending platform that had no name, logo or official organization. Through the process we ended up with all three. We have had about 400 people come through our program and we emphasize deep study of the Gospels which you find on this blog.

We have helped many candidates learn what they need and they went to the field. We also give a kind of covering for some who are on the field. I will explain what I do. This is what I do. Take it for what it is and see if this is something you need to pray about and search out the wisdom and heart of God for yourselves.

We do not visit our missionaries on the field

Some of our missionaries are only seven or eight hours from our training center. Some are farther away. I have never gone into their villages to visit them. I do not want to change or upset the spiritual dynamics that are being established. Even if those missionaries were not doing their jobs, they would get everything in order before my visit to them. They learned in training that if they have major problems they will have to get their help from God, because of the delicate nature of their door God has opened for them.

We tell them to not come out of their people group

Although some of them have come out, and have gone to visit their local congregations and families, they have found that it was not the best idea. They encountered that the people back home were not that interested in their mission and that the supposed increase in finances were not worth losing their spiritual advance on their field.

We teach them to work with their hand to put food in their mouths

God’s missionaries (not ours) do what is needed to raise finances if their local congregations and families do not help. However, in some emergencies they have experienced that their local congregations and families do not respond and this is where my wife and I and our team have come in to help.

They are always welcome to our training center in case they need it

Those who are close to us have come back for a day or two in case of some real needs. This won’t apply when your missionaries are halfway around the world. But, there have been occasions where they needed an operation, had a baby or needed marital counseling. Of course if they are only seven or ten hours away, they can come for a few days maybe a week to get what they need. In very remote groups this will not be possible so we prepare our missionaries to stay and trust God to provide as he has promised.

We do not raise finances for the missionaries

We teach our candidates to raise their own finances but to get ready within about two years to be making it on their own. We also do not send out prayer support letters and reports to their local congregations and families. they do that on their own if they can and want to.

We do not ask them for reports

They and God know what they are doing. They are accountable to him. I don’t need to know how many people have gotten saved or other things. I have been a field missionary in remote situations and know that every situation is different. Some situations take longer than others. A report from them is not necessary! If they want to tell me the good news, they can. I know that they are doing what God compelled them to do and if not, they will answer to God. I am not responsible for their advances. I don’t need to hear about it. If I do, great.

We do give more training if they need it

Some missionaries and candidates have come back for more training, and we are always happy to give it if they can get to us. If they cannot, they will learn through experience. Many things we do in live we learn a little and then the rest is by experience. Their people group and situation is unique and they need to be open to hear directly from the Holy Spirit as to how to do what is needed. Sometimes experiences and suggestions from others will make things worse.

The director of my mission rarely gave me advice or suggestions when I asked for them. He told me, “you are the missionary now, God will show you what to do.” He was a highly educated and experienced field missionary that started over 60 congregations in an unreached people group. He new better to give advice into a situation that he was not living in.

So you might be asking “Are we a mission agency”? In the traditional sense no. We are just Christian brothers and sisters here to do what we can to help the missionaries get the training they need and to provide a little help or push when we can.

A few months ago one of God’s (ours) missionaries came to me very discouraged because he and his wife were not seeing much fruit after about five years in their people group. They had five families that they were discipling at the time. I reminded him of the teaching on evangelism and discipleship that they got when they were in training. He had forgotten some things and was encouraged and went back with his wife and two little girls after a few days with us.

Sometimes they need some encouragement and if we are able to give it we are absolutely here for that. If they ever go to Pakistan, they will have to get that encouragement from the Lord. (1 Samuel 30:6).

I always tell our missionary candidates that if they can get support, take it. If they can get encouragement from their people, get it. If they can’t they need to remember what they were taught and if they forget that, they need to get into their Bibles and look for the wisdom God gives there.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

NIV 2 Peter 1:3