A number of years ago, a small missions agency created a survey and distributed it to all of the missionaries they were serving at that time.
One of the goals was to gather an accurate picture of how each missionary viewed their relationship and level of connection with the leadership of their home church.
To be as succinct and gracious as possible, the vast majority of those that responded made clear that there was plenty of room for improvement.
Follow up was done with the few that were pleased with their relationship and level of connection with their home church, and here’s a short list of what they communicated:
1–They were genuinely thankful and continually amazed that their home church leaders recognized and confirmed their initial calling, gave them the thumbs up to go, and continued to support them financially and in prayer.
2–They kept in mind the fast pace of life in America, even for those on staff at their home church, and had no expectations of being communicated with in return.
3–They sent out updates that were one page or less in length at least every 8 weeks, to both their donors and some or all of the key leaders in their home church.
4–They also wrote brief, authentic, and more personal updates, (including prayer requests not mentioned in their group updates), to either their pastor or an elder-level church leader at least once a month.
5–They responded quickly with at least a “thank you” or some other appropriate response to EVERY note or letter they received–and especially if the writer was a member and/or leader of their home church.
6–They prayed regularly and specifically for the pastor and leaders of their home church, following Paul’s example of a missionary praying for a church that was heavily invested in him and his ministry (Phil 1:3-5).
7–On a regular basis, they humbly asked their pastor or church leader to give them recommendations about the kind of content they would like to receive.
The bottom-line is that they were convinced that what God was doing in and through them was worthy of being known by their home church leaders, and that it would be a source of encouragement for those leaders and the whole church.
And because that was their mindset, when they received the unexpected fruit of being responded to regularly and being referred to in a variety of ways within the different ministries of the church, they were genuinely amazed and thankful.
There’s no question that every local church should take very seriously the privilege and responsibility God has given them to express their love and care for their missionaries on a regular basis
At the same time though, for their emotional and spiritual health, it’s essential for missionaries to understand that their relationship with their home church may require the same level of self-sacrifice and no-expectation-initiative that they demonstrate in building and maintaining relationships with those they’re trying to reach where they now live.
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