When local churches embrace their role as the primary vehicle through which God wants to channel His love and truth to all people, God may move their leaders to take the less and less radical step of sending some of their own members direct to the mission field.
In other words, more and more local churches are acting on the conviction that God has imparted a specific vision to them to reach the world, and they are confident He wants them to do that by sending their own people directly to the field rather than using the more traditional missions agency approach.
The leaders of the churches that have come to that conclusion also believe that the Lord has stocked their church with the majority of the multi-faceted resources that are necessary to send and care for their members in a manner worthy of God.
After praying about sending direct and before responding in a positive way to one of their members that is sensing God’s calling to be a missionary, a number of fundamental and foundational issues need to be considered by the leadership of the church.
1–GLEAN FROM OTHERS
They should seek out the wisdom that comes from other churches that have already taken the step of sending direct, along with the knowledge and resources that some missions agencies and other current practitioners provide, at every step on the journey.
Similar to the entry posture a missionary should take as a listener and a learner in order to be successful, the local church that desires to move forward with sending direct should do so with a willingness to listen and learn from individuals, churches, and agencies that have already gone down this trail.
2–POLICY AND PATHWAY
To Send Well, a concise written policy should be created that includes a pathway to the mission field for the pre-field missionary to follow.
The church leadership should be as diligent in creating the policy and overseeing the person on the pathway the policy prescribes, as they require the pre-field missionary to be in following the pathway they created.
A monthly financial investment from the church’s budget should be committed to the pre-field missionary that has successfully completed the pathway and whose calling is clearly confirmed.
Regardless of the numerical size or the budget of the church, every local church that sends direct to the field has the capacity to invest at least a small portion of the funds God places in to their stewardship each week for His global purposes being carried out by one of their members–who has probably been a generous financial giver to the church over the years.
An informed decision needs to be made about whether the church itself, or an external entity will be tasked with receiving and receipting the donations given on behalf of the missionary, and making certain that all funds distributed on behalf of the missionary will be reported in accordance with I.R.S. guidelines.
If the leadership of the church decides to handle this role, they should seek counsel about IRS guidelines that apply to missionaries and they must be willing to modify a few processes within their existing administrative structure.
5–KEEPING THE CHURCH INFORMED
It’s essential to ensure that all ministries within the church are kept informed about the pre-field missionary’s progress on the path to the field, while they are serving on the field, and when they return to the church either on break or after completing their service on the field.
As important as it is for the missionary to communicate with their home church, it’s just as important for the missionary’s home church to develop a system to pass on their missionary’s ongoing updates to all of the ministries within the church.
A small team of mature church members should be selected, given at least an introductory level of training for providing pastoral-type missionary care, and then overseen as they provide the ongoing spiritual and emotional nurture that the missionary will need for successful life and ministry.
In most cases, these mature believers are the folks who are already serving in leadership roles and are viewed by fellow believers as being relational, having good listening skills, and capable of encouraging others in a wise and biblically-based manner.
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