A beautiful thing is about to happen within our Second Baptist Church family. Just as you sent us out five years ago to serve as foreign missionaries to Mozambique, you are sending out another missionary family to serve state-side in Wyoming. Once again we are a sending church which comes with huge responsibilities for church members and leadership.
A Sending Church is a local community of Christ-followers who have made a covenant together to be prayerful, deliberate, and proactive in developing, commissioning, and sending their own members both locally and globally, often in partnership with other churches or agencies, and continuing to encourage, support, and advocate for them while making disciples cross-culturally. –The Upstream Collective
Our basic Sending Church responsibilities whether it is to a foreign field or state-side:
As church members make their desire known to contribute to the work of the gospel in another region whether locally or internationally, prayer should be a church family’s first response. As that desire comes to fruition, as it has with the couple we are sending out, we continue to lift them up in prayer before, during and even after they may return home. This also involves the missionaries being sent out who have the responsibility of keeping their sending church family informed of their personal and ministry prayer needs.
As a sending church the bulk of financial support should come from us. While missionaries may have other “supporting” churches, their role is not the same as the sending church. We as individual families of a sending church must be willing to give above what we already give for the sake of the gospel being shared and disciples being made. The missionary family should have financial accountability within their leadership and/or church family. Doug and I kept a spreadsheet of our expenses every month and sent it to our pastor and two other church members. We also made it known that it was available anytime for any of our supporters to see. A missionary family should adequately have their needs met but if they can easily be comfortable on $2500 a month but receive $4000 I personally believe that to be a lack of good stewardship by the sending church. What could be done with the extra funds for the missionary’s work? Though I doubt many missionaries receive way above their needs being adequately met. Making decisions like this requires the missionary family to be open in regard to their support and expenses.
Speaking from experience, the best way to encourage a missionary as a sending church is to read their newsletter or blog post, and if one is available, follow their Facebook page. These are where, as a sending church, we can see how to pray or to give. Then let them know you have prayed for them. Encourage them with an email or where it is available text or Whatts App a scripture the Lord may have put upon your heart for them. Send a hand-written card. Remember birthdays and other special occasions with gift cards either sent or emailed. With today’s technology there is no reason for a sending church to be an uninformed church that lacks in encouraging their sent ones.
A sending church with no desire to send a short-term mission team or a vision team to encourage their missionaries and see the work God is doing through their ministry should stick to being a “supporting” church. Yes, it is easier to travel across the states than to other parts of the world, but the physical presence of church members and leaders are a vital part of sustaining the missionary family in their work. In the above definition of a sending church the word “advocate” is used. A church or pastoral leader cannot rightly advocate for a missionary’s work if they have not seen it for themselves. If a short-term mission team would not be beneficial to the missionary’s work then a vision trip could be made. Vision trips are where supporters go to see the work of the missionary and get to know better the area they have committed to pray for and otherwise support long-term. People who visit the missionary’s field with this mindset can then spread their passion for the missionary’s work with local churches and serve as long-term advocates for missionaries. Missionary visits by church teams/pastoral leaders provide not only great encouragement but also accountability to the sending church and for the missionary family.
These words from Bethlehem Baptist written by John Piper and Tom Stellar conclude the ministry of a sending church:
There is a big difference between a church that “has” missionaries (on the back of their bulletin or as a line item in their budget) and a church that “sends” missionaries. To send in a manner worthy of God is to so recognize the supreme importance of proclaiming the name of God in word and deed among the nations that we will do whatever we can to support those who go out for the sake of the name—spiritually, practically, emotionally, financially.
May Second Baptist be this kind of sending church!