I picture it like this – the crowd is electric, people are looking around for seats, some give up hope on finding a seat and settle to stand in the back of a dimly lit auditorium. Everyone is shushing others and then turning to whisper in a friend’s ear. It probably felt a lot like a circus, only it was in a New England church in the early 19th century and Adoniram Judson was more than a little frustrated. People wanted to hear wild stories of life among the heathen. They wanted to hear the raw recounting of vivid adventures in the jungle, of foreign dress, customs, and dangers in Burma, but they did not get it.
What do we want to hear? Have we learned so much? We are meant to love a good adventure, but how often do we miss the essentials of the story while we marvel over the details?
What is the Work of Global Missions?
Missionary work is an essential part of the church where missionaries are commissioned to travel across the world to proclaim the gospel. Mission trips vary from constructing a shelter to providing nourishment, medical care, education, or simply programs and opportunities to connect with communities. Mission work is subject to trendy fads of methodology just like other efforts of Christ’s Bride, but sometimes at an even more rapid pace. Tools, paradigms, methods, trainings, etc. flood the missionary market. Food, cultural nuances, languages, etc. fascinate the material American. Epistemology, worldview, and other anthropological insights occupy the discussions of the academically inclined. There is really a lot that seems to matter when it comes to missions.
Without diminishing the validity of some of the details above, I would like to submit a few other items that, when it comes to missionary selection, are conspicuously unglamorous and tremendously important.
Asking the Right Missions Questions
Your question may be, ‘Who do we support?’, for some it is, ‘Who do we send?’ For all of us, in a sense, it is ‘Who should go?’. All of these questions hearken back to a more fundamental question, ‘What really matters in missions?’ We know the essence of a missionary is not a passionate young risk-taker willing to speak foreign languages, try new foods and talk about sacrifice. Actually, these qualities often become a smokescreen for the proper inspection of a real missionary candidate.
When Adoniram Judson stood up before congested crowds on his missionary furloughs, time and again he disappointed the masses. Instead of telling stories, Judson would preach the simple gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sinners. This was probably not folly to all of those gathered, but it sure was disappointing for many who had expected anthropological insights and harrowing anecdotes of jungle journeys.
Likewise, the need of the hour in missions is not as glamorous or innovative as we like to imagine. We need missionaries with tested and proven Christian character and the ability to explain God’s Word. We need people who let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts and the Word of Christ dwell in them richly. We need people who display the fruits of the Spirit. We need people who, having walked through trials, have seen their faith refined rather than cast aside.
Viewing Missions as Supporters
The missionary field is a harvest field for men and women who are willing to be meek and lowly like Christ while courageous enough to hold forth the Word which produces life in the midst of crooked and perverse societies. I am talking about those who are long-suffering in trial and who are always looking for ways to teach and admonish believers in all wisdom and who sing psalms and hymns with thankful hearts in Christ’s name and for God’s glory.
Who should we support? Who should we send? What really matters? If we want to see churches planted among nations that rage, we must send those who have been identified by churches. A father can see through the dashing looks of a young suitor far better than his teenage daughter because a father knows that it takes something other than smooth speech and good looks to raise a family. So, too, a church family, and specifically her pastors, can rightfully relegate passion, adventure, and aptitude for cultural learning to a far second while it nurtures young men and women to maturity in Christ and skillful wielding of His Word.
As you consider the allocation of your resources, are you asking about Christian character, church involvement, and faith in the midst of trial? These are quite ordinary traits, but they are disproportionately heavy weighted in the selection of missionaries. As you support one of the greatest needs of the Kingdom and labor to pierce the heart of the vision of The Signatry— to write the last check to the last missionary until the last soul be saved— consider these traits in your prayer and stewarding to the Word-bearers at home and abroad. Because missions matters, so too does our accountability in understanding the cause and commission inside out as senders, prayer warriors, and children of God.