The elders of our church are in the process of drafting a missionary policy to assist us in decisions the church makes regarding mission support. To help us, we read a book by Andy Johnson called ‘Missions’ (available to borrow from the church library). I also have begun a series of bulletin articles outlining some of the ideas that the elders are considering. Last time we saw that we should expect our missionaries to be members of a local church. Another characteristic the elders think we should expect of our missionaries is that they have a relationship with us at Drummoyne.
There are many people and organisations that we could support in advancing the Kingdom of God. But the best ones to support would be those with whom we have a personal connection.
The Bible encourages such an attitude. Jesus spent a significant amount of time with his apostles before he sent them to preach the good news in Matthew 10. And when the church in Antioch commissioned Paul and Barnabas as missionaries, both of them were already a part of the church: ‘In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off’ (Acts 13:1-3). Moreover, when they returned from their trip, they went back to the church in Antioch to report about their work and stay with the church again: ‘From Attalia they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. And they stayed there a long time with the disciples’ (Acts 14:26-28).
There are a few reasons why having personal relationships with missionaries makes sense. Firstly, it provides another layer of accountability for missionaries as they seek to be ambassadors of Christ. Not only should they be accountable to a local church body, they should give an account for their labour to their supporters.
Secondly, if we know the people we support, then we are more likely to support them, and support them well. We as humans are very good at giving to family and friends, but not to strangers. There is a place for improving on this natural tendency as our Lord commands. But the love and responsibility that we feel for those who are closest to us is God-given too. Paul says: ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers’ (Galatians 6:10).
So what would such a relationship look like? Like in Antioch, we should give first priority to those who have been members at our church. Second priority should go to those who are friends or family of church members. Third priority should go to missionaries who make a real effort to become friends with members of Drummoyne Baptist through regular visits when on home assignment, and regular contact when in the field, e.g. through newsletters.
Do you agree? Joel Radford