If I'm honest, it's taken me a while to come to grips with that. I've yet to sort through all of the reasons why I've felt uncomfortable with the title, but one reason I'm sure I've been uncomfortable with it is because, well--as Christians aren't we all missionaries? Aren't we all to live missional lives? Aren't we all to be living lives on purpose with the hope and intention of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm no biblical expert or scholar, but here is my answer: Yes. And to the ends of the earth.
Missionary - one who is sent. Christians are ambassadors of reconciliation. We're all called to be the heralds of The Good News. Jesus instructed us this way:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20 ESV
What you also see in scripture is the commissioning of those being sent off:
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of 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.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 13:1-3 ESV
We stay, we go. We all play a part. It's been referenced as "Go. Send. Or disobey". Those who are commissioned, set apart as those who go, are missionaries. We go; we are also sent. We are one body with many parts, working together to reach the ends of the earth to tell the greatest news we've ever heard ourselves that many have yet to hear.
So, here it goes: The Farmer family are missionaries. Being sent by the church to reach the unreached. That is our calling. We've invited people to send us, and they have answered the call.
As we sit on the edge of our initial support raising journey I wanted to share some thoughts and observations that I've had along the way.
- Don't go unless you're sent. This can be hard. There are lot of things that may seem like hurdles that churches put before potential missionaries. Our friends at Bethlehem Baptist Church have a program that takes no less than two years of preparation to go through. Our own process of preparation has been a year and a half. It has been a blessing to both establish and pull up roots here in Denton--both at the same time. It has been a joy to prepare for our gospel goodbyes while also submitting to the leadership of our church which will be partnering with us in prayer, support, and spiritual covering as we go.
- You're in need, and that's a great thing. We don't need to pretend we're strong enough to make it on our own. This is a wrong view of who we are in Christ, and even the example Christ set for us. We should humbly ask and present our needs, and rejoice in the Lord when he meets our needs. Ask! Tell people the need. Let them know specifically how they can be involved.
- You are dependent on God for everything. The mercies of the Lord are new every morning. Raising support is a sweet, sweet; tangible way to experience the mercies of the Lord that are new and fresh for all the redeemed. As more people are stirred by the Lord to join in the gospel work you have been called to, God's love, mercy, and provision are shown all the more. You have a great opportunity to walk in deep dependency and reflect the blessing of provision back to God. People are going to say yes. People are going to say no. That's fine, and it's God who will provide. My family has not known a greater dependency on the Lord then the last year, and we're extremely grateful for it.
- Make a plan. If you simply look at the end goal it's easy to feel like it is a mountain that will be impossible to climb. Break it up. If you're climbing a mountain, what's the first checkpoint? Aim for that. When you're there it may be early or it may be late, but what's the next checkpoint? How do you get there? Make a plan and go for it. Take steps and ask God to guide them.
- Wait. This one is one of the hardest for me. My brain works in such a way that I make a plan, and I stick to it, and I pursue it. Here's the reality for a lot of your supporters that you have to remember: you're not the only thing on their mind. Say it to yourself. They have children, they have families, they have issues at work, they have a million other things demanding their attention. Wait and pray. Follow up--but give it time. Pray for them. By name. Pray for their families, their lives, their relationship in the Lord to grow and be deeper and deeper in love with Him.
- Do what you say you'll do. This can be hard...especially since you're meeting with so many people who are in so many different phases. Your initial meetings, your follow up, your referrals, often time 20+ people at once. Be organized. Slow down if you need to. Don't over exert yourself at the cost of establishing and building a meaningful ministry relationship. Are you going to send regular newsletters? Then do it.
- Keep people informed. Start your support-raising journey with others by your side. You're about to go through a lot of ups and downs so community will be important. Keep your growing support team involved in your life too. You don't need to tell them everything about everything, but ask for their prayers regularly and let them know how God is moving in your ministry.
- Know your mission field. What will you be doing? What's your role? How has God called you to it? What is your supporter's role in it? What does the gospel say to the situation you're moving in to? How will your family be involved? What's the history of the region? What are other missionaries doing? Are there other missionaries? Give your supporters confidence by being knowledgeable of what you're getting in to. This helps you and them.
- Be open-handed. The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9). This verse is one reason I know why we're to plan. It's also a reason I know we're to be open-handed about our planning. Make a plan, stick to it, ask for help in it, and know that God will move you in His perfect timing.
- Pray. Put this before, after, and in between all of these other points. Our God is a good Father who gives His children good gifts. Prayer is in so many ways the most powerful weapon a missionary has in the journey ahead of them. Don't forsake it, no matter how awesome it's going or how awesome your plan is.
I'm not the expert. This is just what I've learned in our journey. I hope it's something that others who are in the midst of their initial support raising or who are considering missions can read and be encouraged by. Ultimately this is what I know to be true: If God calls you, he will equip you. He will be known. He will be glorified.