The idea of churches sending missionaries is sometimes overlooked or behind the scenes of the day to day in missionary life. But, in the Early Church, it was the foundation of the missionary’s journey.
Looking at Acts 13, the first account of sending missionaries in the Bible, the Holy Spirit directed the church and the church obeyed.
“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)
The church at Antioch gave us a clear picture of how missionaries should be not only sent, but how they should be received when they return from the work God sent them to accomplish. Later in Acts, Paul and Barnabas return from their journey and they go to the church.
“And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they remained no little time with the disciples.” (Acts 14:26-28)
There are specific things the church did to send and to receive missionaries and the same should happen today. So many missionaries long for and need the support like Paul and Barnabas received on their first missionary journey.
Here are some tips to help support and encourage your local churches’ missionaries.
1. Confirm their calling
The life of a missionary can be a lonely one, one with hardship and suffering. Knowing that the church is choosing to help be on the frontlines is a good reminder for us that we’re not fulfilling our calling alone. Global missions is fulfilled through the local church, as we are all individually called to obey the Great Commission. And being sent is critical in mirroring God’s clear example of missions in the Bible. (Acts 13:2-3)
2. Cast vision together
Walking with missionaries to help them cast vision is essential the the partnership of sending church and missionary. Giving them practical help in fulfilling the vision or help in realizing what it will take to accomplish the vision are ways to specifically support them.
3. Form and advocate team
Having a small group of people to accomplish to specific needs: care and representation. Missionaries need help meeting specific needs such as counsel, spiritual training, planning, etc. They also need people who can represent and speak or share on their behalf when they’re on the field.
4. Commission them
Having a special service or celebration for the missionaries to be sent out is both encouraging and affirming. Loving on and praying for missionaries helps them start the journey or return to the life they’ve established on the field. Missionaries are an extension of the church helping fulfilling the calling together.