This week I continue to share some thoughts on how the local church can be more involved in relating to and working with those they send overseas. This blog answers the final two questions my mentor, Jerry questioned me on. For clarity and background you may wish to reread last week’s blog.
2. Is there a role for the mission agency in the sending process?
Yes. There are two areas the church may never have the expertise needed due to the complexity of working cross-culturally.
Many businesses utilize head-hunters to source the best candidates for their business. In the same way churches need assistance in determining and prioritizing the key factors their church members’ may need in their life (character, education, experiences, etc.) to be effective in reaching the unreached. However, a candidate need not “join” a mission organization to be processed. Like a head-hunter, there are now excellent ministries to which a church can outsource this step while maintaining leadership over their church member. In addition, those preparing as overseas workers (OWs) should meet the qualifications of a deacon or deaconess and I’d encourage the church to appoint the OW candidate as such (or as an elder) in recognition of her maturity in Christ and in life. If an OW does not meet these qualifications I question whether she should not be sent overseas.
Churches should consider involving mentors (experienced OWs who have discipling gifts) to come alongside the candidate and to walk with her through the process of training and equipping; working alongside the candidate and the church to determine the support team needed by the candidate once she has moved overseas. Then when overseas, the mentor should continue to be engaged with the OW for at least the initial two years to ensure she progresses through language and cultural learning, culture shock and the establishment of her ministry/job (business, NGO, other). These mentors may be hired as consultants for the candidate or by the sending church. In turn the mentor should be accountable and make reports on their OW’s work to the church.
3. What are the expectations an OW and his church should have of one another?
1. What are the expectations of an overseas worker sent out by the church?
Historically, OWs expect their sending church to pray and financially support then when abroad, and care for them whenever they return home. For all other needs they look to their mission organization. However, I believe wherever an OW is in the world, he is to be submitted to his church and an active member of that church. Each OW should always be looking to the Lord via the church and not the mission agency to meet his needs. Therefore an OW should expect;
a. Opportunities to share with the leaders and/or the congregation about the work he is doing.
b. Regular communication from the church about on-going activities/ministries at the church.
c. Regular prayer for the OW’s work.
d. Consistent financial support to ensure the OW is not in physical need.
e. Practical involvement of the church in the work of the OW via coaching, short-term teams, and other pertinent services that will further the OW’s work.
f. The church should assign one leader to be an intercessor or advocate for the OW, giving the OW a solid, consistent link with the church and its leaders.
2. What should be the expectations of a church who sends out an overseas worker?
The church should expect the OW to impact the church by building up the churches work in the outermost parts. The OW may do this in a variety of ways:
a. Casting vision in the church for the work s/he is doing. The OW should have an active role in building a world-Christian perspective into the church.
b. Networking the church into relationships which will challenge and cause the church to grow in its understanding of God’s wider world and ways the church may impact it.
c. Training church members how to both have a vision and an active role in reaching the unreached while still at home.
d. Communicate regularly (monthly or more) about all areas of his/her life and work.
e. Submit goals and regular reports on the work s/he is doing overseas to the church.
f. Be accountable to the church for his/her life and work; including finances, marriage, walk with God, etcetera.
g. Be an active member of the church, though 12,000 miles away.
h. Create opportunities for the church to actively participate in his/her work overseas.