TRINITY SCHOOL FOR MINISTRY
REVIEW OF SERVING AS SENDERS TODAY BY NEAL PIROLO
SUBMITTED TO DR. JOHN MACDONALD IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF ME 500: INTRODUCTION TO WORLD MISSION
BY SAMSON COVATCH
APRIL 27, 2018
A missionary is like a quarterback in American football. The position is seen as the central focus for the direction of the team for any given play. The quarterback is never alone but surrounded the entire time with every player as an essential part of the group. Every member working together for the same goal, and if a job is not done, the play will not advance, sometimes with the disastrous results of losing ground that had been gained. The founding director of Emmaus Road International, Neal Pirolo, in his book Serving As Senders Today, demonstrates to the reader the importance of having the right team around any mission work by identifying six critical areas of support and nine stages of the physical/emotional/psychological/spiritual life timeline of a missionary.
The widespread understanding of a missionary is similar to that of anybody in church leadership. You donate money to them, sit back, and wait for the results to come in. Pirolo wakes up the nominal Christian missionary seated in the pew by taking you into the struggles and needs that go far beyond a simple drop in the offering plate. The diversity of what successful missionary work looks like biblically needs to be modeled in every church. “Missions should not just focus on those who go. Those who serve as senders are equally significant.” The Body of Christ does not stand with feet that are inactive. The feet are moving with the aid of the rest of the body that should cause the sending missionaries to take notice of what is around and in front of them to serve those who are being sent.
The moral support of God is to be coveted over man, but this is not to exclude the necessity of the support of the church, only reorient the reason for missions. We can see how worries about public opinion can hurt or even discourage missionaries due to perceived financial strain, competition in ministry assets, contradictory council, or distorted theological views. The tension felt between the missionary, and anyone of any other ministry is because of the deep conviction God has put on the hearts of believers to serve Him in the area they have been called. This idea causes a very warped understanding when we think other ministries should take a backseat to ours. Pirolo says, “Cross-cultural outreach is not the only God-ordained ministry,” but neither is any other ministry. What we should gain from this is a sense of togetherness that can assist one another with the gifts we possess from God.
Moral support is foundational for the mental and emotional health of all who are involved in a mission, and this needs to be overseen by someone who is in charge of the logistics of the mission. Logistic support is best described as an executive who manages the overall vision and group interaction for the missionary. This entails detail-oriented people who will stay in contact with the missionary and the team members to make sure needs are met. This includes the spiritual growth of the missionary before they go, while they are on the field, and when they return. The same should be stressed for the team as a whole. The stress of business affairs at home should not be on the shoulders of the one who has been sent. Logistics support members should handle money processing from donors to the missionary in the field as well as taxes, healthcare, and personal details such as where to be buried in the event of death.
While the logistics member is in charge of the overall needs they are not to be bogged down with the details of each need. The financial support aspect should be delegated to someone who has experience and has felt called to serve in this area. Pirolo identifies three components for financial stewardship in regards to missions. The first is to be wise about giving to make sure money given will be money received. The next is a lifestyle that calls the sender to manage their affairs financially to aid in experiencing a “new sense of belonging and vision of their part in rescuing the perishing.” Finally, managing wealth in the appropriate context both on and off the mission field is essential. On the field having the flexibility to work among the nationals or for them, depending on the type of work to be done. The senders must have the same idea for managing resources directly or indirectly related to the present mission. Plans must be made to increase funding if needed for emergencies at home or abroad.
While the tangible assets of finances can be measured in ways evident to us, prayer support cannot be. This vital part of the mission team needs to be assigned to those who are committed to fasting and prayer for those who are sent. “In no greater arena of human activity is this mysterious union of our prayer and God’s work seen than in the mission of the Church.” Scripture tells us, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (Eph 6:12 NET).
Communication support is essential for the entire team. Those sending need to know how things are going and what needs to be done as much as those who have been sent know they are not forgotten. When communication, prayer, and finances are strong, the ministry is also strong. Communication comes in many forms in today’s world. Mail, telephone, and computers are the most common ways of communication across distances. The challenge can become evident if your missionary is in a hostile country or if they are in a place that has data restrictions in regards to internet connectivity. The head of your communication support is the person you should go through to reach the person sent. They must also work with the logistics member to ensure the content of the information sent is appropriate.
The most critical and often overlooked team member is the reentry support team. Pirolo lists nine specific reentry challenges the entire team, including the church pastoral staff, needs to be involved. These nine areas can be summed up with a holistic approach to the way you would receive any foreign missionary. By being sensitive to culture shock, socially awkward scenarios, or linguistic snafus that may cause stress for your missionary, you can watch for potentially harmful patterns. Having a team ready for these families can be a life and death ministry for those returning and for their children who may not be able to articulate what they are feeling. Approaching this part of the mission as a long-term commitment is to understand that direct care started before they left and will last long after they return. The Church should not overlook this crucial time. “You want to provide an environment for your missionary friend to debrief on both levels: What God has done with them and how He has ‘opened the door of faith…’ in whatever ministry he was engaged.”
As someone who has never felt the desire to do cross-cultural mission work any further than giving to a general fund or saying a corporate prayer for missions, Pirolo’s work has pulled the curtain back on missions to a place where I can see the vital role that the Church has as senders. I now have a sense of anticipation and excitement to work with missionaries on a team to reach the lost for Christ. Freedom to use the gifts that God has blessed me with in a way I never thought was possible. I used to think that missions work was simply going somewhere else all on my own and returning. This concept was so unappealing that I never considered serving as a sender. This is one of the few times in my life that I am glad to have been wrong.