Churches should consider their best and brightest to the nations: faithful men who have proven themselves to be elders, and their families. When these men and their families arrive on the mission field, they may choose to serve in the local church or serve as an advisor for existing gospel ministry. In this article, I want to walk through how elders can provide support to work overseas outside of their local church.
Serve as a Resource for New Churches
In settings where there are few or no churches, young believers have few or no examples to look to. If you’ve grown up in a country with a visible, established Christian presence, you absorbed all kinds of assumptions about what churches are supposed to look like, even before you’ve even set foot in a church meeting. Not all these assumptions are helpful or accurate, but at least you have something to start with. There’s a framework to build off or correct. There’s something you can get your mind around, even if you decide to tear it all down.
Meanwhile, what framework do young churches in frontier settings have? Should they imitate the leadership of the mosque? Should their worship place look like a Buddhist temple? Scripture gives us clear instructions for how a church should be ordered and what Christian worship should consist of – but what can it look like?
Learning From Those Older and Wiser Than You
When I was newly-married, I found it much easier to learn how to be a husband from older, godly husbands than I did learning it from my wife – who knew best how I was at being a husband. In the insecurity of pride and immaturity, it was easier to learn from someone with a bit more distance and a bit more expertise – even as I knew my marriage wouldn’t look exactly like theirs. Likewise, men who have served as elders are uniquely situated to speak with grace and authority into the formation of young churches.
Men who have served as elders are uniquely situated to speak with grace and authority into the formation of young churches.
This is what many missionaries in my own church are currently doing. They’re a part of our English-speaking church – whether as a step along the way while they learn language, or as a long-term means of strengthening their own family – and are also able to build relationships with local Christians and church leaders. As a pastor ministering in English, but who longs to see local, indigenous churches flourish, I’m so thankful for men willing to serve in this way, and pray for more.
Serve as a Counselor and Advisor to Fellow Missionaries
Likewise, fellow missionaries need help. Many missionaries read John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad! or David Platt’s Radical in college and decided to serve the Lord overseas. Praise the Lord for the unique ways that God calls people to the nations! I’m so grateful for the laborers with this story.
But missionaries with this background often lack life experience. They love the Lord, and they have lots of energy and time and are devoted to spending decades in service to God’s glory and Christ’s renown. But now, having never worked a full-time job, three years in, they’re asked to supervise four other people.
If they’ve been sent with a large enough organization, they’re learning to navigate HR and administrative paperwork – but from across an ocean! They’ve come as a young couple, and now they’re raising children – in a context where there are no older Christian parents to observe. They’re dealing with things that seemed so distant when they moved overseas: chronic illness, aging parents, conflict in their home church and on the field, slander, school fees, 401(k)s, infertility, a lack of converts, singleness, marital conflict, and discouragement.
Helping Young People Display Conviction and Charity
Young missionaries, particularly young men, often need help learning how to hold to strong biblical convictions and show gentleness and charity towards others. Will you help them?
A man who has served as an elder and navigated some of the complexities of adult life has perspective that the young lack through no fault of their own. It just takes time to learn some of this. In this way, deploying an elder of your church to the field can be a strategic means of multiplying and extending the ministries of the other missionaries.
The missionary task that our Lord has given us is urgent, but it’s also difficult – and history tells us, it may take a while.
The missionary task that our Lord has given us is urgent, but it’s also difficult – and history tells us, it may take a while. Why not give some of the best gifts the Lord has given your church to advance the cause?