URS missions (2): mobilization of church support for missionaries 宣道事工(第二部):推动教会对宣道士的支持(Edison 翻译)

So, now we have the missionaries, how do we help them?…



One good way to help missionaries is to “make a big fuss about missions,” such as by organizing short-term mission visits to missionaries. These are time-consuming and big efforts, likely more helpful to our own church, and especially our young people to be inspired for future missions, than to be directly helpful to missionaries. But it strengthens the awareness of missions efforts, and might specifically improve the linkage of specific missionaries to the sending church. So please also read URS: Starting Young in Missions, which reflects my passionate love of this effort.

为宣道士的事工“发声造势”就是一个很好的方法,例如我们投入时间和精力去筹划短宣团去实地接触宣道士们的事工。虽然我们看到短宣通常对教会,特别是我们憧憬事工的年轻弟兄姐妹们,的直接帮助多过对宣道士的帮助,这些短宣还是能增强教会对宣道事工的认识也能加强宣道士和母会的联系。我在“与曽叔叔闲聊:传道使命在教会的重心 – 從小开始”(URS: Starting Young in Missions)另外讲述我对年轻人宣道事工的热情。


Short-term missions could be the start of many long-term relationships, especially for our young people. That is something that the spirit of God does, working mysteriously in lives of believers, and especially to call some into the field. Mark, one of the youths who answered the call into full time ministry, and who has become himself an enthusiastic champion of missions, was first touched in this way by the Lord, in his initial short-term mission encounter with “real-live” missionaries in the field.



One negative of short-term missions, however, that we need to be aware of, is that we often see only more exciting things during a short-term visit, and might come away with a superficial understanding. We usually don’t see long-term struggles, the daily grind, disappointments, floods and fires, and arguments and tensions inevitably among field workers. So, we might still have only a simplistic, glorified image of missions. Just take this as a first of many steps.


Photo 1: Getting to know about trials. Fires and natural disasters can easily happen on the mission field. However, the surprising thing is there is often little lasting memory of these events, since they are so far away that they are like a distant story or movie. Earthquake and storm damage in Chiangrai Thailand mission field, shown.

Another way to help support missionaries is to encourage regular reports from missionaries in the field, so that the church can be informed to pray for them. This sounds simple, but, in reality, can be often stressful for the average very busy missionary. He has to write a report that reaches probably hundreds of supporters from different backgrounds, and more than 10 or 15 different churches. Reports are usually best understood in the native languages of the specific church member, for example, traditional or simplified Chinese, or English. So, the wording of the report can be challenging, as the missionary may feel he has to write a “good” report. Maybe he has to translate it, or get it translated, which multiplies his efforts. And some missionaries are better writers than others: some definitely have “writer’s cramp” when it comes time for writing, and could “freeze” when the pressure is on to produce timely reports.

另一个方法就是鼓励宣道士们定期对教会分享宣道报告,这样教会可以知道他们的事工近况并为他们祷告。这件事说起来简单,但是对一般忙碌不暇的宣道士们来说可能是很大的压力。他必须十到十五个教会里数百位不同背景的支持者写这份报告。为了使支持者更加了解他的事工,他得用繁体中文,简体中文,英语等支持者母语来写。宣道士们都想写一份“好”的报告,因此他们在报告里的用词用句又得下很大的功夫。不是每个宣道士都有好文笔。很多宣道士到了写作的时候觉得力不从心,而那需要准时写出报告的压力更让他们执笔难书,英文叫这个做writer’s freeze就是连第一句话都写不出来那种感觉.


So, mission committees need to be sensitive about not “harassing” the usually already overwhelmed missionary. I have heard some missionaries spend 4 to 7 stressful days just preparing a report, which takes away from normal ministry. My advice is to be sensible, by asking missionaries directly what a good frequency might be, and to expect a brief simple report, and not necessarily a detailed one.


As supporters, we really don’t need to know every single detail anyway. Plus, if the missionary begins to really tell us about pains and trials, unfortunately, many supporters do not really want to read it, and some might even be “turned off,” interpreting that as “just complaining.” For the missionary, trying to figure out who would like details, versus who would like just a rough idea, is actually impossible. Plus, in this very busy world, nobody seems to have time for anything, so writing a report that people actually read is another challenge! Finally, the art of composing a short good report of course is actually often more difficult than a long one!



For the last few years, we urged missionaries to send video clips of their activities, and give us 3 or 4 prayer items as highlights. Some missionaries (particularly young ones) seemed to like this, while others felt it was too stressful, and I am sure it was an additional stress to all. Plus, this required someone in the supporting church editing the video clips, and in our situation, also providing bilingual subtitles.



So, videos were not easy, even though very interesting and informative. I suppose that having some videos is better than nothing, but trying to schedule video clips inside a busy Sunday service schedule is easier said than done. The ministers have to agree, and there is quite a bit of coordination among mission video coordinator, ministers, and AV group.



Some missionaries like to have a coordinator help with email distributions in the home country or church. At other times, printed updates distributed on Sunday for the congregation are helpful, but need to be organized, whether for small groups or entire congregation. The most efficient distribution today might be to give emails, or wechat or whatsapp groups of all interested people to the missionary, who will have the name lists to directly send out. I think this is the simplest, without need for go-betweens, who might change, or get sick or move. Of course, managing the large data base, and changes in addresses, is time consuming also, whether by the missionary or his representative.



In practice, people probably tend to respond more to mailing directly from the missionary, which implies a more intimate relationship. But a coordinator might still be needed for sensitive areas, to screen out inappropriate words from church supporters in their correspondence. At the minimum, the missionary could give the coordinator his entire mailing list, just in case he falls ill, or electronic systems fail, or some other crisis happens.



One of the best ideas from years of experience is the importance of small groups willing to pray for each missionary. If we divide up the entire congregation into many of these, so that nearly everyone is involved in missions, even in small ways, that would be the ideal. Getting involved at this basic level is truly energizing, driving the entire church towards the overarching Great Commission.



Photo 2: Video clips periodically help remind congregations that the missionaries are real live people, who are not superman or superwoman.

Because of small groups, it should be possible to have regular contact, and to really keep in touch, with missionaries. In that way we can get real prayers about difficult issues, even sensitive areas, that normally are not discussed with a big group, thus minimizing the stresses to missionary and church. Each small group should remember to be a “support,” and not “supervisory” group, which will help foster a healthy relationship between missionary and church.



A lot of the above is driven by a good missions committee, which needs to select mature people to serve together as mobilizers of mission support. Those who have been previously on short-term mission teams might be helpful, except that if the mission groups are mostly teenagers, they are usually a bit too young, and have many youth activities already. Younger members will provide new energy, and so should be involved whenever possible after their return from the mission, in mission related activities, like training or helping the next team. And in sharing the mission vision. They will definitely be in training as future mission committee co-workers.

以上的工作需要有一个好的宣道委员会来带领。这个委员会的成员必须是成熟,能动员教会会众支持宣道的人。那些曾经去过短宣的人,都可能是好选择。 不过青少年多数还太年轻而且已经有许多适合青少年的工作在等他们去做了。年轻的成员可以带来新的活力,所以我们可以在他们刚从短宣回来的时候让他们参与与宣道相关的工作,例如帮忙训练下一个短宣团队和分享他们对宣道的异象。某一个角度来看,我们正是在训练他们成为宣道委员会未来的同工。


In particular, having a senior person with long-term missionary experience on the missions committee, would be really helpful. We had the privilege and help of a retired missionary, who had served 30 years in the field. John’s advice and expertise were invaluable, and obviously much more insightful of the “real world of missions.” For those of us who sit in USA armchairs, trying to empathize with jungle missionaries was nearly impossible, so we needed much help.



Photo 3: Having internationals on the committee reminds us of the true meaning of missions, especially if a white-haired former missionary is available.   
相片3:一个多元多种族, 多文化的委员会,特别是有一位白发的宣道士在我们中间,提醒我们宣道的真正意义。

Also, even though the senior minister is ever so busy, try to involve him in the missions committee whenever possible, even part time: this is vital if missions is to survive, and his likely broad experience will be very valuable. Frankly, unless we have a committed elder or minister responsible for missions, the volunteer committee is easily overwhelmed by the complex task. One helpful measure is to have a staff level missions secretary, even if part time, for all the complicated executive functions, which can easily thwart the good intentions and decisions of the committee.

虽然主任牧师总是万分忙碌,我们还是应该试着请他参与宣道委员会。即使他只有部分时间能来, 牧师的参与以及他丰富的经验对宣道事工的存活是绝对必要的。实话实说,我们若不能找到愿意致力于宣道的长老或者是传道人来负责帮助宣道事工,宣道委员会很容易就会迷失在众多复杂的工作里。一个好办法是分配一位在职的宣道秘书(不一定要全职)来管理所有复杂的行政工作。这样,委员会在思考好的计划及决策事就不会为了行政方面的细节分心。


The official name of the missions committee should be thought through, and likely made neutral, since “missionaries” are not officially allowed in many sensitive, including atheistic or Islamic, countries. It could even be physically dangerous for workers to receive emails from the “missions committee.” All Nations, or Great Commission Committee are alternatives, or omit any committee names altogether. And calling mission workers as, simply, “workers” or some neutral term is definitely safer, on church bulletins, announcement boards, or internet pages. In fact, most workers in sensitive areas should not be identified on church internet announcements, except maybe with nicknames.



It’s really great fun thinking through all these issues, which are different for each church, while developing strategies for best approaches. I believe each church can develop its own style, while following biblical principles, and the church would all be the better for struggling through these efforts together.