Serving as Senders
Chapter Two. Moral Support
"Be strong and very courageous; don't be afraid or dismayed: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
"It was a bit unusual. The rapid sequence of events, that is. We raised up others to assume our ministries in the church, got married, attended a 12-week field training course in Tijuana, Mexico, and spent our first year together living on a kibbutz in Israel!
"But why not? We were young, adventurous and had not yet accumulated a lot of the world's possessions. And most of all, the church where we had been ministering for the past three years was totally supportive. It was a small fellowship in a small town, so everyone knew us. The smiles and hugs on Sunday morning said to us, 'Scott and Jean, this is right!' Deep in our own hearts, God's peace said, 'This is right!'
"Invitations to our wedding included a note requesting, 'No gifts, please; we are going to Israel!' 'This is right!' they said with their donations of money instead. A prayer of blessing by our pastor at the wedding said, 'This is right!' Even our non-Christian parents said, 'This is right!' The moral support from every quarter said, 'This is right!'
"We began our training in Tijuana. We met our Mexican host family. Classes began. Learning how to relate to each otherwe had been married just four weekswas the subject of one of the classes. We did our field work in the community, grappling with cultural adaptation and relating to our host family with our limited Spanish. But with their patience and a lot of humor, we learned how to learn a second language and we bonded with them. Principles of spiritual warfare were preparing us for battle. We were learning how to live and minister in a second culture. Communication from our home church assured us that the sense of God's direction was solid. 'This is right,' we said to each other.
"Then, as a part of our training to make sure the support system was 'up and running.' we were sent home for a long weekend. We sat in the pastor's living room. Somehow there was an awkwardness. We glanced at each other: 'This is not right!' we thought.
"Then Pastor Joe spoke: 'Scott and Jean, I have made the decision that you are not to continue in this mission!'
"We were stunned.
"Our objections were not too well thought-out and they probably didn't make much sense since we were so confused. My wife started crying. Pastor Joe said firmly, 'Jean, I am not moved by your tears!' We were speechless! We became angry but he remained firm: 'You are not to go! If you continue, you are on your own!'
"We were dazed. The bottom had just fallen out! The whole basis of our support team was shattered! There was a very empty feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We could hardly go to church. We weren't allowed to contact any of the people there for further support. 'This is not right!' we knew.
"Fortunately, a part of our support team was made up of individuals from several other churches and Bible study groups. As we all beseeched the Lord for His direction in this new situation, we came to believe that it wasn't that we shouldn't go, but that we were losing a vital part of our support team.
"Just before leaving for Israel, by chance we met Pastor Joe downtown. He was so convinced that God had spoken to him that he said if we continued on this venture, something bad was going to happen to us in Israel. He would stake his ministry on it!
"Needless to say, this added insult to injury. Not only had we lost a strong foundation of moral support, but now this prediction was to cause a continual cloud of apprehension during our whole trip. When anything risky or unknown loomed ahead, we would remember his statement. For example, one night at the kibbutz, we were awakened by a loud siren. We were ready to run for the bomb shelter as we had often practiced. 'This is it! What bad thing is going to happen to us?' we thought. But since we saw no one else running and the siren stopped, we went back to bed.
"The next day we discovered that the temperature in the turkey house had fallen below a safe level. This siren was to alert the men responsible to adjust the thermostat! Though the humor of that situation mellowed our apprehension, Pastor Joe's 'cloud of doom' hovered above every crisis.
"We have returned home. It was a successful time of ministry In Israel. We're finding that God is slowly healing our relationships with the people of that church. Pastor Joe did not quit his ministryin fact, he recently agreed for us to share in one of the local outreaches of his church!"
Moral support is the very foundation of the support system. Everyone in the church can be involved in this part of the ministry since in its most basic concept, moral support is simply saying, "God bless you! We are excited with you in your missionary venture!"
Did the great men and women of the Bible need moral support? Let's look at a few of them.
But David Encouraged Himself in the Lord
Jesse's other seven sons had been rejected. "For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." There yet remained onea boy. A teenager. They brought him in from the fields where he was tending the sheep. And the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him, for this is he." And the Spirit of the Lord was on David from that day forward.
Through the battle with Goliath, through the struggle with Saul's insane jealousy, through the war of nerves during the months and years of fleeing and being pursued by a king who was troubled by an evil spirit, through the conflict involved in building his royal entourage of six hundred ruthless men, the Spirit of the Lord was upon David.
And as the Philistiness were assembled against Israel. David and his men were with them. But a distrust of these Hebrews troubled the minds of the Philistines. David and his men were sent back to Ziklagonly to discover that the Amalekites had invaded from the south, burned the city and carried away all their wives and children. "And they wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David was deeply distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him. But David encouraged himself in the Lord" (see 1 Samuel 30).
Imagine the intensity of the moment the physical distress of a three-day return march to Ziklag. The adrenaline flow building up to a battle against Israel and then the letdown. The bombarding emotions of losing family and possessions. The internal battle of "Lord, I am your anointed King of Israel. When am I going to possess the throne?" Where was David's moral support team? They wanted to stone him!
But David encouraged himself in the Lord.
My Hour Has Now Come
Eleven hundred years later. Another Man, another occasion. He says to His three-man support team, "My hour has come! My soul is exceedingly sorrowful and very heavy. Watch and pray with Me. And now the God-man, the Propitiation for our sins, the Lamb slain from before the foundations of the earth enters the most significant arena of battle of all time.
The battle of wills rages. All of His humanness rises to say, "Father, there must be another way. I cannot drink this cup of separation. We have been eternally One. Isn't there another way to redeem Man back to You? Let this cup pass from Me!"
The anguish becomes intense, for He knows there is no other way. The mental and spiritual suffering of the incarnate God in atonement for the sins of fallen man leads Him too the extreme of physical torture: hematidrosis, the bloody sweat.
"Could you not watch with Me one hour?" Jesus questioned His followers. Twice and then a third time, He came to them: "My hour has now come!"
In each of these situations there were those who could have been supportive. But David's men, so overcome by their own loss of wives and children and homes, thought only to stone David. Christ's men, self-indulgent in sleep, were not even aware of their Master's passion that night.
What of the others? When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, his first response was to put her away privately. In John 9, Jesus compassionately healed a blind man. When the Jewish elders wanted the parents' testimony in support of their son's healing, in fear they said, "Ask him! He's old enough to tell you!" When Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem, throngs of people at two different times tried to dissuade himeven insisting that the Holy Spirit had instructed them to warn him.
The pages of history do not paint a brighter picture. Through the centuries, the pattern has not changed. Read about the bold men and women God told to go to the nations in Ruth Tucker's biographical history of Christian missions, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya (see "Resources," page 199). You can count on the fingers of one hand the few who found strong moral support for their pioneer vision.
An English cobbler named William Carey struggled in the 1790s with the Church's responsibility to the Great Commission. Later he was to become known as the "Father of Modern Missions." But in his early days as the vision stirred deep in his heart, there was no support. His fellow churchmen openly rebuked him by saying, "When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or ours." His wife initially refused to join him on his voyage to India. Only a delay in the departure date gave her the opportunity to reconsider.
Today as thousands of cross-cultural workers emerge from their closets of prayer, having grappled with the issues of being His soldiers of the cross in another culture, what sort of moral support can they anticipate from people?
· People so lost in their narrow world that they do not support God's anointed but rather begin hurling stones of incriminationlike David's men?
· People lulled into self-indulgent sleep to the extent that they are unaware of God's plan for their friendslike Christ's men?
· People so concerned about public opinion that they want to nod nicely at missionary zeal but try to send their worker away privatelylike Joseph?
· People so afraid for the other programs of their church that they don't want anything to do with daring adventures into the unknown, the uncomfortable? Mission ministry, after all, could be regarded as competition to the status quoaccording to non-moral-supporters like the Jewish elders.
· People so sure that they have "heard from the Lord" that the missionary's "hearing from the Lord" is wronglike Paul's friends?
· People who pierce God's missionary heart by distorting their theologylike Carey's friends?
Stones That Do Not Support
Stones of incrimination. There are few who can handle the personal challenge presented to them by a friend who thinks God wants him to do such a bold, daring thing as go to the mission field. Whether ignorantly, out of well-meaning friendship or to assuage their own feelings of distress, they may begin hurling stones of incrimination: "Man, it's a rough world out there! Riots and wars! Hatred and violence! You could get yourself killed!"
Other callous responses might be: "You've got to be kidding! You? A missionary? What do you think you can do to save the world?"
Often close, loving friends counsel:
· You're needed here. You have so much to offer right here in our fellowship.
· Waste your education out in the middle of nowhere? What will your dad say? After all, he paid the bill for your college degree!
· Why don't you get a real job? Go make some money so you'll be secure; later on you can think about getting involved in missions.
· You can't offend your mother that way! How can you take her grandkids away from her? They need her!
· What about your kids' education? They will come home ignoramuses and social misfits!
· You expect to get married out there? You'll never meet anybody!
In a final lament, abandoning all logic, they may cry, "I don't believe this is happening to me!"
The cross-cultural worker who has already battled it out with the Lord over feelings of inadequacy sits in a disheveled heapbeneath a pile of stones, battered and hurting. The few and the strong who make it encourage themselves in the Lord. But it would be so much better if they had you as a part of their Moral Support Team to encourage them.
Self-indulgent sleep is the state of too large a segment of today's Church. Self-indulgence has produced a myopic introspection; we seem to focus on healing ourselves so we can have nicer lives. "Lord, comfort me so I will be comfortable" is in direct contrast to what is told the church in 2 Corinthians 1:4.
We want to be comfortable and we want security. We feel uneasy about unpredictabllitylike Peter as he blurted in his threatened loss of security, "Lord, I won't let You die!" (Matthew 16:22).
Our society's drive for the "Great American Dream" has become a nightmare! It keeps many potential moral supporters lulled in a stupor of inactivity.
Perhaps the "Barnabas and Saul" of your fellowship come back from an Urbana Student Mission Conference, a two-week mini-mission or a summer of service sensing the greatness of God's plan of the ages and their privileged part in it. Perhaps in your church, as in too many others, few barely rouse themselves to hear these enthusiasts report on what God is doing globally. As the church nods off, the potential missionaries say, "Could you not listen to what I believe God has in store for us for just one minute?"
The cross-cultural worker goes back to the Rock and prays again, "Father, there must be some other way for You to accomplish Your purpose than by having me go."
"No, My child. This is the way. Walk ye in it." And his hour comes. No support is given. All scatter. And the cross-cultural worker faces the Judases and priests and mobs of this world on his ownunless you are there to give him your moral support.
Worries about public opinion can hurt a missionary. Perhaps the potential cross-cultural worker is told, "Okay, if you have to go, go. But don't rock the boat. Don't get the people here involvedespecially financially. What will happen to our other programs?"
Fortunately, it is getting harder and harder for churches to have this attitude because mission organizations and those agencies helping to prepare cross-cultural workers for service are insisting that the local fellowship take the initiative in the missions process.
However, tragically, there are still thousands of cases in which a mission candidate's pastor is the "last to know." Or perhaps he never finds outs! Public opinion in some churches does not allow for radical moves into international evangelization. So the cross-cultural worker has to leave very quietlyunless you are there to shout an encouraging, "Bon voyage!"
Other attitudes dry up your cross-cultural worker's supply of moral support.
Competition within the Body of Christ scares some fellowships into undermining a mission candidate's moral support. The message might be very strong: "We don't want to lose you."
It wasn't that the Jews did not believe in world evangelization. For Christ said of them, "You travel over land and sea to make one convert" (Matthew 23:15). Nor was it that they were against His healing people. But throngs of people were following Jesus. He was a threat to the establishment. He was the competition. He didn't fit into their programs.
The bold, the daring, the aggressive plans of the world missionary community don't fit into the programs of a lot of today's churches, eitherunless you are there to encourage Christ's example of unity in diversity.
Contradictory counsel can discourage a missionary. The Apostle Paul sensed at every turn the potential of the enemy's move. "I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for God has opened a great and effectual door, and with many adversaries" (1 Corinthians 16:8-9). At Miletus he wrote, "I am compelled by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don't know what may happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit warns me that imprisonment and persecution await me in every city that I visit" (Acts 20:22-23).
So when his disciples said to Paul "through the Holy Spirit" that he should not go up to Jerusalem, he had to defend his certainty of God's direction. Instead of receiving support, he had to rebuke his friends: "What do you mean by unnerving me with all your tears. You are breaking my heart! I am not only ready to be bound, but to die for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus."
Luke wrote, "And when we could not dissuade [Paul], we held our tongues and said, 'The Lord's will be done!'" (Acts 21:13-14). They gave him the silent treatment. The raised eyebrows. The shrugged shoulders. The anxious, "Just waityou'll see."
And the one who is boldly doing the work of the Lord is left aloneunless you are there to provide moral support to sustain your missionary in his difficult times when the adversaries are opposing him.
Distorted theological views can end up damaging the morale of a cross-cultural worker. The missionary heart of God is pierced again and again as fellowships deny the biblical injunctions to go preach and teach.
Some shout it as brashly as did William Carey's contemporaries: "God will do it without us if He wants it done!" Others say it more subtly: "We're too young as a fellowship. We're not big enough yet. No one in our fellowship seems interested. We don't have the resources to support a missionary. I don't have the time to devote to another new project. We would only want to send our best, and we can't afford to lose our leadership."
Those excuses and a thousand more have all been thought or spoken. Yet not a one of them stands the test of exposure to Scripture. Each excuse shrinks into the shadows, trying to hide from the Light of His Word. There is no theology to deny the missionary heartbeat of our God Who is "not willing that any perish, but that all come to repentance!" (2 Peter 3:9).
Therefore, the cross-cultural parts of the Bodyand there are cross-cultural parts, or else it is not a Bodyhang lifeless in atrophy for lack of exercise. Or if they are challenged by another church or agency, their home church is jealous because they are drawn away. And we are all the losers for it.
The story is told of a young sailor who was making final preparations for a solo voyage around the world in his homemade craft. Throngs of people crowded the small mooring as he stowed the last boxes of provisions. A murmuring air of pessimistic concern exploded into a volume of discouragement: "Son, you'll never make it! That boat will not withstand the waves of the storms! You'll run out of food! The sun will broil you!"
A late arriver, hearing all of these discouraging warnings, felt an irresistible desire to offer some optimism and encouragement. As the little craft began sailing away from the pier, he pushed his way to the end of the dock. Waving his hands wildly, he kept shouting, "Bon voyage! You're really somebody! We're with you! We're proud of youl God be with you, brother!"
The world seems to offer two kinds of support: "Wait 'til you get out in that cold, cruel world. It's rough!" And those who exude a contagious, confident "Bon voyage!"
There are dozens of thoughtless ways to burst the balloon of your aspiring missionary. But there are also plenty of ways you can buoy up his enthusiasm with solid moral support.
Some Holy Spirit-guided soul-searching of our own attitudes toward cross-cultural ministry would be good at this point. An initial clearing of these stones of incrimination will make way for another type of stonethe foundation for building a strong support system for the cross-cultural outreach ministry of your church.
How to Give Solid-As-A-Rock Moral Support
Dan had heard the call of God on his life to go. He had visited Thailand on several occasions. There he had seen the hunger of pastors to learn how to study the Word. He had experienced the joy of helping them satisfy that hunger through the seminars he taught.
And now Dan was sure God was directing him to a longer-term commitment: to establish a ministry of conducting seminars for national pastors of Asia, seminars designed to train pastors in the study of the Word, thus allowing them to better feed their flocks.
But Dan was the pastor of a church in the United States. It would not be easy to leave the people. He had founded the church. Who would fill his position? How could he uproot his family and move them into the unknown? What about the finances and logistics of that move? What about communication and prayer? Where would they stay when they came home?
All of these questions and apprehensions were real and needed answers. But they were more easily handled because the entire congregation gave their full moral support to what they sensed from the Lord to be a "new thing" for Dan and for them!
Moral support is the foundation of the sending process. Moral support is the "Bon voyage" of those who serve as senders to those who go. Moral support is as much an attitude that your cross-cultural worker will sense as it is an action you can do.
Let's look at some solid foundation stones.
Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone
There first, of course, has to be a cornerstone, "...a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation" (Isaiah 28:16). In Jesus' day, the cornerstone was not some memorial plaque mortared into the wall after the building was completed. It was the first stone set. All measurements of height, length and breadth were taken from it. If it were well-placed, the building had a good chance of being well-constructed. But if it were poorly laid, watch out!
Christ's life and teachings were an example of moral support. In fact, when Matthew wrote his Gospel, the Holy Spirit inspired him to recall how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy: "The bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking (dimly burning) flax shall He not quench" (Matthew 12:20 20 quoting Isaiah 42:3). A more current rendering is, "He does not crush the weak, nor snuff out the smallest candle flame." "He doesn't kick you when you're down!" might be an appropriate paraphrase.
What does He do?
He takes the bruised reed by the hand and, lifting her up, says, "Where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no morel" (John 8:1-11). He meets the "smoking flax" at night since Nicodemus feared the Jews; He gently breathes the Spirit of Life into the failing embers (John 3:1-21). Peter's tears of remorse had all but extinguished his flame of fire. Jesus tenderly fans those failing embers back to life with His trilogy of poignant questions: "Peter, do you love Me? Feed My sheep!" (John 21:15-18).
His example of refusing to condemn and determining to encourage is the cornerstone of our support structure as we serve as senders. But it's not enough just to do His deeds. No amount of human-level determination will equip you to be an adequate sender if you're not an intimate disciple of Jesus Christ. This topic is beyond our focus of study, but every sender, every sending team must be personally, constantly communing with the One Who in moral support told us, "As My Father has sent Me, even so send I you" (John 20:21). The Jesus Style, a book by Gayle D. Erwin gives valuable and practical instruction on this subject (see "Resources," page 199).
The Simplicity of Moral Support
The cornerstone has been laid. We can begin building. The first foundation stone that nudges right up and fits so perfectly beside the Chief Cornerstone is the moral support of the church that helps cross-cultural workers to "Do it simplyand simply do it!"
Jesus was a master at reducing to simplicity the impassioned issues of His dayand ours.
On the complex issue of taxation, He said, 'Whose image is on the coin?"
"Caesar's," was the answer.
"Well, you had better give it to him then. But also give to God what belongs to Him!"
We spend hours questioning what life is all about. Where did we come from? Jesus simply said, "I came from the Father." We spend days wondering why we're here. Jesus said, "I am doing the will of the Father." We spend years worrying where we're going. Jesus said, "I am going to the Father." In simple yet precise terms, He answered the three universal questions of life! (See John 13:1-15.)
Jesus' ministry was deep, yet simple. And His life-style was also simple. He was born in a stable. He had no place to call home. His body occupied a borrowed tomb at His death.
As your cross-cultural worker begins taking the steps toward the fields of the world, a thousand opportunities and ways to minister will begin bombarding him. Encourage him to keep his eyes focused on the simple, straightforward ministry of Jesus. Urge him to listen quietly to the direction of the Spirit out of all the godly counsel he is receiving. (See Proverbs 19:20-21.) Remind him to keep it simple; he's not some new messiah! Advise him also to simply do itto keep going one step at a time.
Help him practice a "wartime lifestyle" even before going to the field. This doesn't mean living under an austere, ascetic vow of poverty. It means trimming off what isn't necessary. It means not spending on some things and spending strategically on othersmuch as a soldier going into combat doesn't need a gold-embossed jogging suit but does need a very expensive, state-of-the-art rifle.
Encouraging simplicity in ministry goals and in life-style is moral support!
The next foundation stone also fits snugly in its place. Support your worker in his perspective that mission is an integrated ministry of the church. Cross-cultural outreach is not the only God-ordained ministry.
"Yes, it is exciting to see that God has chosen you to minister cross-culturally. Yes, the zeal of the Lord is upon you," you can agree with your missionary friend. But then you must remind him that the Sunday school teachers who tolerated his elementary distractions are now dealing with the next generation of field workers. Therefore, their work continues to be vital.
All the parts of the Body work together in one direction within the "unchangeable purpose of God" (see Hebrews 6:11-18), each adding its own expertise. Some of these ministries are more direct in that ultimate purpose of the Churchto bless with the Good News every people, tribe and tongue. And some are indirectly related.
You can encourage your missionary to remember that an accurate, big-picture worldview integrates ministries; it doesn't eliminate some nor value one ministry above another.
God's great purpose incorporates every God-given discipline in your life, every ministry in the life of your church. For example:
When your church's shut-in visitation team ministers to the elderly by sharing songs and holding hands and listening to reminiscences, they can bring specific prayer requests of the urgent needs of all the ministries of the church. They can school the elderly in how to pray against the strongholds of Satan over a particular people group your missionary is targeting. They can infuse into each shut-in's remaining days the magic elixir of purpose"You can spend time in prayer that we can't! You know more about life than we do, therefore you can pray specifically for the ups and downs of our mission team. You can help break open the way for the Gospel in this group as you pray against the principalities and powers that rule and blind them! We need you!"
A church shut-in ministry can be incorporated into the vision of Christ's global cause, whether they pray for your missionary or for the church's prison ministry.
Every God-ordained ministry of the church can be expanded as it aligns its purposes with the great, unchangeable purpose of God. The life of the whole Bodynot just the cross-cultural partsmust remain strong. Therefore, the worship leaders must continue to usher us into the very throne room of God, and the teachers of the Word must continue to feed the flock. And the other outreach ministries of the church must continue to reach out.
This is not easy for a missionary to appreciate as he gets into his ministry. His part of the big picture of God's purpose can easily become the only activity he sees. Therefore, you enter as his moral supporter to give him a godly perspective.
You are able to help him recognize that moral support is a two-way street: To enjoy the moral support of others demands that he be interested in and an encouragement to them in their endeavors.
Another foundation stone of moral support is the art of active listening. Paul Tournier in his book To Understand Each Other said, "Most conversations of this world are 'dialogues of the deaf.'" Emotional isolation is already a major problem in North America. So when your friend is grappling with all the uncertainties of moving into cross-cultural outreach ministry, he needs even greater support: he needs your listening ear.
When your friend shares his thoughts about cross-cultural involvement, your ministry of moral support is most effective as you simply sit and listen.
Active listening is probably one of the most neglected foundation stones of moral support. Active listening says, "I am with you. I will take the time. I will put energy into really listening to your heart, not just to what your surface words are saying."
Active listening calls for all of your attention. It is hard work; it requires concentration. But how necessary it is to moral support'
Active listening obligates you to respond with respect. Even though you are not "in his shoes" and cannot fully comprehend what he is experiencing, you can express empathy. Try to sense his thoughts and feelings as he anticipates his venture of faith.
Active listening demands that you give feedback. Repeat in your own words what you heard him say. For example, imagine yourself listening to Scott and Jean after their traumatic meeting with Pastor Joe as recounted at the beginning of this chapter:
Scott says, "Then Pastor Joe spoke and said, `I have made the decision that you are not to continue in this mission!' Man, we were stunned!"
You say, "I guess so!"
"No kidding," says Jean. "I guess our objections were not too well thought-out."
You say, "You mean your objections to his objections?"
Jean laughs. "Yeah. I guess so. What we said probably didn't make much sense since we were so confused."
You say, "Your thoughts were too scattered to explain to him how you knew God wants you to go."
"Right," says Scott. "We sure know how to explain it to people now after that experience!"
"Feels good to be confident about God's direction, doesn't it?"
"It sure doeseven in spite of Pastor Joe's response...."
And you've effectively listened through a painful experience that needed to be shared. Further, you've also allowed Scott and Jean to work through some of their feelings about the incident until they begin to have some positive feelings about it. Your active listening and repeating what you thought you heard have resulted in a great show of solid moral support!
Just being there to listen with positive feedback helps your missionary clarify his thoughts and feelings on a host of new concepts he must process.
We all know the risks of international travel. We all know the dangers of terrorist activity. We all know the socio-political issues concerning the rise in nationalism. We all know the fears of the unknown. God does, too. Yet He says go!
Will you be one of those who will say, "Wow! What a privilege to be about our Father's business!"? Will you offer, "We're with you! What can we do to help?" You can be one who shouts, "God bless you! We're proud of you! You're really something! Bon voyage!"
Stone by stone, the foundation of moral support is being laid.
Commissioning as Moral Support
There may be other stones of solid moral support that His Spirit will bring to your mind. But for now let's consider just three more stones that are vital to this foundation: called, counseled and commissioned. The church in Antioch provides a model from which we can draw our examples.
They put five men forward; they fasted and prayed. They heard the Holy Spirit say. "We want Barnabas and Saul." They fasted and prayed some more; they laid their hands on them. They sent them away. Who is "they"? The church, the local Body of believersthose who were sharing their own concern for this ministry that was burning deep in the hearts of Barnabas and Saul (see Acts 13).
The church, the home fellowship, the missions fellowship, the prayer group, the college and career classsome group besides the ones wanting to go need to hear the Holy Spirit say, `Separate unto Me [the Barnabas and Saul from your fellowship] for the task to which I have called them." This confirmation provides tremendous moral support! It is one thing for your missionary to think the Lord has directed him. It is incredibly more reassuring to know He has confirmed it in the hearts of others as well.
The church fasted and prayed some more (Acts 13:3). Though Scripture isn't specific as to their prayers, it's apparent they were seeking guidance from the Lord for details of this new venture. The passage implies that a group larger than the two going heard answers to these questions: How should they go? Where is the money coming from? What do they take with them? When should they go? What are they going to do when they get there? Where is there? (See Matthew 10:1-16.)
This was a first as this team of senders determined how they could best be supportive to some of the Church's first missionaries. Remember, the Antioch church was filled with ordinary human beings. Yet they were able to carry the weight of these unprecedented decisions as a team of people who had, in fasting and prayer, heard the Lord's direction.
The senders laid their hands on the missionaries (Acts 13:3).
In Hebrews 6, the laying on of hands is named as one of the foundational doctrines. In this situation, the event was a commissioning, a setting-apart for a specific task, an identifying with the upcoming ministry of the sent ones.
Whether your cross-cultural worker is going short-term or longer, he needs the spiritual coveringthe moral supportof "the laying on of hands," because, as an extension of your church's ministry, he is going out to battle against the enemy.
Identifying with your missionary, of course, means that you'll need to do some fine-tuning of your understanding of what he'll be facing. You need to know what God is doing these days in cross-cultural outreach ministry. Become an expert on the steady progress of the 21st century's Great Commission endeavor.
Read how Jackie Pullinger broke through the Walled City of Hong Kong in Chasing the Dragon. Marvel at how a 19-year-old touched the lives of Latin American Indians in Bruchko by Bruce Olson. Weep in sorrow at the price Christ paid for the lost of Russia as you read Vanya by Myrna Grant or Tortured For His Faith by Haralan Popov. Understand the cost of commitment in Pakistani Muslim Bilquis Sheikh's I Dared to Call Him Father. Anointed for Burial recounts God's work in Cambodia just before its fall. F. Kefa Sempangi gives a first person account of the martyrdom of Christians in Uganda in A Distant Grief. Rejoice that God has placed Eternity in Their Hearts as examined in Don Richardson's book on redemptive analogy, a key to proclaiming Christ to the nations. (See "Resources," beginning on page 199 for in-formation on obtaining these and other cutting-edge materials on today's mission to the world.)
As you identify with your missionary's work, what you learn about God's work around the world will bring a deeper sense of your part in God's global purpose and of how your role is critical as you give moral support to those who say, "I believe the Lord wants me to go to the mission field! And I want you, church, to send me!"
A Case Study in Moral Support
More members of the sending team we met in Chapter One recount some of their experiences in learning how to offer their missionaries some solid moral support:
Those of us who know Lou and Sandy personally would probably sum up our offers of moral support to them in these words: "We love you and are here to help you in any way we can. We believe in the vision the Lord has given you to go to the Philippines. But in our eagerness to help you on your way, don't lose sight of the fact that we will dearly miss you."
After the Core Groupwhich is what we call the leadership of our Lou-and-Sandy support teamwas established in June, things began to roll at seemingly breakneck speed. Looking back on it all now, we see that the moral support we gave was intertwined with our actions in all the other areas of support. When Lou and Sandy had to get out of their duplex and into temporary lodging for one month before leaving for training in Mexico, a home was graciously opened to them.
Have you ever prepared for a garage sale? Lou and Sandy had to go through every single material possession they owned: Do we sell this? Store it? Take it with us? Ultimately the decisions were Lou and Sandy's, but to be nearby with a listening ear and an opinion was part of our moral support. The willingness of people to find boxes, store things safely, build a crate for shipment, advertise the sale, price everything and bring over the meals again and again after the pots and pans were packed expressed the moral support so needed and appreciated by Lou and Sandy.
Since they have left, we have found other ways to give moral support. Their last Sunday at church we had a large banner made which said, "Bon voyage, Lou, Sandy and Marlies." We later laid it out over several long tables and provided pens for people to write some words of encouragement. We shipped the banner by boat so they would receive it after having been there for several months.
About six weeks after they left, baby Marlies had her first birthday. At our next Core Group meeting we had balloons, party hats, cake and ice cream and kids. We sang "Happy Birthday" to the absent guest of honor. We videotaped the fun. Because we had time left on the tape, we brought the camcorder to church Sunday and had friends give Lou, Sandy and Marlies a special hello.
The enthusiasm and excitement that still accompanies any of the activities we do for our missionaries lets us know the moral support is running high. Though letter writing generally falls into the category of communication support, the fact that Lou and Sandy receive so many letters is most certainly a boost to their morale. In one six-week period, they reported they had gone only three days without receiving at least one letter, and one day they had received seven!
Moral support is obviously basic if you're serving as a sender. Maybe your forte as a sender will be boosting your missionary's morale.
But other phases of support are important, too, if your sent-one is going to be fully supported. Somebody has to help with the nuts and bolts of stretching your fellowship's ministry from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth! Missionaries need careful, solid logistics support.
(In addition to the individual study below, see the Group Leader's Guide for session two beginning on page 186.)
For Your Personal Involvement
· Read Matthew 12:20 from a number of translations. Choose one that really communicates the message to you. Memorize it. Meditate on it. Allow the Holy Spirit to infuse this concept of moral support into the very fiber of your being.
· Read, in its context, the story of each of the individuals in the Bible we referred to. Place next to their names the relationship of the people who could have been of moral support to them:
David, 1 Samuel 30
Jesus, Luke 22
Mary, Matthew 1
The blind man, John 9
Paul, Acts 21
· Choose one of the stories. In your own words, retell the story as if those people had given moral support.
· Because moral support is a two-way street, it would be interesting to survey your Sunday school teachers with the question: "When our missionaries have been home for an extended time, have any of them ever thanked you for teaching our kids? Have you ever thanked them for representing us in cross-cultural ministry?" Share your survey results with your pastor.
· Name several commercial jingles that, if followed, could easily distract you from giving moral support to your missionaries. For example: "When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping."
What are some biblical proverbs to govern our actions in moral support?
By the time youu have read Chapter Two, completed the For Your Personal Involvement section and participated in a discussion group, you should...
· Understand that moral support is the basic foundation of the support system.
· Express appreciation and give moral support to everyone in the fellowship who is a functioning part of the Body.
· Realize that moral support is an ongoing relationship with your missionary.
· Write to one of your missionaries on the field and say, "Here is my belated 'Bon voyage!' God bless you!"
· Multiply yourself. You might be surprised how contagious enthusiastic moral support becomes! Encourage others with the practice of encouragement!