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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Neal Pirolo :: Serving as Senders

Neal Pirolo :: Chapter One: The Need for Senders

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“And how shall they [go] preach except they are sent?”Romans 10:15

“Beth! Wake up! Please, Beth! Wake up!” Beth’s roommate held the empty Valium bottle in her hand and knew Beth wouldn’ wake up. But instinct said to get help. The people in the next apartment helped her carry Beth to the car. A mile that seemed half way around the world brought them to the hospital. They pumped Beth’s stomach. She stirred and opened her eyes.

Months later Beth could talk about it:

I had had a normal life before this. Friends, a loving family, a good church life. Basically, I was a happy person. I had been a professional for ten years. I had held reputable positions. I had managed people. And I had managed myself quite well… until this.

I had just returned from a six-month missionary venture in the Orient. My feelings were running rampant. Nostalgia flooded me as I remembered the good times; nightmares and flashbacks haunted me in the quiet solitude of night. Nobody was interested; nobody had time to hear what I had to say.

I had just come from a fruitful experience as an administrative assistant in a medical clinic. Dumped back into the busy lifestyle of metropolitan Washington, D.C., I lost all sense of identity. Deepening feelings of isolation caused me to withdraw all the more.

I thought if I got back into my work I could refocus my life. But the emotional instability mounted. One nightmare kept recurring:

We had been in a village doing some medical work. Through the thundering of a tropical storm, I awoke to the sound of gunfire. Before I could go back to sleep, I saw them dragging the body of a man past the doorway of my hut. The story was that he had been caught in the fields stealing opium.

Now back in D.C., I would awaken at night to the sounds in my brain of the pow-pow of the guns. And the whole ugly scene would flash through my mind again. I began using tranquilizers to control my instability. But before seven or eight in the evening, I was lost in anxiety, confusion, uncertainty-crying uncontrollably.

Conversely, I also had a sense of ‘special’ knowledge. I was fulfilled by a good missionary experience. Hadn’t I been there? Hadn’t I been successful? Hadn’t I bonded with and nurtured Billy to health?

We had been on our way home from some medical work in the hill country. Along the trail I stumbled on this three-month-old infant. His hands and feet were bound together with rope. He was addicted to opium. He was almost dead. We inquired as best we could whose son he was. His mother already had four children under the age of five.

The man who was thought to be the father was away on ‘business’ three to four weeks at a time. It is probably this woman who had left him there to die. A couple hundred yards away was an abandoned hut. We said we would wait there until nighttime to talk with his mother. She never came. At the clinic we were able to give him the care needed. We called him Billy, and he was eventually adopted by a local Christian doctor.

I became hyper-vigilant about this great need out there. I felt a lot of anger toward people who wouldn’t let me talk about my experiences. My pastor wouldn’t let me share at church. No Sunday school class had the time for me. My parents couldn’t show enough interest to even look at my pictures. I became judgmental and condemning: ‘How can you be thinking about buying a new car when there are such great needs out there?’ But I couldn’t say any of that out loud. Hurt, fear, anger and guilt all turned inward in severe depression. I couldn’t sleep at night; I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I quit my job. I took more and more tranquilizers. I just wanted somebody to acknowledge that I was back home!

One Sunday morning after church, I gathered the strength to again go to my pastor and say, ‘I am at the end of my rope! I think I’m losing it! I need your help!’ With his arm around me, he said, ‘Beth, I am busy. I am so tied up this week. But if you must, call my office to set an appointment for a week from Wednesday. Beth, if you would just get into the Word more…’

Through the dazed fog of an existence I had been living in, all of a sudden it became crystal clear: ‘Pastor, I’m not worth your time!’ I had made other desperate calls to various counselors. One guy tried to date me. A psychiatrist had given my condition a fancy label. But now it was clear: ‘I’m not worth anybody’s time!’

I decided to take the rest of the bottle of Valium.

It would astound most Christians to hear missionaries honestly express their desperate need for support in one area or another. Most pleas aren’t as dramaticc as Beth’s. But each speaks of a personal need for those who will come alongside them and serve as senders.

Missions does not just focus on those who go. Those who serve as senders are equally significant.

A Biblical Foundation

If anybody knew about going on missionary journeys and needing a support team, it was the Apostle Paul. He said, “…and how can they [go] preach except they are sent?” In Romans chapter ten, he established the vitality of cross-cultural outreach on these two levels of involvement: Those who go and those who serve as senders.

Paul first quoted Joel: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Then, in clear linear logic so well understood by the Roman mind, he appealed: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?”

Today’s estimate is that 2.5 billion people have not had a culturally relevant presentation of the Gospel.

“And how shall they hear without a preacher?” Yes, there must be a “preacher”—the missionary, the cross-cultural worker, the one who goes. By whatever name and by whatever means he gets there, there must be a proclaimer of the Good News. God chose it to be this way. (Throughout our study, well be referring to your missionary with a generic ‘he’—though at all times we mean he, she or they!)

Today’s estimate is that there are worldwide 285,250 career foreign missionaries and 180,000 short term missionaries.

But wait. There is one more question in this series: ‘And how shall they preach except they are sent?’ (Romans 10:13-15). Paul acknowledged that there are others besides those who go who must be involved in this worldwide evangelization endeavor: those who are serving as senders.

Those who go and those who serve as senders are like two units on the same cross-cultural outreach team. Both are equally important. Both are vitally involved in the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Both are dynamically integrated and moving toward the same goal. And both are assured success, for those in God’s work are on the winning team!

From the humble beginnings of one hundred young people at the Mount Hermon Meeting of 1886, the Student Volunteer Movement identified and fielded over 20,000 men and women to be goers—ones set apart to declare the Gospel and teachings of Christ to a lost and dying world.

This same movement mobilized an army in excess of 80,000 mission-minded people who pledged themselves to stay at home and support those who went.

In decades past, many grew up in mission-minded churches. Men and women from faraway places came to speak of the challenge to follow in their steps. Most of the time it was easy to understand that the two squads on the missionary team were those who go and those who say, “Goodbye!”

Maybe some people in your fellowship want to be involved in world evangelization but don’t feel called to go right now. The good news is there’s more they can do than just say goodbye!

There is a tremendous need for senders. And the need goes far beyond the traditional token involvement of showing up for a farewell party or writing out a check to missions. A cross-cultural worker needs the support of a team of people while he is preparing to go, while he is on the field and when he returns home.

A careful reading of Paul’s missionary letters will reveal how much time he spent talking to his support team-those who were involved with him in the ministry. Sometimes he complimented them, sometimes he expressed his loneliness in being away from them, sometimes he exhorted and challenged them. But he always thanked God for them.

A support team of senders is just as critical to a missionary today. Let’s look at some very good reasons why.

A Cross-Cultural Worker’s Life Time-line

Consider this diagram of the physical/emotional/mental/spiritual life time-line of a cross-cultural worker during his missionary experience.

A. “Normal” Living

The flat, horizontal line of this diagram represents the “normal living” base line of your missionary’s existence before he even had a thought about missions. This is not to say that his life was flat There were normal ups and downs, but for the purpose of comparison, consider the line as his normal life before missions.

The line that resembles the dips and curves of a roller coaster ride is the changing pulse of your missionary’s entire being as he passes through his missionary experience. One veteran said about the ups and downs of missionary life: “Missionary living takes me on a trip that is totally outside the realm of every comfort zone I have come to enjoy!”

The vertical lines indicate segments of time, mile-posts along his missionary venture. The relative spaces between the lines may vary due to many factors. But these are expected phases of which you, his support person, should be aware. As you are giving your support, anticipate the next milepost of your cross-cultural worker’s life time-line. And be available to offer your assistance.

B. Anticipation of Approval

At some point, your missionary emerged from his closet of prayer, having grappled with all the normal feelings of inadequacy. Want to know how he probably felt? Read through Exodus chapters three and four to hear the patriarch Moses rehearse his five excuses of inadequacy. While you’re there, notice that God answers each of his protests with His all-sufficiency. Boldly or with some reluctance, your friend announced that he believed God had placed a personal call on his life to become a missionary. Every fiber of his being has undergone a rise in excitement and apprehension, visions of grandeur and nightmares of depression.

C. Anticipation of Departure

The day finally comes: The church, mission board or other responsible body (see Acts 13:1-4) has confirmed that personal call with their approval. It has been determined that your missionary is really going! Through days, weeks, even months of preparation, support-team building, and training, anticipation heightens as the date of departure draws near.

D. Honeymoon Period

Your missionary is catapulted into space in a jetliner, but his emotions are flying ten feet above the plane. The “honeymoon” has begun. For a period of time he moves around in a protective bubble, enjoying all of the quaint newnesses. Even the single control on the shower that produces only cold water is “interesting.” There is so much to observe, to take in. It’s all so… different!

E. Culture Stress

The time that passes between these identified stages will vary according to circumstances. But as surely as night follows day, this next stage is inevitable. One morning your missionary rudely awakens to the reality that the single handle will never produce hot water! He realizes he has committed himself to circumstances that are no longer quaint; they are now weird even barbaric! The adventure of discovery has turned to the dread of “What’s next?” The first bugs of dysentery keep him up all night. The fact that this is the most difficult language in the world to learn has him looking for a permanent interpreter. The first hints of persecution or the awareness that people are not going to change as easily or as rapidly as he had hoped have him asking God to “Let this cup pass from me…” The pinnacles of ecstasy have plummeted to the depths of despair. Culture stress has set in.

Most missionaries don’t want to talk about this stage of missionary life because the people back home won’t think of them as “spiritual” enough if they admit to some of these trying times. It is at this time that your cross-cultural worker needs your support. Many-too many-crash here. Of course, some turn back before they leave the airport!

F. Ministry of Love

But your missionary has been taught that culture stress is a normal stage to go through. Therefore, he will do just that: Go through it into a beautiful time of ministry motivated by the love of Christ. Because of your strong support he will emerge with a strengthened vision of God’s purposes in his life and his reasons for being a missionary. All is not rosy. The adversaries are there. But the “great, effectual open doors” of ministry that Paul talked about are there, too (see 1 Corinthians 16:9).

G. Anticipation of Return

Life goes on. As surely as this missionary journey had a starting point, the time will come when your cross-cultural worker will, like Paul’s team, “sail back to Antioch from where we had been recommended by the grace of God for the work which we have now completed” (Acts 14:26).

Again, his feelings are mixed. Yes, your missionary wants to come home to see you. But he has made new friends. He has new ideas and ideals. He has changed behavior patterns that he knows will be difficult to integrate into his new home environment. No, he isn’t returning to his old home environment when he comes back. For you also have changed!

His heart has been broken with compassion for the lost; and there are so few to take his place in ministry. The desire to stay and continue in ministry usually out-weighs the desire to return home. Thus, the emotional/psychological/spiritual pulse of your missionary drops again.

Probably the shortest letter ever written was to a missionary whose furlough time had been scheduled; all plans had been set. Then, remembering the difficulties of previous times back in the States, he wrote that he had changed his mind; he was not coming. The reply came back: “Pete! Get home!” He came and his support team was able to help him through the next stage.

H. Culture Stress in Reverse

In Chapter Seven, we deal extensively with the support your cross-cultural worker needs after his return. The trauma to his entire being during re-entry is intense. An example is the re-entry desperation of Beth who told her story at the beginning of this chapter. In this great time of need, your missionary might feel especially inadequate to do any thing about it.

During this time of reverse culture stress, coming back home mandates strong support.

I. Full Integration

A missionary who has been trained to anticipate the stress of coming home and has a strong re-entry support team will, in time, fully integrate his changed self Into the changed home environment. He will be a positive change-agent in his church and community. He will “abide a long time with the disciples there“ (Acts 14:28). He will, like Paul, “continue in Antioch, teaching and preaching the Word” (Acts 15:35). And who knows? After a while he might even say, “Hey, Barnabas, let’s go out again!” (See Acts 15:36.)

Today no cross-cultural worker should leave home without a strong, integrated, educated, knowledgeable, excited-as-he-is, active team of people who have committed themselves to the work of serving as senders.

You may be a part of that team. Your heart is stirred by people of other cultures, yet you have not heard His call to go. When a missionary speaks at your church or a breakthrough is reported, there is a special quickening in your pulse. Yet you know God has directed you to stay at home. You may be called to the ministry of serving as a sender.

Prayerfully consider serving as a sender in any one or more of six areas of support:

  • Moral Support-just “being there”
  • Logistics Support-all the bits and pieces
  • Financial Support-money, money, money
  • Prayer Support-spiritual warfare at its best
  • Communication Support-letters, tapes and more
  • Re-entry Support-more than applauding the safe landing of his jumbo jet

Each area has its unique responsibilities; each is best served by specific gifts within the Body of Christ. Allow His Spirit to speak to your heart about your possible involvement in one of these phases of support.

God’s call on your life to serve as a sender must be just as vibrant as the call on the life of the one you send. Likewise, the commitment you make must be as sure as that of your cross-cultural worker. The responsible action you take is as important as the ministry your field worker performs.

And the reward of souls for His Kingdom will be equal to your missionary’s and your own faithfulness.

A Case Study in Support

As a church in Sacramento, California began preparations to field their second missionary family, the concept of the church serving as senders became a priority. Seven couples committed themselves to direct the support team for Lou and Sandy and their six-month-old baby girl Marlies.

Each one on the team was encouraged to consider the seriousness of each support area. One of the team members tells the story:

Lou and Sandy invited nine couples to their home in June. They had already been to the Philippines. They had visited several ministries there-trusting that the Lord would show them where He wanted them to serve.

At the June meeting, Lou shared with us the opportunity they sensed God had provided for them. “But,” he said, “the only way we will be able to go is if we have a Core Group responsible for our support.” He discussed the basic needs for moral, logistics, financial, prayer, communication and re-entry support and how the Core Group would head up each of these areas. He then asked us to pray seriously about being a part of this team effort. He wanted our answer within two weeks. As it turned out, seven couples felt God’s calling to serve. That was our beginning.

We all knew we wanted to support Lou and Sandy. After all, we had said we would be a part of the Core Group. But what was next? As Lou had asked George and me to head up the Core Group, we called the others to see if there was any specific area of ministry they would like to be involved in. The Hughes would head the logistics support. The Huffmans had a heart for re-entry. The Martins wanted to be responsible for communication support. Others responded in turn.

We had our first real meeting as a Core Group in August. At first I think we wanted to appear as if we had it “all together.” As the meeting progressed, however, it became apparent that we, in fact, didn’t! But praise God, the walls began to break down and we were able to admit that we were confused in some areas. As we began to discuss our problems, we also began to brainstorm as a group for answers.

So here’s the opportunity for you to serve as a sender, to be a vital part of the mission process.

Hang on! As we’ll see in the next chapter, there’s more to it than raising your hand to volunteer. As your cross-cultural worker encounters difficulties, your moral support is needed to protect him.

(In addition to the following individual study, see the Group Leader’s Guide for session one.)

For Your Personal Involvement

Note: A text without a context is a pretext. Throughout this study you will find many Scripture references. To benefit more fully from the lessons, read each one in its full context. Allow the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all Truth” (John 16:13).

  • Read Romans 10:13-15. From that passage fill in the blanks in the following statement. Notice that there is a key word in each question that leads you to the next question. The foundation of the whole sequence, then, lies in the final word!

    Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall _____ upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. (See Joel 2:32.)

    Romans 10:14 How then shall they _____ on Him in Whom they have not _____ ? And how shall they _____ in Him of Whom they have not _____ ? And how shall they _____ without a _____ ?

    Romans 10:15 And how shall they _____ except they are _____ ? (Write that final word in all capital letters to high-light in your mind the vitality of serving as senders!)

  • List the nine stages of the physical/emotional/psychological/spiritual life time-line of a missionary, and the incident in time that forms the transition from one to another. (Note the example.)
    Period A: “Normal Living”; personal call
    Period B: _______________; _______________
    Period C: _______________; _______________
    Period D: _______________; _______________
    Period E: _______________; _______________
    Period F: _______________; _______________
    Period G: _______________; _______________
    Period H: _______________; active in ministry
    Period I: ________________

  • Read the following passagess relating to Paul’s need for a support team. Place in each blank the type of support Paul was either asking for or expressing thanks for-whether moral, logistics, financial, prayer, communication or re-entry. (Each area is referred to in at least one passage.)
  • Indicate on the following pedestals where you think “cultural Christianity” estimates the value of:
    • Pastor
    • Lay person
    • Missionary
    • Evangelist

Now read 1 Corinthians 1:11-13; 3:4-9; 12:12-27 and Revelation 2:6, 15. The doctrine of the Nicolaltans made a distinction between the clergy (professional religious people) and the laity (common, ordinary folk).

After prayer, fill in the following sentence:

Maybe you cant fill that in right now. Go ahead and read through Serving As Senders. By the end of our study, we trust you will be able to make that statement personal!

Action Steps

By the time you have read Chapter One, completed the For Your Personal Involvement section and participated in a group discussion (See Group Leader’s Guide), you should…

  • Sense the need for those who serve as senders.
  • Want to study further to know where you might fit in.
  • Take the initiative. Let your missionary friend know that you are learning about the ministry of serving as a sender. And you will soon be available to help support him in one or more areas for God’s glory!
  • Multiply yourself. Look among your fellowship for those who seem to be at loose ends. Possibly they are the cross-cultural parts of your church. Invite them to read and study this book with you.
Chapter Two. Moral Support Next Section →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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