Missionaries Should Communicate, And Churches Should Demand It

On our last missionary furlough I spoke with dozens of pastors and church leaders about their church’s support for missionaries. In difficult economic times most churches were reducing their budgets and that included missions. Without exception, every single church that was cutting support to missionaries told me they were going to eliminate support for, “the missionary we have been supporting for years, but we just don’t hear from anymore.”

Eliminating support for non-communicative missionaries is a wonderful idea, for two great reasons: 1) churches must be good stewards of the resources they have been given and throwing money at a missionary who is not a partner with their church is foolish. And, 2) Missionaries must learn the importance of communicating with the partners in their ministry.

Act Like A Team
Missionaries, you have been called to leave your home and family and culture to go to far off lands and serve in the name of Christ. That is a beautiful calling and you should embrace it. The individuals who stay home and pray for your efforts and write checks to support your work are equally called by God to play their role. God has called the missionary to go and God has also called the supporters to remain home and make missions work possible. The calling is equal. Senders and goers are a team. Act like it.

I have met too many missionaries who view their supporters as a hurdle they must overcome before they can get onto the mission field and do what God has called them to do. When these missionaries are raising their financial support they say all the right things; “partner with me,” “join the team” and “accept God’s calling.” But, as soon as their support is raised they forget about the team with whom God has surrounded them.

As Christians we are responsible to lift up our fellow believers and make it easier for them to glorify God (Deut. 22:4; Pro. 27:17; Gal. 6:1-5). Working together to advance God’s plan for the world requires prayers, givers and goers. A major part of our responsibility as goers is to provide the prayers and the givers with everything they need to better pray for us and the people we serve. If supporters of missionaries don’t know what to pray for missionaries have not done their job.

Using Technology
Fellow missionaries have told me, “Doing all that communication work takes time away from ministry.” They miss the point. Communicating God’s glory and telling the world all the wonderful things he is doing in far off lands is not a burden, it is part of your ministry. “Let them shout from the top of the mountains.” (Is. 42:11)

Communication is not hard, expensive or time consuming. Most third world countries have Internet and smartphones. Resources like Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, etc. are very easy to use and all are free. Most entry-level digital cameras have both photo and video capability, as do most smartphones. Websites exist to manage your newsletter database or to send out personalized postcards and “thank you” notes. If indeed missionaries are doing the wonderful work that so many are doing, they should shout it from the cyber-mountaintops. There are very few excuses to be a poor communicator in this day and age.

It is not difficult for missionaries to communicate with their supporters.  Write a couple of blog posts a week, take a picture every day, send out a 140 character tweet, e-mail out a short, picture filled newsletter once a month. If missionaries only communicated that much, supporters would feel like they are part of the ministry. When you share the stories of your work with the people who have committed to pray for you and support you then you are helping them to fulfill the Great Commission.

What It Looks Like
In our ministry in Honduras we know that we have supporters who don’t subscribe to our tweets, or watch our videos or even open our e-mailed newsletters. That is fine. But, we also know that there are many people who are diligent readers and prayers and they want more information. They want to pray specific prayers for Antonio, they want to see Carlito’s face and they want to know my wife is feeling better. They want to be connected. Communication is not intrusive or burdensome. If people don’t have time or simply don’t want to read about your ministry they can delete, unfriend or save it for later. But, if missionaries aren’t sending out regular communication they are not giving their supporters the choice to get more involved.

Churches and individual partners, you need to insist that the missionaries you support are communicating with you. You are just as much a part of that ministry as the missionary is. Get passionate about your calling towards missions. Demand regular communication from your missionaries, but also communicate with them. Check in on them. Tell them you pray for them. Prove to them you’ve been reading their reports. Let them know their communication efforts are not in vain. Take your calling seriously.

Missions is a partnership. Missionaries and prayers and givers have all been called by God to join together in the expansion of his glory. Your mission team has many members who combine their talents to glorify God in the world. When missionaries communicate what God is doing through the combined efforts of their team, the one who called them together gets the glory.