One of the most valuable and biblical ways missionaries can increase the productivity of fulltime, cross-cultural ministry is to mentor other missionaries. However, in many cases, there is an insufficient willingness among experienced missionaries to mentor new missionaries. Sadly, the inverse is also true. Many new missionaries do not desire to receive guidance from those missionaries who have come before them.
Missions is hard enough without having to go through unnecessary pain and suffering. There are some priceless lessons to be learned in the school of hard knocks. Nothing teaches about the dangers of fire like placing your hand in it. However, sharing the experience which comes from an abundance of success and failure can also be an amazing teaching tool.
A missionary with years under his belt can be a great asset for newer missionaries. Veteran missionaries do not know everything, but when they are willing to share their insight it can benefit other ministries, and bring greater glory to God. Interestingly enough, not every seasoned missionary is eager to invest time and energy in younger missionaries. This is a sad reality, when it is God’s glory on the line.
As weathered Christians, no matter where we are called to serve, is instructed by Scripture to mentor and disciple underdeveloped believers. The older generation are to instruct the following group (Ps. 145:4) with humility (1 Pet. 5:1-5). Faithful men are to teach other men (2 Tim. 2:2) and older women are to teach younger women (Tit. 2:3-5). As iron sharpens iron, so is one disciple to sharpen another (Pr. 27:17). The experienced missionaries should be going out of their way to lend their time and background to the younger missionaries. This is not for individual accolades or pride, but so your pain and joy can bring greater glory to God’s work through another servant.
The younger missionaries should seek out the counsel of men and women who have walked the path before them. Newer missionaries should humble themselves before the insight of experienced missionaries. This humility is a testament to being willing to place God ahead of personal pride. Seeking a veteran missionary who is enthusiastic to honestly share their suffering and knowledge is one of the ways God desires to sanctify his disciples. A humble servant who is willing to laugh at himself, share his tears, and help others grow is a priceless commodity.
Scripture tells us we become wise by walking with the wise (Pr. 13:20) and when we consider the outcome of the lives of our leaders (Heb. 13:7). Followers of Yahweh are told to receive instruction, and insight in our dealings (Pr. 1:2-3). A young missionary should not assume he already possesses all he needs to properly glorify the Lord in his ministry. It takes a modest and reserved spirit to admit one needs help. But, it is not our wisdom we seek to raise up, it is the provision God provides us through his Word and his disciples.
God’s Glory Together
A journey together is how God intended his disciples to reach the nations. Throughout Scripture there are very few sojourners who went at it alone. Followers of Christ are called to humbly live in community and grow together for the benefit of the kingdom of God. As we set aside our arrogance and independence God’s glory is magnified in the world.
In the end, it is not about a seasoned missionary’s wisdom or the newer missionary’s high energy. The final goal is for all missionaries to put aside man-centered pride to obtain great glory for Jesus Christ. There is no excuse for older missionaries to not pour their heart into the next generation of God’s global servants. And, the younger missionaries are foolish to not willingly tapping into the resource of those who walked the path before them.
God has given us our experiences not only for our sanctification, but for the growth and benefit of our brothers in the trenches. Every elder missionary should strive to invest time and energy into the following generations of cross-cultural servants so those behind them can advance God’s global call for the nations.
Our service in global evangelism can be so much more than the effort and years we put on the field. As a missionary ages, what he lacks in originality and stamina he makes up for in experience. God desires the old and young, new and experienced to grow together and learn from each other so his grace and mercy can be multiplied.
Older missionaries, reach out to your younger brothers and make their improvement part of your ministry. Young missionaries, humble yourselves by seeking the counsel of those who have succeeded and failed before you. Together, multiple generations of missionaries can learn from each other and more effectively bring glory to Christ among the nations.