This post is motivated by the need to build relationships between self-funded missionaries and Lutheran churches within the CALC denomination. How does a missionary build relationships with a congregation? How do we engage and support a missionary raised up from within CALC? In laying out a tentative roadmap, I hope to help answer these questions.

Prayer

Building relationships is closely akin to Kingdom building. When God calls a missionary to service, the missionary trusts God to provide material necessities. In raising financial support, everything must be prayerfully directed. In building relationships with congregations, God will call those He has chosen to partner. Diligent prayer is to be assumed at every stop on the engagement roadmap.

Getting Invited to Church

Relationship-building with a church begins with its leadership. A missionary seeking to engage a congregation requires an invitation to do so. Every church leader will have at least two questions before extending an invite. These are simply,

Who is this missionary, and why is the work important?

It is likely that a missionary has little personal reach beyond his home congregation. Though he may be heavily involved in service and ministry, any reputation or influence garnered by such involvement may not carry weight between congregations, especially when separated by distance. A missionary must be introduced to a new congregation by someone known and respected. This may be a pastor, councillor, or some other leader. Whatever role this leader plays, she must first be introduced to the work. This begins with the missionary being allowed to share testimony and the purpose of the work to which he is called over the phone or in person.

Roadmap

Having satisfied the questions naturally posed by church leadership, the missionary is allowed to engage the congregation. There are at least two factors to consider. This tentative roadmap seeks to address these:

  • How do we announce a visiting missionary in advance to ensure key people are present?
    • Key people include church leaders and individual families with a heart for missions.
  • How do we emphasize the need for prayerful consideration of support?

Video Introduction

I propose a two-week lead-up to any missionary church visit. During service, on the two Sundays prior, a short promotional video will be played. Pre-announcing a visit in this way serves to answer the question of Who exactly is this missionary? When the missionary does come to speak to the church, his visit will be expected and the congregation will have already been invited to prayerfully consider support.

Example:

Bulletin Announcement

This may be done in lieu of, or in addition to a video introduction. This is especially important in cases where a church does not possess adequate audio-visual equipment. The announcement itself need not be verbose. By itself, it serves the same purpose as the video. It invites the congregation to ask God how to steward their individual and corporate resources.

Example:

Wycliffe missionary, Daniel Bidulock, will be joining us on August 18 to share his testimony and call to Bible translation. Please ask God if you are called to invest in this exciting Kingdom-building opportunity.

Sanctuary Screen Announcement

My home church shows announcement slides on the sanctuary screens before service. A single slide with a photo and arrival information reinforces the need for prayer in anticipation of a missionary’s visit.

Example:

The Church Visit

Timing and placement within the overall service is a future point of discussion. With a ten minute slideshow or video presentation (for example), the missionary is given the opportunity to make a more robust self-introduction and answer two more questions that will naturally arise during the introduction period:

1. Why is this particular ministry important?

Or, how does a congregation or individual assess the value of a particular ministry? In engaging a congregation, the missionary will articulate the Spirtual impact of his work, the holistic benefits, and the desires of the beneficiary group. It is wise to anticipate and address future questions of who is collaborating in this ministry and how progress is measured. Also, how does this ministry align with missions priorities identified by CALC?

2. What is this missionary doing to help accomplish the ministry?

This is related to the question of Who is this missionary? Here the missionary will affirm that he is well-suited to the work to which he has been called. The particulars of what this missionary will actually do may change over time. This provides an excellent opportunity to promote an avenue through which people and churches can get updates on the what they are doing. Perhaps a newsletter signup, Website, or social media channels.

Promotional Material

On the day of the missionary’s visit, informational brochures, prayer cards, and offering envelopes are distributed with the service bulletin. Having such materials in the hands of those present is important when it comes time to pray collectively as a congregation about financial support.

If practical, brochures might be inserted into Sunday bulletins during the two-week pre-arrival period. It is prudent to communicate through all channels available within the church.

Corporate Prayer

Once the missionary has shared his work and testimony it is essential that someone else leads the congregation in prayer. Ideally this should be the church leader to whom the missionary was first introduced, though the pastor or other person of influence is also good… just so long as there is prayer. The language of the prayer must be carefully considered. Depending on the sending agency, the missionary may not be able to start work until his financial support is proven 100% sustainable. Communicating immediacy and urgency is the difference between If you’re interested, talk to Dan after service and Ask God now if you are called to join in this work.

Example

In your bulletins you’ll find a brochure and an offering envelope. Please hold these in your hand and bow with me in prayer…

God, thank you for this opportunity to invest in your Kingdom-building work around the world. Please direct our hearts and minds toward your purpose. Let our generosity do the work that money by itself cannot carry out. Let us join Dan in changing lives by publishing your Good News to the world. Who here is called today?

More Prayer

As will all things, financing a mission is in God’s hands. In the days and weeks following the visit, both the missionary and the church leadership must remain committed to prayer as the Spirit leads.

Future Work

Distance

Given the distance between CALC churches, it may not be feasible for a missionary to visit each one in person. There may be other options open to someone invited to share mission and testimony, but this would depend on the technical capacity of each church. While most would likely be able to play an informational video, setting up a video conference may present more of a challenge.

Identifying Individual Supporters in Advance

Congregational support can mean two things: financial support approved by a church council or the collective support garnered from families and individuals within a congregation. My personal preference is for the latter. Relationship building with individuals is much more productive than with a group or organization. I believe it to be more sustainable in the long-run as well. That said, council support would obviously not be dismissed.

The question that remains is how do we identify potential supporters in advance? Having engaged the congregation, how do we get to know the people with an expressed interest in supporting missions? Developing these one-on-one relationships must be cultivated in the early part of the missionary’s campaign. The details of how this might be done are yet to be discerned.

Summary

From top to bottom while covered in prayer, this is the proposed congregation engagement roadmap so far:

  1. Missionary reaches out to someone in church leadership
  2. This leader relays the details of the mission to church decision makers
  3. A date is set for the missionary’s visit
  4. The missionary provides a short video introduction, which will be played the two Sundays prior to his arrival
    1. If practical, he will also deliver prayer cards or brochures for advance distribution
    2. A short bulletin announcement or slide should be provided as well
  5. The missionary is allowed to answer the questions of Who? and Why? in front of the congregation
  6. Someone other than the missionary will lead the congregation in prayer
  7. More prayer

Here ends my tentative roadmap. My hope is that by starting the discussion in this way, CALC will be prepared to support the next generation of missionary raised from within.

God’s peace,

Dan