Missionaries Must Nurture Relationships – Part 2: The Receiving Church and Missionary Team

Missionaries Must Nurture Relationships – Part 2: The Receiving Church and Missionary Team

 …by Kevin E. Jesmer                                                                                                    9-12-15

1 Corinthians 12:21

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” (NIV)
we cant say we dont need each other

Link to Part 1..Nurturing Relationships With Sending Church and Mission Agency

Link to Part 3: A Person of Peace And The Family

Link to Part 4: Nurturing Relationships with extended family members 

The Christian Church is the body of Christ. All those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, by faith, are parts of the body of Christ. The body has many parts. Hands and feet work together. A nose and an eye are both essential. Each part compliments each other and steps into the gap when another part is weak. We like to think of each part of the body as individual Christians, but also, on the macro level, each ministry and missional entity, has essential functions within the body to bring glory to Jesus.  We must respect each part, and even nurture relationships with them, for they are part of the body of Christ utilizing their various gifts to build up the church.


In the development of a mission, there are not just missionaries. There are other missional entities, which work together in unison, to allow the body of Christ to thrive. God desires for all of them to work together. The important thing is to recognize these parts of the body and nurture working relationship with them as we live as servants of Christ. Anything less is neglecting part of the body of Christ and hindering the work of the missionary.


Part 1: Introduction

I propose that the most fruitful path to embark on, as missionaries, is nurturing solid relationships with ten missional entities, all of which are part of the body of Christ.

  1. … a sending church
  2. … a mission agency
  3. … a receiving church
  4. … a missionary team
  5. … a “person of peace”
  6. … the family
  7. … the extended family
  8. … the secular community
  9. ….the Word of God
  10. …Jesus Christ, the living God.

This paper will define the ten areas of relationship building. Our own family experience as a house church will be reflected upon.  The things learned from the current mission to the Canada will added. There will also be some advice on how to nurture the relationships in the six areas.


The first part dealt with the necessity of nurturing relationships with a sending church and a mission agency. This second part will deal with relationship with a receiving church and a missionary team. The third part will expound on the relationships with a person of peace and the family. The point of all this is to share about some ways that missionaries can be strengthened as they follow Jesus. Let’s see.

 Part 2: Nurturing Relationships With A Receiving Church.

shaking hands puzzle

Missionaries need to nurture relationships with a receiving church. A receiving church is a church that partners in ministry. If you consider the invisible divide that separates the missionaries, from the culture it seeks to serve, then the receiving church is on the other side of that divide, dwelling in the region the missionary is praying to minister. They are poised to receive the missionaries as they land in the field. That is why I call them, the “receiving church”. I would include spiritual mentors and advisers as part of the receiving church. They are like-minded with similar vision for mission. They may not even be the same denomination as the sending church. They may not even have a relationship with the mission agency. The prime quality is that they are established within the foreign culture, or subculture, and can lend a helping hand to the missionary.


A receiving church is a separate missional entity that God has brought into the lives of the missionaries. They provide local resources. They provided easily accessible counseling, mentoring, logistic expertise, practical and material support, housing, transportation, friendship, timely feedback, and advice, to name a few. They become the new home church for the missionaries. They are the not the final landing place, but a launching pad to more remote locales. The missionaries become members and serve in the church, but set their eyes on other more “remote” regions.

A receiving church provides a source of support for the family. Let’s face it… we are human. There will be family strife. How hard it is to deal with that all alone! How wonderful it is to have the wisdom and support of a local receiving church! There can be marriage counseling and parenting counseling. The kids can find support in the youth group and youth counselors. There are families who have gone on before. These are only things that a receiving church could provide. We sure would have benefited from the support of receiving church rather than just silently bearing the relational struggles by ourselves as we carried on with our mission. A lot of issues could have been solved if I had nurtured a relationship with a receiving church within the community I lived in, right from the beginning.  (More on family in part 3.)


Sometimes a sending church tries to act like a receiving church. I would not advise this. There is no way that they can fulfill the functions of the receiving church, for the receiving church must be local, easily accessible and nestled in the culture.


In order to respect the work of the receiving church, the sending church must relinquish some control of the “their” missionaries and allow them to participate in the life of the receiving church. This requires faith and trust in God.


I feel that our sending church was trying to fulfill the functions of both a sending church and a receiving church at the same time, ignoring the need for a local receiving church. There are draw backs to this. Our sending church was one hour drive away.  In order for us to go for a simple visit, required 2 1/2 hours of driving and 2 or 3 hours of visiting time.  This meant a simple visit required five hours and $30 in gas and tolls. Visits were infrequent. It was not easy with a family where both parents worked and five young kids needed our attention. There was also, almost “no feed back” in our attempts at ministry.  Maybe I wasn’t ready to accept feed back. Maybe they did this out of respect for me and my choices, but having no feedback made me feel like I was operating in a vacuum. I would have liked more “real time” feed back, more availability for quick visits with other Christians and more advice on fruitful alternatives to mission, born out of casual conversation with members of a local receiving church.


Entering into a relationship with a receiving church is an act of God. Three years ago, while trying to embrace the mission to Canada, we were led to a receiving church after making many “cold calls” and interviewing people over the phone. One person directed me to another. God worked through this and by his sovereignty, led us to a particular congregation. Several visits were made and it became clear that our churches needed to enter into partnership so as to unleash the missionaries.


I completely ignored a relationship with a receiving church. In starting a campus house church (in1998), we lacked any type of relationship with a receiving church. We never thought we needed one. In our pride we launched into this campus mission, ignoring Christians around us. Our town is full of sincere Christians and churches that might have partnered with us. Our campus even had fourteen Christian groups that we might have formed friendships with if we thought it a priority. After moving to our small town, the intensity of our lives kept us from forming meaningful relationships in mission, with other Christians for fourteen years. We made excuses for not building relationships with other churches, because we were too busy serving our own mission according to our “special” calling.  This paradigm of mission kept us isolated from the rest of Christendom and operating without local mentors, supporters and guides.


Without a receiving church I lacked having Christians my own age to hang out with as friends. I was always surrounded by people who were my Bible students. There was always a mission related agenda defining my relationships. I was always evaluating people. Did they have a potential to grow as a disciple or was serving them a waste of my time? I did not have a local spiritual mentor in the same community to “bounce things off of”. I lacked a sense of community with other Christians near me.


With no receiving church, I made unreal demands on my own family members in order to keep the basics of church. We needed singers, prayer representatives, speakers and me, the messenger. There was no one else to do it and so my family needed to. The kids were forced into ministry, even when they did not believe in Jesus and even when they had no personal calling. The mission had to go on. With no receiving church, there was no outlet.


With no receiving church there was no source of “insider wisdom.” Each community is a unique culture. There are things to learn. There is wisdom to help a missionary to navigate the community. Why was I so proud to think that I could function in campus ministry without the wisdom of a receiving church near the campus and without local mentors to help show the way?


Without the receiving church there is no accountability.  If a person does not have a relationship with someone, on a day-to-day basis, it is hard to know and understand what a person is going through. I had slight accountability with my sending church sixty miles away, but as long as I produced positive reports about the mission and was keeping the Sunday worship service, all seemed well.  Nobody knew my need for spiritual mentors. Nobody knew the extent of my inner struggles.


At the end of my fourteen year stint as a single family house church, I reached out to a local pastor. I attended some his services by myself. I received his counsel. It was actually quite relieving. Healing was on the horizon. I would have avoided a whole lot of heartache if I had nurtured a relationship with a receiving church, right from the beginning of our mission.


Now that I am a member of a local community church (since 2012), how nice it is to stop by Starbucks and see one or two people whom I go to church with. How great it is to attend a home group meeting, where you are not forcing our immediate family members to make things happen. How refreshing it is to just enjoy sweet fellowship with a body of believers with no mission agenda. How nice it is to have some solid marriage and family support in a church that emphasizes family over mission. How good it is to have Christian peers and mentors nearby and not just Bible students.


Any missionary who tries to engage in cross cultural ministry without nurturing a strong relationship with a receiving church will suffer. Having no receiving church does not lend itself to a joyful life of faith, integration into the culture, nor longevity on the mission field. It will be a friendless, lonely mission. It will benefit a missionary greatly to come alongside a receiving church and nurture that relationship. All we have to do is open our eyes to see the receiving church God has prepared right before our eyes.  You might be surprised on who it is. Be ready to come along side, even if they are not like yourself.


Part 3:  Nurturing Relationships With A Missionary Team.

missionary team image


Missionaries, in a cross cultural setting, must have a close relationship with the missionary team. The mission agency, for the Canada mission, really emphasizes the importance of teamwork. They will not encourage missionaries to go out without forming a close team.

Without a team, what is left is a single family serving as missionaries. As I have mentioned before, in such a case, the family members become the pillar leaders of anything that goes on. There is unrelenting pressure for the husband to always have the Sunday message prepared. There is pressure for the kids to always have praise and worship music prepared (even when they do not believe in Jesus). There is pressure for the wife to do everything else. It may take years, if ever, to have a non-family member take ownership of the ministry. The family must always uphold ministry activities, without fail. Some parts of ministry should not have been formed in the first place because of the lack of team members. Without team members there is no one to share the load.


But with a team there is support. There is feedback. There is sharing of the load. Other team members can stand in the gap. They can encourage one another in times of weakness. There can be elders, differing approaches, checks and balances. What about being able to go on furlough? Who will take over when you are gone? It must be the other members of the team that you have nurtured relationships with. It is a great relief to be part of a missionary team.


In a missionary team there is oneness and respect. Some churches may be tempted to embed a senior missionary in with other junior missionaries. They may have a godly motive to infuse some spiritual maturity into the team.  But they may also have an impure motive to make sure the church’s agenda is fulfilled. This is paternalistic. It does not trust the leading of the Holy Spirit. It does not respect the team members. In the team there is respect and shared authority, admiration and opportunities for all members to contribute. There is trust in God. With a missionary team there could be consensus building and unity.


We suffered greatly because we took hold of our mission without being part of a team. Our family members were the team. There was no one to pinch hit for me in leading group Bible study and delivering the Sunday message. It was always me and it was stressful. The kids were under pressure to always contribute with a smile on their face. Sunday became a chore instead a time of joyful worship before the Lord. Things would be very different with a team.


Without a team, the nature of the ministry was authoritarian. I was the head of the household. I was the one making sure that our “well oiled” machine kept running every week. I was authoritarian. I was the enforcer, and I did it for over fourteen years. There were no checks and balances to see if I was straying as a leader. My wife was forced to play that role. A missionary who does not have a strong relationship with a missionary team will end up making unreal demands on each member of their family to keep their mission alive.

I remember why I was not open to sharing authority in my house church setting. There were people with whom I could have shared authority and I could have attempted to instill an elder board. First, I never knew the importance of it. I never was taught that this is an important part of church planting. I guess it came with my ignoring the missionary team, aspect of church planting. But the big reason is that I truly felt that since I sacrificed so much to build the house church, with my own money and my own Bible teaching and the church was our family home, then no one had the right to have authority to have significant input. What if they chose something I didn’t like, will I still have to keep providing the home and the vast majority of the money for something that I didn’t agree with? In my mind the ministry was mine. I tried to not share the authority with elders. But in the end, look what happened. I was depressed to tears and the ministry came to not. But God came to my rescue. Praise Jesus.

A missionary can nurture a relationship with the missionary team, by keeping in communication. They do not operate on their own. They work in conjunction with the team. They submit to God’s leading as revealed through the team. There is oneness. There is openness and honesty and commitment. There is communista (bonding from shared experiences). Longevity, joy, fruitfulness on the mission field can be achieved by nurturing a strong relationship with a missionary team.


Part 4: Conclusion.


God never meant for us to function alone. Elijah felt all alone. He was so distressed that he was hoping to die. But God told him, in the depth of his despair, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18; NIV) Elijah was not alone. There were others in the spiritual battle. God wants us to partner with others. In Philippians 1:5-8 Paul writes, “I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (NIV) He considered others as partnering with him for the sake of the Gospel. This partnering involves individuals but Christians in other missional entities, like a receiving church and a missionary team.


We may be tempted to ignore relationships with other parts of the body of Christ as we barrel forward with our mission. It seems easier, at first, to ignore a need for a receiving church or other team members. But, by failing to nurture these relationships, missionaries suffer. Their mission can only go so far. When I tried to do it, for fourteen years, I was left severely depressed and despaired. I was lonely and without local peers, local Christian friends and local mentors. I forced my family to serve the functions that a receiving church and a team were meant to fulfill. Some may have thought I should have suffered for several years longer, keeping business as usual, and thinking a blessing was just over the next mountain. But I don’t think so. Never again will I ignore these important relationships in mission, rather I will promote their need and seek to nurture them.


Part three of this three part series will discuss nurturing relationships with a “person of peace’” and the family.


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