I’m a big advocate for giving through the local church. Beyond that, I try and support other causes and ministries that are important to me. With our giving we can build wells for people without water, we can advocate for modern day slaves, we can feed hungry children, we can translate the Bible, etc.
But there’s one group of people that need our faithful support even more than others. They need it because they are the ones who are building the wells, rescuing slaves, and translating the Bible. They are the ones who are sharing the gospel with those who have not heard.
Who am I talking about? Missionaries.
I’ve been thinking about the benefits of sponsoring missionaries recently because I’ve been sending out some fundraising letters of my own. I’m a church planter in Queens and I rely on the prayers and gifts of others to bring the gospel to a place that has very few gospel-centered churches.
As William Carey said to his financial supporters, “I’ll go down into the mine, if you’ll hold the ropes.”
But what’s in it for those who give? What’s in it for those who hold the ropes?
In a word: partnership
In two words: mutual encouragement
Here are 7 reasons why you should sponsor a missionary:
1. Missionaries Inspire You
When I was a kid, missionaries came to our church and showed us pictures of people from different cultures. The husband always had on a button down shirt with four pockets on the front and the wife was wearing an unusually colorful dress. They spoke of God’s grace and love and how God was opening doors for the gospel in their country of service.
Those stories were inspiring and they still are. Whenever I talk to my friends who are missionaries I get excited about the cutting edge gospel ministry they are doing. Most missionaries send a monthly prayer letter that gives updates on the prayers and praises of their family. How many people have been inspired to share the gospel through the testimonies of faithful missionaries.
2. Missionaries Teach You
Not only am I inspired by missionary stories, I learn. I learn how to engage people in my own community. I learn that my own way of life is far more comfortable than theirs. I learn not to care so much about material goods and learn how to care more for people.
Receiving updates from a missionary is like reading a good biography in real-time. Reading about William Carey or Adoniram Judson or Hudson Taylor is also inspiring and educational but the work your missionary is doing is happening now…with your help!
3. Missionaries Teach Your Children
Again, thinking back to my childhood, I can remember those rice bowls where we put our change to help the hungry. I can remember a visiting missionary giving me a coin that was in their country’s currency. I can remember learning about cross-cultural ministry.
When you sponsor a missionary, you have the opportunity to involve your children. They can write letters of encouragement to the missionary (even better if it’s in crayon). Just this past week, I received a check from a church that encouraged the children at their Vacation Bible School to take up an offering for my family. The possibilities for teaching and inspiring our children to participate in the Great Commission are greatly enhanced when you are in partnership with a missionary or church planter.
4. Missionaries Encourage You
Personally, I think the people who are planting churches or who are reaching the unreached are the ones I want to ask for advice. I turn to these disciple makers first simply because they are on the front lines. I have received so much encouragement and wisdom from those who are in the thick of the spiritual battle.
Whenever you feel cold and discouraged, reach out to those whose fire is burning the hottest. Let their energy and passion rub off on you. If your faith is taking a hit, learn from those whose faith has been tested in the most difficult of circumstances.
5. Missionaries Pray For You
It makes sense that missionaries are prayer warriors. They depend on God daily for wisdom, direction, and for their basic needs. They’ve learned how to commune with God.
Speaking for myself, I can say that every time I send a prayer update I pray for the recipients. I often hear back from them and I always pray for them. Whenever I get a gift in the mail or an encouraging phone call, I pray for that person. You really learn to appreciate those who’ve got your back!
6. Missionaries Bless You
When Paul received support from the church in Philippi he thanked them by saying, “you sent gifts for my need several times. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that is increasing to your account.” (Philippians 4:16b-17) It was in that context that he penned these familiar words:
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
Paul knew that it is more of a blessing to give than to receive (I think he had heard something like that before). He knew that God would reward the giver. Like Paul, missionaries know the value in involving others in the ministry. Their request for prayer and financial support is not selfish. Instead, it is a recognition that people need to be given opportunities to give so that they might receive a blessing.
7. Missionaries Need You
Missionaries aren’t just giving you an opportunity to flex your giving muscles, they are giving you an opportunity to serve. Giving to the cause makes you a co-worker for the truth (3 John 8) but you might even get an opportunity to go short-term and help out. Missionaries are always finding ways to involve people in their ministry. For the missionary, this is yet another time to teach and inspire and it multiplies his efforts by the number of people you bring. For the volunteer, working alongside the missionary is a chance for you to bless and serve but it is also a chance to learn and grow. The partnership is mutual but the missionary can’t do it without you.
I’ve led several short-term mission teams to work with missionaries around the world. One missionary we partnered with was able to plant 40+ churches in 40 different villages in the Andes mountains with the help of our team. Sometimes a missionary can’t do it on his own. Paul reached out to the church in Rome because he wanted to take the gospel to Spain. You could almost argue that the book of Romans is one giant partnership letter. Towards the end of the letter, Paul writes,
But now I no longer have any work to do in these provinces, and I have strongly desired for many years to come to you whenever I travel to Spain. For I do hope to see you when I pass through, and to be sent on my way there by you, once I have first enjoyed your company for a while…Now I implore you, brothers, through the Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to agonize together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf. (Romans 15:23ff)
For all of the above reasons and more we need to “support such men, so that we can be co-workers with the truth.” We are partners in bringing the gospel to the nations. We’re all in this together. It’s an important work and God calls some to go and some to give.
I want to encourage you to find someone you can trust and then pray for that missionary like you’ve never prayed before. Send encouraging notes. Be generous. Show them love. You just might get more out of it than you put in.