"Missions agencies send no one."
Practically speaking, in my experience it is not quite so simple. There is an interesting dynamic going on in the missionary sending process of this century. God is using the universal church (in many cases "churches", "individuals", and "sending agencies" of whom many rely upon Bible Schools and Seminaries outside the church for training), to send out his missionaries. Exceptions are recognized.
The mission agency essentially sends the missionary, through the recommendation of an individual church who provide minimal support in relation to the overall support package, trusting individuals or other churches to provide the majority of their support.
Churches often work through a plurality of priorities and goals that vary from other churches, agencies and individuals who are involved, often times putting an emphasis on personal relationships. I believe agencies and churches try hard to work together, yet from the seat of this individual missionary, there is simply not the resources available or philosophy of sending, that enables a local body to send individual missionaries efficiently and quickly to the field.
It is a sobering fact that without the individual missionary enduring to raise support (in faith missions) the mission agency nor the sending part of the local church would exist, outside of international partnerships, which require similar funding. The missionary often enters a 1-3yr journey of life to sustain his physical needs while to seeking the provision to live overseas. While this may seem depressing to some, it actually works to strengthen the missionary's faith and test their endurance that one day will be tested on the field.
The wide sources of giving help missionaries soften disruptions in giving patterns when some have to withdraw their support. I think all this leads to one fact for today's church:
It is God who sends the missionary through the sending agency (which sometimes is the local church itself), or independently, and the [local] church's role has become one of affirmation and commissioning where they recognize, set apart and support in some fashion, missionaries for this calling.
It is also God who burdens the hearts of people to pray and give to the missionary.
And it is God who prepares the soil for people to hear the gospel.
How God uses the church is up to Him…
Yet on the other hand, it is man who limits their resources towards missions which affect the missionary's source of support, the people he/she is sent to reach, and the richness of their own faith when they do not obey and engage in God's heart for mission. In addition churches focused heavily on internal ministry do not have a missionary to encourage them and keep alive what God is doing overseas!
I often wondered what our church would look like if their staff and pastors were asked to raise their support from individuals and other churches in the same way they ask their missionaries to. In turn I often wonder what the mission field would look like if the church supported their missionaries like they do their staff and pastors!
I have mixed reactions to the article. My conclusion is that we should take a balanced approach, encourage the church to engage, and look to God for the resources and direction in our journey to and on the field.
Ross and Mary Hunter are career missionaries with Pioneers. They moved to Ecuador in 1994 and have served the Quichua people in Ecuador since then through discipleship and pastoral training. For more information on Ross and Mary's missionary service, visit www.EVministry.org