Our present-day culture can be described as a comfort-at-any-cost society. In this environment, things such as affliction, pain, persecution, and other forms of suffering are viewed as obstacles and enemies. Missionaries are not immune from embracing this cultural attitude. In fact, some missionaries are surprised, disturbed, and angered when they encounter such difficulties either in the process of preparing for their ministry or on the mission field itself.
The Bible teaches that this comfortable view of life is not realistic. Scripture repeatedly informs us that there is no escape from the brutal blows of life. The Bible also teaches us that suffering is a part of God’s perfect plan for His children and that there is a good purpose for everything that God allows to pierce our lives. A part of that good purpose of God is the presence of fellow believers who are sent by the Holy Spirit to the missionary to offer encouragement in the midst of suffering. The Apostle Paul sent Timothy to the Thessalonians in the midst of their afflictions “to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith” (I Thess. 3:2). In the life of a missionary, this provision of encouragement is one responsibility of the local, sending church.
Although the Holy Spirit is foremost in calling persons to the mission field, we must avoid the temptation to minimize the place and importance of the local church in the missions process. One of the greatest privileges and responsibilities that God entrusts to a local congregation is to be the sending church for a missionary who is called by the Holy Spirit.
The sending church can help fulfill its responsibility to the missionary by being a powerful source of encouragement. Each church should pray for and take care of its missionary. This is appropriate since the missionary is actually an important extension of the church’s ministry efforts. The following are some practical ways that the church can provide encouragement.
First, the church can provide the funds necessary to pay the expenses for both the candidate school experience and the necessary supplies connected to the deputation process. Second, the sending church can provide housing, office space, and phone service for the missionary while he is on deputation. Third, the church can maintain consistent communication with the missionary while he is on the mission field. Finally, it would be encouraging for the sending church to send fellow believers on short-term missions trips to encourage the missionary.
The people who participate in the short-term missions trips should have the character qualities of Barnabas, who’s name means “son of encouragement”. When the disciples in Jerusalem hesitated to embrace the newly converted Saul, Barnabas showed him great kindness. Barnabas was not afraid to steadfastly stand by God’s servant in a time of tumult. If you have a Barnabas in your life, you are greatly blessed. You are also blessed if you are a Barnabas to others. Maybe God is calling you to be a Barnabas to someone else, particularly a missionary. Are you willing to obediently respond to God’s call?