originally given July 15th 2016 at ACM Seminar
When I was young, I was an athlete. There wasn’t a land sport I couldn’t play and as I played, there were times that I needed medical care. The coach would then send us to the right medical professional to tend to our problems. The question we must ask is, “where would athletes be if there were no medical professionals to aid the injured player?
I do not like delving into the ‘what if…’ questions because they do not reflect reality but in this case a ‘what if’ question is needed to provide a very good illustration that helps us understand the spiritual responsibility Christians have towards each other. So to reword the question, ‘what if those medical professionals decided to become athletes? They no longer wanted to do the hard work of taking care of the player but wanted to participate in the fun and fame of athletic competition.
The result would be that we no longer would have athletes because no one would be left to take care of the injured players. Sports would go away for no one would be healthy enough to continue playing. because the medical professionals were tired of doing the hard work without receiving any recognition,
This is the situation in the church today. For far too long we have given too much priority to one area of the Christian life and we try to get as many people to participate in that one outlet as we can and sadly the other unsung parts of the spiritual body have largely been ignored or left underdeveloped.
I would like to turn to one passage of scripture that will be the text for what I am about to say
27Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
28And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?
30Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
As we see God does not focus solely upon one aspect of the body nor over-prioritize it. He provides offices that do not get the press, do not get the fame or the praise that comes with more public offices of the Christian body. But the contribution made by those unsung believers who serve in those offices is vital to the church and its health.
We need to rephrase the initial question again.
Where would missionaries and evangelists be if every believer left or were directed away from the calling God has for them and they all entered the field of evangelism or missionary work? Where would the church be if no one took care of those who were specifically called to be missionaries. Missionaries and the church would not exist as everyone would be spiritually damaged and there would be no one to tend to their spiritual wounds.
The support offices of the spiritual body may not get the press, they may not get the fame but they are very important to the health of the church and while it may be hard work, we need believers to be correctly trained in those areas of the Christian life in order for the church to be healthy and continue to reach others for Christ. These believers pick up the pieces and with God’s help put our missionaries, pastors and other church leaders back together so they do not lose their faith and walk away from God.
We know this happens as there are plenty of websites where former ministers, missionaries and other church leaders go to talk about their departure from their faith and God. There are 3 items I would like to focus on in this talk on missionary care, and what I am about to say actually applies to everyone in the church, not just missionaries.
People are going to sin, they are going to make mistakes but how we handle those errors says a lot to all involved and the silent observers who see what took place. If we want a biblical example of how to correctly handle those who make unfortunate mistakes or stumble in their testimonies we only have to go as far as Peter who denied Christ 3 times.
The other disciples did not form a committee to ‘deal with’ Peter’s sins, they did not demand he be tossed out of the church nor was he deprived of access to Jesus. In fact, God worked in Peter’s life and brought him back to where he was powerfully used in the early church.
In the west, the Christian church has the reputation, and has had it for decades, that it kills its wounded. We cannot afford such a reputation but need to properly heal those who are spiritually wounded by attacks from evil no matter the situation.
One way to bring proper care is to keep the missionaries mistakes and sins in perspective. How do we do that? Those given the task of caring for the missionary simply ask themselves one simple question: We would they be if God did not give them 1, 5, 50 etc., chances? Where would we be if God took the hardline attitude that we often bring to our missionaries who err?
We do know where we would be because God has taken the hardline in the OT and we go to the battles of Jericho and Ai to see that result. It is not a pretty picture, so we need to allow grace, humility and forgiveness to guide us in handling the spiritual problems that arise when missionaries stumble.
Those people charged with handling the spiritual and physical needs of the missionary must remember that they are no better than the one making the mistakes for they are not perfect either yet God has nurtured them back to spiritual health and are being used by God to advance his will.
Keeping everything in perspective helps solve the problem correctly and allows for God to bring the right solution to the issue.
Forgiveness is a key component in tending to the spiritual injuries of the missionary, pastor or other church leaders. Even though the mistake made was not against anyone in the church we still need to forgive because one, many people hold those mistakes against the missionary and their future treatment of the missionary is affected by that refusal to forgive.
One example, as I learned my lessons when I was teaching in Korea, God led me to the attitude that with each new class I would give my students a brand new start and what happened in other classes was forgotten and not held over their heads.
I found that I could focus on teaching, obtaining the right material for my students and the overall atmosphere in the classroom was better and that students responded to me in a more positive way. Forgiveness helps us to focus on what God wants us to do towards the other person and keeps our attitude toward them spiritually clean so that we can minister to those who make mistakes.
Two, forgiveness helps us remove the beams from our own eyes so we can see clearly what action we are to take. Forgiveness removes personal opinion, preference and emotions from muddying the waters and distorting the issue and we can focus on coming to the right disciplinary measure, rebuke or counsel.
We can correctly spiritually address the issue or problem and have our response fit the violation regardless if other people agree or like our conclusions. We are not out to make an example of violators, we are not out to appear to be spiritual in our handling of their mistakes and so on.
We are not allowed to sin when dealing with the mistakes made by other believers.
In caring for your missionaries, you need to be honest— You cannot play favorites, you need look at all the evidence without bias, investigate without dishonesty. Make sure all sides get a fair hearing. There is nothing to be gained by being dishonest or by lying.
You also cannot look to the secular world for guidance because the unbelieving world is deceived, blind and does not have a superior objective moral code given by a holy and sinless supreme being to follow.
They have rejected God and his ways of justice and make up their own as influenced by evil. The secular world also does not have the spirit of truth to guide them to the real truth of a matter thus they go with whatever they favor and when that happens justice and mercy are lost.
The church needs to set the right example for everyone else to follow and if they do not do it, no one else will. The church is to be the light unto a dark world and that light includes how it handles the mistakes made and the spiritual injuries received by the missionary.
How we handle disciplining, supporting, caring for our public spiritual leaders and workers says a lot to the unchurched world and if we do not do it right, with the right motives, the right attitude then we may lose potential converts because the unchurched world will be turned off by the church’s mishandling of the mistakes, sins and other problems made or incurred by the missionary.
Just last week, a mega church fired in America fired its founder and senior pastor and one of the comments made was that they followed the instructions found in the book of Matthew. We do not need to announce how we adjudicate church matters. We need to simply and humbly follow God’s instructions and apply the right verses to the situation at hand and take care of matters God’s way.
I read a lot of different Christian’s articles and comments and one organization’s leader, in addressing the same-sex/transgender bathroom issue quoted different scripture. So I looked at those scriptures and found that they did not address the issue at hand; there were far better verses that could have been used.
When we use the bible we need to make sure we have the right verses God wants us to use and we need to apply them to the situation correctly. Then we make sure the verses and direction came from God. We cannot assume they do for evil disguises itself as angels of light so we need to ensure we are actually following God and not some deceptive interference.
If we do not do that we may end up doing more damage than the mistakes or sins did when they were committed by the missionary.
As you may have noticed, the support work, the caring of a missionary sends a gospel message even when the person is not proclaiming the gospel message. Everything works together in God’s kingdom and though the support and care members of the spiritual body do not mention a salvation message their work sends one out to those who do not believe.
Their work can and does plant seeds in the unbeliever, they water the seeds and if they do it wrong they can kill those biblical seeds and cause stumbling blocks to Christ. They can also kill the missionary outreach.
I mentioned earlier the words ‘silent observer’ and I use those terms to describe the people who are watching what is happening but we do not know that they are observing the chain of events. They may be relatives, friends that we have never met and how we treat our missionaries and their errors will be communicated to those people we may never see. How we act in caring for missionaries, etc., influences their views of the church and Christ.
We may unknowingly plant or water seeds or we may rip them out, only God will know for sure how our actions affects the silent observer.
Missionary and evangelism are not limited to preaching a gospel message, it is in everything we do and when the church strays from following God’s way it sends a negative message to the unchurched world. Even in our care for our more public members who get the press and the accolades for their sacrifice.
One thing that needs to be pointed out, is that those who provide the right care for their missionaries are also making a spiritual sacrifice that is on par with the one made by those they are looking after. One is not greater than another
The last thing that needs to be mentioned and it is not the least. The care of your missionaries must be done for the glory of God. The Bible tells us to do all things for his glory and all things includes caring of missionaries, pastors, and other church leaders.
People need to see that God cares about them even missionaries. So we do our unsung hard work for God, with a pure heart and clean hands so that all people can see God at work and that he cares for them.
I think there is time for questions.