Missionary Formation – 5 Ways to Help Them Begin Well
I’m a second career missionary. After an 11 year career in Control Systems Design work and pursuing the great American dream, we joined United World Mission, sold our home and possessions, raised the financial support needed, packed 12 suitcases, and moved our family to Delhi, India. We opened this field and showed up knowing no one and unable to speak the language. Why? A strong sense of calling to serve God in missions, particularly to see people come to Christ and the church multiply.
At the time I had been a Christian 13 years. My discipleship was minimal at best. The church that sent us had a strong missions vision that fueled our hearts, but nothing to prepare someone to consider or become a missionary. I knew a lot ABOUT God, but really had very little formation.
Within a month on the field, struggles with the culture, my identity, grief over what was and missed relationships along with a job I really didn’t know how to do yet, led to a breakdown of my spiritual framework. I realized I didn’t have the formation needed to fulfill what God was asking of me. In month 9 on the field, I had a crisis of belief. In a desolate place of heart, I cried out to God and had a significant encounter with Jesus that started deep formation of my heart and a renewing of my mind. God also provided a mentor who walked with me in my spiritual formation.
As I reflect back on my first year on the field, I set off for India to do a great work for God, but God actually took me to India to do a deep work in me. Ministry really began to flourish as my heart began to flourish in Christ. I’m grateful for God bringing me to India to accomplish more than I could think or imagine. I also believe a deeper formation in Christ could have started before moving to India.
As I’ve worked with our missionaries over the years and various partnering churches, I believe there are ample resources available to better prepare new missionaries before they even join a mission agency. If you are a pastor and have a vision for sending out missionaries, how will you begin preparing them?
Here are my top 5 resources to begin with…
1. Perspectives Course – Have your prospective missionary attend Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Perspectives is a fifteen week course designed around four vantage points or “perspectives” — Biblical, Historical, Cultural and Strategic. Each one highlights different aspects of God’s global purpose. To learn more, follow the link.
2. 5 Must Read books – A great book can be a great mentor. Introduce some mentors speaking on relevant themes for preparing them to go.
- a. Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton (introducing spiritual disciplines for transformation)
- b. Fire of the Word by Chris Webb (will stir desire for God’s Word and how to engage it for transformation)
- c. Prayer – Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster (will create longing to pray and introduce many aspects of prayer)
- d. Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning (deals with the important themes of trust and finding joy)
- e. Reordered Love Reordered Lives: Learning the Deep Meaning of Happiness by David Naugle (A Scriptural perspective of the fall of man and how life and relationships become disordered when God is not our deepest desire and first in our hearts)
3. Intentional Formation – help them dig deep into their heart with God. The LCI Exercises by Brian K. Rice is a good resource for themes in the Christian life specifically for those in Christian ministry (leaders and missionaries). Conversations and Invitations are both sold in Kindle via Amazon.com, and hard copies can be purchased from the link in red.
4. Mentoring – Every prospective missionary needs someone to walk with them, to listen well and provide direction, encouragement and prayer. Have someone mature in faith, ideally with some missions experience, walk closely and regularly with the prospective missionary.
5. Engage Them in Ministry – be intentional about having them serve in various ministries in the church and community. This allows them to develop and offers you an opportunity to be a part of their discernment of areas where they are best suited to serve.
A few good resources and a mentor to come alongside is a loving gift to anyone desiring to grow and serve God’s missional purposes. Do all you can do to be a significant part of their journey.
By: Chad Hollowell, Director of Field Leadership & Spiritual Formation