The letter every church should send to every missionary they support

Missionaries and ministries send prayer (read: “support”) letters all the time.

Why can’t a champion or church send back a letter indicating the kind of support that they themselves need and, scripturally, have a right to ask for from seasoned Christian workers?

Jonathan Martin oversees Global Outreach Ministry at Good Shepherd Community Church in Portland, Oregon. In his recent book, Giving Wisely, he graciously includes the letter that he sent to a number of local missionaries and ministries the church supports. Goes like this:

We here at the church want to thank you for all your faithful service to our community over the years. You have been serving our Lord faithfully and have been fruitful. That’s why we’ve been supporting you.

We’ve recently made a philosophical change, and we’ll be looking to support those ministries that get our people serving in the community. What we’re asking of you is to train our people as you do your work. The more of our people that you take with you and train to do your ministry, the more fruitful we believe you’ll be as you multiply yourself, and the more fruitful our people will be. The kingdom wins. To quote from Ephesians 4:10-13:

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

We really do see the primary job of those we support as ministers in the community to be to train those in the body to do ministry. We’ll do anything we can to get you into the many classes at church to share your ministry and to recruit folks to go with you. We’re even glad to interview you in front of the whole congregation to connect you with those in the body. But fundamentally we believe local ministry is for everyone to be involved in, and our money will go to those getting our people involved and in touch with our community.



Jonathan is spot on. The only change I would make is to also send this letter to national and global missionaries as well. After all, which is better–for a missionary on home assignment to travel from church to church seeking support by telling touching stories while showing a DVD and PowerPoint presentation…or for a missionary on home assignment to travel from church to church creatively providing hands-on local field training to interested Christians in how to grow in their biblical calls to:

  • assist the stranger
  • comfort the afflicted
  • instruct the ignorant
  • reprove the wicked
  • provide food, clothing, and drink to those who have none?

The local community setting provides a great gymnasium for missionaries and international ministry workers to train Christians in the very skills that such workers use halfway around the world…and that all Christians are called to grow in on the way to full maturity in Christ.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is also the International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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9 Responses to The letter every church should send to every missionary they support

  1. Kelly says:

    Wow! I’ll be passing this along to lots of churches! Can’t wait to hear the response!

  2. Matt Bates says:

    The other great opportunity for global missionaries is to represent the global church back to the American church, offering, where appropriate, encouragement, criticism, direction and rebuke from the global church. Does the American church have anything to learn from the church in South Korea, or Thailand, or China, or Nigeria? Who better to teach us these lessons than the missionaries to those countries?

    But the missionaries feel pressured to stroke the American church as the solution, because the American church has money. Unfortunately, this heresy perpetuates significant problems in the American church, in my view, actively creating harm.

  3. EFoley says:

    Great point, Bates. If what we need to embody is a mutual learning model–including the church in the US learning from the church worldwide–what impact should and does that have on a missionary’s “stump speech” and basic perspective?

  4. The one flaw i see in this model is the idea that a missionary is just vacationing in furlough. The truth is for most global missionaries who are long term and raise personal support, they have over 100 people and churches to see and connect with when home on as little as a six month furlough. For many of us it is a race to see everyone and report what is happening overseas; so to be involved in any place for much time is difficult.

    In order for this model for training to happen, a church or local group would really have to support the missionary so substantially that he would not have to travel from coast to coast on a furlough in order to see his/her support team. The model is one called a sending church, and the idea is 50% of budget or more. For many missionary families the ministry budget can easily eclipse $4,ooo, $5,ooo, $6ooo, or even $7,ooo monthly. You do the numbers on 50% and you realize that is a large commitment of cash for any one church.

    • EFoley says:

      Good to have you drop by and post up, Chris!

      With Transformational Giving (TG), you’re correct that there is a major transformation that occurs–perhaps most significantly in the self-identity of the missionary and the relationship between the missionary and those we previously called “donors”. In TG, the church is not supporting the missionary; instead, the missionary is supporting the church, coaching the church to fullness in Christ in the cause both are called by God to share. As a result, visits take on a different purpose. They are not for the sake of the missionary reporting but rather for the sake of the missionary coaching champions.

      As you note, Chris, that certainly does change everything. I encourage you to take a look at the other posts on the site to check out more about Transformational Giving. You can even search under the word “missionary” to see some of the most specific applications of TG to the missionary setting.

  5. bronnileigh says:

    Having been on the mission field for the past 7 years, this is the first article of it’s kind that I have read. I do know that something that I desire, and that I should hope would already be in the heart of most missionaries on the field, would be to plug themselves into the local community while they are in any place- be it their home country, the place where they are on the field, or just a place that they are visiting for a short time. We are the body of Christ, and no matter where we go we should be seeking as to what our role in any place could be – no matter how short the period of time.

  6. Richard says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. But sometimes the problem goes the other way too. I’m serving as a missionary in SE Asia and months before coming back on my first home assignment I wrote to my supporting churches trying to organising training sessions for the church. I asked for time at the church camp to run a session on cross cultural evangelism. Unfortunately, the program was already full. Though I asked a couple of times, it seemed the leadership of the church we too busy (or didn’t see the value) in the training I was offering.

    • EFoley says:

      Good to hear from you, Richard! Yes, the key is not to be the answer to a question that no one is asking. And these days we’ve conditioned the church to be recipients of the Gospel only, rather than its purveyors. As a result, when you offer to do training, you’re answering a question that they’re not asking. So the key is to begin by re-establishing the need and basis for training, which is that God calls the church to grow to full maturity in Christ in these different disciplines, which historically the church has called the Works of Mercy, and that one of the missionary’s two primary roles is to equip the church in this way. Rarely are churches amenable to this message through the front door, e.g., through approaching the congregation as a whole. So one’s donors–or, as I prefer to call them, one’s champions–become the seed of renewal for the church. So the missionary trains the champions and the champions train the church, rather than the missionary training the church. This also has the advantage of placing champions in the role of both receiving and giving, which is key for all Christians.

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