The Churches of Christ split 100 years ago over missionary societies. As a result, we’ve found ourselves with each congregation acting as its own missionary society. A deacon gets handed the task of overseeing a missionary or two with no training, no help, and nowhere to turn. And as a result, we often fail where we could have succeeded. And sometimes we invest a lot of money in an effort that someone with experience would have known had little chance of success.
The solution is to form organizations that gather up experienced people, who keep up with the literature and the mission field, and who can help us make wiser decisions.
Stadia began among the independent Christian Churches but now works with the a cappella Churches of Christ as well.
Mission Alive and Kairos are both indigenous to the Churches of Christ. I happen to have much more experience with Kairos and think very highly of them.
Here’s the rule: don’t support a missionary or church plant unless EITHER —
* The work is done in cooperation with one of these agencies or a similar agency or
* The work is already well underway and it’s working well — and you’ve visited the mission point yourself (or have spoken to someone who has).
Why? Because the odds of success if you do otherwise are very poor indeed.
Why you must work with an agency
What works? Well, these are the key ingredients in the US and in any Westernized country and in many others —
* A trained leader. Preaching for an established US church is not training for founding a new church. Not by itself. A Bible degree is even less so. Obviously a church planter must be well-schooled in the scriptures, but he also needs training specific to a very difficult work.
* An experienced leader. Sending out a team scratch out of college is a recipe for disaster — or, at least, under-performance. Those who, like me, hire people for a living know that people straight out of school don’t have a clue about how to do what they were trained for. Nothing — NOTHING — replaces experience, no matter how smart, well schooled, and zealous that person may be.
* An assessed leader. Not all leaders have the personality needed to be successful at planting. Or maybe the leader does but his wife can’t cope with the stress of raising children far away from home. Many of these agencies test and evaluate leaders to be sure they are suitable to the task.
* A plan. It’s astonishing how many people we send into the mission field who just assume they’ll figure it out as they go. Who’d start a business without a plan? How can you count the cost without a plan? Just as business plans are constantly changing, so must a church planter’s plans. But having no plan at all leads to wasted time, energy, and money — frustration and burn out for all involved.
* A mentor. Just as is true in your business and my firm, anyone starting out has to have a mentor — someone who helps the leader deal with problems, modify the plan as necessary, and hold the leader accountable. There’s just something about a regular phone call asking: did you do what you planned to do? Did you deal with that personality conflict? How can we do better next time?
* A network. A leader should have regular contact with others in the field doing the same things he is doing. They can share ideas — successes and failures, hold each other accountable, encourage each other, and listen. It’s just unimaginable the loneliness we sometimes impose on our missionaries.
* A sponsoring church. With the help of an agency such as I describe, the sponsoring church can be coached on how to support the mission work — through cards and letters, visits, prayer, calls, short-term mission work — just all sorts of things. Indeed, if someone comes to you asking for money and hasn’t thought about what kind of support he needs from you other than money, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
I met a church planter whose plane ticket to the training center was paid for by a Sunday school class who sold their jewelry to raise the money. That planter was so moved and grateful that he’ll never give up on the work. That kind of support matters far more than the check.