Church leaders should recruit like coaches. Successful coaches know what type of players they want, and instead of waiting for them to surface, they seek them out. These coaches find players who want to be on the team and who are eager to do the work required to be successful. I recall (as a missions pastor) coming back from a vision trip to East Asia where we discovered an opportunity to use football as a pathway for gospel proclamation. Immediately, my teammate and I knew exactly who would be well-suited to lead this ministry. Just like a coach, I approached these two individuals, who both had a heart for the nations and a passion for football, and presented the opportunity. They prayed and answered the call to go, and they ended up spending more than six months serving alongside long-term workers, having many fruitful gospel conversations, and supporting the long-term work of church planting. By being proactive rather than reactive, we gave these young men a chance to see their God-given gifts, talents, and desires come together for missionary service.
Leaders within churches ought to take the same approach when considering the task of equipping and releasing members to the mission field. Mack Stiles, missionary to the Middle East, says, “Healthy churches produce healthy Christians who become healthy missionaries.” The local church, both its members and leaders, should be sending and supporting well for the promotion and advancement of the gospel. We see in 3 John 5–8 how missionary care happens in the sending of missionaries, primarily through local churches, for the sake of the gospel. John’s exhortation in this passage demonstrates the centrality of local churches in the care and support of sent ones, who go forth “for the sake of the Name,” particularly in the pre-field stage.
Sadly, though, many missionaries would attest to the fact that this is not their experience. Churches often don’t consider the pre-field stage as part of missionary care and tend to outsource this phase of preparation to the mission agency. As I was researching for my book, Holding the Rope, I interviewed missionaries about their experience through their sending church in the area of pre-field care. A number of them noted no involvement in areas of assessment, equipping, or training. These same missionaries expressed a desire to see churches increase their involvement in equipping missionaries in the areas of evangelism, discipleship training, educating kids in the home, cultural acquisition, and suffering.