Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Missionary Call - from a Member Care Perspective PART IV - Recruiting and Screening Missionaries

The missionary call as a factor in recruiting and screening potential missionaries

The missionary call is one of the most important considerations in the screening of missionaries.

A strong missionary call correlates to longer missionary careers and lower rates of preventable missionary attrition. A clear calling has been consistently reported as more important than regular financial support, family support, relationships with other missionaries and even the maintenance of one’s own personal, spiritual life. Even if the definitions of the missionary call vary by candidate, what is of prime importance is that they feel that they have been called.

In fact, “It appears to matter little (as far as retention is concerned) what the call is to and what it consists of,” the important thing is that a candidate has intensely thought-out what they feel God’s call is for them so that they may develop a tenacity in their resolve to serve even in hard times due to this personal ownership of what they believe that God has called them to.

Testing the call

Due to the unsoundness of many churches and even entire denominations, sadly, mission agencies must not take a candidate’s word or even his home church’s confirmation at face value. A self-report of a call, and even a confirmation by a local church must be reviewed by the missionary organization. It is the responsibility of any sending agency, therefore, to “test the call.” If a missionary call is present, it will manifest itself as a persistent and tenacious trait that will not disappear during a short, trial period, camp, or training program. Virtually every missionary agency has instituted some sort of candidating program, training camp, internship or training program as a matter of good stewardship for all parties involved. Missionary candidates and sending churches should not balk at such requirements. Valuable lessons are learned, practice in endurance is given and the candidate’s call and the church’s confirmation of that call are usually verified by successful completion of these programs.

The missionary call and aggressive recruitment – is there a conflict?

Missions mobilizers use such slogans as, “The need is the call,” and “You don’t have a call? The call came 2,000 years ago in the form of the Great Commission – what are you waiting for?” Another slogan claims that “everyone should head towards the mission field unless God stops them.” These missions mottoes may highlight the need for personnel, but just how biblical are they?

If the missionary call is a special and exclusive divine calling, should we recruit for missions? If we recruit for missions, how should it be done? As David Hesselgrave phrases it, is this a matter of “a call for missionaries or a Divine calling?” Is there a conflict between aggressive missionary recruiting and in “waiting on the Divine Call?”

Hesselgrave reflects:

In the first place, there is no general call for missionary volunteers in the New Testament. All New Testament missionaries were personally conscripted by Christ, his apostles and their representatives, or by the Holy Spirited-directed churches.

It is my conviction that appealing for workers and waiting on the call are not mutually exclusive. We need not fall into a false dilemma on this topic. Let us seek to aggressively recruit those whom the Lord is calling.

There are dangers, however, in aggressive missionary recruiting. A longing to see more workers cannot excuse a lowering of standards. Mission agencies and churches run the risk of allowing people to “run” who are not “sent” if proper screening and training are not corporate values. Some may be attracted to the “sales appeal” of missionary promotionals and push through the missionary selection process due to magnetic personalities, and yet possess bad motives and troubling theologies that are only discovered in their first term on the field, after significant damage has already been done. Abhijit Nayak bemoans the fact that often, “Present-day ministers decide by themselves whether or not to go into ministry.”

We must always remember that the missionary call normally occurs in the context of a believer in close relation with the larger corporate body of Christ. This larger corporate body can confirm the call based upon observed confirmation of requisite gifting and character. Missions is a body of Christ effort. Recruiting for missions should be the same. Displaying needs and aggressively making known those needs might be the God-ordained means by which the Lord moves individuals and churches to send some of their own, and if the Lord is moving then He is not going to speak to one party exclusively. As Neal Pirolo stresses, “The local fellowship of believers must take the initiative in the missionary process by identifying the cross-cultural parts of the Body and allowing them to exercise their gifts.” The missionary call involves a lot of people.

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