First, my goal for this answer is to educate the church on the life of it’s mission. It is not so the church will “feel sorry for the missionary”, but give a window to peer through helping the church pray more effectively and engage more purposefully. It is also to help the church understand the seriousness of the call of God, in the same manner as the Apostle Paul let us in on his difficulties. Second, my goal for this answer is to help the church catch a vision to where God has called them.
I think the transition from pastor to Jesus’ mission is a natural transition. Both the pastorate and mission field have the same goal in mind. To see the church of Christ and His fame grow among the nations. As a pastor (or church member your task is to do so locally, and as a missionary your task is to do so globally.
Being a pastor and member of the local church has given me a love for Jesus’ church. The church I grew up in and the church I’ve been an assistant pastor at for the last 8-years have both encouraged and cultivated my love for Jesus and His mission through the church. As a teenager, I was discipled purposefully by two mission-minded deacons and a team of youth leaders. They got me involved in serving Christ as a teenager. It is important to look at the young people in your church not as the future of the church, but as the church now.
Before becoming the assistant pastor of Battle Ground Bible Church, I was on a yearlong church planting apprenticeship in South Africa. It was a turning point in my life. For the first time I could honestly see myself sharing the gospel on the foreign field. Also, I being in Africa I got a bug for Africa [maybe more than one bug!]. I wanted to go back. So when I interviewed for the position at BGBC, they were aware they might release me in the future to go to the mission field. They cultivated that desire by giving me opportunities to lead short trips overseas to help our missionaries, to spear-head their own vision to plant churches locally, and explore opportunities to serve in Africa. When Sarah and I married, they funded a trip we took to the Congo to equip youth leaders and pastors. Then a year later when we desired to take a vision trip to Chad, they were excited to support us. BGBC gave us a lot of freedom to follow Christ call and prepare us for that call.
In August, we were commissioned from BGBC to begin raising prayer and financial partners. That last Sunday on staff was incredibly emotional. We shed a lot of tears. It was an Acts 13 moment I will remember the rest of my life. We left a lot of friends, spiritual family, and our small group which was our major source of spiritual accountability. When we drove away there was a huge void of constant fellowship.
To be honest, the first few weeks I was in a spiritual funk. I did not take a course on how to succeed transitions. While on staff I was use to a great schedule–a routine I understood–and an office where I could have some quiet study time. That changed while we were on the road. I guess, I can understand what it is like when a retired couple is around each other after working their entire lives, only we were 3 years into our marriage. It’s been a good adjustment being around Sarah and our daughter 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. I realized I am pretty blessed to have this opportunity. It’s had it’s challenges and learning curves. You really get to know someone on a long road trip. Although for our family the road trip has been 6-months long.
An emotional day came when we sold our home in December. We were ecstatic that we were able to find a buyer so soon and not lose a load of money, which is surprising in our current housing market. Although excited we were a bit sad. It was the first time we’ve felt homeless. We could no longer go back to the comfortable living room we created, play in our grassy backyard, or pick veggies from our summer garden. Our home is now a Honda Element. We’ve enjoyed the generous hospitality of friends, family and churches while being on the road, but it can be exhausting. We’ve really been living our life on display for all to see. That’s difficult when you’re not feeling good, tired, or having a difficult day with your spouse or teething child.
It took me about a month to pull out of that funk. We’ve found a crazy schedule that’s worked for us on the road. More importantly we’ve found times to be in the Word and pray together. And we’ve discovered creative ways to keep accountable to our church while being so far away.
Sarah and I have been surprised by God’s grace. We would have never dreamed we would be at the place we are 6-months into our preparation for the mission field:
• We have reached 85% of our required support goals. On our way to 100% by June.
• We have acquired over 250 prayer partners.
• We have added 3 families to our team [including 13 children, but soon to be 14].
• We have sold our home without going into debt.
• We have signed up for language school beginning in August.
Not that we seek confirmation from God for the steps we take, but God has been expediting the road that leads to Chad. We take it that He really want the gospel starved “Z” to hear the good news and see the church of Jesus rise where it is not.