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Going to the nations” is a phrase often heard in Christian circles, and with it comes the idea of traveling far away to share the gospel with unreached people, images of small, smiling children, and a courageous fulfillment of Jesus’ commission in Matthew 28. However, not everyone can go abroad to be a full-time missionary – so what happens to those who stay?
According to Mark and Debi Stone, two New Life members, the bigger idea is not staying or going, but that as believers, we are all missionaries and disciple makers, wherever God places us. “The scriptures more or less look at all of us to be missionaries, and our mission field is wherever we happen to be going,” Mark said. “And you’re called to make disciples as you teach, as you travel, as you baptize, so then there is only a small distinction between goers and senders.”
However, the small distinction is that some are sent, and those that stay back are supporting those who are sent. Last fall, Mark gave a presentation at Night for the Nations outlining ways to be an effective sender.
As a partner, the sender’s role is to “partner” with the missionary by assisting them how you can. Mark and Debi took on this role early in their marriage by partnering with a missionary friend in prayer, helping them with their newsletters, and mailing support letters for them. During this stage of life they also took on the role of “grandparent” to the missionaries. Their examples included looking after the kids or sending gifts to the family while they were abroad. Later on in life, Mark and Debi moved into the role of “professional,” by using their professional skills to serve missionaries, and after that, the role of “financer” as their funds have allowed.
“In the early years you kind of take on the role of partner or grandparent, and then go into the more professional role, with the skillsets that all missionaries need,” Mark said. “By the tail end of your career, you clearly can take on that professional role, and the grandparent role, and the partner role, and the financier. So you can do all four (eventually)."
Mark stressed the importance of developing a relationship with the missionaries you support, for your own joy and to avoid seeing being a faithful sender of missionaries as another thing to check off the list. “We can get caught up very easily in the obligation of sending,” Mark said. “[But when you] are tightly connected with someone on the field, and you are providing critical support for them, there is incredible support and satisfaction in that.” Mark said that this satisfaction is twofold. The first is by knowing that your work at home is critical to the missionary’s success in the field.
Mark said the second satisfaction comes in the form of the relationship formed with the missionary. “If they’re out there by themselves, and no one’s praying for them, no one knows what they’re doing, no one cares what they’re doing, it is a unique missionary that doesn’t die on the vine.” Mark said. “But when you have the joy of uplifting their prayer request and celebrating with them when that prayer is answered, or crying with them when they have these difficulties, there is joy in having that relationship and being a sender."
Debi said she encourages people at New Life, and especially college kids, to choose just one missionary family to support, and support well. “If [a college student can] choose a family to support at New Life and just keep supporting them until they have their own homes and own families, then they have a relationship where then they can really share some of the fruit of the ministry and some of the responsibility for that happening,” Debi said.
Ultimately, God calls us all to disciple those He has placed in our lives. “We are all to be disciple makers,” Mark said. “You become a disciple maker by being faithful, by being fearless, and prayerfully. So doing all those things, wherever we are called, wherever God takes us, we are to be on mission.”
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20