We need to shift our sending paradigm

Mar 23, 2016 | Missionary Care, New Wine: The future, Suffering, The Way I See Things, Thriving

We have been using Zach Bradley’s penetrating book, The Sending Church Defined, as a catalyst for discussing what sending should look like. We cannot have adequate missionary care without first having a proper concept of sending to undergird it.


Here are some quotes from Zach and what they make me think of:

As churches have outsourced mission, they have effectively individualized it. Thus, being a sent one is a personal preference rather than part of a corporate identity. (p. 43)

This is precisely what I was discussing in this post.


If we start with the individual and their sense of being called…

it becomes their responsibility to convince others of their calling

and to raise all of the various forms of support they will need…

(including ongoing care if they happen to think of it).


When you start there…

it is very difficult to cultivate a sense of team ownership…

and of mutual responsibility.

If it is to be a sending church, it will have to be proactive. By definition that means it will “control situations by making things happen”. Sending churches don’t prevent all the suffering of their sent ones, but they do help relieve some of it. (p. 64;125)

Missionary care must be…

first and foremost…



To borrow from a well-known maxim…

we must focus less on building hospitals at the bottom of the cliff…

and more on building fences at the top.


It means that the sending church will not assume

that someone else is going to provide care for their sent one.


It also means that they will not wait…

for their missionary to crash and burn…

before providing care.


They will focus heavily on helping their sent one

to maintain good spiritual hygiene.

Because in general?

Healthy missionaries will suffer less.


It also means that

everyone on the team will do the same.


They realize that the best thing they can do…

to help their partners stay spiritually healthy…

is to stay healthy themselves.


The key to adequate missionary care…

is a proper understanding of what a sending church does.

And that will most likely require a paradigm shift.


Are we up for it?


  1. Celeste McDonough

    Hi David, I’m the missions pastor at Lori’s church, and not having read the book, I probably shouldn’t comment. I also know that our church is not the “norm” when it comes to missionary care. But my perception – from both good and bad experiences in just four short years – is that the changes suggested are too deeply rooted in American Christian culture for the church alone to be able to make them. What are we to do with people who experiencing a “calling” and then come to us? Can we slow them down if we think there is a need for more preparation (which I believe is 9/10ths of care)? Can we even say “No, we won’t send you” in some cases? How can we get them to be transparent enough – before the field – so that we can actually see the things we might expect to cause a trainwreck? It’s the individualism that seems to need taking down here, not the unengaged church.

  2. Dave

    Thank you, Celeste, for weighing in. I think the answer to every one of the questions you raise is yes! I don’t think anyone is trying to “take down” the unengaged church. The church is, to a greater or lesser degree, a product of its culture, and Western culture does indeed promote individualism. (And of course I realize that some churches do a better job of caring than others.) I couldn’t agree more – one of the very best ways to prevent unnecessary attrition is to keep people from going to the field until or unless God sends them. That’s where I think we (generically speaking) tend to be a bit weak: in expecting God to lead through the church.

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