In the first post, I noted that a missionary (or Christian servant leader) needs trial and tribulation to learn, grow, and bring out the best in himself or herself.
BUT… what does that mean regarding missionary preparation and training. I don’t know, but here are a few issues.
1. Some churches and mission agencies think that member care services for missionaries are unimportant. That is because suffering is good for missionaries. Providing a strong support system will make them weak. This is particularly common in churches and agencies based in the East (as in Asia). Is this good?
2. Some have gone the other way and provided a full line-up of financial support, perquisites, counseling, medical care, insurance coverage, and retirement benefits to ensure that missionaries are taken care of and not forgotten. Ideally, this allows missionaries the ability to focus on ministry rather than live in fear of the future and loss of support. Is this true or does the “greenhouse” method of raising missionaries produce an anemic missionary?
3. Bivocational (“tentmaker”) missionaries is a growing trend worldwide. In part this is due to the relative ease in getting a working visa in another country as compared to getting a missionary visa. Bivocational missionaries are commonly commissioned by a sending church or perhaps through a sending agency, but with little financial, physical, spiritual, and emotional support. Often little to no preparation is given. Is this “fire and forget” mentality regarding bivocational missionaries a good thing? On the other hand, setting up a full-service member care package for someone who may simply be an overseas worker while being a missionary in name only could be a waste of home resources.
4. Is deputation (missionaries going from church to church to raise up long-term support for their own missions expenses) a good thing? Or is it a stressful waste of time that could be better served in the field with support coming from a centralized fund. On the other hand, does having missionaries essentially as paid employees of a mission agency reduce initiative and increase disconnect with the local funding churches?
5. In the past the rigors of travel, lack of sound medicine, and poor communication made most mission work inherently challenging. The very act of going on long-term missions was a trial by fire. Improvements in these areas has greatly reduced the challenge there. Has these improvements weakened missionaries? Or has it reduced the rates of death and burnout?
6. What is the best preparation for missionaries? Barefootting? Comfortable seminary/training center? Mentored mission work? Missions bootcamp?
I really don’t know. As one with a wife and three children, I appreciate the support system that makes our lives better. Does that make me a weaker missionary? Perhaps. Certainly I am probably not the best person to trek through the mountains and deserts of hostile lands. On the other hand, I have gone through some very difficult times in the past… I believe those experiences have added to my appreciation of God and empathy for others who struggle. Maybe that is enough?
You decide for yourself.