Missions is at the forefront of who we are and what we do as Southern Baptists. By God’s grace, we support thousands of missionaries across the globe. However, if we aren’t careful and intentional, it would be easy for us simply to give our money as a denomination and detach ourselves from the reality that our missionaries are real people with real needs. How can we not only support our missionaries financially, but make certain we are also supporting them beyond simply our dollars? The apostle John helps us see the important role churches and individuals play in the ongoing support of missionaries from 3 John.
John writes to a believer named Gaius. John rejoices in the growth of Gaius’ life and prays for his health to prosper as much as his spiritual life apparently prospers (v 2). I wonder how much our physical health would prosper if it were to prosper in comparison to our spiritual health? It seems that John’s connection to careful and intentional mission support is tied to one’s own spiritual health. When word got back to John about Gaius “walking in the truth,” he was ecstatic (vv 3-4).
For John, walking in the truth, or “acting faithfully,” involves a care for furthering the gospel and supporting those who do so (v 5). John hears of Gaius’ love for missionaries (traveling teachers) (v 6a). John commends Gaius for supporting the sent in a manner worthy of God (v 6b). John reminds us that those who travel to further the gospel go “for the sake of the Name” (v 7a). Their support comes not from the “Gentiles” (outside financial support), but from within the church(es) (v 7b).
John’s word of encouragement to Gaius is to “support such men,” in order to be “fellow workers with the truth” (v 8). Gaius and the church supported these traveling missionaries with lodging, food, money, encouragement, and prayer (Danny Akin, Christ-Centered Exposition, 3 John). In other words, cooperative missions is a cooperative effort. Some send. Some are sent. All are involved. We accomplish more for the gospel not on our own, but together. We send the sent, but we support the sent. How might we tangibly support our sent?
Provide salaries so that gospel work can be the primary focus of the missionaries. As Southern Baptists, the Cooperative Program allows us to unite our resources for maximum impact and support missionaries who can give full attention to reaching the unreached.
Provide lodging both on the field and when “home” for rest. For Gaius, it seems he both received and provided lodging for these traveling missionaries. A place to call home away from “home” is an essential component for missionaries living in another culture. Further, when able to travel back to the states for “rest,” missionaries need an oasis to recoup and recharge.
Provide meaningful care packages. On occasion, perhaps every other month, churches can send gift cards or care packages filled with favorite snacks and thoughtful gifts. This builds a personal connection with church members and missionaries.
Provide continual encouragement through texts, emails, skype calls, etc. Loneliness is a reality for those living overseas for the gospel. New cultures, new languages, and often extreme isolation can lead to battles with discouragement. A simple message of encouragement from a passage of Scripture or just checking on the missionary’s family goes a long way in building them up.
Provide intentional prayer (and let them know it). Regularly praying for missionaries by name not only provides the spiritual support they need, but also gives the church a tangible connection to those serving on the field. This puts a face to “Lottie” and “Annie” when we pray by name for our missionaries. So, pray for them but then let them know you are praying for them.
Supporting those we send as missionaries involves more than our dollars. It requires our personal time and investment in their lives. In do so, John informs us that we are “fellow workers with the truth” (3 John 8). Some send. Some are sent. All are involved cooperatively as workers with the truth.