When I started house churches in 1993, our current practice of having each house church support a missionary family wasn’t in place. But I adopted this soon after we started to help house church members be more missions-minded.
At first, I asked house church members to find their own missionary families. Most of our house churches chose missionaries they already knew. So there was a personal relationship between house churches and the missionaries they supported. But as house churches multiplied, the number of shepherds who didn’t know any missionary families started to increase. So our Mission Department began to recommend missionaries to house churches. After this, the number of house churches who wanted to replace the missionaries they supported started creeping up.
We’ve tried to accommodate the wishes of house church members as best we can, but we should not be replacing our missionaries casually, without long deliberation.
Some house churches don’t like their supporting missionaries because they don’t email or send letters often. But some missionaries are too busy with their mission work to have frequent communication. Others work in remote areas or in areas where their identities as missionaries should not be revealed and cannot correspond easily or freely. We should not stop supporting them simply because we don’t hear from them often.
Others don’t like their supported missionaries because they send only impersonal printed newsletters. But missionaries who are involved in big mission projects have many supporters. If they try to correspond with each and every supporter they will lose a lot of valuable time that might be better spent for ministry. We would end up stopping sponsorship of many excellent missionaries if we eliminated all of those who only mail newsletters.
Some complain that their supported missionaries constantly ask for financial assistance. As I said before, missionaries involved in big mission projects need money. We should not blame them for mentioning their financial needs. When house churches do their best to help them financially, they should not feel guilty about not helping enough, but they should not blame their missionaries for asking.
Our church members are mature enough to focus on their missionaries’ needs rather than their own feelings. Even if their missionaries do not correspond regularly, do not pay personal attention, burden them with their financial needs, or do not even remember their shepherds’ names, I hope that our shepherds have such big hearts that they continue to support their missionaries simply because they are God’s servants and they are doing God’s work.
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