By Dr. Ryan Strother

Churches can easily lose focus of the Great Commission through the myriad of situations and conflicts it might face. This mission drift leads to stale and ineffective ministry. One way to deflect the self-centered inclinations of church members and keep them focused on the Great Commission is through ongoing missionary partnerships.  

Last month, you read how your church can partner with our church planters. “Every planter in Indiana needs partners and every church in Indiana regardless of size can become a partner to a local church planter,” wrote Chris Conrades in this article 

I want to expand that focus beyond Indiana to the nations. Do you know that your church can have direct partnership with our International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries around the world? Let me suggest three ways your church can have strong partnerships with our missionaries. 

The IMB’s Church Connection Program 

In 2020, the IMB piloted the Church Connections program with 10% of its missionaries. Now in full swing, every missionary couple or family is assigned twenty SBC churches with which to establish a relationship. I was thrilled to hear about this program because one of the complaints about the Cooperative Program (CP) is that Southern Baptists don’t know our missionaries because they do not have to return annually to fundraise. Praise God that we can fully fund over 3,600 missionaries through the CP, and praise God that the IMB established a new way to partner directly with our missionaries! 

Comically, though, I heard stories that pastors would ignore the calls and emails they received from the missionary assigned to their churches because they thought it was a scam call! Pastors were not used to receiving direct contact from our missionaries. Additionally, missionaries occasionally did not have accurate contact information for a church or pastor, so connections were not established. The SCBI has the most accurate database of churches in Indiana, so we work with missionaries by sharing the contact information of the church they are trying to connect with. We will sometimes call a pastor to give him a “heads up” to expect the email from the missionary.  

Your church can have an ongoing relationship with a missionary where you can only dream of potential partnership opportunities. Occasional Zoom calls with your missionary, supporting a project she is working on, praying specifically for her needs, and being available to speak with her when she feels lonely and forgotten in her part of the world.  

Tokyo Team Partnership 

The SCBI has established a partnership with the IMB’s missionary team in Tokyo, Japan. Many of you got to meet the Tokyo team leaders, Scott and Julie Bradford, at the 2023 SCBI Annual Summit. Many of you know Nick and Melissa Scott from Evansville who are currently serving on the Tokyo team.  

Our partnership will provide short-term trips for Indiana teams to join the Tokyo team in their work, but as this partnership develops (the first Indiana team should be going to Tokyo this Fall), we will be promoting ways that SCBI churches can be directly partnered with Tokyo team members.  

When I was there, I learned that the Japanese people are the second largest unreached people group in the world. I hope our partnership with Tokyo is another encouragement and enhancement to our missionaries there. Your church can have a direct relationship with missionaries on the ground there to be part of the exciting work. And, who knows, you might even be able to join them in virtual reality worlds as they creatively minister to people they would have otherwise never reached.  

If you are interested in ways you can partner with the Tokyo Team, please stay in touch with me as this partnership progresses.  

Stateside Care 

IMB Missionaries return to the USA for stateside assignments every few years (it varies based on their assignments). Right now, there are 40 missionary units from Indiana on the field, meaning there is typically a few missionary families each year returning to the state for a six-month stateside assignment. 

These are not vacations; they are assignments. I’ve learned that IMB missionaries still want to serve while on stateside assignments. The SCBI has a stateside care plan, which is a list of blessings we make available to every Indiana stateside missionary. One of those blessings is helping connect missionaries to speak in churches.  

But think about this: how can your church help refresh a stateside missionary family? This partnership can be endless: Help with housing and transportation, letting them lead evangelism training for your church, having a concert of prayer for their nation and other missionaries… the list could go on.  

If you’re interested in being part of a stateside missionary’s time, let me know and I’ll help make the connection.  

 

I know firsthand from pastoring a church who sent missionaries out that Great Commission momentum is strongest in the church when it is directly involved in the sending and ongoing lives of missionaries. Church planters are close to you. International missionaries are not far from you. Revive your church’s passion for the Great Commission through missionary partnerships!