As we’ve rubbed shoulders with our various church-planting peers over the years, we’ve come to notice that we’re all more or less the same type of people. I know this is a huge generalization, and of course, we’re not all exact cookie-cutter duplicates of each other. Everyone has their own little oddities and eccentricities specific to them, but on the whole, I’d say we come from a pretty similar mold.
Maybe your experience has been different than mine, but personally, I feel that a typical NTM church-planter holds a strong likeness to what I’d imagine you’d get if you merged Olaf, from Frozen and Kip, from Napoleon Dynamite: Our passion is for people, our labors are with computers, and our looks…well, let’s just leave our looks out of it.
Some church-planters LOVE being out with the people, visiting, teaching, and talking. These are the guys who have to force themselves to sit in their offices and do their desk work. Others get truly excited about grammar analysis, data compilation, and translation work. These are the guys that have to be very intentional about getting out in their communities, otherwise they’d just stay in their offices all day.
We all land somewhere on that spectrum, naturally leaning to one end of it, but dabbling in the other side as well. Some major more in the socialite department, some are a bit more nerdy, but we all fall in there somewhere. We also all seem to share a lot of common ground in the realm of handy-man abilities. Or, more specifically, our complete LACK of those abilities. Truthfully, left to ourselves, out in the bush, we church-planters would all die prematurely, because our wives would kill us, because we are hopelessly inept at home repairs.
And this brings me to the actual purpose of this post (yes, that’s right, up until this point you’ve only been reading an intro): I LOVE OUR SUPPORT MISSIONARIES!!
Since us teachers and translators are not generally skilled with our hands, we depend on missionaries who DO have those skills to help us out. These are the people that make it possible for ninnies like me to have a ministry in the middle of the jungle. Seriously, I can’t stress enough the level of gratitude I feel towards the missionaries who are over in Papua New Guinea right now who are NOT in the bush!
Support missionaries are the builders, nurses, school teachers, pilots, accountants, computer techs, and supply buyers who use their talents to do all the things I can’t, so my family can stay out in the jungle working with our people. They restore our hard drives, diagnose our illnesses, and repair our solar systems. They buy and ship our groceries and supplies. They communicate with our host government to work out our taxes and visas. They do everything that a church-planter can’t, because they want to see the Gospel put into the languages of unreached people groups.
In a context like ours, support missionaries are critical to seeing the Gospel put into the mother-tongue language of tribal people groups. And here’s the kicker: many Christians in the States don’t even know that support missionaries EXIST.
Over and over I’ve shared our ministry with church groups, and over and over I’ve had people come up to me afterwards and say something to the fact of, “What you’re doing is awesome, but I could never be a missionary. I’m just a (super useful, important job that I mentioned above).” As if the only role to fill in cross-cultural ministry is being the one guy who’s out doing the teaching!
Let’s not commit the error of limiting the task of reaching the lost to only include one hopelessly limited type of individual (the tribal church-planter). God is reaching all manner of people around the world, and He’s using all manner of people to do it!