Last week’s reflection on the importance of being with Jesus can also be a reflection on our mission training practices. When we look to recruit new mission workers we can so easily focus on their skills and abilities, but overlook their character, which is transformed by the amount of time they have been with Jesus. It’s fairly easy to recognise what people can do, but how do we get to know who they really are when they’re not putting on their best performance at an interview?
Once upon a time some mission agencies invited candidates to work in their sending offices for a number of months before they go, so that they could really be known. One or two agencies still do spend time with them immediately prior to departure, but often only a couple of weeks. We may talk about journeying with them through the application process, but that’s often a series of short meetings, not real time together. Agencies often rely on the Bible Colleges to be part of this process, but the multi-year residential model is increasingly under pressure so this is unlikely to satisfy. References from churches can often help, but likewise, much of the time that a church leader spends with their candidates will be in a ministry context, or in meetings, and not necessarily getting to know who they really are.
As a sending team of churches, family, friends and agency we need to make sure we really get to know people. Perhaps it’s not practical for our mission mobilisers to share their lives for three years with candidates, but can we move towards at least having people to stay for a weekend? Churches – how much time are you spending with your candidates on a personal level, getting to know what really makes them tick? And can we establish some intentional mentoring, whereby our candidates form relationships with mature believers, whether mission workers or not, so that their lives can be opened up to some critical influencing and constructive support? How do we build around mission workers a sending community who really get to know them well, putting less stress on an agency to do all the decision making? And ultimately, how can we together discern whether people really have been with Jesus? Let’s really walk together through the application process.