I have been posting different articles on characteristics of an effective missionary. There are characteristics that effective missionaries have. They can be in different countries, serve in different ways, sent from different churches, and have different backgrounds that make them each unique, but they still have certain characteristics in common. This post in the series will have several parts, and it is about the future. Effective missionaries prepare for the future, and when I use the word “future”, I am referring to the missionaries departure from the field. We will not be on the field forever. I know that one day I will not be in Argentina. It may be that the Lord direct us to a different ministry, it may be that He take us home to be with Him, it may be that we grow so old we are not able to effectively serve, meaning we would need to return to the states. In our case, we have no plans to leave Argentina, but we know, one way or another, our final day in Argentina will come. That being said, we need to prepare for that day.
So the missionary needs to prepare for the future, for the day when they are no longer serving on the mission field. This includes preparing the ministry, obviously the goal is that the ministry is not dependent on the missionary, that the missionary advances in the power of the Holy Spirit long after the missionary is gone. This also includes preparation for retirement, or for their return to their native country. We will address the preparation of the ministry by the missionary for his departure in an upcoming post, but today I will be focusing on the preparations an effective missionary makes for their return to their homeland.
An effective missionary prepares for his future retirement. This is a controversial view, but I believe it to be a biblical view. I don’t know of a biblical commandment to save for retirement, but I do believe there are biblical principles that point to the wisdom of doing so. The Bible teaches that the wise man prepares for the future.
“There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; But a foolish man spendeth it up.” Proverbs 21:20
“6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise: 7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8 Provideth her meat in the summer, And gathereth her food in the harvest.” Proverbs 6:6-8
“7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9
An effective missionary will save to prepare for his retirement. Why? The pushback would be that the missionary should trust God, that God will take care of him. I say “Amen!” to that, but God also gives us principles in His Word to live by. We all believe we should take care of our health, we shouldn’t just eat and lay around and say “God will take care of me.” We all change the oil in are cars, we don’t just keep driving them thinking that God will take care of it. There is responsibility on our part to do specific things. God will take care of us? Amen! He has also given us Truth to follow and to put into practice.
So why save for retirement? We are blessed to be supported by wonderful churches across the United States. I have been in a few churches, where they would love to take on a missionary, but they are not able to because they are supporting a retired missionary couple. The couple served God faithfully on the field for years, even decades, and now they are not able to do so, so they returned to the States, but there is a problem, they never saved for retirement, and they have no way of supporting themselves in this stage of their lives. This puts our supporting churches in a difficult situation. I think we would all have a hard time discounting support of a faithful missionary family who needs it now that they have retired, n doing so, they are not able to move forward in world evangelism. Please don’t get me wrong, if a church decides to support a retired missionary, it is a great blessing, but it should be because they want to, not because they feel like they have to. If we as missionaries prepare now for the future, and save up for retirement, if/when that day comes, the churches that have faithfully supported them will not bear the burden of their retirement years. So is it a sin not to save for retirement? Of course not! I don’t think it is a sin to not save for retirement, however I do believe it is something a missionary should do to be effective from the beginning to the end.
As missionaries, we should work hard, prepare for the future, and make responsable decisions that will glorify God and advance the Gospel.