My pastor called me last week

Red phone

Red phone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My pastor called me last week. When the phone rang, I had just finished fussing about how much I had to get done before leaving for church that evening. I had about an hour before I needed to walk out the door, but when I heard his voice, I didn’t care if I got another thing accomplished.

I didn’t really care if I was a little bit late to church.

Even though it didn’t cost him any more to call me in Portugal than it did to call across the street, it meant a lot to me. I know how hard he works, and I know how busy he stays in the ministry, and I’m not going to be the squeaky wheel. I don’t want to be a burden for him.

But…it felt good to hear his voice on the other end.

When we talk, we normally talk for at least an hour. We start apologizing for wasting each other’s time about 30 minutes into the conversation and saying stuff like, “I’ll let you get back to work…” then we talk for another half hour before going, “I know you’ve got to go…I’ll talk to you later. Bye.”

I love my pastor. Even before his was my pastor, every now and then he would write me a letter just to tell me that he was praying for our ministry.

When I pastored, I made it a practice to try and call at least one of our foreign missionaries each month. I called Mexico. I called Iceland. I called Germany. It wasn’t cheap, but it was important.

I considered those men my friends and fellow laborers. I saw them as colleagues. Many times I saw them as mentors. When they came by the church, I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible.

I wanted them to talk about their families, their struggles, their victories, their frustrations…I wanted to listen because I had the sneaky suspicion that not very many people did.

I could just tell that not very many pastors listened to missionaries for fear of them being hit up for money.

Photo credit: Amber Sprung via Creationswap.com

Photo credit: Amber Sprung via Creationswap.com

I once called a missionary that our church supported. He was thrilled. He was overwhelmed. I could hear the joy in his voice. We talked for about twenty minutes, and then he got real quiet as we were both getting ready to hang up. He started crying as he said thank you.

That’s right. He said thank you.

He thanked me for calling him. Then he said:

Preacher, you don’t know how much your phone call meant to me today. I’ve been on the field for over five years now and you are the first pastor that has ever called me. My own pastor has never called me on the field.

I hung up the phone and started crying too.

I spoke to another missionary once and while in his home we started talking shop. He had been on the field for about 25 years at the time. He told me that his pastor was a little bit eccentric. This pastor had a timer in his office at the church. When he answered the phone, he started the timer. When it hit 5 minutes, the pastor said that his time was up and he had to go. Then, he hung up the phone. My friend then told me that he got the same treatment.

I sat up with a missionary in his living room on the field until 3 am once. As we climbed the stairs whispering so as not to wake anybody else in the house he stopped me and said,

Thanks for coming. Not very many people would stay up until 3 o’clock in the morning to listen to me.

My response was simple. “That’s exactly one of the reasons why I came.”

We’re going to explore this sad truth a little bit more tomorrow, but I want to ask you a question.

Why?

Why is that too often the relationship between supporting churches and missionaries seems so distant?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

 

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  • http://www.thedomesticfringe.com The Domestic Fringe

    Man, this is sad. Brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad you’re tackling the hard stuff on your blog. These things need to talked through.
    The Domestic Fringe recently posted..My Journey to Motherhood, Part 2My Profile

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      FringeGirl, thanks for the comments. I want to tackle the hard stuff on here, but I want to make sure and do it with grace. Pray for me.

  • http://Www.moores2portugal.com Beau Moore

    My sending Pastor was a missionary before becoming a Pastor. I know he knows how it is to be all alone, so I don’t think it is that he doesn’t care…I think it is the old saying, “out of site, out of mind.” I often the ink to myself it would be great to hear from him, but then I remember that the phone goes both ways. I wish there was an easy way to handle this subject.

    The other reason I think this happens is that we keep them informed. So they THINK that they have kept up with us…technology being what it is these days they know what we are up to, for example….Facebook, they see a post, think of us and then go on to the next post.

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Beau, all good points and you are right. Out of sight, out of mind…social media has good and bad points. However, I still think we can and should do better, on both sides. We’ll plow a little further tomorrow, dealing with some of the points you’ve brought up.

  • Mom

    In the larger Southern Baptist churches it seems we have moved away from emphasizing individual missionaries except for occasional visits by one. Our missions offerings are announced but individuals are not brought before the church family regularly. In the past we had prayer calendars and special emphases for missionaries in specific countries for adults and for children. I could go on but in summary, personal ministry by the church members to individuals seems to be lost in the competition for time and in following “newer” programs. I’m sure our missionaries yearn for a personal touch from SOMEONE back at home who isn’t a family member; from a pastor, that would be earth moving. I know that I have no excuse and I need to make it my business to find ways to reach out.

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Mom, the SBC method of missions is different from most churches that support us, as you know. While we have a few churches that belong to the convention, most don’t. But, as you mentioned I don’t think that the level of personal or pastoral involvement is any more in the SBC than not.

  • Dennis Kirk

    Bro. Michael

    Thank you for the comments. These words challenge my own heart. I had just told someone the day before yesterday that in most churches you do not know who the missionaries are unless they come there to hold a service. So if a church has 30, 40, or even 50 missionaries you might see a couple of them a year. I do believe that we pastors need to be doing a better job of getting our missionaries before the people and to get our people praying for theri missionaries. Thanks again for the challenging words that I believe were said in the right spirit.

    • http://cbcpm.net Michael

      Bro. Kirk, thank you for being the pastor you are and for desiring to see people come to know the Lord Jesus, no matter where they are from, what language they speak or what color their skin is.

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