Summary of Neal Pirolo’s Main Arguments
In Serving as Senders Neal Pirolo addresses the very important, under-rated, and under-addressed subject of serving in missions as a sender of missionaries. Mission work is highly esteemed and admired in Christendom and there seems to be a virtual list of hierarchy of duties that are “the most spiritual,” the most esteemed, or the most important (Pirolo, p. 28). High on that virtual list is being a pastor and going to the mission field, but what about the rest of us? What about the lay person? Not all of us are called to be a pastor or foreign missionary. We are all called to missions, however. So how do we go? Or a better question might be, “How do we serve as senders?” Pirolo asserts that “It is clearly established that those who serve as senders share an equal responsibility and privilege with those who go (p. 184).”
Neil Pirolo addresses how we are to care for our missionaries, in Serving as Senders, while they are preparing to go, while they are in the field, and when they are returning home. Chapter one, “The Need for Senders,” addresses the need for senders in missions using stories and case studies (p. 23), and from the scriptural basis of Romans 10:15, “And how shall they [go] preach except they are sent (p. 14)?” Pirolo breaks down the “life span” of the missionary and outlines and charts out when the missionary will need support and how that support is helpful in the section “A Cross-Cultural Worker’s Life Time-Line (p.17).”The time-line of a cross-cultural worker’s life looks like this: a. normal living, b. anticipation of approval, c. prefield preparation, d. honeymoon period, e. culture stress, f. ministry of love, g. anticipation of return, h. culture stress in reverse, and i. full integration (p.17-21). During each of these stages in the life of a missionary, according to Neil Pirolo, support is needed from senders to missionaries in these six areas: moral support, logistics support, financial support, prayer support, communication support, and re-entry support (p. 22). These six areas of needed support are “the meat” of Sending as Servers and make up chapters two through seven, the body of Pirolo’s work.
In chapter two, “Moral Support,” the need for moral support is discussed. Going as a missionary can be a frightening and fearful undertaking that requires outside moral support for the missionary to “Be strong and very courageous; [and to not] be afraid or dismayed: for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9) (p. 28).” It is a shame that there has been a trend, even in Biblical times, of lack of moral support for those being sent (p. 31-34). We must be conscious of this trend and work to reverse it by giving our missionaries the moral support that they need to go.
Pirolo states that “Moral support is the very foundation of the support system (p. 30).” My favorite quote in this chapter is “People are so afraid for the other programs of their church that they don’t want anything to do with daring adventures into the unknown, or the uncomfortable. Mission ministry, after all, could be regarded as competition to the status quo-according to non-moral supporters . . . (Pirolo, p. 34). People can be quick to discourage calling to mission because it upsets the “norm” and means work for them. Instead of giving moral support, kickback is given, like in the case of the Apostle Paul or William Carey in their call and mission.
According to Neal Pirolo, and I concur with him, there are many ways that the church has not supported mission. These ways include stones of incrimination; where discouragements of all kinds are offered up, self-indulgent sleep; where the focus remains on comfort, worries about public opinion; where the public “welfare” is emphasized and the missionary is encouraged to be quiet about their “going” to not disrupt the “general public,” competition; where the establishment is “threatened” and other ministry is seen as competition, contradictory counsel; where the people may not be supportive of where God is leading the missionary, and finally, distorted theological views; where mission is discouraged despite scriptural mandate (p. 34-39). Instead of being a discouragement to mission, the church should offer up their encouraging moral support saying, “Bon voyage (p. 39)!” This solid-as-a-rock moral support, according to Pirolo, includes Jesus as the corner stone, the simplicity of moral support, the integration of missions, active listening, and commissioning (p. 39-48). As the church, we must understand that moral support is the basic foundation of the support system in mission (p. 52).
“Logistics Support” is the title for chapter three. In this chapter Pirolo brings up the importance of providing our missionaries the logistical support that they need. The scripture that begins this chapter is 2 Timothy 4:13 where Paul asks Timothy for his support while he is in the field: “And when you come, please bring the cloak I left with Carpus at Troas and the books, but especially the parchments.” It is striking to me, like in this scripture, that there are basic services that we can provide that are huge in helping those we send. What may seem minute or simplistic can mean the world for those who are in the field. Pirolo encourages us to be mindful of the needs of those we are sending. These needs are: accountability in ministry, confirming spiritual growth before they go, while they are in the field, and when they come home, managing business affairs like money, taxes, health, and death, and attending to personal details in reference to material goods, family matters, and ministry needs (p. 56-66).
While I was beginning to read Serving as Senders, this idea of logistics support played out in real life concerning contributing to personal details of the missionary and their ministry needs. A friend of mine e-mailed me about a backpack that I leant out to a mutual friend of ours. She told me that she was on her way to Romania for two years and that this backpack was just what she needed, as required by her sending organization. She wanted to know where we had gotten this pack and how she could get her hands on one similar. My wife and I still had the pack in our storage closet and had shifted our gear and packs we use to a smaller and lighter style. This pack she was inquiring about was just laying there not being used. Here was our opportunity to serve as senders through this basic and free logistic support. We gladly gave our friend the backpack. We had no idea how much this would mean to her. This simple thing for us to do apparently helped our friend tremendously and helped her economically; it helped her to feel relief and to feel supported. We were also blessed through helping and sending and being a part of her adventure and mission.
Chapter four, Financial Support, addresses our need to be senders through the financial support of our missionaries. There are many ways to give to missions financially, some are conventional and some are not so conventional. There are more ways to help support a missionary financially than just to give them money, though this is very important as well. However we give, we must be wise in our giving (p. 79, 80). We can also be good stewards of our own resources and lifestyles as we live and give to missions. It is disturbing that we spend more on chewing gum, dog food, and cards as Americans than we do on missions, notes Pirolo (p. 80). We can also give by helping to manage wealth wisely for those being sent, both abroad and at home (p. 83, 84). As senders we can “live more with less” and help give to missions and manage our own wealth and the wealth of those being sent (p. 92). We should be good stewards of our resources and generous givers.
Prayer support is addressed as a major key in serving as senders in chapter five, which is appropriately entitled Prayer Support. Prayer is important, as Ephesians 6:18a says we are to pray, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit (p. 93).” It is not only important to pray for our missionaries and for those who they are going to. It is also important to pray and fast for them (p. 110-111). Pirolo states that we need to also pray for more laborers in the harvest fields (p. 112). We must also pray for the gospel to break through, for the enemy to be bound, and for God’s kingdom to come (p. 113-114). Prayer is essential for missions.
Communication Support, chapter six, addresses the importance and the need for helping missionaries in their communication needs as we serve them as senders. Ask anyone what the most important element of business or marriage is and they are likely to tell you that communication is the most important element, missions is no different. Communications is very important for missions according to Neal Pirolo in serving as senders. Sometimes communication affects missionaries financially as well (p. 120). It is important to communicate with those who we send so that we can monitor and provide for their needs, such as: prayer needs, financial needs, and other needs and to give them encouragement.
An area often neglected and not understood in supporting missionaries is re-entry support. Chapter seven, Re-entry Support, addresses this often neglected area of support. Just as culture shock is an issue when someone enters a new culture, there is also culture shock reentering one’s own culture in returning home after being gone for a long time of mission (p. 137, 195). Part of being good senders is supporting those whom we send when they return home.
The difficulties of reentry, according to Pirolo, can include: physical challenges, professional challenges, material and financial challenges, cultural challenges, social challenges, linguistic challenges, national and political challenges, educational challenges, and spiritual challenges (p. 139-146).These reentry challenges can be difficult for a missionary and our support is needed as we serve as senders by helping with these issues upon their reentry.
My wife and I had the blessing to help a missionary upon her reentry from her mission to Burundi. This missionary, a good friend of ours, had had a tough time while away on mission and needed a free and peaceful place to live while in transition between mission and the next step of her life. We happened to have a spare room and bathroom in our basement, so we were able to have her come live with us. It was great! The experience for us was overwhelmingly positive and was such a huge blessing for us. It was a helpful and blessed experience for her as well and we saw God work and move in all of us. We were able to serve as senders in the area of reentry support. This reentry support is such an important and crucial part of serving as senders.
Finally, in chapter eight, Your Part in the Big Picture, Neal Pirolo connects us with the larger picture of global missions and the roles that we play in global missions. God is working mightily in the harvest fields, and there is so much more work left to do. We are invited by our Lord to join in with Him in His work. What a blessing! There are so many unreached people in the world, especially in the 10/40 window (p. 172), and we can take part in reaching them by serving as senders. We must move boldly forward in this missionary effort and we must serve as senders (p. 173-176). Pirolo ends this chapter with a summary of the ways that we can serve as senders in these areas: moral support, logistics support, financial support, prayer support, communication support, and re-entry support (p. 177-180).
Also important to note, in the structure of Serving as Senders there is also an Epilogue that gives information on how to support Emmaus Road International, who published the book, and information in the resource section of the book which includes information on further study, motivation for missions, strategies for missions, prayer support, reentry support, financial support, inspiring stories of missions and missionaries, and information on videos, publications, seminars, training opportunities, and speakers. Also included in the back of Serving as Senders is a way of educating others on how to serve as senders through a detailed Group Leader’s Guide. This leader’s guide is a great tool to multiply influence and missions though education and to increase missions through increased education, and an increased number of “senders.”
Evaluation: Assessing the Theological and Practical Relevance of Serving as Senders
Serving as Senders, by Neal Pirolo, is a theologically sound, practical, relevant, and well done book that is very important and pertinent to us in mission. Not all of us are called to go to a foreign country to do missions, and missionaries cannot go unless they have a support system to send them while they are preparing to go, to care for them before they go and while they are in the field, and to support them when they return home. Pirolo’s quote is encouraging to me “It is clearly established that those who serve as senders share an equal responsibility and privilege with those who go (p. 184).”
I have spent most of my adult life in serving Christ through doing youth ministry, which I think is cross cultural ministry in its own right. My call to youth ministry, while unique in its own right, is not cross-cultural foreign missions as most of us understand missions, nor is foreign cross-cultural missions my calling. I have always wrestled with the idea of “going.” I have always viewed “going” as foreign missions and have never experienced that specifically as my calling. I suspect that I am not alone in this. This is why I believe that Serving as Senders is such a great book. It addresses how people, like me and others, can serve in missions by being senders of missionaries. This book illustrates how we can paradoxically “go” by staying and sending.
I highly recommend this book to anyone in church leadership, anyone who is considering going on mission, or anyone who has a friend or family member who is going on mission. This a practical guide to support missionaries, by serving as senders, as they prepare to go, while they are on mission, and when they return.
May we be serving as senders!
Pirolo, Neal. Serving as Senders: How to Care for Your Missionaries. Emmaus Road International, San Diego, CA. © 1991
1 Corinthians 15:45-58, The Message
“We follow this sequence in Scripture: The First Adam received life, the Last Adam is a life-giving Spirit. Physical life comes first, then spiritual—a firm base shaped from the earth, a final completion coming out of heaven. The First Man was made out of earth, and people since then are earthy; the Second Man was made out of heaven, and people now can be heavenly. In the same way that we’ve worked from our earthy origins, let’s embrace our heavenly ends. I need to emphasize, friends, that our natural, earthy lives don’t in themselves lead us by their very nature into the kingdom of God. Their very “nature” is to die, so how could they “naturally” end up in the Life kingdom? But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true: Death swallowed by triumphant Life! Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now? It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God! With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort."
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. 1 Co 15:45-58
Summary of Samuel Escobar’s Main Arguments
Samuel Escobar begins in chapter one, of The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone, by illustrating a new picture of global mission in the 21st century. He says, “Christian mission in the 21st century has become the responsibility of a global church (p. 12).” Gone are the days where just North Americans are primary senders of missionaries to the rest of the world. Now people from all over the world are being sent to the entire world. The Gospel speaks to people of every culture and is translatable to every culture (p. 12).
Escobar says that “The heart of “mission” is the drive to share the good news with all, to cross every boarder with the gospel (p. 13).” We live in a multicultural world where western Christianity is being confronted by the Christianity of the southern hemisphere, which is “marked by a culture of poverty, an oral liturgy, narrative preaching, uninhibited emotionalism, maximum participation in prayer and worship, dreams and visions, faith healing, and an intense search for community and belonging (p. 15).”
A shift has occurred in Christianity in the global south where Christianity is flourishing. The gospel is being preached by people with few financial, material, or technical resources, rather than by people with power and privilege [I would add, like those of us in the US] (p. 19). In other words missions is happening more from the “global south” and from other parts of the globe than it is solely from North America. Missionaries are being sent from “all nations” to “all people.” We are moving to an imperial missiology, to an incarnational and truly international missiology (p. 26).
In Chapter two Escobar begins his brief summary of Christian Missions by pointing out that both the divine and the human dimensions of missions should be considered. He also suggests that passion and commitment to Christ must be looked at when looking at missionaries along with “the good the bad and the ugly” concerning missions. Escobar gives us a two thousand year history of missions in chapter two which includes “the good the bad and the ugly” and ends with missions as it relates to all nations. Escobar notes that in our current point in time in history the church is most like the early church than ever before. We have gone back to smaller groups of Christians all around the world, and now there are now smaller communities of persecuted Christians all around the world as well.
In chapter three Escobar describes the current context of global missions noting, like Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat, that the world is indeed basically flat and that we live in a global economy and a “global village,” if you will. While the times are exciting and the potential is endless concerning missions, there are both good and bad sides to this “globalization of missions.” Economic potentials become factors in people’s worth and values and the current technological trends and advances can rob people of true biblical fellowship and incarnational ministry. Escobar says we should be mindful of the cultural context of missions work, and not be “just harbingers of the new globalization process (p. 63).”
Increasing poverty is also problematic in our current globalized community. On one hand some mission work is geared toward helping the poor and alleviating poverty and on the other hand the poor themselves are a missionary force to be reckoned with (p. 65). One outcome of this dynamic is the cooperative model of missions in which “churches from rich nations add their material resources to the human resources of poor nations in order to work in a third area (p. 67). Migrants are also acting as cross-cultural missionaries.
In chapter four, Samuel Escobar addresses the postmodern trends in western cultures. Post-modernity is characterized by critiques of Christian values, the glorification of the body, and an acute interest in consumption and materialism (p. 75, 76). Post-modernity characterizes western culture and should be evaluated on the basis of scripture and addressed as any other culture (p. 72). There have been some changes within the church that reflect the shift toward post-modernity in the church, notes Escobar (p. 80). Another reaction within the church to post-modernism and the rise of Islam is fundamentalism which leads to a militaristic and nationalistic approach to missions which should be avoided (p. 82).
In chapter five Samuel Escobar describes our God as a missionary God who “is active in the world, active in human history through the people He calls and sends, [and] is at the heart of mission (p. 86). God chooses people and then sends them out as missionaries while weaving a web of human relationships based on His love of human kind. Escobar maps out how God sends His Apostles throughout the Old and New Testaments. Throughout the history of the church the churches history of response to God’s call has varied between obedience and disobedience (p. 90-92). Escobar notes that missions should always be marked by our dependence on God and not our own strength (p. 94).
Chapter six outlines how Christ is God’s best missionary. Escobar states that “one might summarize the history of Christian mission as the way in which people in thousands of cultures and languages have come to know Jesus, the way in which the name of Jesus has been proclaimed and honored from country to country, from culture to culture, from language to language, from century to century (p. 98).”
Jesus continues to inspire people to give their lives in service to Him today, notes Escobar. He goes on to talk of how Jesus was sent by his father and how Jesus sends his disciples. This is noted in John 17 in Jesus’ prayer to His Father, and as the Apostle Paul states, this occurred at just the right time in history (p. 98, 99). Escobar also says that Christ is our pattern for mission and that “If Christ is at the center of the gospel and of missionary activity, His way of being God’s missionary also becomes a pattern for life and mission (p. 106).” Escobar then goes on in chapter six to describe how we are to be imitators of Christ in mission through compassion, serving, confronting, and being incarnational (p. 107-110).
Chapter seven of The New Global Mission is probably my favorite. It addresses the Holy Spirit in Christian Mission. Escobar begins this chapter noting from Bishop John V. Taylor, and I would add and from scripture, that “The chief actor in the historic mission of the Christian church is the Holy Spirit. He is the director of the whole enterprise (p. 112).” We must not underestimate the Holy Spirit in missions. Missions is not something that we do in our own power, it is what God does in His power through us.
While I was less interested in the history of the Pentecostal movement, the history of the Holy Spirit at work in mission, the spread of the gospel, and the growth of the church is essential and of extreme importance to all of us. Escobar ends this chapter strongly with some major premises of The Holy Spirit and mission. One, “the word of promise becomes a reality by the work of the spirit (p. 120).” Two, “the ministry of Jesus is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit (p. 121).” Three, “God uses people filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (p. 122).” Four, “Jesus teaches about the work of the Holy Spirit in Missions (p. 123).” And finally in his fifth point or premise, Escobar says, “the growth of the church in numbers and depth is the work of the Holy Spirit (p. 124).”
Chapter eight, Text and Context: The Word Through New Eyes, focuses on the importance of scripture and context in mission. The protestant reformation, notes Escobar, was an intense time of translating and distributing the Bible, which in turn contributed to mission and the growth of the church (p. 129). “Scripture was a fundamental component” of missionary methodology and still is (p. 129). Escobar makes a point that I think is key to this chapter, “The concern to put the Bible into people’s hands, in their own language, was related to the conviction that God speaks through His Word and by His Spirit in a way that the average Christian can understand (p. 131).” God’s desire is to communicate to His people. Scripture is Missional and is essential for mission.
In chapter nine, Mission as Transforming Service, Escobar points out that mission occurs in transforming service. This Biblical pattern of service encompasses Christian mission in human and social transformation (p. 146). John Stott, a consulting editor in this work, also wrote extensively about this type of holistic mission, that many evangelicals are leaning toward, in his work Christian Mission in the Modern World.
Escobar points out Matthew 9:36-38 and how “Jesus immersed among the people, ministering to their needs, and points clearly to the deep compassion that moved Him to action (p. 143).” The people we are ministering to should not be faceless projects but should be seen as “sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus’ mission was holistic and met all of people’s needs and our mission should be the same as we model what Jesus does (p. 146). Escobar ends this chapter emphasizing that “word and deed go hand in hand” when it comes to mission (p. 152-154). “Today mission should consist of service-service both of the spiritual in proclaiming the word and in the physical in meeting human needs, according to Jesus’ model and in His name (p. 154).”
Finally, in chapter ten, Escobar emphasizes a “New Way of Looking at Our World” when it comes to mission. The people of this world are people looking for meaning and purpose. “If the sick person is to be made whole, we must involve in the restoration process the center of personality where the quest for meaning and purpose exist (Fountain, p. 155).” We must transition to looking at the world through a kingdom lens so we regard no one according to this world or its point of view (p. 156). We must be on guard in missions not to depersonalize others (p. 156).
The theology of the early church changed the way other people were viewed and advanced the growth of the early church and advanced missions. This also provoked tensions in the early church, but it was necessary (p. 158). We must move from our secular world and world views and move toward a kingdom and biblical world view (p. 159). We must look at our western culture and societies as the mission fields that they are, and begin to re-evangelize the west (p. 162).
The shift is clear. People are being sent to share the gospel from everywhere to everyone. We must rethink mission and look to how missions are changing and we must look to send from everywhere to everyone, and even to our own back yards. The church is global and she is sending from everywhere to everyone and we must be a part of that. We also must look very differently at missions and look very differently at our world.
Evaluation: Assessing the Theological and Practical Relevance of The New Global Mission
The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone, by Samuel Escobar, is a very practical and relevant, theologically sound, and helpful piece of work for us to consider in reflecting on, thinking about, and embarking on missions today. It is extremely important for us to look differently at mission and to look at our world in a new way and through a different mission world-view. A new century is dawning in missions. “Christian mission in the 21st century has become the responsibility of a global church (p. 12).”
May we be sending the Gospel from everywhere to everyone! May we be missional!
Escobar, Samuel. The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone. Intervarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL. © 2003
“And when He [Jesus] had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones . . . Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.” -Mark 5:1-5, 15, NKJV
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” –Jesus, Matthew 23: 27-28, NKJV
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” –Jesus, John 14:6, NKJV
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” –Jesus, John 3:16-17, MSG
“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” – Jesus, John 11: 25-26, MSG
“And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors.” - 1 Corinthians 15:14, MSG
“But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.” – 1 Corinthians 15:20, MSG
“He is not here, but is risen!” -Luke 24:6, NKJV
“I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” -John 14:25-27
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982.
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002.