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Senders: How your church can identify, train and deploy missionaries Paperback – October 11, 2015
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About the Author
Paul Seger has lived in the world of international ministries his entire life. After growing up with missionary parents in Africa he returned to work in South Africa for 17 years before returning to serve as the director of a missionary sending agency.
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I have been anticipating this book for months and was quite excited when Senders by Paul Seger was published for the world to read. I suspect that others will not be as excited by it as I am. Senders is a challenging book. While this is a way in which we grow, most of us do not like to be challenged in our way of thinking. However, any person or church serious about cultivating missions must allow themselves to be challenged by Senders.
The origin of the definition and process of ‘modern’ missions is obscure. Regardless, Senders seeks to confront our thinking about missions by defining the roles of sending organizations and sending churches. The author challenges our mindset regarding three areas of missions:
1.Missionaries: Who are our missionaries and where are they to come from? Seger suggests that our missionaries should be coming from the church and that they are an extension of not just our church body, but our church staff.
2.Mission Organizations: What role does an agency play in missions? For many the organization does it all and bears full responsibility. The book outlines a different option though. One that is both biblical and enables us to do missions better.
3.Mission Support: “The problem is not money. We have plenty of resources to fulfill the Great Commission” (pg. 23). Maybe this is often said, but it is little practiced in today’s culture. The author spends an entire chapter examining the principles of our priorities in regards to missions.
Ultimately by addressing these three areas, Paul Seger has defined for us how to do missions well by emphasizing our priorities. He has laid out for us the following:
•The Priority of Missions: The emphasis that missions should have in our church.
•The Priority of Money: How funding missions is not a matter of need as much as it is a matter of prioritizing.
•The Priority of Management: The training and deploying of missionaries.
Addressing such an important topic in such a meaningful way, why do I think others may not be as excited about the book? Because it compels us to change and requires of us more work than many are wiling to put forth. It requires intentionality in raising up missionaries in the church and intentionality in training them.
The book is an easy read (I read it for the first time on a short two and half hour flight from Los Angeles to Seattle). The real work comes not in reading the book, but in digesting and acting upon what you read. While it may be overwhelming to undertake the suggestions that are suggested, Paul Seger has also developed a workbook to guide missions teams in this process.
It is certain that not everyone will agree with every premise the author sets forth. Regardless of agreement, the concepts mentioned in the book are worthy of discussion in the church. If missions is a priority of the church, then reading Senders should be a priority as well.
Seger discusses to some extent the qualifications and job description of missionaries (pp. 89-93, 103-104), although it should be noted that he targets missionaries on the frontlines of church planting and discipleship with little attention given to support missionaries. Presumably, missionaries who work in maintenance, IT, construction, etc. would not require the same skills as those starting churches. Seger also clarifies that those devoted to social justice issues are not missionaries in the biblical sense, even though they are engaged in meaningful work, because they are not directly and intentionally engaged in fulfilling the Great Commission (pp. 9-17, 101-104).
The thrust of Senders is to provide a practical, helpful guide aimed at local churches who should be the senders of missionaries: “This book is an attempt to help churches in America to identify, train, and send the next generation of missionaries” (p. vii). He addresses vital issues such as:
• Training missionaries (pp. 55-60, 100)
• Identifying who should be sent (pp. 50, 61, 64-80)
• The prerequisites of a sending church (pp. 87-88)
• The role of parachurch organizations (pp. 116, 121)
• Choosing mission agencies (pp. 124-131)
• Funding missionaries (pp. 135-146)
• The place of tentmaking (pp. 140, 144-146)
• How to pray for missionaries (pp. 157-169)
• Specific ways to promote missions (pp. 186-187).
While not all would agree with some of Seger’s opinions such as his lack of enthusiasm for funding nationals (pp. 26-31), the distinction between mentoring and discipleship (pp. 95-97), supporting fewer missionaries but more substantially (p. 179), favoring church rather than individual support (p. 142), and dislike for faith promise programs (pp. 141-142), his thoughts, even if one disagrees, are well worth considering.
Seger is strongly encouraging local churches to become proactive in sending and supporting missionaries. To do so they must be deliberate and strategic (p. 2), and “take center stage on the topic of missions” (p. 42). Churches should begin by examining their purpose for existence (pp. 45-46). Once identified, the local church should wrap all it does around this purpose statement and communicate it often and well to all its members.
Senders is a helpful and practical manual which will aid any church to bring into focus why it exists (to make disciples) and how it can extend this purpose through global outreach.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel, Springfield, IL