Deputation looks more difficult than it really is. That is not to minimize the very real challenges. There is a price to pay for this method of raising missionary support—paid with time, finances, physical and emotional drain. But the dividends are great.
The missionary on deputation should attempt to be in a minimum of two churches every week and to attend no less than three services per week. While you should attend church services three times a week, your goal is to have prearranged meetings where the pastor will allow you to present your burden for the field.
How can you set up those meetings with the many churches you will need for support? Here are four simple steps for arranging meetings and getting on the field.
1. Send a Letter of Introduction
If you are just getting started as an unknown missionary, your sending pastor should send out a letter of introduction on your behalf. It is important for you to realize that your sending pastor is not responsible for raising your support. It is not his job to get on the phone and secure your meetings, and it is wrong for you to expect him to do so. It is not unreasonable to ask him to send out a letter of recommendation as your sending pastor. This letter should go out to all of the churches in the geographical area in which you hope to raise your support. Obviously, it is preferable to raise your support within one or two regions of the country. This will make the most of your travel time and budget, and it will also serve to help in reporting back to your supporting churches when you return from the field on furlough.
2. Follow Up with Personal Phone Calls
Once the letter has been sent, it is imperative that you follow up each letter with a personal call. Most pastors are not going to call you to invite you to speak. This is not due to their lack of concern, but to their busy schedules and the assumption that you will call them. Add to this the fact that you are not the only one calling, and you will realize that you must take the initiative to generate the contact. This will be your first chance to prove the sincerity and intensity of your burden. You will have to make many calls to keep your schedule full, and many smaller churches do not have staff to answer phones. Be prepared to be diligent. You must not allow discouragement to keep you from staying on the phone to book future meetings.
When you do contact a church, ask to speak to the pastor. Be honest about who you are and the nature of your call. Do not deceive the receptionist by being deliberately vague. It may mean that occasionally a receptionist will cut you off and tell you that the church is not taking on any more missionaries at the present, but it is not your place to lie about why you are calling in hopes of being able to pressure the pastor into a meeting. I agree that a receptionist should not tell you that your ministry will not be considered, but it is going to happen. Just accept this fact and predetermine ahead of time not to get upset about it.
Once you get through to the pastor, tell him who you are, what church you are from, and ask him if it would be possible to come by and present your burden for the foreign field. If he is not able to have you at that time, be polite and understanding. Remember that the whole world does not revolve around you and your calling. God already has the churches He knows will partner with you, and your job is to stay on the phone until you find them.
3. Make Calls from Church Directories
It is probably not possible or desirable to raise your support strictly from the churches contacted by your pastor. God probably has a wider circle of influence for you than you could possibly imagine. There are churches that need you just as much as you need them! You are not a beggar; you are an ambassador, according to 2 Corinthians 5:20. Do not be ashamed to call pastors whom you do not know. The vast majority of them are men of God with a heart to reach the world with the Gospel. It has been almost twenty-five years since I started on the deputation trail, and to this day, some of my dearest friends are pastors I met as a result of cold calls from a directory of independent Baptist churches while on deputation.
4. Attend Preacher’s Meetings if You Are Able
If you can arrange to be in an area when a large meeting of pastors is taking place, it will be worthwhile to attend. This should not be done if you have to spend a great deal of money to get there or if you do not have any meetings in the area. But if you are able to schedule some local church meetings in the area, and it would not require you to compromise your beliefs to attend a particular meeting, then do it. Remember to let God guide you. Do not make a nuisance of yourself. It is not necessary to hand every pastor a prayer card or hit them up for a meeting in the restroom! Your purpose is to get your name out, meet some people, and let God guide you to the men that He has already chosen to partner with you.
There are many benefits to deputation. Someone has rightly said that your attitude at the beginning of a task will determine its success. Go into deputation with a positive attitude, excited and surrendered to the will of God, and you will find it to be a rich and rewarding experience.
This article was originally published in Sending Forth Laborers by Dwight Tomlinson and Dr. Paul Chappell avavailable from Striving Together Publications.