Missionaries in your area most likely will have an impact (for good or bad) on your ministry because you and your workers will cross paths with the missionary and his workers often.You can also have a positive impact on their lives and ministry, depending on your attitude. Most problems we have with other missionaries are with those in our area. Missionaries in your area may not have the same philosophy of the ministry that you have.You may think that since there are differences you should not get too close. You can build a good relationship with other missionaries of like faith without necessarily becoming close friends.
Take the initiative in the relationship.
While on deputation, I received a letter from a pastor (not a missionary) in the area where I had visited on my survey trip.When the pastor found out I was planning to start a church in the same city, he kindly wrote and asked me not to come. Since the Lord had led me to that area, I went there. I did all I could to win over that man.We became good friends, and later he moved to another city.When he comes to Iloilo, he usually stops by and we talk. The first mission project our church had was to help that pastor’s ministry.
Take an interest in their children.
It is very difficult for a parent to dislike someone who is a good influence on their children and someone whom the child likes.This insight can be helpful in establishing a good relationship with almost any parent.When a family comes to visit our church, I will almost always, after being introduced, talk to the children first. My interest is sincere, and I believe I am actually talking to the parents through the child. In this way, I am saying to the parents that they can trust me because I like their children.
Do not take offense at what they say or do.
Psalms 119:165 teaches that nothing should offend us.A few years ago an independent Baptist church was started about two hundred yards from our church. A missionary who is affiliated with the group helping that church get started saw me one day and apologized for starting a church so close. The truth was, it did not bother me the church was located so near. For one thing, I have always felt that in Roman Catholic dominated cities, having more independent Baptist churches makes it easier to reach the Catholics. As Baptist churches grow, they become more accepted. I can understand why some missionaries would not like another independent Baptist church so near, and I would not start one nearby for that reason, but that kind of situation should not offend us.
During your ministry there will be times when it will be easy to get offended with almost every missionary who lives in your area. If you get offended easily, you will not have a good relationship with any of the missionaries which will end up hurting you and your ministry.
Do not take advantage of their hospitality.
Older missionaries will almost always bend over backwards to help a new missionary when he arrives.Their kindness should be welcomed and accepted, but a new missionary should be careful not to take advantage. Most missionaries are very busy in their work and have more burdens to carry than the new missionary. This consideration might mean that you should not stay too long in his home just to save a little money. Consider getting a hotel room after a week or two of looking for a house to rent. Be considerate of the needs of the one who has been considerate of you.
Do not take advantage of him financially.
A missionary who has served in Africa for years told me how a new missionary came to his area, and he took him in. This kind missionary did much to help the new missionary, including advancing him some money to get started. This money was never repaid. If you stay in a missionary’s home and they feed you for some time, it would probably be good to take care of all the groceries while you are staying there. If they take you around the area, you should pay for the gas.
Being unethical in financial matters will almost always ruin any relationship. It is very difficult to respect or desire to fellowship with someone who is not proper in the area of money.
Do not take advantage of his ministry.
I knew of a missionary who, when arriving on the field, got to know a missionary and the workers he had trained. One day he told the missionary that some of his workers would be going with him to start his new ministry.That announcement did not go over real well with the veteran missionary who had probably shed blood, sweat, and tears training those workers.
If you go to work with another missionary for a while before starting a church, it is best if a period of time is agreed to beforehand as to how long you will stay. Be sensitive not to stay longer than the missionary really wants you to stay.
Be very careful about accepting help from workers or converts from another missionary’s work, unless the missionary initiates the action. If that worker has some complaints about the other missionary and you are foolish enough to sympathize with him, he will most likely do the same to you as well. Plus you will hurt your relationship with that missionary. Your relationship with another missionary is more important than any gain you might have by getting a worker.
Missionary Steve Heidenreich and I both had Bible colleges. As human nature dictates, from time to time a student at one or the other of our colleges would get upset or become discouraged, quit, and would then go to the other Bible college and attempt to enroll there. Brother Heidenreich and I each have a principle that we will not accept transfers from other schools. This policy has been greatly instrumental in preventing problems in the inevitable situation of a student getting upset. Brother Heidenreich has been an example to me of respecting another's ministry, and his testimony has strengthened our relationship.
This is part four of this article. Please click here to read part five.