The Work Goes On
Missionaries Should Tell Stories
By Jeff Turnbough
Several years ago, while serving as a missionary to Spain, I was back in the United States visiting a supporting church. Just before the service began, the pastor came and said, “You are only going to have about 30 minutes. I just want you to preach. Don’t worry about talking about your work.”
Wanting to honor my pastor friend’s wishes, I didn’t share about the work, and I preached a message, without giving my missionary report. Immediately after the service, a long-term supporter and leader of the Women Active for Christ came straight to me and said, “Why didn’t you share about your ministry? We have been praying for you and we were really looking forward to hearing how God is working there!” All I could do was apologize and remember how important it is for me as a missionary to give a report of what God is doing where I work.
Remember what the first missionaries in the book of Acts did? “And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work, which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:26-27).
When the Apostle Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch—the church that sent them out as missionaries, they told stories about what God had been doing through their ministry. One real gift the missionary brings to the local church is current stories of God working in the places where he/she ministers. These reports of what God is doing around the world not only encourage and challenge the people of God to support His global work, but also make them more aware of and involved in God’s work locally.
Acts provides a biblical precedent for missionaries to give a report of what God is doing (i.e., tell stories). Following the example of Paul and Barnabas, it is helpful to arrange a specific time for returning missionaries to tell stories and answer questions (Sunday School, part of the service, small groups, etc.). If the missionary is going to deliver a message during the worship time, including powerful stories about God’s work can help illustrate biblical principles applied in life.
Pastors, encourage missionaries to tell stories of what God is doing where they work. Missionaries, prepare good short stories of how you see God working in and through your ministry, even if the place you serve is highly resistant, with little visible fruit. If you do not know how to do that, attend the Leadership Matters Course (www.wetrainleaders.org) or obtain some other training to equip you to prepare and tell short stories of God working in and through your life and ministry.
After one of our missionaries attended LMC, he began telling stories to his supporting churches. A leader wrote, “I don’t know what you teach in LMC, but after hearing the difference in our missionary’s presentation, I support it.”
Just this week I received this note from another missionary who attended LMC: "Just this week I received this note from another missionary who attended LMC: “Yesterday, my husband and I had the opportunity to share about our work for 45 minutes during a church service. In our preparation, we told our stories. People gave us compliments on our growth in public speaking.”
God’s Word is powerful. Missionaries see the Word of God impact people’s lives in meaningful and real ways. Telling stories of God at work builds and encourages God’s people, and ultimately, helps extend God’s Kingdom in and through His people around the world, working together to fulfill the Great Commission.
About the author: Jeff and Susan Turnbough are raising support for the ministry. Free Will Baptist International Missions has assigned them to train missionaries
and national pastors and leaders on the front lines of God’s work, via the International Training Alliance: www.wetrainleaders.org.