Missionaries Must Nurture Relationships

bd3c041906a5b5644b53f01916de5c191 Corinthians 12:18-19

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,yet one body.” (ESV)

The Christian Church is the body of Christ. All those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, by faith, are parts of the body of Christ. There is only one true, invisible Church of Jesus Christ. The body has many parts. Each person, even each organization, in the body has something essential to do to build up the whole church. Each works in unison to bring glory to Christ. And so it is with the development of missions. There are not just missionaries. There are other missional entities, which work together in unison to allow the Great Commission to move forward. God desires for all of them to work together. The important thing is to recognize these parts of the body and nurture working relationship with them.

Part 1: Introduction

There are multiple approaches on how people attempt to live as cross cultural missionaries. Each approach has its pros and cons. Some approaches lead to lasting, godly fruit, overflowing joy and no regrets. Other approaches lead to emptiness, depression and nagging feelings of “it might have been”, with a myriad of variations in between. I propose that the most fruitful path to embark on, as missionaries, is nurturing solid relationships with six missional entities. Working toward anything less will hinder a mission’s progress. The six areas of relationships are as follows:

  1. Relationships with… a sending church
  2. Relationships with… a mission agency
  3. Relationships with… a receiving church
  4. Relationships with… a missionary team
  5. Relationships with… a “person of peace”
  6. Relationships with… the family

These six areas were not derived from a text book. They were experienced by my involvement as a house church leader in a campus mission organization (1998-2012) and as a church liaison and networker for my current church’s mission to the First Nation people in northern Canada. Some of the terms originate from terminology learned from those involved in “To Every Tribe” Mission agency. I was first inspired by the different components of missions after attending an “Ekballo” Missions Conference, sponsored by “To Every Tribe” at Northern Illinois University in 2013.

God has been revealing so many wonderful things, in regards to mission, over the last three years and I seek to share that with others. Especially to single missionaries and single families serving as missionaries. This paper will discuss the six areas of relationship building. They will be defined. Our own family experience as a house church will be reflected upon. The things learned from the current mission to the Canada will added. There will also be some advice on how to nurture the relationships in the six areas.

This paper is lengthy. I will present it in three parts, so as to be more readily digestible. The first part will deal with a sending church and a mission agency. The second will deal with relationship with a receiving church and a missionary team. The third will expound on the relationships with a person of peace and the family. The point of all this is not to point fingers. It is to share about some ways that missionaries can be strengthened as they follow Jesus. It will reveal options. It will open doors to paradigm shifts in some peoples’ approaches to missions. I was blessed through this and so why not others? Let’s see.

Part 2: Background

I feel I have a tiny bit of experience attempting in to live as a missionary. Though I never left the country, I headed up a single family house church for fourteen years in the context of campus mission. After you stop laughing at that statement, think about the campus as a sub culture within our society. Many of the students are internationals. The students are a mosaic of social tribes. We operated as “stand alone” single family house church with no affiliation with any other local church. Our affiliations were with a international missionary organization that had other campus ministries in the Chicago-land area. Julie and I were no longer students. We were workers, pushing forty. We were not single students, but parents trying to raise five kids without a local church body or extended family. We were growing increasingly out of touch with students, whose culture changes once every three years. In that sense we were engaged in a cross cultural mission, within a subculture in our society. The demands upon us were not as vigorous as the demands on missionaries who are actually living outside their country, but there are some similarities that I could glean experience from and share with you.

JasmerFamily1In our fourteen years of engaging in a single family, house church ministry, I can say that we ignored several areas of mission support. We had a sending church (a one hour drive away). We had a sending church trying to be a mission agency and a receiving church at the same time. We did not have a missionary team, for we were a single family. We did not have a “person of peace” inviting us into the campus community. We also ignored nurturing relationships within our own family. We basically ignored several relationships, thinking that all we had to do was staff a small, single family house church, by faith, and God would bless it and fill it with eager, growing disciples.

It was like building a baseball diamond, placing my family as players and attempting play a baseball game, week after week, thinking people would eventually join us, filling the pews, forming teams and a league, like the dream of Kevin Costner in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams”: If you build it, they will come…NOT!!!!!!

Over the fourteen years, we were blessed in so many ways, but at the same time there grew a bitter legacy of depression, fatalism, and despair in my heart. Much of it was attributed to the fact that we ignored several areas of relationship building in the mission field. That being said, I want to reflect on the deleterious affects that occurred by ignoring certain relationships in the overall mission and the positive affects of engaging in nurturing the relationships. This first section will deal with nurturing relationships with a sending church and a mission agency.

Part 3: Nurturing Relationships With A Sending Church.

Developing a good relationship with a sending church is essential for the success of any missionary endeavor. A sending church is a congregation who answered the call of God to send missionaries to preach the gospel and raise disciples in another community. They try their best, to support the missionaries. A sending church may be located in the same city, or it could be on the other side of the planet. They could be sending missionaries to the same culture or into a cross cultural setting. I would include financial donors and missionary support groups as part of the sending church.

From our experience as a house church, I would advise any missionary family to stay near their sending church until a very close working relationship forms. Our sending church was a one hour drive away. We had a good relationship with them. I was living among church members for eight years prior to starting a house church. We were part of the greater organization since 1986. Relationships with the sending congregation were strong. Even after starting a house church in 1998, we traveled three times a week for three more years, before becoming an independent house church. They offered regular Bible study, 24/7 open channels of communication and ministry resources on request. They would send helpers to ministry projects, send representatives to Gospel outreach events, and include us in the leadership of twice-yearly Bible conferences and Bible schools. They supplied items at the formation of our house church, like chairs and hymn books, etc. They provided continuing education. They provided kids’ ministry. They prayed for us and still do. We had the backing and practical support of the entire congregation. They tried their best to be a sending church and we benefitted greatly. After ending the house church three years ago, I can say that I am free to call, visit and to receive any type of mission resource.

Missionaries should not just join a congregation in an attempt to make them into their sending church. The relationships have to be there. To simply starting attending a church, without building the long term relationships, is like dipping your fishing pole into an “over fished” fishing pond. There must be relationships. The congregation and the missionaries must be like family. This takes years of drawing near and serving the Lord together. For us, it was eleven years.

The missionaries I am serving with now have spent several years, building relationships with their sending churches. They are participating in ministry. They teach Sunday school, lead the youth group, go on mission trips, and preach occasionally. They serve the Lord, within their sending churches. The sending church needs to feel that the missionaries are part of their church family. It must be the goal of every missionary appointee to nurture that relationship.

Part 4: Nurturing Relationships With A Mission Agency.

A mission agency is an organization that includes people from different denominations. It is headed up by seasoned missionary veterans. They provide missionary training and education from a particular Christian theological perspective. They provide short term mission experiences. They provide ongoing missionary education and support on the mission field. They help in fundraising and managing the missionary’s income sources. They promote the missionary endeavors and also engage in recruitment. They nurture relationships with the sending church. They seek to strengthen the missionary team. They keep missionaries and supporters informed about the mission. There is a myriad of things that a mission’s agency does.

The following are statements taken from the “To Every Tribe” Missions Agency that describe what they do. (http://www.toeverytribe.org/ ) They are a mission agency that adheres to reformed theology. From these excerpts one can get a sense of the role of a mission agency.


To Every Tribe’s Center for Pioneer Church Planting (CPCP) endeavors to train and mentor cross-cultural missionaries for the remaining unreached regions where there is still no grace, no gospel, and no name for Jesus Christ.

To Every Tribe exists to extend the worship of Christ among all peoples by mobilizing the church, training disciplemakers, and sending missionary teams to plant churches among the unreached.

Church Planting

We seek to train obedience-oriented disciples who make other disciples in planting indigenous churches that are self-led, self-supporting, self-theologizing, and self-reproducing.

Pre-Field Training

We invest in extensive theological and missiological pre-field training of missionaries to equip them to thrive on the field and to enhance their ability to plant healthy churches.

Team Ministry

We are committed to ministry through communities of believers where individual gifts work together for the good and effectiveness of the whole, and model the body of Christ to unbelievers.


The 60/40 blend of in-class and on-the-job training exercises makes the CPCP unique in its missionary training philosophy. The CPCP is distinctive in its combined commitment to:

BIBLICAL THEOLOGY We are committed to a reformed, baptistic understanding of Scripture.

UNREACHED PEOPLES Our training is specifically designed for those wanting to be prepared for pioneer evangelism and church planting in remote regions of Mexico and Papua New Guinea.

TEAM MINISTRY Pioneer church planting is physically, emotionally, and spiritually demanding. It is most effectively carried out by a healthy team approach to ministry. A significant part of the CPCP training is to equip missionaries to be a part of successful church planting teams.

ON-THE-JOB TRAINING We provide experience. It is our belief that church planters cannot be adequately trained in a traditional classroom alone. We intentionally create practical cross-cultural training situations in both Mexico and Papua New Guinea.

PERSONAL MENTORING The CPCP is not interested in merely informing your mind, but transforming your character and abilities into experiential, cross-cultural know-how.

MAKING DISCIPLES Pioneer church planting begins with making disciples. CPCP interns will develop strategies to bring the gospel to communities in the Rio Grande Valley with the goal of establishing new believers in the faith and equipping them to make new disciples.

The Center for Pioneer Church Planting (CPCP) provides a unique missionary training experience. Missionary Trainees receive classroom teaching led by biblical and missiological experts from across the country.

Combined with on-the-field experience, these courses equip our trainees with the knowledge and experience required for long-term, cross-cultural church planting success.

Link to the courses they offer people in the two year experience.


Link to recruitment


In our house church experience, we lacked the presence of a mission agency. I would say that our sending church, and affiliated churches, attempted to act as a mission agency also. They tried their best to provide mission specific education at staff meetings, Bible studies, theological education, special lectures, mission relevant speakers at conferences. They tried to facilitate people to visit other nations, by attending international Bible conferences and arranging short term mission events. People were informed of our mission. They prayed for us. There was no need for fundraising or money management for we were a self supporting. They were trying their best to function as a mission agency without actually being a formal mission agency. But was this the best paradigm and did they succeed in functioning as a mission agency at all?

By a federation of sending churches, trying to act as a mission agency at the same time, it failed to fulfill the function of a mission agency all together. We lacked the support, the recruitment, and the education. Only leaders, who have been serving in the ministry over 10 years, and demonstrated commitment, received occasional campus-relevant education. There attempts to support were thread bare. To receive some of these benefits required years of sacrifice, such as driving long distances, attending staff conferences in far away cities, and spending long hours away from home, when there was work, ministry and young kids to raise. Recruitment was non existent if you weren’t serving on a top 20 American campus. American leaders, converts, who were laboring on various campus’, were not considered good prospects to join with. Their campus’ were undesirable to be part of. At our campus, we actually lost hope of ever having long term missionaries joining the mission, even though we were the fruit of “decades long” prayers.

The sending church, even a federation of sending churches, should be separate from the mission agency. Being a mission agency takes a full time effort in order to be effective. Even “To Every Tribe” does not try to do everything and seeks to partner with sending churches and missionary teams, knowing that it takes such relationships to fulfill the mission.

There needs to be a separation, as a way to have checks and balances. The early church had six main centers. They were all considered equals. A church has an elder board that is separate from the pastor. Can you image our government, if the senate, congress, judiciary and the presidential office were not separate entities? They are separate but they all work together. It is the wisdom of God to keep everything separate and yet working together as one. When the mission agency is separate they can dedicate themselves to what they do best. In this way, the missionaries don’t feel that their education and support is threadbare, but comprehensive.

A missionary can nurture relationships with a mission agency, by submitting to its leadership. They can comply with instructions and the mandate of the agency, while at the same time working together the other missional bodies. They can keep in communication with the agency. They can make regular visits to the agency to share their experiences with new students.

In conclusion, I can say that our family had a good relationship with our sending church, but we tried to function without a mission agency. I propose that a missionary needs to build strong, family-like relationships with their sending church. This needs to be nurtured, because success on the field is related to the support the missionary receives back home. The missionary needs to also build relationships with a mission agency. It is a separate organization, dedicated to building up the missionary and their family. It should be separate so that the support the missionary receives is not threadbare and exclusive but comprehensive and inclusive to all involved in the mission, not just leaders exhibiting total dedication for over a decade. Next paper will deal with relationship with a receiving church and a missionary team.


  1. Thanks for this post, Kevin. It seems there is somewhat of a contradiction between UBF’s “practical faith” theology and the actual praxis of church planting — which, as you pointed out, is often largely ignored. As one open to and considering participation in a church plant somewhere down the road, I find this a bit concerning!

    For instance, here is a quote from the Northern Latin America SBC mission report on UBF’s main page: “Near 40 missionary candidates pledged to go anywhere, anytime as missionaries.” This kind of pledge is of course a remarkable feat of faith, but at the same time isn’t this dangerous? I’d love to hear some thoughts on this.

  2. Kevin Jesmer

    This is part one of a three part series. I will propose 6 difference areas of relationships that need to be fostered. Missionaries can go, ignoring certain relationships and start something up. It has been done. But at what cost? If I was praying to send out 40 missionaries I would also pray for 40 support teams to care for them also. (read the book Serving As Senders.) http://www.amazon.com/Serving-As-Senders-Missionaries-Preparing/dp/1880185008

    • “40 support teams to care for them also”

      Ha! Exactly what I started to do in our “sending out”. Instead, the chapter director became infuriated that we were attacking his authority. He disbanded our support team and told us we needed 6 months of driving training. ubf is not a Christian missionary sending organization in any sense. ubf has no intention of sending missionaries of any kind unless they are Korean, apart from a handful of token “natives”.

  3. This is all nice-sounding, but when will anyone address the more serious problem at ubf?

    We cannot begin to speak of ubf as a church or even a missionary-sending organization until some serious problems are exposed and bad practices ended.

    I like your six categories, but in regard to each I have many questions for any ubf person reading this:

    1. a sending church: When will ubf admit its bad theology called UBFism?
    2. a mission agency: When will ubf stop demanding absurd sacrifices?
    3. a receiving church: When will ubf address its cult label and stop looking down on mainline churches?
    4. a missionary team: When will ubf talk honestly to its members and respond to what former members have been saying?
    5. a “person of peace”: When will ubf report sexual abusers to the police?
    6. the family: When will ubf stop arranging marriages?

    And most importantly, when will the 2nd Gens speak up? When will people stop enabling this cult to operate on over 300 campuses?

  4. ADMIN NOTE: I fixed the picture to show up correctly in our featured slider and also shortened the title. –BrianK.

  5. Kevin Jesmer

    I think that there will always be a conflict between advocates of just sending missionaries by faith with little preparation and the advocates of mission agencies who want to prepare people as much as possible before being sent out. One thinks the other camp is acting like the “devil’s advocate” discouraging their missionary prospects from going by faith and the other thinks that the other camp is fool hearty. There are also those who wait for too long preparing people to let them go. The mission agency I am coming alongside, tries their best to prepare new university grads for two years and then helps them to go out to the least reached people groups. Can these different camps be reconciled?

    • You are mistaken, Kevin, as there is another camp. I am in the camp that says ubf is a harmful cult teaching dangerous shepherding theology. I don’t give crap if they prepare or don’t prepare; they are still a cult raising cult disciples.

      Are you saying you are ok with shepherding theology that says you must obey your shepherd forever with eternal gratitude?

      And what, we just sweep Winnepeg under the rug too? We ignore the police reports, the abortions, the suicides, all the pain of former members, we just ignore it and say “no matter”?

  6. Kevin Jesmer

    I don’t think that one can ever stop UBF from operating in 300 campuses. The organization is filled with people like I was, willing to stand as church planters and missionaries no matter what relations are being nurtured, no matter what the sacrifice, no matter if their is joy on the journey or not. I think the point is to grow spiritually mature in Christ and encourage others that God has brought into our lives.

  7. Joe Schafer

    Kevin’s piece reminded me of something that I wrote in a similar vein to explain why Penn State UBF couldn’t go on with business as usual. I haven’t shared it on UBFriends yet, but I did send it to some of the UBF elders. Perhaps some of you will find it interesting. Here goes.


    Penn State UBF began in January 1992. For almost twenty years, we tried to operate as an independent church, campus fellowship and disciplemaking ministry in the UBF tradition. Gradually we realized that planting a church in State College and building a campus ministry at Penn State in the name of UBF was not viable. Many factors were involved in that realization; here is the short list.

    • We discovered that there is much, much more to church than having Bible studies. Our families and our students needed to be in a healthy, nurturing spiritual environment, and we didn’t have the knowledge, experience, manpower, energy or wisdom to provide it.

    • It was unrealistic to think that we could work full time in demanding professional jobs, give our children (some of whom have intellectual disabilities) the attention they needed, keep our homes and home lives in working order, build a church community from scratch, recruit more members, create a campus ministry, maintain the church facilities (cleaning, maintenance and repair), prepare and lead Bible studies, conduct services, preach weekly messages, tend to our marriages, and carry out the duties of good citizenship – not to mention, participate in the leadership of the UBF organization at the national and international levels. What in the world were we thinking?

    • For a church to become stable, it needs a critical mass of families who settle and put down roots in the community. In our college town, families could come for a few years for graduate study, postdocs, etc. but would inevitably leave. Year after year, no matter what we did, we were always going to be in a mode of building the congregation from scratch. When local families from the State College community tried to join us, they found that we were too focused on campus ministry to pay attention to them; they sensed that we mainly wanted to use them to fulfill our campus ministry vision, so they left.

    • Penn State already has dozens of campus ministries, and as we got to know them better, we couldn’t find any compelling reason to start another one.

    • State College (a city of less than 100,000 people) is filled with churches of all kinds, including dozens that you might describe as evangelical and Bible-oriented. As we got to know them better, we couldn’t find any compelling reason to start another one.

    • We were American, which made it hard for the rest of UBF to relate to us. For the first ten years, Penn State UBF consisted entirely of Americans, with no Korean missionaries. When missionaries from Korea arrived on the scene, they felt bewildered, because the environment was unlike anything they had experienced before. They couldn’t adjust to us, and we sometimes felt judged by them. They seemed to regard us as unspiritual because we didn’t act like Korea UBF.

    • Yet in many ways we still acted quasi-Korean, which made it hard for American students to relate to us. Students found our discipleship methods to be unattractive and our atmosphere to be awkward. When they came, they wondered, “Why is there a group of Americans in the middle of central Pennsylvania acting like Koreans?” We always felt like fish out of water, because that’s what we were.

    • UBF is still widely known as a fringe group with a dark history and questionable ministry methods. Placing the logos of NAE and ECFA on UBF websites have not erased that bad reputation. Many students did research on UBF and decided to leave us because they feared that our ministry practices were unsound. If the UBF organization had admitted wrongdoing and taken observable, measurable steps to clean up its reputation, then this problem would have been so much easier to deal with. How wonderful it would have been if we could point to an official UBF website where the problems were being squarely faced and addressed! But year after year, nothing ever came. We felt like soldiers being sent out to fight battles on behalf of an organization while the commanders sat back in safety inside their headquarters, never coming out to face the conflicts that to us were so real and so heartbreaking.

    • Year after year, the support and training provided by UBF headquarters and was inadequate and did not the problems we faced at the local level. When we went to staff conferences, the advice we kept hearing was “Have faith!”, “Go back to the Bible,” “Recover your first love,” “Renew your calling for campus mission,” “Love one another.” It was abstract, overspiritualized, and sidestepped the actual problems that we were facing day after day.

    • The support and training provided by the midAtlantic region was even worse. When we tried to bring up these issues to Jacob Lee, he avoided the problems and took active steps to silence us and to marginalize us. I repeatedly appealed to UBF headquarters for help but nothing was done. Participation in midAtlantic events became too painful to endure.

    • When I tried to bring up some these issues to the senior staff over the course of several years, I was ignored and rebuffed and made to feel that the problems were because of me, because of my shortcomings and proud mind and bad attitude and impatience and lack of faith.

    In summary: We discovered the hard way that plant a church and building a successful campus ministry is not simply a matter of going out and doing it by faith and working hard until you succeed. It takes considerable time, training, resources, manpower, understanding, networks of support at the local, regional and national level that we could not provide and UBF could not provide. To think we could do all this on our own while supporting ourselves and taking care of our families was (to put it bluntly) insane. The business model was flawed, and there was no way to fix it.

  8. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Kevin. Continue to learn and use it to edify the church. Churches need to learn from other churches. My parents are UBF missionaries and they don’t know about the 6 relationships. I wish they knew about them because it would make them more effective in their ministry.

    I never heard about the terms “sending church” or “mission agency” until I got out of the ubf bubble. And yet these terms and concepts are essential to mission work. Being a missionary is about networking. Being a Christian is about networking to the global body of Christ. Being a human is about networking. Yet for some reason in UBF there is this self-sufficient ascetic spirit. I don’t know where its root is from, but when mission work is done that way it is analogous to one shooting themselves in the foot.

  9. “…in UBF there is this self-sufficient ascetic spirit…” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2015/09/09/missionaries-must-nurture-relationships-in-six-areas-but-i-ignored-them-and-paid-the-price-dearly/#comment-19427

    Or perhaps we could call it pride. Or elitism. Or exclucivism. Or cultural imperialism. Or superiority. Or ego.

  10. Maria Peace
    Maria Peace

    Thank you Kevin for posting this article. I heard of a missionary agency but did not know what they did. They sound very helpful. Because our children went to an American missionary school we connected with many American missionaries from different mission agencies in Ukraine. We have been missionaries for 12 years now. 7 of those years we spent in a bigger chapter of UBF and began a new chapter in the last 5 years. We have a good relationship with our sending church in Chicago and we work well with the 2 other UBF chapters in Ukraine. We enjoy the fellowship of our conferences together. But we also work with other churches not in UBF. One of our sister works in a Christian Organization. Through her we are learning about the need and God’s work in Ukraine. We support other organizations and even one of our sister is dating a leader of another church. We are praying for God’s will to be revealed for their future. We can not be self sufficient. We have to connect to the whole body of Christ and work together. Yes, developing relationships is absolutely necessary.