Holding the Rope
After months of planning and praying, William Carey was finally ready to depart and take the gospel to India. But before he left, he met with a group of pastors who had been helping him prepare, including his close friend Andrew Fuller. Fuller would later reflect on the meeting, saying, “It was like Carey was preparing to go into a deep, dark, unexplored mine and was saying to us, ‘I will go down into the pit, if you will hold the rope.’ And we responded by taking an oath together, ‘While we live, we will never let go of the rope.’”
This is one of the most powerful images of the relationship between the church and our missionaries. Our missionaries go down into the pit, taking the gospel where it is not known and planting churches where none exist. And our responsibility is to hold the rope and refuse to let go.
How Do We Hold the Rope?
3 John 5-10 provides us with a guide for missionary care. John addresses this letter to a Christian named Gaius, who had recently shown hospitality to traveling missionaries by welcoming them into his home.
He says to Gaius, “Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church” (v. 5-6a).
What John says about Gaius should be true of every church. We should be so faithful in caring for our missionaries that the testimony of our love should ring out across the world.
This passage shows us three specific ways we can do that:
“You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles” (v. 6b-7).
This provides us with a basic definition of a missionary: someone who crosses cultural boundaries for the sake of Jesus’ name.
Oftentimes, this means that we send our missionaries to difficult places where the church is either nonexistent or persecuted.
Because of this high calling, missionaries need to be sent “in a manner worthy of God.” They need to be trained, proven in their holiness, and sharpened by other Christians.
To send missionaries faithfully, we must train faithful missionaries.
One of the specific ways that you can participate in this training and sending process is by investing in the next generation. The next generation of missionaries is currently in our kids, students, and college ministries. By serving and investing in these ministries, you are helping to equip the next generation of warriors for Jesus!
“Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth” (v. 8).
John here describes missionary care as an ongoing relationship. We don’t send and forget. We send and support.
This means more than just putting the missionary’s name on a prayer list. It means that the church is so deeply invested in the life and ministry of each missionary that we are genuinely “fellow workers for the truth.”
Below are some practical ways that you can support our missionaries:
- Regularly pray for our missionaries using the First Baptist Missions Prayer Guide.
- Respond: Whenever you receive an email update from a missionary, respond! You’d be surprised how rarely missionaries hear from their sending church.
- Give. Give to the mission by funding our church’s annual budget and giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
- Go. Consider going on a short-term mission trip. Entering a missionary’s world is the best way to strengthen our partnership in the gospel and communicate our church’s love and support.
By faithfully supporting our missionaries, we get the opportunity to be a part of God’s mission to redeem people from every tribe, tongue, and nation!
When these missionaries came to Gaius’ church, a man named Diotrophes actually refused to welcome them and opposed others who wanted to. John sees this as such a severe issue that he writes about it and plans to address it when he comes (3 John 9-10).
This shows us the importance of faithfully welcoming our missionaries when they come to our church for their stateside visit.
This stateside visit can oftentimes be difficult for missionaries. They must reintegrate into American culture, fulfill many engagements, and spend adequate time with family and friends.
For these reasons and more, when our missionaries are on their stateside visit, we have a significant opportunity to welcome them with the love of Jesus Christ (Romans 15:7).
Acts of hospitality can transform our missionaries’ stateside visit into a time of refreshing, encouragement, and ministry progress.
Will You Hold the Rope?
Not all Christians are called to commit their life to cross-cultural missions. But every Christian is called to have a radical ambition for the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). One of the greatest ways you can do that is by supporting your church’s missionaries.
Like William Carey, our church’s missionaries are going down into the pit for the sake of the gospel. Will you hold the rope?
Listen to Pastor Andrew’s sermon from the Sunday night series entitled Reclaiming Love: People of Compassion in a World Full of Hate.