Covering the Missionaries
Growing up under the influence of grandparents Charity and Ruth Harris, who were pioneer missionaries in Tanzania, Jonathan Watson, lead pastor of Bella Vista Assembly of God in Arkansas, dreamed of emulating the life they led on the mission field.
While attending Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, however, he says he received a clear call from God to be a “sender” rather than a “goer.”
Watson and the Bella Vista congregation of around 375 are fulfilling that calling by recently committing to support an additional 13 AG World Missions and 13 AG U.S. Missions missionaries, bringing their total sponsorship to 86 full-time missionaries.
This is in addition to the $5,000 a month already donated by the church to support missionaries and missions organizations.
Although Bella Vista AG previously had been sponsoring 55 of the fully appointed missionaries from the AG Arkansas District, Watson says he sensed the Holy Spirit prompting the congregation to sign on to back the remaining 26. The church’s missions committee endorsed the proposal.
“I tell my congregation that the natural consequence of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ is being a missions resource for the neighbor across the street and all the way around the world,” Watson says. “Whatever you emphasize as a pastor, that’s what people are going to get excited about.”
Watson, who is an Arkansas sectional presbyter, hopes many of the other 400 congregations in the district follow suit.
If 100 pastors committed to supporting missionaries as soon as they became fully appointed at $10 a month, Watson says it could potentially fulfill between a quarter and a third of their missionary budgets. The immediate funding would reduce some of the stress of raising income and speed their work in the field at the start of the itineration process, he says.
Watson says itineration serves as a great recruiting tool. He regularly invites missionaries to visit Sunday School classes and children’s church to talk about their work in the field.
Though his childhood dream remains unfulfilled, Watson says he is content to achieve his pastoral hope of ministering to unreached people groups.
“Giving and missions are a part of the heartbeat of God,” Watson says. “There will be unreached people groups in our world that will have access to the gospel and Jesus Christ because this little congregation has a missional mindset.”