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The What and Why of Advocacy Teams: Nurturing and Supporting Sent Ones

The role of advocacy teams has become increasingly vital to global missions and church planting as a means of caring for missionaries as they participate in the Great Commission and make disciples of all nations. These teams are not just a collection of individuals; they represent a crucial support network for those who have ventured into cross-cultural missions. In the spirit of fostering a strong sense of community and recognizing that no one missionary can finish the race and complete the task alone, advocacy teams play a pivotal role in caring for and representing sent ones. The church must meet the demand for the care and build teams around its sent ones if it wants to see the earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14). 

An advocate is a dedicated individual within a church community who serves as a conduit linking the sent one to the church and vice versa.

The Wise Advice of an Advocate

God accomplished some of the greatest feats in Christian history through the prophet Moses. Moses guided the Israelites out of Egypt, faced the ruler of one of the most powerful countries at the time, split the Red Sea, and led them for years in the wilderness. 


While Moses is an example for us to look up to, he is also someone who almost experienced burnout. In Exodus 18, Moses’s father-in-law, Jethro, visits Moses to bring Zipporah and their children back to the Israelite camp. He comes because he had heard about everything God had done for Israel up to that point in her history. He acknowledges to Moses, “Now I know Yahweh is greater than all gods” (Exodus 18:11). Moses, appreciative of his father-in-law’s eyes opening, goes to work the next day helping the people. He manages every minute detail of Israel, and Jethro sees he is doing too much alone. Look at what Jethro advises Moses to do. 


Jethro tells Moses, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” (Exodus 18:17–23)

If Moses needed advocates, how can we expect our sent ones to go and thrive without them?

Jethro saw Moses could not keep this pattern sustained for long, so he encouraged Moses to build a solid team around him who could support him. Moses does this, setting leaders over different tasks, and Jethro leaves. Jethro knew Moses and spoke into his situation from a place of care and concern, which matters to Moses. It also matters for our sent ones today. If Moses needed advocates, how can we expect our sent ones to go and thrive without them?


Understanding the Role of an Advocate

At the heart of the advocacy team concept lies a profound commitment to support and love those who have embarked on the journey of being sent ones. The biblical foundation of advocacy is eloquently captured in 3 John 5–8, which emphasizes the importance of supporting individuals who go out for the name of the gospel. These sent ones have given their lives for the sake of the gospel, to make Jesus’s name known worldwide. An advocate will act like one of the trustworthy men with Moses by lifting some of the burden off them.


In this context, an advocate is a dedicated individual within a church community who serves as a conduit linking the sent one to the church and vice versa. The advocate is not merely a liaison; they are an extra set of eyes attuned to the sent one’s spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. 

Advocacy teams are a tangible expression of a church's commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission.

Commitments of an Advocacy Team Member

Members of an advocacy team formally commit to several essential responsibilities, including fostering a healthy relationship with Christ, being active church members, and gathering regularly to ensure the well-being of the sent one. Proactive communication, consistent prayer, financial support, and a commitment to serve for the duration of a sent one's ministry term are also integral aspects of the team's commitment. They are serving the Lord and the sent ones intentionally. Advocacy extends beyond prayer and communication; it involves active engagement on multiple fronts. Team members commit to advocacy before God, among the local church body, within support networks, and with church leadership. The goal is to create awareness, encourage participation in the Great Commission, and actively support the sent one's needs. These people will help bear the burdens to spur them to persevere and continue sharing the gospel.


Advocacy teams are a tangible expression of a church's commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission. By actively supporting and nurturing sent ones, these teams play a pivotal role in expanding the gospel’s reach to unreached areas by creating a community of believers committed to the well-being and success of those on the mission field.

 

Christian Townson lives in Lebanon, Tennessee, with his wife, Danyel. He serves as the Director of Missions and Mobilization at The Journey Church. He is also pursuing a Master of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

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