Blessing your missionaries is one of the most important things you can do in the way of preparing them for service and encouraging those already in service. It is critical that your missionaries (and others you lead) know how much you admire their calling and appreciate their gifts. The Apostal Paul understood the value of the special-blessing and used it often to encourage and provide guidance to those he served through leadership. There are many examples of the special-blessing being administered to children, leadership, nations, and servants in the Bible, but this article will focus on missionaries (and other Great Commission workers).
The special-blessing is based on the work of John Trent. Trent refers to the blessing he writes about as the blessing, but we have reassigned the term in our counseling ministry as the special-blessing, since it is almost always taught as an intentional tool focused on a particular gift and expected outcome. It is a tool that can be used to encourage and edify children, couples, students, athletes, pastors, business partners, employees, and missionaries. It includes all of the following:
Components of a Special-Blessing
-Touch (when appropriate)
A hand on the shoulder (like when praying), the holding of one hand (like a handshake) or holding two hands (with your spouse or child), or followed by an embrace (spouse or close family member/friend)
Always honestly intended to lift up the recipient (never for manipulation)
-Acknowledgment of Value
Acknowledges a gift or specific ability in a focused area (not general in nature)
-Acknowledgment of Future
Expresses an expected or anticipated outcome or potential.
-Pledge of Support
Expresses your desire to continue to be a part of the individual’s development (like that of a discipleship relationship, parent, teacher, spouse, employee)
The Apostle Paul was a missionary, and later (from captivity) a supporter, mentor, and leader of missionaries. The special-blessings he administered to those he served, provides us a pattern we can follow to do the same for our missionaries and staff. The following is a great example of a focused blessing intended to encourage, edify, and acknowledge potential:
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:3-12)
Components of Paul’s Blessing that Edified or Encouraged Timothy
Paul begins his blessing of Timothy by telling him he is invested in him through prayer. (v3) In what better way can we tell a person how much we love them than to tell them that we involve them in our conversations with God. Not just any conversation, but that we pray in thanksgiving to the Lord for their part in our life.
Paul acknowledges, before any other thing, that Timothy has given himself over to the Lord in faith; clarifying that this is the key ingredient to his value among men, and specifically his fellow Christians. (v4). Paul continues on to define the factor that makes all of this possible by acknowledging Timothy’s destiny as heaven; the result of his accepting Christ’s gift of life. (v5)
Paul acknowledges the fruit of Timothy’s ministry as the result of his acceptance of the gospel and dedication to the truth. Not only does this acknowledgment inform Timothy of Paul’s esteem, but it also directs Timothy back to the source of his ministry’s effectiveness. In this way, Paul keeps Timothy grounded to the Word and the mission of expanding God’s Kingdom (v5-7). Paul establishes a boundary for Timothy by constraining his work and message to that of the teaching and training originally given; even praising him for not (to that point) straying from it. (v7)
Paul tells Timothy of his dedication to him. He explains that in addition to thanksgiving, his prayers are intentional and focused on specific developmental goals. Paul first directs Timothy to acknowledge God’s will as he contemplates his ministry objectives. (v9) He clearly wishes Timothy to be a man who is willingly guided to understanding and wisdom by the Holy Spirit. (v9) His words serve to edify Timothy of the necessity of Holy Spirit leadership for those who wish to see their works bear fruit and please the Lord. Paul goes into detail, identifying that being pleasing to God requires one to continue to increase in knowledge, partly so they are fully able to function in every circumstance of Kingdom work. (v10)
Paul further refines his prayers for Timothy, exhorting him to fully accept that his power as a minister is the result of God’s power. He specifically calls on Timothy to use God’s power to dig deep and be courageously and joyfully dependent on God for the strength and longsuffering he needs as a leader, and to be patient as God takes him through the trials of his life. (v11)
Finally, Paul reminds Timothy that who he has become is the result of the work God has done in his life. Paul is likely just reminding Timothy of his birthright as a Christian, but he indeed takes the opportunity to tell him about his inheritance:
…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14)
Although Paul is not the giver of the inheritance, he is the giver of the blessing. Of course, Timothy has previously been trained as a Christian to understand these things, but that does not diminish the value of Paul’s giving of the special-blessing. Most times, the special-blessing is given at the time it is most needed, to inspire or just remind one of their inheritance.
Notice that in the special-blessing scenario, there is a promise of some sort of gain. For Timothy, the ultimate gain is eternal life; but the reality is that it is not the giving of the final inheritance that immediately impacts a young missionary. It is the knowledge that the church (in this case spoken for by Paul) appreciates their abilities and is excited about their potential. Additionally, the missionary is shown by the church that they are valued as missionaries, which establishes the feelings of security they need during their deployment.
Remember now the beginning days of your ministry. Try to recall the given special-blessings that helped you become the pastor or leader you have become. The special-blessing is a powerful tool used to provide your missionaries, children, spouse, friends, and staff a way to know how you see them and their value to you, the church, and the Kingdom. Always be honest and never use a blessing to manipulate anyone, and you will see new confidence begin to build in the receiver. Confidence that will stick with them for the rest of their life and ministry.
Mark Painter MCM/PC
Missionary Care Lead