Rope Holders: “A Vital Help for Missionaries”

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William Carey famously said that he would ‘go down into the mine’ (i.e., go to India) if his close friend, Andrew Fuller, would ‘hold the rope.’ As the church, we want to support missionaries in a manner worthy of God. Having specific advocates working from a church is crucial to supporting missionaries sent out “for the sake of the Name.” 3 John 1:6-7.  

Also, as the church, we desire to follow the example of the church at Phillipi by:

  • Prayer – “19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,” (Phil 1:19 ESV)
  • Sending messages and visiting physically in a sacrificial way – 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.” (Phil 2:25-30 ESV)
  • Ongoing concern – 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” (Phil 4:14-16 ESV)
  • Resourcing – 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” (Phil 4:18 ESV)

One meaningful way we can do this is by leading the church to be personally involved in encouraging and strengthening sent ones through ‘Rope Holder Teams.’  

Rope Holder Team is an advocacy team formed by the missionary in conjunction with their local church. By hand-picking a team of advocates, the church can ensure that the team consists of mature believers with a genuine and proven desire to care for the sent ones. Ideally, the group consists of tested individuals who commit to praying for, keeping up with, encouraging, and strengthening the missionaries. It’s great if the team is already in the missionaries’ life so that their relationship in the church continues as they launch out to a new geographic location. Please don’t make the team too large so that they can communicate and coordinate support together. In my experience, approximately eight committed adults work well. One of the team members acts as a coordinator to guide the team’s activity.

Our church asks that those who commit to being on a Rope Holder Team work together in: prayer, ongoing communication, and acts of service for their missionary. We also ask that Rope Holder Teams be committed to being advocates within the church on behalf of those they represent, fostering prayer and visibility of the missionary’s ministry in the body.

Example Expectations for Rope Holder Teams:

 Weekly

  • Advocacy – talk and pray about your missionary and mobilize help within your church and friends.
  • Prayer – tracking prayer requests, interceding personally, communication – personal contact through text, email, and other apps (WhatsApp, Signal, etc.)

 2-4 times a year

  • Prayer – tracking prayer requests and interceding as a team.
  • Talking as a group with your missionary
  • Acts of service – practical help as it comes up
  • Care Packages – sending a box of gifts. As Needed/Possible

Once a term (every 3 -4 years)

  • Visiting them – personal face-to-face encouragement and service
  • Visiting you – when in town, having your missionary visit the team
  • Arrival/Departure help – smoothing the to/from airport and travel logistics

Support of Gospel advance is an essential facet of any healthy church. Unity in the gospel empowers us to be good partners and live an other-centered life. May the Lord empower us to hold the rope for our brothers and sisters who take the gospel out to lost people, in spiritually impoverished areas around the globe. I hope you lead your congregation to hold the rope for those sent out for the sake of the name of Jesus. Could it be that the Lord would use your church to sustain a fragile work that, in time, plants a church that can reach out to the surrounding region?


This article was originally published at theimmanuelnetwork.org. Reprinted with permission.

Andy M

Since being saved as a young adult, Andy has been involved and instrumental in church centered evangelistic endeavors to unreached peoples. Andy currently lives with his family in Louisville KY and serves as Pastor for Global Missions, Church Planting, and Director of the Immanuel Network.

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