Home > Mallinak, Missions > Reforming Missions (or at least the money)

Reforming Missions (or at least the money)

January 12, 2008

No doubt every missionary remembers when God finally made clear His call to the mission field. For some, this came after months of wrestling. For others, this call seemed to fit quite naturally with all that God was then doing. In every case, God did much to prepare for the calling He had in mind. God never calls where He does not equip. Having equipped, God grants clear direction and puts His mark of approval on this missionary venture.

And then, the fun really starts. There are survey trips to be taken, plane tickets to be bought, family pets to be disposed of, immunizations to be injected, one’s entire life to be packed in crates, lodging to be lined up, passports to be purchased, and (no doubt) a tear or two to be shed. You who make JackHammer a part of your routine could no doubt fill pages with the many, many things that must be done before “final boarding.”

Of the many unpleasant tasks that lie ahead for the future missionary, I can’t imagine that any is more unpleasant than the one where the future missionary picks up the phone for the very first time, and with trembling fingers, dials the number of some pastor in another part of the country, seeking the opportunity to come present his future work. On that day, he begins to display his skill at jumping through hoops while walking tightropes. Pastors everywhere seem to delight in making things as difficult as possible for the missionary seeking support.

“Fill out my questionaire.” says one. “You must send me a picture of you and your family every year.” says another. “I must get a personal letter on the first day of each month.” says yet another. “I only support missionaries with BUMI.” “I only support missionaries who are going to Arcadia.” “I don’t support missionaries unless they have five kids.” “Are you CLOSED?” “Are you over 42?” “Are you a college grad? I don’t support guys who went to college.” “Do you have a position on the Sons of God and daughters of men?”

The list goes on and on and on. Missionaries know better than I do. I will simply say that I have never envied anyone the opportunity of going on deputation. I’m not much good at schmoozing, and I’m thinking that I would find myself often faced with a difficult choice… do I tell this guy to fold his money and tuck it neatly up inside his nose, or do I tell him what I really think?

I would love to make this a Scriptural discussion of deputation, but I have a pretty basic problem… the Bible says nothing about it. I’m really not sure how we got to the place where we thought it would be best for a guy to spend two or three years chasing down pastors he doesn’t know and who don’t really want to know him, spending a few days in his city at a place of his choosing, and travelling seven thousand miles, all for the sake of a livable amount of support. Nor am I convinced that this is the best possible way to raise the necessary funds for missions support.

So, consider this my suggestion. Or perhaps, if we could start this whole process over again, how we maybe could do it better.

And my first suggestion would be that sending churches support their missionaries solely. Right now, our church would be capable of supporting two missionaries full time, at a minimum of $30,000 per year. The advantages of this would be countless. While other missionaries spend two or three years using up their car engine, this missionary could work full time under his pastor, really learning the ministry. Then, when he finally goes to the field, he does not need to worry about what this pastor over in Kansas wants from him, and this other pastor in North Carolina, and this other pastor in Montana, and this other pastor in Arizona. He is able to focus on evangelizing the place where God has placed him, and on communicating with his church and his pastor. Meanwhile, his church feels a great weight of responsibility for him, in prayer and provision and meeting needs and communicating and helping and loving and joining in his ministry. The sending church has no problem getting to know him, for they already do. They are very much invested in his ministry.

Nor is that the end of blessing for the missionary. When the time comes for him to take a furlough, he can really rest and be refreshed. He does not need to come back and again wear out the tires on his mini-van, trekking all over the country. He does not need to find out that a third of his supporting churches got new pastors (who might not like him) while he was gone. He does not need to “raise additional support,” as his home church is keeping up with the changing exchange rates and the additional cost of living.

Of course, that is not to say that churches who are in close fellowship could not help or participate in this missionary’s ministry. There most certainly is room for this. And, when the missionary is already well-known in the sister church, it is only natural that there should be some level of cooperation. But again, this cooperation is an opportunity for blessing, both for the missionary and for his sending church. And this cooperation does not add to the burden of being a missionary in the first place.

As things stand today, the missionary is required to sell churches on his value as a future missionary, often before he has had any opportunity to prove himself in the ministry at all. The missionary must do a sales job on churches, must keep all his supporting churches happy, and is ultimately responsible to raise enough money to provide for his family while he is gone.

Do we really think that this is the better way?

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  1. January 12, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    I think there is ample evidence in Scripture to clearly say that missionaries were financed by multiple churches. There are two places to see this in Scripture. First Paul praises the Philippians for supporting him in chapter four at the first and at the last. His statements also imply that other churches later supported him, when the Philippians did not. Granted, Paul started that church himself and they maintained contact, but it was an autonomous church by then, I would assume.

    Another way we see that missionaries and all church members en route on a mission for their church where cared for by the church is the phrase “brought on their way” (Ac 15:3). In 1 Corinthians 16:6 and Acts 10:23 it appears that this involved in many cases staying in the homes of the brethren, which undoubtedly involved biblical hospitality. Hospitality was a very important part of Christian living in the NT. This was a great advantage to missionaries in route.

    Having said that, would it be a stretch to think that when Paul wrote the Roman church, a church he had never been at, and asked them to bring him on his way to Spain (Romans 15:24) that we was practicing in a sense what we call deputation today?

  2. January 13, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Personally I have often thought that I would like to see a shift in support of missionaries from 50 churches at an average $90 a month to 20 churches at $225 a month. However, consider what I mentioned in the earlier posts about emergency situations. When a missionary faces a tragedy that will cost him $100,000, he will be glad he has a broad base of churches that can respond to his need without forcing his churches into bankruptcy to help him.

    As for the travel and preaching, deputation presents many problems, but it also can be a really fun time for the whole family, if done with the right attitude. My kids have seen the Alamo, the Badlands, Dodge City, the swamps in Louisiana, the snow in New England. They have met some of the choicest servants of God on the face of the planet. We’ve gotten snowed into our trailer and roasted like pop-corn. We’ve had the bed seem to crawl around under us with flees in one place. 😉 And we did it together. It’s all in the attitude. I’ve explained to my kids, there are men who don’t even know Christ who, for the sake of a paycheck, leave home every Monday and come home on Saturday. Or the leave home on the first and come back the 20th. Some missionaries even do that to raise support. We have always been able to get a travel trailer together and live in it as we visit churches. When we get stir-crazy, we find a hotel or a missionary apartment, or even a church gym and spread out. And, I have six kids. This is a challenge. But its fun, when the Lord’s in it. And it can be beneficial.

  3. January 13, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Dave, you hit a very good topic in your last paragraph on the aspect of a man proving himself. Although I believe deputation certainly is a good opportunity for a man to be proven for the ministry. This should really be done in the local church, before the man ever goes out. Before a missionary is sent out by his church, they should already be convinced that he can do the job. For him to be able to do the job, he needs to know and be able to defend what he believes from the Scripture, and numerous important points. He won’t know everything, but he ought to know a lot and have passed an ordination type interview.

    Second, he needs to have proven his gifts. There are many missionaries who just are not evangelists. They never reached and discipled anybody at home. So, how will they do it on the field. In addition, the man should have “successfully” headed up some ministry in the church or even been placed in an assistant pastor’s role, to prove himself to the congregation. Some pastors that I have met will not even consider missionaries that have not either started a church in the States or been on the mission field one term. Now that’s a stand I’m glad not everybody takes. But what they are saying is they do not want to waste their missions money on a washout.

  4. January 13, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    I agree with Br Heinz, whom I believe we support (If he is the Don Heinz in Chile). We have fewer Missionaries but we support them well (no numbers please!) To me, the challenge lies in the fact that 30 years ago, churches supported a Missionary at $25 per month. That was ok, 30 years ago. But many are still supporting Missionaries at that same amount today, and that simply is not feasable.

    Besides that, our Missionaries are part of our family. We pray for them regularily, read their letters every month, and they get to speak when they are back, and not for 10 minutes either! If we supported 100 missionaries we simply could not do this. This is the only church I have ever been a member of, and it’s all I know, but our Missionaries are part of our family, and I think that works pretty well.

    Br. Dave, the challenge with one church supporting a missionary is in the possibility that this one church goes under or suffers some financial setback that makes them unable to keep supporting the missionary. In theory it is not bad, but in practice it can have devestating effects.

    The method that Br Dave mentioned is no different than “dialing for dollars” or cold calling, which I have had considerable experience with in my secular work. It is just as ineffective there as it is in the ministry. But I have also heard from the Pastors point of view, that they have supported Missionaries who never even got to the field, or who went and did nothing. When God has charged them with the responsibility of dispensing His money, I can understand why they would become gunshy about Missionaries they don’t know.

    The answer to the dilemma, in my opinion, is two-fold. One, That the Pastor of the sending church knows other Pastors of like faith, and can recommend the person they are sending out to them. These Pastors in turn know other Pastors of like faith, and can recommend this Missionary as well. Then you can minimize the wasted time calling churches who really are not of like faith and practice, that would not support you, or that you would not accept support from.

    Second, churches simply need to consider the reality of the total cost of sending a missionary to the field these days, and understand that $25 per month is just not enough. The cost for the Missionary to travel to that church can be more than the overall value of the support. And then to back thier to report when they come back from the field? Yikes.

    I know of Missionaries who were fortunate enough to have this type of plan working in thier favor that were on the field in 18 months, fully supported.

  5. January 13, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I agree with all that both of you are saying here, and I know that my suggestion would take some doing. Here are some thoughts.

    First, the fact that multiple churches sent offerings to Paul does not necessarily mean that they supported him with a full-time committment the way we do with missions today. Certainly they helped him periodically, but I see no evidence that they did this regularly.

    Secondly, I am not saying that our current system is wrong or unscriptural. I can’t imagine that it is a better way. The only argument I have heard against it is the one that Mike mentioned – if the sending church goes under. I would only point out that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in a night. What does a pastor do if his church goes under? He still has to make some pretty big adjustments. It seems to me that so long as both sending church and missionary act with prudence during the planning stage, they can have things in place in case the church goes under.

    Finally, I think that the issues of accountability and involvement are better answered by the single-supporting-church model than by the other.

    I hope, some day, to go to this model.

  6. January 13, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Br. Dave, the way I see it, actually, the way I have been taught it, is that the sending church is still the one who is responsible for the Missionary, so accountability and involvement still go back to the Pastor and church that sent them in the first place.

    My follow up thought is something we have never done, but I have seen it done with good success. One church that is established goes over to the next town, and starts a mission. They send members to door knocking, and win some souls, and they stick with it until they get the work established. Some families from the original church may stay at this new work. They find a man to take the Pastorate, and they go on down the road to the next town and do it again. There is a church I know of in Missouri that is doing that right now, and one I know of in North Dakota that did the same, and to my knowledge there are now 6 churches that have been established out of that work.

  7. January 13, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    Bro Dave,

    It is amazing how you were able to relate to something you have not experienced. The most challenging aspect of deputation for me was calling pastors I did not know. You never know what to expect when calling. Many times the secretary is charged with not letting the missionary get through to the pastor. There have been many cases where I truly felt like a second class citizen when talking with a pastor or even at the church itself. There were days when I would make 40 calls and not get s single meeting. It was in those times my Pastor’s advice really helped. My pastor told me shortly before I left for deputation, “Terry your support is already raised because God has called you. When the Lord is ready for you to go to the field you will have it.” The Lord did bless and we raised our support in about 18 months.

    When I was preparing for deputation, I was not at all for it. I felt this way even before the Lord called me to the mission field. However, shortly after deputation began, my mind was changed. I am all for deputation now, and I do believe it is much more scriptural that the cooperative program the SBC has. Even though I can not stand the calling part, it does have some benefits. It is very humbling. My family and truly enjoyed deputation. Let me give some reasons why I am for our current system, and what changes I would like to see.

    Why I like the current system.
    1) I believe it is scriptural. I do believe the Apostle Paul was supported by several churches, from his sending church in Antioch, to his most faithful supporting church in Philippi. (Acts 13:3, II Cor 8,9, Philippians 4:17) (The apostle Paul might not have had monthly support, but the local churches were the source of support for the Apostle Paul. He also used his tent making as well.)
    2) Missionary gains much needed PRAYER support by virtue of all the people he is meeting. I can not tell you how often I received an email or letter from a church member from a supporting church letting me they have been praying for me and my family. Many times I would receive their correspondence during very difficult times and it really helped. How many times did the Apostle Paul say, “Brethren pray for us”?
    3) Helps keep missions on the mind in the local churches. I believe the Lord can use the missionary to help assist the local churches in stirring their people about the importance of missions. Many companions of the Apostle Paul were from a variety of churches not just Antioch, and were stirred when they met the Apostle Paul and thus traveled with him. Consider Silas, (Acts 15:40) I believe Silas’s home church was Jerusalem.
    4) The missionary’s eggs are not all in one basket. This has already been discussed. If only one church was supporting and they have trouble, it is very likely the missionary will be off the field for at least a short time.
    5) It allows for churches to accomplish the great commission and gives fruit to their account. (Philippians 4:14-18)
    6) The local church being able to give unto missions is well pleasing unto God. (Phil 4:18) Keep in mind the church at Philippi was not the Apostle Paul’s sending church, Antioch was.

    Now what I would like to see changed or more common.
    1) I would like to see sending churches, to support for 1/6 to 1/5 of the total support needed. This would help greatly in the beginning stages, and cut down on the length of time of deputation. Of course, this would be if the Lord enabled the sending church and it did not put them in a financial strain. (Many sending churches could not do this.)
    2) I would like to see an average of $100 monthly and $70 at the very least. I still have several churches that support for $25 a month. Could you imagine if all churches supported for $25 of month! Deputation would take seven years! (I appreciate all of my supporting churches regardless of how much they support.) If churches took on fewer missionaries at greater amounts, it would cut down on deputation time.
    3) I would like for all church secretaries to resign immediately. (Just kidding.)
    4) If a pastor had a missionary in and the church really liked him and was behind what the Lord called him to, for the pastor to call other pastor friends and recommend him. This would assist the missionary getting meetings. The pastor getting the call would be less nervous about having a missionary in if a fellow pastor recommended him.

  8. January 14, 2008 at 5:13 am


    That’s great stuff.

    I would like to add one observation to this whole discussion. As I mentioned earlier, our missionaries have not taken more than two years to raise their support. This I attribute to a pastor that is engaged in the process. Our pastor had many pastor friends mostly in the midwest. As we called around it was easier to get meetings (notice I didn’t exactly say easy). The pastors we called knew him and respected him enough to give his missionaries a chance, if they could. Obviously the missionary cannot do a whole lot, if his pastor doesn’t see the need to visit pastors conferences and so forth. However, pastors CAN help their missionaries a lot, by having fellowship with a number of pastors through pastors conferences. In fact, I know a pastor that got half his missionary’s meetings by calling the pastors himself! There’s pros and cons to that.

  9. January 14, 2008 at 5:16 am

    Bro. Marshall, good to hear from you. Send our greetings to Brother Albright and the church!

  10. January 14, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Have you guys considered Philippians 4:15, 16, where Paul writes:

    “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.”

    And then v. 10,

    “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.”

    What Paul is saying is that the church at Philippi was the last church to have given him anything and it was when he left Philippi to go to Thessalonica, which was only a short ways away and they gave to him just twice while he was there for three weeks. Probably someone took the short trek over and brought something with them, not enough to support him, because in 1 Thessalonians we know he was working, making tents there. And when he writes this, he says that they had not given him anything for ten years, as well as no one else. For ten years, Paul wasn’t supported at all. It doesn’t say ten years, but from knowing what Paul did and when from parallel passages, it was a ten year span of getting nothing for Paul. He knew how to be abased.

  11. Gary Johnson
    January 14, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Having been on both sides of this issue, I understand what pastors and missionaries are saying. To the missionary I can say, you are fully supported, Matthew 6:31,32. We saw the Lord provide as we went to the foreign field on $100 of support from two churches, never missed a meal or were late on a bill payment. To God be the glory. As a pastor I am first concerned about what your church believes and where your pastor stands. If I don’t know your pastor, it will be a more difficult process to support the missionary, if I know your pastor well, you may not even need to come to our church to raise support. We have done that for two men. And in our situation that helps the missionary, as we are not on the way to anywhere and are a good distance from churches of like faith and practice.

    $$$$ is not the main issue, walking by faith, and obedience to the scriptures will take care of missions. I like it when the missionary will question me on what I believe, because he does not want to take support from churches that are not of like faith and practice. Now there is something to discuss.

  12. January 14, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Bro Kent,

    I referenced those verses in my comment and mentioned he also did have to use his tent making a times for income. The point I was making does not change, it still supports the point. (I am not following the ten year conclusion you draw though. I agree he did go for periods without receiving support, that is clear.) The point though is that he did go to local churches to support the ministry. The churches which were not faithful lost out on a blessing and fruit to their account. Phil 4:18

    Bro Johnson,

    I too have been on both sides of the issue, and I think all would agree walking by faith and obedience are the key issue. The post though dealt with the money side of how we currently do missions and whether it would be better for just the sending church alone to support or for several churches. I listed on my post several reasons why I believe it is best for it to be a combination of many churches not just one or two. None of my points dealt with $$$$ being a major factor. As I mentioned in my post, and you did as well, if God has called the missionary, he is supported. Although as a pastor, I would not recommend a missionary we were sending to go on $200 a month. I think it is amazing how the Lord met your needs, but I do not think that should be the standard. I have friends who did go very under supported and their family suffered for it, and they were off the field in under one year.

  13. January 14, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    This can be a difficult conversation, so just letting people know I’m pretty laid back about it. When I referenced the Philippians passage, I did so because it had been brought up right away from Bro. Heinz, and then later again. I wasn’t disagreeing with the point about Philippi giving support. It is obvious that they did. However, besides Philippi, which church gave Paul any support that we know of? That is whay I am asking right now. My point of including the Philippians material was to look at it a little bit more in depth.

    Paul was in Philippi on the second journey 51-53 AD. He wrote Philippians in a Romans prison in 62AD. It was ten years since he had received any support from Philippians and he said it was the only support he received in that span. I’m asking if there are any other places that say that Paul received anything at all?

  14. January 14, 2008 at 12:50 pm


    One answer lies in 2 Corinthians11:8,9…

    I robbed other churches, taking wages [of them], to do you service. And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all [things] I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and [so] will I keep [myself].
    (2Corinthians 11:8-9)

    Philippi is in Macedonia, but Paul mentions churches plural. And, he mentions a larger area that just Philippi, Macedonia.

  15. January 14, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    I think it is interesting that Paul doesn’t mention his tent making here, though he does in Acts 20:34. He was in the process of teaching the Corinthians what the NORM should be. But, he admits to the Ephesians that the ideal is not always possible, and we are not bound by a law that says we have to expect that the churches will supply all the missionary’s needs. Obviously in times of persecution, deputation is really not possible. We can thank the Lord we have this liberty at the moment. However, in certain closed countries the best possibility is to get into the country through a secular job.

  16. January 14, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    2 Corinthians 11:8-9 would add a year to one side of the dates—52-53 to 62, so still 9-10 years since he received support based on his report, and even though he says churches, I think that what we can gather from this is that the gift he received from Philippi at the end of this 9-10 year period was the first gift he had received since he got what he did when he was in Corinth.

    We can see that receiving gifts was acceptable Scripturally, but the norm for Paul was tent-making/laboring with his hands. The sociological situation was different then and we could say that contributed. But should we say that the norm for missions in the Bible is full financial support? It seems like it was go, and if people send you support, then dandy.

    I would think our goal is to get missions done and if we can support it, then we should, but I am wondering about the pattern today. I think it is mainly tradition and not something that was fleshed out of Scripture.

  17. January 14, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Bro Kent, I agree the Apostle Paul had to do tent making for a source of income. I believe part of the problem was logistical in getting funds from churches like Antioch and Philippi to the Apostle Paul. (I believe when Paul was “sent” by the church at Antioch, that it not only included the authority for the work, but also financial support/provision.) Prior to the writing of the epistle (Philippians) the church sent an offering with an elder to Paul and encourage him. I am not following how you conclude this was the only financial support he received from the church. I think it is very likely when he left Philippi (Acts 16, the start of the church) they sent him with provision. I think it is also clear several churches supported him at one time or another; we just don’t know which ones. The Bible just says “churches” The plural is not a mistake, nor should we assume it is only talking about one church.

    Let’s remember, too, as we try and draw comparisons betweens Paul’s day and our day, that when the Apostle Paul began his first missionary journey there were very few churches. Had there been 700 IFB churches in Asia Minor they would have supported him. Would you agree? He was the first true church planter, since Jesus Christ. There was NOT a huge network of churches.

    I would disagree local churches supporting missionaries is traditional and not scriptural. Do think it is tradition that local churches support the great commission. Do you think it is tradition for local churches supporting men of God as they do the work of God? “They which live of the Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.”

    Now I agree, as in the case of the apostle Paul, if local churches for some reason can not support the work, the work should not cease. If the Lord open’s other doors (i.e. tent making) then the work is to continue. But the fact is, when local churches support missions it is “well pleasing unto God.” Phil 4:18 This is not tradition, but Bible.

  18. January 14, 2008 at 8:25 pm


    I am looking a little closer at Philippians 4:15,16, and I have to admit that I am a little confused on what is being said. When is refers to the “beginning of the gospel,” is it referring to his first missionary journey? At that time there was no church in Philippi. Also, the “beginning of the gospel” is associated with his leaving Macedonia. This was a long time after he actually started in the gospel ministry. It must mean in the beginning of the gospel for them, which was actually his second journey. Then 2 Corinthians 11:8,9 refers to his third missionary journey, in which multiple churches from Macedonia helped him, but Philippi did not because they were not able, according to Philippians 4:15,16. But other churches in Macedonia did.

    Well, it’s late and my neurons aren’t responding. Have no fear, I will have a lot of time to chew on this. Tomorrow, or actually today already, I will be heading into the wilderness with four disciples. Villarrica National Park, here we come! We’ll be backpacking for a couple of days. So, I’ll see what you guys come up with when I get back. Happy trails! 🙂

  19. January 14, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    If you put Philippians 4:18, 19 together, he is beginning to do a wrap up of this whole thing of living contentedly and learning both how to abound and how to abase, in that their gift was something well-pleasing to God, “but” (strong adversative, de) my God shall supply all my needs. Whether by tent-making or by the gifts of churches, Paul would keep going contentedly because He knew God would supply His needs.

    I said “patten today” that was mainly tradition. We don’t see anything close to monthly support or even annual support in the example of Paul. This is not argument against supporting a missionary, but against a pattern of doing so a certain way. Paul said that he had the right to live of the gospel, but he didn’t for the sake of the gospel in 1 Cor. 9. Of course, living of the gospel would be living of the people that he had evangelized. He had that right, and I agree. We haven’t received the spiritual benefit from a missionary who visits our church that the recipients of Paul’s ministry had received. So they wouldn’t have that right with us.

    Paul is saying that at the first preaching of the gospel in Macedonia that no one sent him any support except for the Philippian church. That would be when he was at Thessalonica. The next city was Corinth. I think it is clear that Paul received from churches of Macedonia when he was a Corinth, and very poor churches—I believe probably Philippi and then Thessalonica (1 Thess. 3:6). After he left Macedonia no one had given him anything except for this gift that he just receive from Epaphroditus. It was a nice thing, Paul says, but not so much for him, because he was fine with it (as he said), but for the Philippians actually.

    I’m going to post something about all this on my next post. It is something I’ve thought of for a while that relates more to the preparations of a missionary and the outlook of missions in the church.

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