Home > Brandenburg, Missions > Back to the Future of Getting to the Mission Field

Back to the Future of Getting to the Mission Field

January 16, 2008

I want to start with disclaimers to derail what I would assume would occur with this post.  What makes this a difficult subject is that people are already invested in the present system and if changed could undermine support and livelihood.  I’m not saying that missionaries don’t have Biblical convictions about the way they did and are doing things regarding getting to the field.  They did and do.  I’m sure many missionaries would resent the idea that they are defending the way they’ve practiced based on continued flow of support money.  So let’s get it out of the way that I believe that you missionaries have reasoned this out Scripturally and didn’t get into it thinking that you went the path of tradition.

My goal really isn’t to affect present missionary support, but to think about how missionaries will get to the field in the future.  I like that churches support missionaries with their money.  Our church does and will support more.  However, this is not the direction that I’m primarily heading with our young people, that is, checks sent from churches.  I don’t want them planning on support from other churches.   Others might say that what I need to understand is that what I’m proposing just won’t work.  I’d like you to consider with me what is the Scriptural approach.

The title says “back to the future” because the model “back” in the first century as found in Scripture could be the “future” of getting to the mission field.  Since Scripture is sufficient, I don’t believe we are to look into the Bible to justify something that we have done or do, but to find the very patterns there and make those our own.  Where we haven’t done that, I don’t assume there were evil intentions.  I figure they were mainly pragmatic or what some people would call “practical” reasons.  “And if it’s practical, well, it must be Scriptural, because God is practical, isn’t He?”  This logic defies the sole authority of the Bible, but it is commonly used.  God is more practical than us, especially because He knows everything, including the future.  He knows the problems that our swerves from Scripture can cause over several generations.  We may think we’re ‘OK’ because the situation looks good for 5, 10, 50, or 200 years.  The just shall live by faith, even in missions support.

THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE

The norm for getting to the field has been deputation, one hundred per cent support, leave to the field, stay three years, come back for one year of furlough (reporting and gaining new support), go back for three more years, and so on.  Missionaries are most often supported by numerous churches, anywhere from fifteen to one hundred churches at from ten dollars to one thousand dollars a month.  Missionaries will be on deputation usually from six months to three years, sometimes traveling the entire country to get support.  I don’t know how many churches on average must be visited to get one supporting church.  Missionaries tell me that they are often in churches of which they definitely wouldn’t be a member, but “that’s the way it goes” because “that’s just the way it is, I guess.”

Some of the missionaries would rather not have a few to many of their supporting churches.  Some of the supporting churches would rather not have certain  of their missionaries.  To get the support, usually missionaries take a pre-trip to the field to get some basic knowledge, experience, and some pictures for what is now the DVD (multi-media) and was once the slide show.  They have the requisite missionary card and maybe the brochure.  They market themselves.  Churches might expect it.  Of course, there are the incessant calls to pastors or at least their secretaries or answering machines that are par for the course.  The missionary must jump through the required hoops and this process often feels like a dog and pony show beneath the dignity of a human being.

SOME CONCERNS WITH THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE

The United States has sent out the bulk of the missionaries for the last 100 years because of Scriptural influences, tied into the financial status of the nation.  The amount of capital available in the U.S. has been greater than other countries.  The financial support flows from American churches to American missionaries in foreign lands.

But what if the American finances dry up?  They could.  We could easily reach the point where our economy will not sustain the rampant sinfulness.  And then what?  Do missionaries come home?  Do we stop sending new ones?  It seems that our missions support philosophy is tied into the success of the U. S. economy.  Can third world churches send out missionaries using our same model?  Why not?  Shouldn’t the right philosophy be able to be practiced everywhere?

Have you noticed that as money has gotten so involved in missions that the mission board has taken on a greater status?  We have all new categories of Christian “servants” with faux authority—the director, the chairman, the field representative, the field secretary, the home office manager, etc.—somewhat mirroring a government bureaucracy, siphoning off money that could go directly to the missionaries.  None of these roles even faintly appear in Scripture, and yet are now given a lofty status among Christian leaders.  I’m sure many of the men and women in these non-scriptural positions possess sincere motives and purpose.  Could something not found in the Bible be necessary to accomplish God’s work or are we merely propping up these organizations for their continued existence?

WHAT IS THE NEW TESTAMENT PATTERN?

The New Testament shows a model of tent-making, that is, the missionary laboring to support himself financially.  In Luke 10, we see Jesus send the seventy out without support to evangelize regions of Palestine.  He didn’t show support to be a necessity.  I understand that we find that Paul believed that it was his right to receive financial remuneration (1 Corinthians 9:14).  Paul got support from churches (Philippians 4:10, 15-18; 2 Corinthians 11:8, 9).  However, we have no record that he was sent from Antioch with promise of pay.   Scripture does not show that he had ongoing support from churches, but that it was hit and miss.  His regular support came from his own labor (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8).   His craft was making tents (Acts 18:3).   The pattern he took was to work the secular job of making and selling tents (perhaps repairing too) a part of the day and then carry on his preaching and teaching the other part in accomplishing his work.  He was likely taught his skill by his father as part of the child training that Jewish families practiced in order to pass on at least one means from which the son could earn a living.   He did the tent-making so that he would not be “chargeable” to those he served.  He didn’t want any strings attached to what he said and did.

WHAT HAPPENED TO TENT-MAKING?

At some point, Christian leaders started discouraing tent-making.  Some say it isn’t trusting the Lord.  Some have applied the term, somewhat derogatory, bivocational.  The man who must work in addition to his service is sometimes seen as a failure compared to the full-time man.  We must understand that Paul himself, the author of nearly half the New Testament and organizer of many churches, worked a job while he did his ministry.  Not only can it be done, but it is the way Paul did his missions work.

Instead of tentmaking, men are encouraged to go out looking for support.   Men find themselves making a presentation in a church that they don’t even want to be in.  They often find themselves attempting to minimize their doctrine so as not to be an offense, so that they can get their support.  By means of mutual support of one missionary, many churches are brought into cooperation that doctrinally and practically would choose not to be otherwise.  The deputation trail is an unrealistic trek.  There’s nothing like it in Scripture.  It is difficult on families.  Could they learn character?  Could they see examples of churches from which to learn?  It can be a positive experience to contented people who depend on God for strength and discernment.  It isn’t a way that Scripture lays out anywhere as a means of Christian growth.  For months, a family is not faithful to the assemblies of its own church or under the preaching of its own pastor or involved in the work of its own church.  And this is supposed to be the model of preparation for a field, to be out of the direct influence of its own church a few years right before the missionary takes off permanently.  And when he does come back, he’s back on the road again, away from his own church.  These are just some of the negatives of this system.

HOW COULD THIS CHANGE?

For the tentmaking to be the model, our young people will need means to earn a living to support themselves and their families.  To do so, they will need to train to make money.  We aren’t well equipped to do that in churches.   Churches often encourage members against secular work.  Based on stands of personal separation, many church parents don’t want their children to interact with the world in a pagan work environment.   As soon as children finish their Christian school or home schooling, they go off to Christian college, which also doesn’t get a young person ready to earn a living in the real world.  “Old Testament Survey” on the resume doesn’t often impress a secular employer.  The employer wants someone who knows how to make him money.

Young people leave Christian colleges and support from a church is about the only way to make it.  Parents, young people, and churches spend thousands of dollars for a college education, only to have a young person return that they have to support financially.  If not, since they have no marketable skill, they are the college graduates and even masters graduates who are flipping burgers at the local fast-food joint, which enables them to barely scrape by.  They might need two jobs to pay the rent in certain housing markets.  And how much time does that leave them to work in a church?  Very little.   I won’t go any further except to say we need to give our young people in some fashion the means to make a living that will allow time to give to ministry afterwards.  These are the kind of people with the greater potential as tent-makers to follow the model of the Apostle Paul.

This is a big subject.  I’ve barely brushed the surface, but it is something that I wanted us to think and talk about.  I welcome your comments.

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  1. January 17, 2008 at 8:54 am

    You said: ‘Young people leave Christian colleges and support from a church is about the only way to make it.’

    Sad, but true. Too often, support is assumed (dare I say, expected) by those with a desire to leave the comfy confines of the USA to spread the Gospel to others. I wonder if the burden would still be there if there was no automatic support?

    I see that we have created a “Christian Culture” that has become dependent on the support of others as a sole source of income that goes beyond just the context of missions, but to the church itself. As you said, “we need to give our young people in some fashion the means to make a living that will allow time to give to ministry afterwards.”

    I would extend this Christians, as ministry is not the sole responsibility of a few, but to all Christians (assuming that ministry is not defined narrowly to mean only those who would be the equivalent of elders, or perhaps even deacons).

  2. Gary Johnson
    January 17, 2008 at 9:48 am

    I was hoping someone would address this matter. Having been in the traveling show before (no details will be given, Bro. Kent knows about it), I would submit modern missions has become a Frankenstein that was created, and now very few want to do anything about getting back to a complete scriptural pattern.

    Would not every young man benefit from learning a trade out of high school first before ever attending additional college level courses? He then has something to work with as he is starting out in a ministry as you mentioned. But then on the flip side, when you are in a foreign country, often it is impossible to seek employment. Years back when I went to Canada to “start a church”, my permission to be in the country was only to do so as pastor of said church, and I was not allowed to seek additional employment. So this matter of the missionary “making tents” may not be an option in all situations. But certainly within our own borders,it is a matter that ought to be strongly considered.

    Good point on the matter of deputation keeping the family out of their home church prior to their time of leaving.

    Looking forward to reading other comments on this subject. Curious to see if any will try to defend mission boards. Anyone? Scripture please?

  3. January 17, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Maritus, you make good points. I could have written far more, just barely touching on certain related subjects. What I wonder is, and very seriously, is if we create a kind of welfare mentality among Christians. I know that the Jerusalem church had all things in common, but they had a work ethic surely. I think we have to be careful not to create a subculture (if we haven’t already) of dependents, where young people expect to live off the work of those before them, not producing or even expecting to produce anything themselves. Young people often leave college and can do nothing but fill slots for which they expect a paycheck. They may not even be good at that, but we have left them unprepared to do anything else, so we might feel an obligation. Is it possible that they might not be really serving God, fervent service, if they were doing it while working a job in the world? Some service easily is just paid employment with a Christian title, becoming a kind of social work. Like Bro. Johnson, I just want us to think about it.

    By the way, I did expect someone to bring up the “can’t work on the foreign field” argument. And I haven’t tried myself suitably to say whether it can or can’t be done. I’m talking Scripturally right now and I don’t like to limit Scripture by what’s happening in the world. I believe that if we get too smart for the Bible about what works, we still might (and probably will) face the consequences of having done it by our own pattern. I do get, Bro. Johnson, that you don’t necessarily swallow that one yourself, just bringing it up like I would (and did when I mentioned—some say it won’t work).

  4. January 17, 2008 at 10:48 am

    I think it would be good to recognize, Scripturally, that Paul did NOT go to a foreign field to start churches. Therefore, he did not have to deal with having a “reason” for being there and not taking opportunities from the locals to provide for themselves.

    Foreign missions is not addressed in Scripture at all.

  5. Gary Johnson
    January 17, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I am for working “on the field” where possible, but the laws in some countries make that nearly impossible. Though with some creativity that could be dealt with. So I am not against you on that point.

    Bro. Voegtlin wrote
    “Foreign missions is not addressed in Scripture at all.”

    That brings us back to that thought of each church going out a little farther from their own area. And we need to remember, that “world evangelism” is not the responsibility of only American churches, and can be done without American dollars.

  6. January 17, 2008 at 11:17 am

    Kent: Is it possible that they might not be really serving God, fervent service, if they were doing it while working a job in the world?

    If you mean are they, as a fact, not fervently serving God while working, then I emphatically say no! That would imply that one cannot serve while working – which I can’t say is scriptural. After all, we serve God in all we do. Caveat: if one is rebelling against a call to service (whether missions or other) then one couldn’t fervently serve due to the rebellion.

    If you mean do they think they cannot fervently serve God while working, then I would say – most likely. Unfortunately, we often create a disconnect between vocation and service, as if they are separate.

    This post does provide plenty of food for thought.

  7. Mike Hontz
    January 17, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I agree that ‘tentmaking’ will be more of a norm in the future. In many fields that are opposed to Christianity, it is the only way to legitimately gain entrance into that country. One of the downsides to this model would be the decrease in prayer support. One of the benefits to acquiring several dozen churches and individuals who stand behind a missionary financially before they leave for the field is the network of prayer partners that are elicited in the process. People are much more likely to pray for that which they are financially tied to. Another benefit to the deputation process is that it creates a natural way to keep the need for missions before the eyes of the people in the congregation. I’m sure that there are ways to continue doing this apart from having a group of missionaries that each church supports financially, but it would take a lot more intentionality on the part of pastors.

    One of the guys that I graduated from seminary with is planning to adopt this model of ‘tentmaking’ as a US pastor. His plans are to join up with two other men and their families and start and pastor the church as a team. Each of them would hold a full-time secular job in addition to their church responsibilities. They would share the preaching responsibilities, the visitation responsibilities, etc. in order to save the church a bulk of their budget which could be redirected toward other important ventures. Their secular jobs would also give them a more natural avenue for practicing evangelism and modeling this before their people. In general, I think that their idea has some merit, but I would have to see it work well to be convinced that it is BETTER than the traditional method of paying a pastor. I will not mention the various potential pitfalls that I envision for this sort of a philosophy since that is not the topic of this blog. In general, I think that there are pro’s and con’s to such a suggestion, and the same is true of approaching foreign missions in this way.

    Finally, I would caution against suggesting that there is a biblical model for sending out missionaries. There are plenty of things in Acts that we don’t follow today as being a ‘biblical pattern’ for how we are to operate as churches. For example, in Acts 2 it lists several of the things that were a part of the first church’s practice. Many of the things we hold up as a ‘pattern’ for how we should operate such as giving ourselves to fellowship, to teaching, to administering the ordinance of communion, etc. However, few churches keep reading and insist that people in a locality should sell most of what they possess and share all things in common with each other. Few churches insist on meeting in homes and even though this was the ‘model’ of the NT church. Nowhere do we read of them spending the mondey to build a separate, neutral building to gather in weekly. Other examples could certainly be listed. While I am not saying that NONE of the practices of the early church were NOT meant to serve as ‘patterns’ for us today, I am saying that not ALL of them were meant to serve in such a way. And so when there is not a PRESCRIPTIVE requirement given in the NT to follow a particular example, I think we need to be careful to assume that something that was only DESCRIPTIVE in nature was necessarily intended to be PRESCRIPTIVE as well. This warning is heightended dramatically in my opinion when we consider the fact that we live in a very different culture and climate than did the church at that time.

  8. January 17, 2008 at 11:42 am

    I’m glad Kent addressed this, and where our posts overlapped, he said it better than I did. But this is something I’ve been thinking about and I’m glad to see that we are (unknowingly) thinking along the same lines.

    I was going to bring up the logistical problems of tentmaking in a place like, say, Paupau, New Guinea, pointing out that it would be difficult to maintain any semblance of an American standard of living on PNG wages. But I’m glad to see that this issue has been brought up. I think that all of these things are things that we must consider and think through. And I think we must think these things through for the future of missions. History has shown that no empire lasts forever. We should not think that our American empire will be the exception.

    If we look at what the commentators wrote about Paul’s tentmaking, we will find that they all emphasized the trade that was learned by every young man, even those who would be Rabbi’s. I think we must consider this in preparing our children.

    And, I too have observed that there are many young people coming out of Bible College who have never considered the fact that they might some day have to work a job. I believe that parents have worked very hard to shelter their children from the world (a good thing), but have intended that their children should never be required to do anything in the world (a bad thing).

    By the way, one reason that I think churches like ours tend to be ineffective in confronting the world is because we have so few true interactions with the world. And I will add that I myself often feel the effects of being left unprepared for living in the world.

    This inevitably relates to missions. We were put in the world. But we only seem to shine brightly when the bushel is safely covering us.

  9. January 17, 2008 at 11:52 am

    As soon as I posted, I saw Mike’s entry, and it mentioned some things that are worth discussing.

    First, Mike, I think that your friend’s plan for working a secular job does have merit for the beginning of their ministry. But you said,

    They would share the preaching responsibilities, the visitation responsibilities, etc. in order to save the church a bulk of their budget which could be redirected toward other important ventures.

    And that is where I see the problem. I think that this relates to the topic at hand, so I will continue the discussion. Paul says that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel. Clearly, God’s plan is that his ministry be financed through the people of the church. Otherwise, why wouldn’t we simply seek business sponsorships of church or missions?

    And, realizing that Kent didn’t say everything that could have been said, I would add that this issue must enter the discussion. At some point, we must address the fact that tentmaking should not be the permanent status. The pastor and the church should be working towards full time support of their bishop.

  10. January 17, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Jeff,

    You could have written a post entitled: “Foreign missions is not in Scripture at all.” I liked what you’ve posted so far, but I would have liked the one with that title. I’ve never heard anyone say that; maybe I’ve just been out of the loop. I thought that Macedonia, for instance, was foreign. I figure you say that it was all in the Roman empire, so it wasn’t foreign. But I think you mean that we don’t have anything in the Bible like what we have today, where you can’t get a job in a foreign country so Americans need full time support to go there. I’d like you to expand on what you’ve written.

    Gary,

    We are on the same page. I would have figured that based on almost identical doctrinal statements.

    Maritus,

    You do have me wrong, because you took what I said in the wrong way. My point was that it might be that young people are really just in a Christian job and they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing if they had to do it in addition to the secular job. Thanks though.

    Mike,

    I think you’re right on the prescriptive stuff. Those guys getting jobs and starting a church that way. I think it would be fine, but ultimately have the church support especially one of them, the one main guy.

    Dave,

    We agree. Thanks for your comments. I do believe that guys that go somewhere slowly work their way out of their secular job, in a sense. It’s what I did. I tent-maked, tent-made, to start here. I had about 20% support, which was nice. I didn’t do deputation. When the offerings matched what my part time job paid, then I stopped working that job.

    Thanks for the continued comments and discussion everyone.

  11. January 18, 2008 at 6:42 am

    Brother Kent,

    You have hit a nerve here, and it should have been hit. I believe we have “institutionalized” both missions and so-called “evangelism” in our ranks. Here is a link to a good article about Scriptural evangelism:

    http://www.seaministries.com/evangelism.html

    God bless!

  12. Mike Hontz
    January 18, 2008 at 7:58 am

    Jeff,

    I tend to agree that it would be better to have the church support their pastor – at least one. I’ve tried to consider the pro’s and con’s of their approach, and as I think I said, I’m not sold on it. I know that some pastors do have to work a secular job at times when the work is small, and I don’t diminish their efforts or effectiveness. My dad had to work part-time in his own small business for the first five years of his first pastorate. However, I have seen some pastors that have had to work full-time besides their pastoral responsibilities, and even with a very small congregation, it just didn’t seem like they were able to put in the amount of time required just to prepare their weekly messages.

  13. Bobby
    January 18, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Brother Dunham,

    Some of what I see at the SEA website I like, but check out their salvation message. The Gospel is not there as there is no mention of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is an exhortation to “ask Jesus into your heart.” There is no such exhortation in the New Testament. It is a couple of paragraphs about love without presenting holiness, wrath, justice, law, etc. After the couple of paragraphs there is a prayer to repeat.

    That does not equal the message of the Gospel as presented in the New Testament.

    I don’t know if you’ve read all that or not, but knowing you a little bit, I suspect that your Gospel presentation would be much more than that. That looks to me like the typical “1,2,3 repeat after me” approach with a small appeal to repent thrown in. Kind of Hyles-lite. Let me know when you check it out.

  14. January 18, 2008 at 11:51 am

    I have been traveling the last few days, so I have not been able to comment.

    Bro Kent,

    I must admit that I was not looking forward to your article. I thought based on our discussion in Bro Dave’s previous post we would disagree. However, after reading it, I do not think we are that far off. The Bible no where states that if local churches can not support missions, the gospel should stop going forward. I agree. I believe we trust, as God provides. Over the last several generations, God has used local churches to support missions. I believe we do see local churches supporting missions in scripture, and I am convinced this is best. It was clear in scripture this was “well pleasing unto God.”

    I agree Paul’s support from the churches was “hit and miss”, as you put it. This was due to several factors, one major factor, I believe, was logistics. The Apostle Paul also used tent making. I too, when in the states, used “tent-making” when I served as assistant Pastor at the IBC of Anchorage, my sending church. I did receive a salary from the church, but it was not enough to support a family. The reality of most foreign governments not allowing “tent-making” is important and a very real issue. PNG does not allow tent-making. If I began making money whether by local employment or whatever, I would have my VISA revoked and removed from the country.

    I think you are only looking at this from the missionary’s perspective. By supporting missionaries you are adding fruit to your church’s account. You are doing something that is “well-pleasing unto the Lord.” It is assisting you in accomplishing the great commission. As a pastor in America, PNG or wherever, I want to be a part of something that is well-pleasing unto God. Let’s say though, that I was able to use “tent-making.” Would it not be better, if possible, for me not to use tent-making? Why did you do your best to get the support to a level where you did not need to use tent-making? No doubt, so you could accomplish more in the work and have more time for work of the Lord. I am sure you left the tent-making, as the Lord provided and enabled you. Again, let’s say, I was doing tent-making in PNG. The work would not stop, but many aspects of it would be hindered. I am currently busy far more than just 40 hours a week. Perhaps double that. (I am sure this is true with you as well.) If I had to work, much of what I am able to accomplish would change.

    My point is you are presenting tent-making as best. With that notion, I disagree. I do agree we should prepare for a time when local churches can not support missions like they presently can. If America falls into an economic disaster, the gospel needs to go forward. It is too important not to! We must do whatever we can to get the message out to this world. (Within scriptural limits) We are commanded to. Your idea of teaching a trade to our younger people is GREAT! It is exactly what the Jewish fathers did with their sons. This could help in countless ways. Including, being able to use tent making in missions where needed.
    I hope you see the point I am trying to make. I respect you, but I truly believe you are looking at this from a misguided perspective.

  15. January 18, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Brother Bobby,

    I am surprised by what you said about the salvation message. I respect and have known Brother Clayton for some time. He is in his late 70s now, but he was one of the ones doing real evangelism. I believe he still is.

    I will check it out and mention it to him.

    God bless

  16. January 18, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Bro. McGovern,

    I gave a snapshot on the issue really. Missions support is Scriptural. If it wasn’t, we would stop supporting missionaries. We don’t stop because we believe it. I don’t see it as the pattern for the missionaries. We need to present the picture that we see in the NT. If churches want a missionary in New Guinea, it seems that they will need to give full support. I understand that if you didn’t have the support, you’d not make it there, because you can’t get a job, due to the restrictions. I believe there is flexibility in the examples of the NT, but that the pattern is tent-making. You are saying the pattern is support, yet if that were the case, Paul wouldn’t have made it because he wasn’t supported for 9-10 years.

    This isn’t going to hinder our missionary support. We will still support missionaries and still ask for cooperation of support from other churches, but it isn’t the mindset that we will have as a church regarding missions. I want our mindset to be tent-making first. If it is and we get support, we’ll get there. If we don’t get support, we’ll get there too.

    I think that not following this as a pattern does cause problems.

  17. reglerjoe
    January 18, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    This is a great topic. I have long thought that the way we IFB churches do missions is flawed. As a “tent-making” pastor, I do not support financially guys who are starting state-side churches. They should go get a job.

    Everybody wants the local church’s money. We all get calls, letters, and brochures every week from guys on the deputation trail – raising money for everything from starting a printing ministry in Mexico to “clowning for Jesus”. Nowadays even missionary kids are raising support to go back and “help Mom and Dad”.

    One of the greatest flaws with foreign missions is that the missionary starts a church, stays there for the rest of his life, and continually raises more support for his mission church. At some point in time, he should train a local elder to pastor that church and then go someplace else. I believe this is Paul’s pattern.

    I know of several mission churches that get American support money, and yet they themselves support foreign missionaries. Isn’t this “taking from Paul to give to Peter”? If a mission church is financially capable of supporting their own foreign missionaries, shouldn’t they cut the American apron strings?

  18. January 18, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Great question, Joe, and one I want to delve into…

  19. T. Ross
    January 18, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I am thankful that Pastor Brandenburg has thought about the teachings of Scripture in connection with the support of missionaries. Many men just do what has “always been done,” simply because of tradition. That is incorrect. With that being said, however, I would like to voice some support for the central aspect of the “tradition” here—that is, the idea that missionaries should be doing the work of the gospel full time, not secular work, when this is at all possible.

    Pastor Brandenburg wrote:

    The New Testament shows a model of tent-making, that is, the missionary laboring to support himself financially. In Luke 10, we see Jesus send the seventy out without support to evangelize regions of Palestine. He didn’t show support to be a necessity.

    However, please notice that the seventy were not working secular jobs; they were preaching full time, and people took care of them. Besides this, how far do we want to push Luke 10? Christ also said, “Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes.” They didn’t even take with them a means of saving money. Does this mean that missionaries today are not even supposed to have savings accounts—or wallets? I am sure that the sick people that were healed (Luke 10:9) were very helpful in taking care of the preachers. If we can’t go to cities and heal all the sick people and then stay in the houses of some of them, perhaps this isn’t the best passage to use to prove that missionaries should go to the third world and work secular jobs making $0.10 a week in countries where they don’t even know the language.

    Pastor Brandenburg wrote, “ I understand that we find that Paul believed that it was his right to receive financial remuneration (1 Corinthians 9:14). Paul got support from churches (Philippians 4:10, 15-18; 2 Corinthians 11:8, 9).”

    Please note that 1 Cor 9:14 states, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.” This verse is not limited to pastors of churches—it includes missionaries (who are the Biblical office of the evangelist). So God has ORDAINED that missionaries live of the gospel, not work secular jobs. Paul took “wages” from “other churches,” 2 Cor 11:8-9. This is what is going on with missionaries/evangelists getting supporting churches. There are other passages that relate to this as well, of course, in 2 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, etc.

    Pastor Brandenburg wrote, “However, we have no record that he [Paul] was sent from Antioch with promise of pay.”

    We have no record that he was not promised pay, either. Consider also that Paul was rich, as a (former) Sanhedrin member and a Roman citizen from birth. He was in the top 0.1% of Jewish society, trained under Gamaliel, etc. Perhaps a millionare who is in the top 0.1% of modern society and is called to missions should use his own funds for his own support; fine. This does not prove that people who are not millionaires should go to foreign fields and work secular jobs in those countries to put third world food on their tables, get third world medical care (or lack any at all), etc.

    Pastor Brandenburg wrote: “Scripture does not show that he [Paul] had ongoing support from churches, but that it was hit and miss.”

    What is the passage for this? It may perhaps be an inference that Paul did not get automatic deposits into his checking account weekly, because that was impossible in that century. It may be inferred that it was often difficult to figure out where Paul was, and that would be a factor in getting support to him, but is there a passage that states that churches did not want to give him ongoing support? That churches were not committed to do so? What is the passage for this? Where is the proof here to support secular work by missionaries in foreign lands?

    Pastor Brandenburg wrote, “His [Paul’s] regular support came from his own labor (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8).”

    But notice the reason for the secular work, stated in 2 Thess 3:10-12: “to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.” Cf. 2 Cor 11:12: “But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion.” Paul had a specific, pointed, local reason for not taking pay from certain churches, while he did from others. 2 Corinthians 11:8 specifically states this. This exceptions of specific situations at Corinth and Thessalonica do not undermine the fact that the Lord has ordained that those who preach the gospel live of the gospel, nor do they change the specific statement that those who minister about holy things are to live of them, and those taught in the word are to communicate financially to preachers.

    Pastor Brandenburg wrote: “His craft was making tents (Acts 18:3). The pattern he took was to work the secular job of making and selling tents (perhaps repairing too) a part of the day and then carry on his preaching and teaching the other part in accomplishing his work. He was likely taught his skill by his father as part of the child training that Jewish families practiced in order to pass on at least one means from which the son could earn a living. He did the tent-making so that he would not be “chargeable” to those he served. He didn’t want any strings attached to what he said and did.”

    It is true that Paul, for a period of time in Rome, worked a secular job. It cannot at all be established that he did this everywhere else. Perhaps he did this in Acts 18:3 because financial renumeration was to arrive from Silas and Timotheus in Acts 18:5, and since nobody else was there yet, Paul had to do something to put food on the table. In any case, Acts 18:3 does not establish that he worked a secular job in all the cities that he went to. If he had, it’s good that he could make tents—going around to different cities all the time would look bad on a resume, for an employer could not count on one to be around.
    The Bible’s dogmatic declarations that people who preach the gospel are to live of the gospel takes precedence, in sound grammatical-historical hermeneutics, to examples of secular work in certain specific situations. The declarations are not to be interpreted in light of the examples, but the examples in light of the declarations. Thus, secular work for missionaries, unless necessary to get into a country or for some similar reason, is inferior and an unbiblical model.
    The other material in the Pastor Brandenburg’s article seems to me to be of only secondary relevance to the Scriptural data. The question of missionaries going to churches that are compromised, or the question of mission boards, etc. are irrelevant to the question of what Scripture plainly states is the model of providing financially—indeed, with double honor—for those who labor in the word and doctrine. (I would point out that, were it not that false teachers were attacking Paul over the issue of monetary support, Paul would have followed the “ordained” pattern and received monetary support from the church at Corinth—a church which had severe doctrinal and moral problems!) The different issues in Pastor Brandenburg’s article should not be confused.
    I probably will not have time to comment further on this thread. Anyone who wishes to attack what I say (or agree with it, or seek to correct, me, or whatever else) is free to do so, but if I do not respond, it is probably because of time constraints, not because of an inability to do so.

  20. January 18, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    Thomas,

    You didn’t deal with Philippians 4. Paul said that he hadn’t received financial support for 9-10 years. He didn’t receive any from the time of the second missionary journey in Macedonia, at the latest 53, to the time of the writing of Philippians, 62. That is a major point here. You leave it out. You say that you don’t know. You are very dogmatic about this for someone that doesn’t know.

    When you bring in 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says that he had the right as an evangelist, proclaimer of the gospel, to receive from those he preached the gospel, but he did not because he did not want to be chargeable. You make the only reason to be your 2 Thessalonians 3 explanation, his example to the Thessalonians. Not being chargeable is something he brings in there and in 2 Corinthians. Gospel preaching, which is missions, he makes a huge point to say that he doesn’t take any support specifically from the people he is preaching to. This says nothing about people from other churches. Nothing. So it is not declarative toward your point. You strain to make that point from that text by leaving out these details.

    You make a central argument on total silence, that is, that Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, so assuming that he was rich. What chapter and verse says that Paul was rich? I get nothing anywhere in Scripture that says that Paul had his own financing besides tentmaking. Why would he make tents so as not to be chargeable when he was in the top 1% financially? Even in 1 Corinthians 7, he essentially says that not caring for a wife was one reason to stay single like himself—but if he was individually wealthy, then he wouldn’t have needed to be single, but just live off the residuals of this wealth that you say that he possessed. Scripture does not support your speculation.

    It is interesting that you say that missionaries ought to be doing the work full time, when the essential missionary example in Scripture made tents for his support.

    You cast off my Luke 10 argument, when I make the solitary point that Jesus didn’t tell them to look for support from folks back home. He told them not to bring anything, because He did want them to trust in God (Himself), but they were the same as Paul.

    My other material is not intended as an argument for tent-making, but examples of the consequences of not tent-making. I have found in many areas of life that there is residual harm and problems when I don’t follow the pattern in Scripture and instead operate on silence in Scripture.

    In closing here, I believe and have clearly stated that I believe that sending financial support can be argued Scripturally. It isn’t wrong to do. What I have argued is that tent-making is what we see, however. I can see how that the support was a blessing and Philippians 4 says that it is good for churches to do it, like they did at Philippi. Saying that this is Paul’s pattern cuts right across from what we see him do and what he says he did in Philippians 4.

  21. January 19, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Kent,

    You have referred in several posts to Luke 10, but I don’t think you ever answered my question as to why that passage contradicts Luke 22, where the apostles are told then to take a scrip. Luke 10 has a teaching and Luke 22 has a teaching. Luke 10 is given in the context of a culture that had the custom of taking care of traveling prophets. Luke 22 is given on the verge of men being sent out to the Greeks, where the apostles would not be received as well and with remuneration. Thots?

  22. January 19, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Another consideration is the example of Jesus. He was supported 100% and did not make tents. He is a better example to us than Paul was. When Jesus began his work the apostles left their secular jobs on the spot and lived out of a common bag that Judas carried, which was replenished by certain influential women, according to Luke 8:3.

    As for Paul, it seems to me that he made tents when he HAD to, but encouraged the churches to support pastors and evangelists 100% when they could. There were few churches when Paul started out and the logistics were a nightmare. Later on, Paul was supported by more than one church, and asked for help from the Romans to get into Spain. This is a pattern of deputation. We simply have the privilege to practice this on a more streamlined level, which is awesome for the gospel’s sake. The less a pastor or evangelist has to work a job, the closer he will be to the biblical ideal plan.

    Having said that, it seems to me we would be better served supporting our own missionaries at a greater percentage. At the same time, we would be better served sending men out who are not in it for the money, and going to create American expenses for themselves on the mission field. Frugal sometimes is not in the vocabulary of missionaries.

  23. January 19, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    Kent seems convinced that 2 Corinthians 11:8 must refer to the church at Philippi and therefore Paul did not receive support from other churches for ten years. Is anybody else convinced of that? How can this be harmonized with Philippians 4:15. Seems to me the harmonization of these verses demands that we admit that Paul was receiving support from other churches later on, even though the Philippian church was not supporting him.

  24. January 20, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    when I answered you on January 14, 2008, Don, I wrote this:

    “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.”

    This contradicts what you said in comment #23. My belief is that he received nothing after Macedonia, which is at the latest 53 until Philippians, which is 62. 9-10 years.

  25. January 21, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    But after he left Macedonia the Philippians were apparently still contributing to him and in Corinth the number of churches contributing increased, though it still was not enough to cover it all. Then the Philippians had to discontinue his support.

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