Deputation and the Local Church: Our Story

The local church always is, or should be, at the heart of the global advance of the mission of God. However, hopes for actual partnerships between a church’s pastor(s), members, and sent ones are often belied by the realities of the average missionary-church relationship. This became unexpectedly clear to my family as we began, with our church family, to try to build a healthy, biblical partnership. Helpful models were few, and most of those came from very large churches, not church plants with limited budget sending their first missionary.


We hadn’t meant to fall in love with this church plant; we’d meant to come to Denver, get some church planting experience and leave for the mission field a year later. God’s way was different, and the first thing that our new pastors did was slow us down. Actually, they told us we weren’t ready three different times. Those delays were critical for the development that we needed, but they were hard. First, the pastors invited me to become a pastoral intern so that I could be developed in leading a church and then be sent out as a pastor if God wanted me to plant churches.

The second area of development came when I realized and then confessed, still as a pastoral intern, that I had never seen God do the sort of evangelistic gospel work through me which I hoped to see in our future ministry. I was secretly scared God wouldn’t use me! So, our pastors laid out a plan in which our family moved into a new area and formed a team to reach that neighborhood, much like we will need to do on the field. Then they left us there, with encouragement and input. As we waited, worked, and cried, God worked, and we were changed.

Along the way, the church affirmed me as one of their pastors, and we were cleared to begin planning for deputation. Our pastors met extensively with our facilitating agency (IBMGlobal), including flying out with us for candidate school, so that we could be certain the fit would be good and our mutual philosophies wouldn’t contradict.

Then, the church began pouring other resources into our mission, providing people and equipment for the media we needed to create, both video and literature. I came up with a plan for fundraising; the pastors pointed out its weaknesses. Most crucially, they emphasized the need to share with individuals and families—not just churches, like I was used to. The leadership team as a group watched our full presentation and then gave us a list of things to fix and improve. Listening, advising, critiquing—making us better in invaluable ways. Once we actually started traveling, they kept giving input and helping us fine-tune our efforts.

Finally, they funded our start so that we could launch out on full-time deputation while feeding our family and without starting at 0%. When we left home, we were already over 25%, largely thanks to our sending church. Now, their portion of our needed support ($5000+/mn) is nearly 40%, both corporate (17%) and individual (22%).

I hope at a certain level you are unimpressed, because if you are too impressed, you may think this is written for someone else. But local churches, pastors, “normal” Christians, and the sent missionary all need to work together if the laborers are going to reach distant harvest fields more quickly! It would be incredibly difficult to overestimate the positive impact which a committed local church can have in preparing and launching a missionary well! May this encourage you in the global gospel endeavor!

[node:bio/mike-ch body]

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There are 12 Comments

T Howard's picture

I'm thankful that this family has found a good alternative to the common deputation experience that many / most IFB missionaries experience. Two separate missionary families we know spent 3+ years on deputation crisscrossing the United States. They had to (and still have to) deal with churches / pastors who seek to find the smallest disagreement over preferences / minor doctrine to drop their support. The process is almost adversarial and can be complicated based on where one graduated from college or seminary.

TylerR's picture


This is very different from the experience of so many missionaries I see who come through our church. Praise the Lord for such a wise and loving church family.

I attended a summer class in Seminary with a man on deputation with his family to Africa. He told me over half of the IFB churches he contacted declined to have him come to their church because he used the NASB. They would rather stand on the KJV than enable a fundamentalist brother in Christ get to the mission field. For shame . . .

I don't want this wonderful testimony to get sidetracked by a discussion over KJV-onlyism. I just wanted to point how rare it is for a missionary to have this kind of loving and wise support while on deputation. It is unfortunate. 


Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

T Howard's picture



What your friend reports does not surprise me in the least. During one of our missions conferences years ago, we hosted a missionary family who told us that several churches they contacted for support sent them a questionnaire which included a question about what the wife wears to bed. These churches didn't want to support a missionary family where the wife / daughters wore pants, whether in public, in the home, or as pajamas.

I think the 3-year deputation plan is seriously flawed.  I think how the church cited in the post and how the SBC supports its missionaries is a better paradigm.

dcbii's picture


Speaking as someone who serves on the missions committee at my church, I can say that both sides should be open and honest about what they are expecting. However, in today's environment, where missions dollars are hard to come by, it's not unreasonable for a church to expect that that those missionaries who are looking for support be fully in line with the mission of the local church from which they are desiring to be supported.

I've run into the KJV issue mentioned by TylerR, only in the opposite direction. Our church is not KJV only, but we have had missionaries present and ask for support, and only during the vetting process finally find out that the missionary was in fact KJV only. Since our church does not desire to be a part of ministries like this, we decline to support them. Again, I believe it's completely reasonable for a church to expect missionaries who want to partner with them to be fully in line with the local church on issues that will affect ministry in the field. In a way, the missionary is representing us on the field, and if by their actions we believe they will bring shame on the name of Christ, it would be a shame if we *did* support them.

I'd agree that there can be minor differences, since no two men will agree on every single item. But honestly, a missionary that wants to start a KJV ministry in a foreign country is pretty far away from what our church would want to be a part of. Obviously, KJV is just one instance. It's easy to say "for shame," but that's only because of your position on that particular issue.

We had one missionary come that we did support, and he told us that most ministries would NOT support him, because he was not going to be going door-to-door on the field, because that was extremely rude in the culture he was going to. He did have plans to reach all his neighbors, using methods that *were* appropriate, and we were in agreement with his plan. This is an issue I would think would be much less than doctrinal, but it's still up to each church to decide.

And anyway, why would a missionary even desire support from a church he is not in line with doctrinally? Ministry partnership is a two-way street. I should think most non-KJV missionaries would be happy to find out they will not be supported by a KJV church that will call them to account on that issue.

The reality on the ground is that most churches are given opportunity to partner with way more missionaries than there are dollars to go around. Given that situation, stewardship demands that we partner with those who are most in line with our ministry, and sadly, even among those missionaries, we can't take them all on. There's no need to even consider those who differ significantly.

Dave Barnhart

TylerR's picture



I understand what you're saying. Churches are free to support whomever they feel is a fit with their doctrinal position. This goes in many different directions. I do admit my perspective has been colored by my KJVO "heritage." 

The "for shame" was a general lament that some churches make stands over issues I personally feel are insignificant. Other good men disagree, and I know many KJVO churches which have active ministries and do great work for the Lord. It is just unfortunate what some groups feel is worth separating over - as another VERY active thread elsewhere on SI has demonstrated over the past day or so!


Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Jim's picture

Examples of "flakes":

  • Inability to learn the language of the destination field ... and so minister in English
  • Musical fields ... change from field to field ... usually goes with the language issue. I know a guy who ministered in English in Mongolia and then left that field to minister in English in S Korea
  • Some who have not really worked "a day in their lives" (I don't mean they've never worked but that they are not hard workers who have proven it in the US)
  • Musical mission boards ... often goes with musical fields
  • Some who act like tourists. Example ... tour Europe ... post photos on Facebook ...
  • Those who fail to understand differences in culture. Could be exporting the KJV issue to Africa or Korea. OR Pressing French and Italians to give up wine. OR having an evening service in a culture where Sunday night is a family night.
  • Those who return from some field ... and stay in the US ... like a perpetual deputation. They are at 30% of support but working on the side. Hey ... hang up the deputation and get a job and let that $$ flow to someone who is serious.
  • And then  you have missions-wanta-bees ... wanting to go to one country after another every Summer while in Bible college. All paid for by putting one's hand out.
  • Finally: Those who really care less about souls in America (like North Minneapolis) but will travel to Asia to reach the lost.

My guesstimate is that upwards of half of missions money is wasted on ones like above.

[I don't consider Mike Ch a flake!]



dcbii's picture


TylerR wrote:

The "for shame" was a general lament that some churches make stands over issues I personally feel are insignificant. Other good men disagree, and I know many KJVO churches which have active ministries and do great work for the Lord. It is just unfortunate what some groups feel is worth separating over...


I share your sadness at what some churches will separate over, and that would include the example above about wearing pajama pants to bed!

That said, however, it's still the prerogative of the local church to decide with whom they will partner. I may not agree with churches on their stands on the KJV or on pants worn to bed, but I firmly believe in their right to take on missionaries in line with their beliefs.

Maybe the right lesson to learn from this is for each missionary to contribute their experiences and knowledge of the churches they have visited to a database kept at their mission board that will be useful to other missionaries using that board. It could contain churches and their positions on issues that are likely to be either in line with or in conflict with, the beliefs held by the missionary families, as well as other information learned. It would take time to compile and maintain, but it would eventually pay great dividends in the time and expense it would save prospective missionaries in contacting and visiting prospective churches, at least for churches that are in the database. All of those questionnaires could be kept as well with each church, so that the missionary will know what he will face. A lot will be learned during a 3-year deputation, and that knowledge could be put to good use.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture


Won't do anything about it because it is a local church issue.

This is just a case of difference in understanding of the mission board's role. Personally, I think there's merit to this philosophy. The more strongly you emphasize local church relationship with missionaries the less you emphasize board involvement in on-field activities--whether they're interpersonal conflicts or whatever.

Then again, there's probably a way to strike a better balance. A board could take the "we're facilitators only" approach but still have a policy that if they become aware of inter-missionary problems on the field (or other field problems) they'll contact the respective sending churches and then eventually, if the matter is not resolved, ask the missionaries involved to find another board to work with.

Just brainstorming. But I understanding the hands off philosophy. 

I'm also not down on the more hands-on approach of some other boards. There are always trade-offs in things human. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses.

Mike Ch's picture

As our church and board have started to work together, the board has been very clear that our local church is primarily responsible for us.  Thus, the approach has been, "When we (the board) hear of a problem, we are coming to you (the church leadership) first to deal with the one we've sent out together."  The board then supports the church(es) throughout the problem-solving.

Even if a board is 'just facilitating', they may still be the only common ground for those who need to interact/reconcile.  I actually looked specifically for a board with a hands off approach, but part of the function of a board can still be to help mediate in these sorts of situations, between churches as well as the coworkers.  

Mike Ch's picture

Jim wrote:

Sorry to be blunt but some missionary "candidates" are "flakes"


If I can also make a simple observation on the 'missionary candidates as flakes' comment... If local churches vetted those in their midst who wanted to be missionaries as they would vet their own pastor and then also consider how to train them for cross-cultural ministry, there would likely be fewer 'flakes.'  Frankly, I had (by nature, still have?) great potential to be a flake...

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