Read Part 1.
by Jeff Straub
The church has no greater task than world evangelism. God has given churches the opportunity to partner with Him in this endeavor. If the pastor has no burden, however, then neither will the congregation. Conversely, if the shepherd’s heart is aflame for the task, then the hearts of his flock will catch fire, and they will become a church with a vision for the world.
When I was a missionary on deputation, gathering support occupied a large part of my time. I had to call pastors, visit churches, write letters, preach, and pray. Missionaries do need a lot of prayer support, but financial support is also necessary. In most countries, missionaries simply cannot work to support themselves. If they are to evangelize and disciple, they must have funds provided for them by interested churches and individuals.
Therefore, questions arise. When should a church start to give to missions? Who should be supported? For how much? For how long? I would like to suggest a few practical answers to some of these questions.
When should a new church start giving to missions? My answer is simple—as soon as possible. I believe that the Lord will take care of the affairs of churches that look after God’s business. This is not just a pious platitude. I think that Matthew 6:33 has applications to churches as well as to individual believers.
Sometimes pastors object that a missionary church is taking its limited resources to support another missionary rather than supporting its own needs. Perhaps it is, but it seems to me that the new church ought to think about all of its obligations from its inception. Even though it must concentrate on supporting its own ministry, why would it not at the same time begin to participate in the Great Commission? Not that financial support is the only way to obey the commission, but it is a significant way in which most churches attempt to fulfill it. Why should the new church exempt itself from this duty and blessing?
A new church can also support a missionary in other ways than financially. Even if it is not able to take on a missionary for regular monthly help, it may be able to do something significant through occasional gifts. As a pastor, I never liked to take up love offerings. I thought that the practice reflected a lack of teaching on stewardship. The one exception, however, was offerings for missions. I wanted my people to give generously to world outreach. Incidentally, it never really bothered me that some people might give their tithe to the missionary. I tried to teach the importance of stewardship within the local assembly, but I was glad that the people at least gave generously to the work of world evangelism. Interestingly, I found that as our missions giving increased, so did our regular giving. As I challenged people to do more abroad, they often felt the burden to do more at home.
How much should a church give to its missionaries? Again my answer is fairly simple—the more the better. Missionaries often need to raise $5,000 per month or more. Reaching that goal would take 100 supporting churches at $50 per month, 50 churches at $100, and 25 churches at $200. A missionary simply cannot visit that many churches within a reasonable time frame. We ought to think of $250 as a minimum, with amounts of $500 and higher being our goal. By supporting missionaries at this level, each church will support fewer missionaries, yet it will have a greater ministry to those missionaries it does support.
I also think that we ought to consider raising support to match inflation, to deal with increased family needs, and to recognize longevity on the field. With the uncertainty of world financial markets, a missionary may go to the field fully supported but be under-supported within a couple of years. Economic troubles in the host country or the devaluation of the American dollar can wreak havoc with a missionary’s support. Also, the sending church should consider support levels that approach 25 to 50 percent of their own missionaries’ requirements. This may not always be possible, but it is a worthy goal.
How long should a church plan to support a particular missionary? The answer to this question depends upon a number of variables. If the missionary plans to become the settled pastor, supporting churches will often put a time limit on their support. Putting a time limit on a new church, however, is a little like deciding arbitrarily when a child should learn to ride a bicycle. Take off the training wheels too early, and he may fall on his face. No, a church had better plan to support the missionary church planter until the job is done. If he cannot be trusted to do the job rightly, then he should not be supported in the first place.
Also, some churches support a particular missionary only as long as he ministers in a particular field. If he changes fields, the church withdraws its financial support. Many times, however, missionaries change fields for legitimate reasons that are beyond their control. Why drop a good missionary simply because he is no longer on the field where he originally ministered?
Except under the most extreme circumstances, churches should never drop a missionary while he is on the field. Even in cases such as apostasy or immorality, the missionary may have a family caught up in the problem. Hastily dropping the man may place a severe hardship on his family. Even under the best circumstances a missionary on the field cannot make up missed funds. A church that drops a missionary who is on the field is generally exhibiting a lack of commitment to the work of the Lord, not to mention a serious lapse in compassion for the missionary and his family.
Much more could be said about supporting missions. Let us think deliberately about how we fund the work of world evangelism. If it is near to the heart of God, it ought to have a central place in our church budget. Furthermore, if we don’t support the work of world evangelism, who will?
The Kingdom of God
Francis Thompson (1859-1907)
‘In no strange land’
O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
The angels keep their ancient places;—
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ‘tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry,—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry—clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water
Not of Gennesareth, but Thames!
|Dr. Jeff Straub has served as adjunct professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN), as well as at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Moscow, the Ukraine, and Romania, at Pi edmont Baptist College, and at LIFTS Institute (Kitchener, Ontario). He has been a senior pastor and church planter in Canada and was a missionary among the Ojibway Indians in Wanipigow, Manitoba. He has had several articles published in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, as well as in FrontLine Magazine. Dr. Straub is married to Rebecca, and they have 3 children. He enjoys books, golf, hunting, and fishing.|