Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
by Daniel R. Brown
Every aspect of church ministry ought to undergo constant review, including the missions budget and the philosophy under which the missions program operates. Changing the missions program can be like touching the “third rail” (the rail that carries the electricity in subways). If adjustments in the missions program are needed, however, a godly pastor has to lead the church in a biblical direction. History, as well as affection and loyalty to existing missionaries and agencies, will cause any wise pastor to move slowly.
A well-written philosophy of missions that includes carefully worded policies will help a church to plan intentionally for the future and guide it through the process of change. It can also provide stability in the face of pressures to take the church’s missions program on tangents. Furthermore, a long-term strategy for the mission budget can help in the selection and support of missionary personnel. Continuity is important because even when pastors change, churches continue to support the same missionaries.
Here is a practical plan for developing and implementing a long-range missions strategy, including a philosophy of missions and a mission budget.
- Every church needs to begin by writing and adopting a statement of missions philosophy. This statement should be specific enough to provide direction but general enough to provide room for development.
- Once the missions philosophy is in place, the church should evaluate how its current missionaries match the philosophy. Some missionaries and agencies may not fit into the philosophy, and some that once did may have changed. The pastor must take the lead in keeping up with current events since both missionaries and agencies may change either their doctrine or practice over time.Dropping missionaries who do not fit into the missions philosophy should never be done hastily or without good cause. Unless an egregious problem exists, a church should wait until the missionary returns on furlough before discontinuing support.
- Every year, the church should evaluate the financial status of its missionaries. It should determine which missionaries have financial needs and which are fully supported. Pastors must learn how to ask probing questions that reveal trends in account balances. Since each mission agency has its own policies, the pastor must learn how each one works.Missions organizations are sometimes reluctant to give out a full disclosure of financial information to churches. Such agencies should be reprimanded. If the church considers supporting missionaries from non-disclosing agencies, it needs to remember that it will never get a full financial accounting.When I was a pastor, I viewed the church’s missionaries as assistants on the pastoral staff of our church. They were extensions of our church’s ministry. Therefore, they were accountable directly to us and only secondarily to the missions agency.
- When money becomes available to increase the mission budget, the church must first determine whether its current missionaries have financial needs. Second, the church should try to make sure that it contributes between five and seven percent of the support that each of its missionaries requires. If current missionaries have unmet needs and are not supported on the five- to seven-percent level, then this situation must be rectified before adding new missionaries.Once a missionary is supported at the rate of five to seven percent, then it is time to allow other churches to take up that missionary’s additional needs. If all current missionaries are either fully supported or in the five-to-seven percent range, then the time has come to bring on a new missionary who fits the parameters of the church’s missions philosophy.
- New missionaries are initially supported at an amount that is available, perhaps $100 per month. With this support, however, should come a commitment that, as funds are available and their needs require them, their support will be raised to the five- to seven-percent range as soon as possible.
The following is a missions philosophy statement that guided the church that I pastored. Though it does not attempt to answer every issue, it should be a useful template.
- We recognize the need to support missions as an outreach ministry of this church. We believe that as God leads individuals in missions, so He also leads our church in the support of particular missionaries. Our support should include prayer, finances, correspondence, and our missionary closet. We also recognize that missions must not be the only outreach of this church. We have the obligation of outreach in this community which we must support through our prayers, participation, and financial support.
- We will support only those missionaries who are consistent with the doctrine and practice of this church. This includes the missionary’s mission agency as well as any other parachurch organization.
- We will seek to support our missionaries at about six percent of their total support need. This percentage is a guideline and is neither a requirement nor a limitation. This percentage is intended to help keep the total number of churches supporting any given missionary under 20. This will help missionaries in both deputation and furlough ministries. We understand that not every church shares this philosophy. We cannot control anyone but ourselves.
- As funds become available in our church, we will give priority to our existing missionaries by raising their support levels (up to about six percent) as they have need for increased support. Priority will be given to the support needs of our current missionaries before considering a new missionary for support.
- We recognize the importance and priority of church planting missionaries over other types of missionary endeavors by emphasizing their support levels in our budget.
- We recognize that support from our church is not necessarily a lifetime commitment on our part. We may choose to reduce or discontinue support for any reason satisfactory to ourselves. Some reasons could be a missionary’s change in doctrine or practice, the change of field, a missionary’s failure to properly communicate with us, retirement, our church’s changing financial situation (such as a drop in giving or mortgage commitments), etc. If we choose to discontinue support of a foreign missionary, an attempt should be made on our part to discontinue support while on furlough if circumstances warrant the delay.
Of Him That Was Ready to Perish
Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)
LORD, I am waiting, weeping, watching for Thee:
My youth and hope lie by me buried and dead,
My wandering love hath not where to lay its head
Except Thou say “Come to Me.”
My noon is ended, abolished from life and light,
My noon is ended, ended and done away,
My sun went down in the hours that still were day,
And my lingering day is night.
How long, O Lord, how long in my desperate pain
Shall I weep and watch, shall I weep and long for
Is Thy grace ended, Thy love cut off from me?
How long shall I long in vain?
O God Who before the beginning hast seen the end,
Who hast made me flesh and blood, not frost and
Who hast filled me full of needs and love and desire
And a heart that craves a friend,
Who hast said ” Come to Me and I will give thee rest,”
Who hast said “Take on thee My yoke and learn
Who calledst a little child to come to Thee,
And pillowedst John on Thy breast;
Who spak’st to women that followed Thee sorrowing,
Bidding them weep for themselves and weep for
their own ;
Who didst welcome the outlaw adoring Thee all
And plight Thy word as a King,—
By Thy love of these and of all that ever shall be,
By Thy love of these and of all the born and unborn,
Turn Thy gracious eyes on me and think no scorn
Of me, not even of me.
Beside Thy Cross I hang on my cross in shame,
My wounds, weakness, extremity cry to Thee:
Bid me also to Paradise, also me
For the glory of Thy Name.
|Dr. Daniel R. Brown is Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Central Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He has a B.S. degree from Faith Baptist Bible College, M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, and a D.Min. degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He served as senior pastor at Kendall Park Baptist Church (Kendall Park, NJ). He also served at churches in Michigan and Texas and at camps in Texas and New Jersey. He and his wife, Mary Jo, have four daughters.|