"The current process [of Independent Baptist Missions] is a colossal failure"

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Greg Wilson's picture

I have often said that it seems in reaction to our distrust of the SBC Cooperative Program that we instituted an uncooperative one.

Greg Wilson

JD Miller's picture

Not only were the comments interesting, but Jim Peet looks much different on there than he does here. LOL I do disagree with one statement in the article:

(1) Pastors, only bring missionaries to your church if you have the ability and intent to take them on for monthly support. It is foolish to ask missionaries to drive all over the country to attend the beauty contest that we call a mission conference. Do your research up front. Meet with the missionary family up front. Determine up front if you can and want to support this family. If you can only support two families, then only bring two families to your conference. You don’t have to have a big missions conference (many missionary families) to have an effective missions conference."

I like to have a couple of missionaries in each year even if we do not intend to take them on for monthly support so that our people can hear about how God has burdened others and show that God is working in lives all over the world. Even if we do not take them on for permanent support, we can still pray for them. Having said that, we make sure to give them enough of a gift to more than cover their travel expenses and time. (Typically well over half of what the pastors weekly salary is and we try to get missionaries that do not have to travel more than a few hours). Still, once I tell them that we would like them to come, but are not looking to take on more missionaries, sometimes I do not even hear back. Is this because some churches expect them to travel without compensation? I hope not, but perhaps I need to clarify what we plan to give.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Related to an above comment, in the past I’ve often said, “Southern Baptists are sometimes too cooperative; Independent Baptists are sometimes too uncooperative.”

Southern Baptists have over 5,500 foreign missionaries serving in over 120 countries. If a missionary candidate is approved by our International Mission Board, their financial support is immediately taken care of by the Cooperative Program and the annual missions offering - the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the IMB (it’s up to each church how much or what percentage they give). They can then focus on their ministry in the country or people group they serve. The IMB also supervises the missionaries and takes care of problems that may arise.

Why couldn’t Independent Baptists start their own version of the above? Don’t worry, you don’t have to call it the “Cooperative Program” :-). Depending on the individual church, this could be done in place of, or in addition to, the current way of doing Independent Baptist Missions.

Just a thought from a Southern Baptist that has great respect for Independent Baptists.
David R. Brumbelow

Jeff Straub's picture

I do not know this brother but he may be overstating the case just a bit. First my resume . . . why I think I can address this issue and challenge some of what he wrote.

First, I have been in ministry for 30 plus years--11 as a deputating missionary to Canada, serving two terms and planting a church that still is functioning in northern Alberta more than 20 years after my departure. Second, I pastored for 8 years and implemented a mission porgram in a church that was 40 years old but had no active program. We were giving something like 18% of our annual budget to missions (if my memory is correct) when I left. Cannot say what they are doing now, but they seem to be still strongly mission-minded. Third, I currently teach missions at the seminary level. This necessitates wide reading in current mission literature--broad evangelical and other. Not much fundamentalist literature--there virtually isn't any. I am also a member of the EMS--Evangelical Missiology Society. I have preached the Gospel on four continents. In 2011, I preached in India, Romania, and France plus a few places in the US. I periocially get invited to speak on missions in local churches in the MN area. So . . . does this qualify me to speak to this issue? Maybe . . . you be the judge.

First our writer laments the time it takes a missionary get to the field. There are several reasons for this, some of which he has rightly identified BUT . . . sometimes it is the fault of the missionary himself. I have had them in my home . . . clueless! Then there are others! After you meet them, you think "What can we do to support this family!?!"

Our brother suggests that pastors NOT invite a missionary that he cannot support. First this is very bad advice. Why? How does he know that the church "cannot" support another missionary? Most churches can genuinely do way more than they actually do, they just need a good reason (read that BURDEN) to do it. Don't short change your people by failing to bring in a good missionary you think you cannot support. Obviously churches have to be careful just how many they have in but most churches cannot support all they should have in. Missionaries DO need prayer support and someone in your assembly might be able to help them now and again or even monthly.

This necessitates that churches learn to be generous with their guests. If you are a pastor that thinks that the way you finance the church is through special offerings, then you will never teach your people to be generous. Save your "special" offerings for things that are truly special--like a missionary guest. So you cannot support them monthly, maybe you can through your generosity meet an immediately need they have or a ministry need.

Finally there is the fact of missionary attrition. Sadly, missionaries come off the field for any number of reasons. You might not be able to support a particular missionary today but you can possibly support them tomorrow. So again, if you only have in those you know you can support at the time, you will have less missionaries.

Maybe I should write a series on a supporting missionaries.

1.) Have missionaries in regularly--both those your church already supports and others you would like to support if the Lord enables.

2.) Chose missionaries carefully. Do they know what they are doing? Many do not. Does the field they intend to go actually need missionaries? Some don't while other are begging for workers.

3.) Keep missions before your congregation. Preach on it and highlight it from the pulpit. Read the letters your missionaries send you. Skype them occasionally. Oh yes, pray for them too!

4.) Teach your church to be generous with missionaries--both in your monthly support but also in your love offering/honorariums. Want to raise your own salary? Teach your people to be generous with God's servants!

Jeff Straub

Jeff Straub

JohnBrian's picture

David R. Brumbelow wrote:
Southern Baptists have over 5,500 foreign missionaries serving in over 120 countries. If a missionary candidate is approved by our International Mission Board, their financial support is immediately taken care of by the Cooperative Program and the annual missions offering - the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for the IMB (it’s up to each church how much or what percentage they give).
My parents were the longest serving missionaries with their independent mission board on the field on which they served. They went to the field in 1952 with no children and $190 in monthly support. All of their children were born and grew up on the field except for the furlough years. My siblings and I are classic TCK's and consider the field to be our heart home.

I am also an ordained SBC minister. Some years ago I called the IMB and spoke to a 'gatekeeper;' a woman whom I guessed (by her voice) to be in her 60's. I told her that I was interested in returning to my 'home' field to work with the churches and Bible College there. She informed me that they were not sending missionaries to that field and that was the end of that. Later I heard from a pastor on another field where the SBC does have missionaries. He told me that the extent of the mission work of an SBC missionary there is to teach a Sunday school class in a Baptist church. He also told me that the missionary hosts many of his family and friends who come to visit, spending much of his time engaged as a tour guide.

So the IMB fully supports their missionaries immediately, yet the 'gatekeeper' determines in a single phone conversation whom she will allow to apply, and will turn away fully qualified candidates (if I may call myself such). At the same time there are missionaries, who because their support is automatic (and have not had to go through the rigors of deputation, nor have supporting churches that they are responsible to) can live a good life on the mission field without having to do much.

All in all, I'm no more impressed with my own denomination's approach, than with the rigorous deputation my parents went through 60 years ago to get to the field.

My brother, having returned home, is in his 3rd year as a missionary and was able to raise his support in a relatively short time.

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Jeff Brown's picture

Jeremy Wallace has raised an important issue and made some good observations. He has made a carte blanche nagative assessment of all that is Independent Baptist Missions at the same time ("Why Independent Baptist Missions is Failing"). He probably did not mean that. His article is all about how missionaries raise funds, not how they do missions on the field. Nevertheless, as you read the following comments, people pile on to condemn whatever is Independent Baptist. I get the idea that for these pious folk (not from Pastor Wallace), the most Christian thing I could do as an Independent Baptist missionary would be to offer them a good chance to kick me. I am very obviously a part of the system.

Back to the article: When I was beginning deputation, I had already been a pastor for seven years, and I had notions similar to those of Pastor Wallace. Twenty years ago, the average time of deputation was two years. I would have said the same things then about the two year time span as the article says about three years. The complaint has always been present. There is a certain amount of truth in it. But to call it a "colossal failure" is hyperbole of the first order. The deputation system (or whatever name you want to give it) has gotten literally thousands of missionaries to fields all over the world for nearly a century (what we now know as Independent Baptist mission agencies began in the 1920s), that have done enormous amounts of good for the sake of Jesus Christ. I make no exaggeration. An objective assessment, when viewing the results would be, "a real success." Pastor Wallace also likens the spiritual good done for the missionary through the deputation process to the spiritual good done a believer through banrkruptcy. He could have chosen a better analogy to be sure.

The article states the obvious - which now and then needs to be stated - that lots of churches need to raise their average level of support per missionary (again, this concept was talked about constantly when I was on deputation). But I frankly do not believe that the average support per missionary is $50/mo. Pastor Walace is failing to look in the right places to make a right assessment. Is there perhaps a financial reason why it takes longer to raise funds than in the past? Could it have something to do with the downturn the US economy has experienced? Is it possible that another financial reason comes from that fact that many large churches have decided to create their own mission organizations, supporting, nearly exclusively people from their own congregations? Is it possible that a third financial reason comes from the wide-spread method of raising support from individuals in churches, rather than from churches themselves: a method that leaves churches with less money for their mission budgets? (There are actual programs run by Christian financial experts which offer training in this method to lots of missionaries). Is perhaps a fourth reason because many churches have become quite selective about where they want missionaries to go, and reject others out of hand? Is perhaps a fifth reason because many churches and boards (of all stripes) are big on the idea of short-term missions (a month, a few months, a year), for which they plan their budgets instead of reserving funds for those people who will go for a life time? The article appears to me to be somewhat superficial in its analysis.

Pastor Wallace has laid his emphasis on pragmatic concerns: dollars, hours, contacts, numbers of churches, etc. None of this is wrong. If you are a missionary raising support, you will be wise to figure out these factors, and how they statistically relate to one-another. But there is a subject that eternally goes a begging in such discussions, namely the theological background to the deputation process. Baptist churches have historically believed that churches themselves have a say in whom they want to financially support and partner with as a missionary. That is why the deputation process developed and has been used, among others, by independent Baptist churches and independent Baptist mission boards. In the long run, the process of having missionaries come to individual churches for their exposure to the mission and possible adoption, average church members are exposed to missions like no other method. I read a report over ten years ago, which statistically demonstrated that independent Baptist Churches send, member for member, four times as many missionaries to foreign fields than does the SBC with its co-operative program. This is not meant as a criticism of the SBC, but rather as a defense of the independent Baptist deputation system.

Personally, I hope the Lord doesn't give much success to any recommendation to only invite missionaries if you know you can support them. My family and I visited over 150 churches on deputation. We all have positive rememberances of nearly all those visits. I gained insights from Christians I never otherwise would have had. I was challenged by ideas that I otherwise would not have heard: face to face. I changed my views about some things and became much less judgmental of churches that varied from my home church. I embraced the idea that I could work a little more broadly than I thought at the beginning. Without taking time out, and paying lots of money for seminars, I learned lessons about social interaction, and presenting myself to people: lessons that have helped me ever since. I still get letters, surprising me from people whose churches never supported us, who nevertheless have prayed for us for over twenty years (it is usually the first letter I have ever received from that person).

The idea of more co-operation is excellent. I hope that more churches catch on to it.

Though never a board member or administrator, I have been involved in enough planning that I can assure any reader, that mission agencies have been groaning over this and other issues for a long time. They have lots of information, counsel, ideas, and advice to provide that might help solve, at least in part, this problem. Most pastors and educators rarely tap into the resources available that mission agencies have to offer.

Important idea, some poor wording, some good suggestions, more learning please.

Jeff Brown

JohnBrian's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
In the long run, the process of having missionaries come to individual churches for their exposure to the mission and possible adoption, average church members are exposed to missions like no other method.
Taking missionaries longer to get to the field, but being of greater benefit to churches in the process.

I wish there was a way to take both systems and merge them!

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Larry's picture



I think you make some great points, though over all, I am not a big fan of the current method.

Is it possible that another financial reason comes from that fact that many large churches have decided to create their own mission organizations, supporting, nearly exclusively people from their own congregations?
I think this is actually a good thing for the most part though I think it tends to keep missionaries in bigger churches rather than in small churches where they could be used and get much needed experience. I know this is a problem. It becomes an issue of "Let me stay in a church that can help me rather than find one that I can help." And it's hard to begrudge them, knowing that a large church will assume a significant portion of their support for them if they are members. However, a missionary's home church is the one that knows them best, and they should have the biggest stake in their support, IMO.

Is it possible that a third financial reason comes from the wide-spread method of raising support from individuals in churches, rather than from churches themselves: a method that leaves churches with less money for their mission budgets?
This is another worthy concern I think. However, would it be different if missionaries didn't get individual support? I would think that if an individual was going to give, they already would be. I don't know. In general, I am not a fan of individual support because I think the local church has priority. I am not sure on this one. I know for my short term mission stay, I had individual support.

Is perhaps a fourth reason because many churches have become quite selective about where they want missionaries to go, and reject others out of hand?
I am not sure this is a bad reason. I know we have very limited funds, and I know the people that I give priority to, so I do reject certain people out of hand. Given the option, I would rather support a missionary doing pioneer work than one going somewhere filled with churches already established.

Is perhaps a fifth reason because many churches and boards (of all stripes) are big on the idea of short-term missions (a month, a few months, a year), for which they plan their budgets instead of reserving funds for those people who will go for a life time?
There is an interesting http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/speaker-... ]panel discussion at the Desiring God conference (inserting a disclaimer here for those who need it because Piper is one of "them" not one of "us" :D) where they discuss this very issue in a way that is helpful I think. They call it the amateurization of missions. Having done short term missions, I am not sure of the value of it. I have done them from a week to three months in four different countries and the US as well. The most helpful one was actually the longest one because it gave me a more well-rounded experience instead of a tourist experience. The helpful ones were also ones in places where we spoke the language. I am increasingly dubious of repeated missions' trip where you cannot talk to people. A building only needs to be painted so many times, and I don't want to discount taht help to the missionary. But while these manual labor projects are helpful to be sure, talking to people is the gospel work. There is value in short-term missions, but perhaps some more thought is needed.

I wonder if we are getting to a place where we need to rethink missions completely. Should we send missionaries to countries that already have an established gospel witness? Why are we spending American dollars to send American missionaries to places where nationals have been planting and growing churches for years? I am not saying we shouldn't. But I wonder. Would American dollars be better spent in resourcing these established gospel presences, and sending people to places where there is no gospel witness?

Another thing, since I have gone this far out on a limb, why do domestic church planters spend several years raising full time support? Why not spend six months or a year presenting your vision and raising ministry support, and then get a part time job wherever you want to live and plant? I know church planters who have spent several years raising support to go to some city in our own country, and they weren't there yet because they don't have enough support. Listen, there are a lot of us bivocational pastors who work two or three jobs to make ends meet. So do it. Nothing entitles you to a full-time salary. In the two or three years you have been deputating, you could have been there evangelizing and building a church. And chances are, you will make better gospel connections by working in the community.

Steve Davis's picture

I think there are several problems with IFB missions and missions in general. David Hesselgrave said something to the effect that many missionaries are “called” to do something undefined for which they have not been sufficiently trained, and in which they have little experience. Of course that is true outside of the IFB movement as well.

Back in 1987 when we were raising support to go to France it took 9 months from the time we left the church we planted in Philadelphia to the time we arrived in France. The difference was that we had a strong home church that provided significant support (As a pastor I would ask men what their sending church was giving them). We also had a network of churches pastored by men with whom I had fellowshipped for several years as a pastor. Much of raising support is about relationships. Men fresh from college or seminary without ministry experience or ministry relationships will struggle more.

As a former missionary and missions pastor I have met very few IFB missionaries who are effective church planters. I have traveled widely and have to confess that I am often astounded how many missionaries seem out of place with little direction, existing on the field but not effective. Of course there are some effective missionaries and there are many places where the missionary should be a facilitator rather than a lead church planter. More often than not a lead church planter becomes a missionary pastor – an oxymoron in my opinion. Churches are planted in places where there are solid Bible-believing churches but not of the IFB stripe and cooperation is out of the question. I know an IFB missionary who left his IFB agency because he could not fellowship with another evangelical church in town because that church used contemporary music.

My DMin project at Trinity was on pre-field preparation of IFB missionaries. It was an eye opener! One of the huge problems with some mission agencies is that they are run by directors who have never planted churches cross-culturally. I won’t give a list of agencies I’d recommend but they are few and far between. The lack of cooperation between IFB churches will continue to make it difficult for your average missionary to raise support. Those who come from certain schools where there is an informal network of churches fare better. That’s one reason men should carefully consider where they get their training.

I recommend that men in seminary have an internship in a church plant or work in a church that has reflects in part the people among whom they plan to work. When I see men in seminary training for missionary service and staying in a big church where they are not really needed I have to wonder about their commitment. If they are going to a Hispanic area, Asian, European, etc. surely there are churches especially in urban areas where they can serve and have some introduction to the language and culture.

Language training itself is one of the huge problems among missionaries. Many expect to just learn it on the field without any idea of their aptitude for language learning. I have known many missionaries on the field who have been there for years and the nationals can’t sit under them because they speak the language so badly. They speak it well enough to impress their mission director who doesn’t speak any foreign languages, well enough to shop in the market, but not well enough to preach and teach the truths of God’s Word. All the support in the world won;t change that!

Jeremy Wallace's picture

Jeff, I appreciate you taking the time to read my post at www.maranathablog.com ]Maranatha Blog . I believe we are operating under a different set of assumptions. I will get to those in a moment.

I do agree that sometimes the missionary not getting to the field quickly is due to the missionary himself. There are some that are indeed ‘clueless’. I also agree that there are missionaries that once you meet them you want to sacrifice and do whatever you can to support them. However, what is happening far too often is that a church is struggling financially, dropping support of current missionary because of a lack of funds, but yet still inviting missionaries to the church knowing that they are not going to support them.

You are operating under the assumption that a church that invites a missionary to come has the ability to take on a missionary family if they so desire. You are assuming that if they invite them, the missionary family will be well compensated for the time and travel. You also seem to be assuming that prayer support by the inviting church will be a reality.

I acknowledge that my post was written based on the opposite assumptions. I am assuming that many churches who invite missionaries to come are dying and, even if they wanted to support the family, they have no real ability or intent to do so. I am assuming that they will not adequately compensate the family for their travel and time. I am assuming that once the missionary family leaves that they are forgotten and not remembered in prayer.

The question then is ‘whose assumptions are more accurate?”

If your assumptions are true, or are at least the norm, then I agree with what you said. Unfortunately, I believe my assumptions, while slightly exaggerated to prove a point, are the norm. Is it possible that the ‘norms’ vary based on geographic location? That is a possibility that needs to be examined.

I think we can agree that missions should be a focus for the local church, the process of getting missionaries to the field needs to be done responsibly, and the souls of the lost need to be a priority.

JD Miller's picture

Jeremy, I am sad to hear that missionaries are being invited and not compensated. Rather than suggesting that they not be invited unless they will be taken on for long term support, I believe we should be exhorting our brethren not to muzzle the ox.
We are a small church so our love offerings could end up being quite meager- especially if it snows a lot the day the missionary comes. To protect those who are serving God by ministering at our services, we set a minimum that will be given as compensation but still take an offering. That way if God really moves someone to give, there is no limit to the offering they might receive at our little church, but they will still be taken care of regardless. Our desire in inviting missionaries is that we encourage them as they encourage us even if we never take them on for support.
Let me add that attending a church that regularly had missionaries in to present their ministries (even ones we did not support long term) is part of what God used to burden my heart for ministry.
Regardless, I do think you raised some very important points and hopefully some churches will consider their responsibility as a result of your article. Thank you.

Jeff Brown's picture

Hi Larry. Thanks for moderating the discussions. Glad my thoughts jogged your thinking. Here is my response:

Larger churches becoming their own mission agencies and supporting only their people: I agree that they have every right to do this. But note, I commended more cooperation. This kind of action is precisely the opposite.

Individual support: I probably should clarify. I have nothing against individual support. Individuals support my wife and me. But in every case, they sought me out, wanting to support me. That is much different than learning from a financial advisor how to identify individuals who might be willing to help and recruiting them for funding, and thus gain the bulk of one's missionary support. Have we stopped believing in the ministry of the Body of Christ?

Selective mission fields: I had in mind churches that tell missionaries they don't see a need for missionaries in places "Christianized," but are devoting their concentrations to places like the 10-40 window (somewhat passe´but some churches haven't caught on)

Short term missions: (Tried to view the video, but it had a hard time loading up on my computer) Again, I perhaps should qualify. I am not against short term missions. I first went for 9 weeks, then later for one year before ultimately becoming a missionary for long term. What I am speaking about is the emphasis of churches and mission agencies. Many are making a shift to much more short term missions than long term.

And these things make it increasingly difficult for the average IB missionary to raise support.

I agree that missionaries can work and plant churches at the same time (depends on the country where they serve). That is how the Baptists and Methodists did church planting in the early decades of the history of the US.

Jeff Brown

Anne Sokol's picture

I'm still mulling all this over . . . . as we say in parenting, I have "big feelings" about this.

We are "undersupported," so we do have months where, if God didn't intervene, we would be in the red. Making any type of major purchase is a major stretch. (I just got winter tires for our van mostly from money a couple paid me for being a doula at their birth here.)
We are supported by churches (the bulk of our income).
We are supported by individuals (the bulk of our number of supporters).

when trying to raise support, we have experienced the very generous but can't support you churches and the churches who are just looking for someone to fill a pulpit for the day. I dont' think we've slugged at it for years though. It's hard to get away from what's going on here to stay in the States for lengthy periods.

I have my own frustrations with the deputation system. Part of it is just hackneyed for us because dh is a Ukrainian, and making cold calls to pastors doesn't really work when you have a foreign accent. I have done a lot of it, which is also awkward, being a married female making the calls . . . it's kind of frustrating all around for us trying to go this route. The pastor of our home church is just wonderful about us (and any missionaries) raising money from individuals in the church--he says that any way people are giving to missions is great. And it's a very missions-generous church.

I will say, after living with my husband, he is probably worth 2-5 foreign missionaries--part of that is just him, part of that is being Ukrainian. (Part of it may be my bias Wink )

I still am not sure i have any conclusions, but this topic and some personal things in my own life have motivated me to do some reading-- I found online a booklet called "Christian Devotedness" (free on gutenburg) by Anthony Norris Groves--the "father of faith missions." I'm tryint to read through it.

It would be interesting to know--if being a missionary today was presented as--are you willing to be poor and not have financial stability for the sake of the Gospel, are you willing to go?-- . . . . Who would go?

Before defending why missionaries should have full support, it is just beneficial to examine the commitment in that light for a considerable time. It can be very clarifying. (Personally, I'm still clarifying.)