Sunday, August 23, 2009

Higher Support, Fewer Missionaries


What is the primary problem within the current model of missionary support among Independent Fundamental Baptists (deputation with off-site church support)? I have tried to deal with various complimentary sulutions to the current missionary support crisis in previous posts, but most of them work outside of the support structure itself. The central crisis, as I see it, is the continued lengthening of the deputation process. This is the primary support problem that needs solved.

  1. Dollar loses value

  2. Total missionary support needed increases

  3. Average local church support remains relatively unmoved

  4. Churches needed for support increase

  5. Deputation lengths increase, delaying the sending of missionaries to their fields

  6. Side-effects multiply

  7. Furlough productivity decreases

(Read the first post of this series where I elaborated on the current situation.)


The vicious process above is continuing today relatively unabated. Some are willing to suggest the best logical change, while others either remain ignorant to this process or choose to ignore it. Some who have choosen to make the suggestion include Paul Chappel & Dwight Tomlison. In "Sending Forth Laborers" (p. 71-72) they suggest that local churches raise their current levels of support to $200 per missionary, supporting fewer missionaries per church. In light of the current support situation, I think this to be a good idea.

So, here is my recommendation:

RECCOMENDATION: Churches should pray about an immediate increase to $200-300 for all new missionaries they decide to support. This should be followed by a continual gradual increase in the amount for future missionaries as the dollar devalues. The support of missionaries currently on the field who lose support due to inflation should be supplemented through planned gradual increases, so that they don't have to continually return from the field just to raise more support. This is the only way to combat perpetual inflation and keep deputation lengths 'reasonable' within our current system.


  • It would take only 16-25 churches to support the average missionary instead of 60-75.

  • Deputation lengths, I believe, would decrease from 2-3 years to 1 year or less.

  • Churches, with fewer missionaries being supported, would be able to make greater personal investments in those they do support, resulting (I believe) in greater local church Mission mobilization and better missionary care.

  • Furlough times would be more productive as the missionary is able to invest more significantly into supporting churches, especially his sending church.


  • Narrower Support Base: "If missionaries have fewer churches giving higher levels of support, then it would devastate them more to lose a supporting church." True, churches cease to exist, they split, they suffer economic hardships, etc. True, it 'hurts' more to lose $200 than it does $65, but something is being forgotten with this objection. The $50 average missionary support of 1965 is the $350 of today (a level we are not likely to reach soon). Our objection doesn't hold water when given in light of our history.
  • Fewer Available Supporting Churches: "If churches supported fewer missionaries at higher support levels, wouldn't that mean missionaries would have a harder time finding supporting churches?" It wouldn't be as bad as you think. The same amount of support money would be available among the same churches. It would only be distributed differently. While there may be a little more difficulty finding meetings (though I doubt this), it would yet take many fewer meetings to gain full support. In the end, this would still result in much shorter deputation lengths.
DIFFICULTIES: There is no doubt in my mind that this is all do-able. This doesn't mean that it will be easy for all though. For some churches, especially small or new ones, the transition could be more difficult. Churches may have to take on fewer missionaries at a time in order to give at the higher levels. (Remember, the same amount of missions money is still available in the same churches, just distributed differently.) It may be best for smaller churches to work their way into it, though they still ought to be aggressive in their approach to the problem.

PHILOSOPY ALTERATION: This change in support would require a change in philosophy. No longer could the local church be concerned about supporting as many missionaries as possible. Rather, the church must concern itself with giving the best support to the missionaries it does support. It becomes an issue of quality over quantity, bringing them forward on their journey "after a godly sort" (3 John 6). This gives the church an opportunity to get more personally and practically involved in the work of the foreign missionaries. Surely increased practical and personal Mission involvement would lead to increased Mission passion and increased Mission giving, solving some of the aforementioned difficulties.

Just a few churches applying this solution and philosophy would affect deputation lengths. However, for the problem to be solved, it must be applied on a much larger scale. This is only likely to happen as more pastors with more influence than I have begin to openly encourage such an approach in light of the current crisis facts. I pray these men will be raised up soon.

How serious are we about the sending and supporting of missionaries? Are we concerned about what is best for the Mission and for missionaries? If so, are we willing to take the necessary steps to stem the tide of the coming missionary support crisis?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

These Weeks in the Mission Blogosphere

From Mission resources, to the missionary spirit of Independent Baptists, to Swarming, over the last few week I have read many good Mission posts. Here are a few of my highlights from the last several weeks in the Mission Blogosphere:
  • - This is a site I ran across recently. He has recently pointed out several new resources that could benefit the Mission. Two resources deal with the reaching of oral peoples. They include a powerpoint and a book. While we may not adopt all of the approaches suggested, there is definitely some work to be done in this area. He also introduced Google Voice. I do not believe it will replace Skype any time soon, but I do plan to begin utilizing it soon for call management. It shows some promise even for missionaries.
  • The Missionary Spirit - Way of Life posted a wonderful charge to Independent Fundamental Baptists concerning their missionary fervor. It is a reprint of a 1997 article in The Fundamentalist Digest. After recapping the happenings among 100 seminary students at the Andover Seminary in the 19th century, the writer asks "Could a group of 100 students be found in any fundamental Baptist seminary in the USA today who have banded themselves together solely for seeking God's will concerning missionary service?" I pray that this exists, but I'm afraid to look.
  • This Generation in Mission - Missions Mandate posted some comments made by Southern Baptist Al Mohler concerning the future of missions in the hands of the next generation. They are worthy thoughts to be considered by Independent Baptists as well. What will the Mission look like in our hands? Is there really coming a "tidal wave of participatory missions unlike anything seen by the Christian church since the first century"? I pray so. How can we ensure it?
  • What Kind of Pastors Do We Look For? - Desiring God included a great post about qualifications for church leadership. While Independent Fundamental Baptists do not generally look for "the creative type," we do perhaps place a lot of emphasis in areas that God does not.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Resource: Books on Paul the Missionary

I think that sometimes we forget who Paul was. Oh, we always remember certain things about him. For example, he was an apostle - and not just any apostle. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, upon whom special revelation was showered, who acted with a special authority. This is the Paul we know. Is that the whole picture though?

Perhaps it would be convenient for us if that was the whole picture. It would allow us to remain satisfied with our faith, our methods, our results. We could continue to justify, "We are not apostles as he was, therefore we cannot expect his results, nor can we bind ourselves to his methods. Rather, we must work to develop our own methods, that will work in our time, in our contexts." However, if Paul is much more than the above, then we have serious grounds for self-examination.

Yes, Paul was more than that. Let's not forget that, though he was an Apostle of Christ, he was also an apostle of a church in Antioch. Always remember that he was Paul the apostle of Christ, but let us also remember that he Paul the missionary. He was fulfilling the same commands that bind us still. Not only that, but the principles that guided his missionary methods should be those that guide ours. I am convinced that, if we follow the same principles, we will use much the same methods, and get in many places much the same results.

That is where these resources come into play. I suppose there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books written about Paul. However, it seems that relatively few have been written about Paul the missionary. I would now like to point to a couple that have been beneficial to my thinking.

Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours? by Roland Allen

This book shook my world when I had to read it for a class (I'm not sure my fellow classmates were nearly as enthralled). So often we hear people claim to use Pauline methods. But Roland Allen dared to suggest that we aren't really Pauline in our approach at all. As a result, we have long since lost hope of Pauline results. Perhaps the aspect of Allen's work that struck me most was the deliberate movement away from dependency upon the missionary toward dependency upon the Holy Ghost in our methods. Also significant was his suggestion that there are very few, if any, conditions present on any mission field today that would rule out doing the work the way Paul did, expecting the results that Paul obtained.

Allen was an Anglican. Therefore, as an Independent Fundamental Baptist, you will have to spit out the bones. In places, he is heavy on the "sacraments," and he would promote an ecclesiology that is foreign to us and Scripture (though he is closer than most other Anglicans). So read discerningly, but in the many places where he is Scriptural, learn and heed.

Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies and Methods by Eckhard Schnabel

Not all of Allen's suggestions are in line with Scripture and history. In many of the places where Allen lacked, Schnabel adequately supplements. Paul the Missionary is a much larger book, but it is well worth the time. His recollection of Paul's work is challenging to us today. You would do well to pick up this book and take the time to read it thoroughly.

I want to include here a few quotes from the Preface and Intro to Missionary Methods. They will give you a taste of what's coming:

"The fact remains that, where St. Paul conspicuously succeeded, we have conspicuously failed. May it not be because we have worked upon widely different principles?" (Henry Whitehead, in the Intro to the 1st ed.)

"We can more easily believe in His work in us and through us, than we can believe in His work in and through our converts: we cannot trust our converts to Him. But that is one of the most obvious lessons which the study of St Paul's work teaches us."

"Like the rest of the Holy Scriptures it (the record of Paul's church planting ministry) was 'written for our learning'. It was certainly meant to be something more than the romantic history of an exceptional man, doing exceptional things under exceptional circumstances - a story from which ordinary people of a later age can get no more instruction for practical missionary work than they receive from the history of the Cid, or from the exploits of King Arthur."

"Either we must drag down St Paul from his pedestal as the great missionary, or else we must acknowledge that there is in his work that quality of universality."

Are you willing to have your minds and methods challenged by Paul the missionary? Do you want to find the secret of his success as a missionary? Do you want to truly work from the same principles?

These books are a good place to begin that challenge. Read them, and tell me what you think.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Missionary Support in the Bible: Off-Site Supporting Churches

No. No. Deputation is not in the Bible. Why do we use this model of missionary support then? Is there any Biblical support for it? Can it be altered?

There are several principles and practices in the New Testament that are applicable to modern Independent Baptist missionary support. There is the primary principle concerning support being received from those being ministered to on the field - not a principle often practiced today (or then). There are also principles that would lead us to refuse such a means of support. New Testament practices that are applicable to modern missionary support include practices such as working a secular job on the field and sending single male missionary teams.

But where in all of this do we find our typical means of modern missionary support, i.e. deputation and off-site church support? The short answer is, deputation is not found, but off-site church support is.

Let me clarify some things before continuing. Deputation is the process of going from church to church by request and invitation in order to seek financial support for your off-site ministry. By off-site I mean a ministry that is not taking place within the supporting church. Rather, it is taking place outside of that church, often in another country.

We know that the church the missionary is currently ministering to is the only church with an expressed biblical responsibility to support the missionary. But it is clear that off-site churches (especially the Macedonians) often sent financial and other assistance to Paul (Phil 4:10-19; 1 Cor 16:17; 2 Cor 11:8-12). They had no apparent obligation to do so. Neither does it seem that Paul demanded it of them. In fact, he considered himself to be 'robbing' the off-site churches (2 Cor 11:8). There are at least a couple reasons why he was willing to receive such off-site support, instead of rightly requiring the on-site church to provide his needs.
  1. Freeing the Gospel - It allowed him to preach the Gospel of God free of charge. (2 Cor 11:7)

  2. Cutting Off Criticism - It cut off occasion from them which desired an occasion to accuse him of mixed motives. (2 Cor 11:12)

  3. Lifting Burdens - It allowed him to remove a financial burden from the church among whom he was currently ministering. (2 Cor 11:9)

While these churches had no expressed obligation to supply such support, Paul yet said that they had "well done" (Phil 4:14), that it would result in fruit abounding to their account (4:17), that their gift was a sacrifice pleasing to God (4:18). Further, they could be assured that all their needs would be met abundantly by this pleased God (4:19).

Did they have a law that bound them to support an off-site missionary? No. However, their display of Christian love for the missionary and the unreached was right and rewarded.

With the above now understood, let's consider a few of the differences between the support provided by the first century off-site churches and that which is provided by them today.

  • No Regularity - There is no indication that their support came or was promised on a regular basis (e.g. monthly) while ours is.

  • No Continuity - Their support came to meet the acute needs of the missionary on the field (Phil 4:14b) while ours is the expected means of the missionary's continual support.

  • No Solicitation - I do not find that Paul ever requested support from off-site churches as we do, though he did praise them for their assistance.

  • No System - We provide support within a system of deputation and monthly support while their giving was sporadic (perhaps led only by their love for the missionary, reports that reached them concerning his acute need, and prompting from the Holy Ghost).

Note that the principle that requires the church to provide for the needs of the on-site minister did apply to the missionary in his travels through some of these 'supporting churches.' But, again, this was only a factor as long as the missionary was among them. Churches were (and are) expected to bring them along to their next destination (Rom 15:23-24, 3 Jn 5-8). This in no way took the form of continual monthly support though. It merely applied to the acts of providing necessities while he was among them and helping him along to his next destination.

Where does our current system of deputation and support fit in then?

  • Bringing them along - We do bring our missionaries along as the first century churches did. When our missionaries are on the 'deputation trail,' our churches generally care for the them generously as they are present among them and often help them to their next destination.

  • The System - While it does not seem that there was a 'system' of off-site support in the first century, it isn't a totally unbiblical way to approach modern missionary support. It is a way in which off-site churches with a passion for the Mission can ensure that the Gospel is provided free of charge, lifting a financial burden off the newly planted churches. In this way it is a system that has very Biblical motives underlying it.

I have heard some claim that deputation is not only absent from the Biblical record, but it is in fact unbiblical, or wrong. However, arguments from silence rarely hold water. As we approach the modern system of deputation and support we ought to keep several things in mind though.

  • It Is Not Doctrine - There is nothing in the Scriptures which would hinder us from changing the system, as long as we remain within Biblical principles. It can be changed.

  • It Has Its Rewards - Like the giving of the Philippians to Paul, sacrificial supporting churches can expect fruit abounding to their account and their needs being met by a great God.

  • It Is Right - It is not doctrine, yet it is right for churches to support missionaries within the modern system. They have "well done." If it is right for churches to send support sporadically in the NT, surely it is just as well for them to do it on a regular basis today.

  • It Benefits the Mission - It is a way that we can provide the Gospel free of charge, lift the burden of support off of new churches, and cut short some possible accusations.

  • It Is a Good Use of Resources - The abundant resources of the West, combined with the modern ability to wire money instantly make our system wise and practical.

  • Don't Remove Vulnerability and Faith - This is an issue that cannot be fully explained here, but it is Biblical for a missionary to rely upon God and those he is ministering to for support. This was Christ's way. Any system which totally removes these, has no Biblical foundation.

  • It Needs Tweaking - As we will see in future posts there are some changes that need to be made, though I don't think it should at all be totally scrapped. For example, in general churches need to increase their monthly support levels to keep up with inflation. Also, it would be wise for churches to try only invite those missionaries whom they will definitely support, cutting down deputation lengths. It can be changed.

Let us use the system wisely. Let us improve it. Let us sacrifice more to allow missionaries to provide the Gospel free of charge. While deputation is not found in the Bible, it is an appropriate application of some Biblical principles to modern resources and realities. I pray that this has not been too 'technical,' but helpful.

What do you think about our system?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Resource: Etnopedia

For those who have been waiting for a next post, sorry. I've been out of town for a bit, but I'm back now - crazy summer! I'll start back with this short post concerning another Mission-related resource online.

Etnopedia is primarily a Wiki translation project, aiming to provide multiple language groups with unreached people group information. It remains a helpful tool for English-speakers though. Of course, it is not as complete as English information that you could get elsewhere, at Joshua Project or Nevertheless, it can prove useful in coordination with other tools.

As with many people group-oriented sites, you can browse for people groups by name and nation. Being yet at the early stages of Wiki-development, perhaps some in this audience would be able to contribute to the community. This could be done by providing more people group information or translating existing profiles.

Posting Soon:
Solution to the Missionary Support Crisis: Supporting Fewer with More