Missionaries Don’t Need A Sending Agency – part 13

Does a missionary need to go with an agency? It is commonly taught that you need to go with a missionary agency. However, it is becoming more common to go from your local congregation or on your own. Why is the trend changing? It was never Biblical, to begin with. In the early days of mission agencies, the local congregations did not trust them. They were called para-church organizations. Even today, mission agencies do not all have the best reputation. More importantly, the agency’s reputation is a reflection of the missionaries that are on the field, and so your reputation can be tarnished if you are part of an agency that has many bad missionaries on your field.

Most mission agencies charge a percentage of the donations sent to the missionary – usually 10%. When the missionary gets into trouble on the field there is really not much that can be done by an agency although they have what they call contingency plans. For example, if you are put into jail for proselytizing, there is not much an agency can do. If you are sick or hurt, in most cases you will have to make it on your own unless your agency has set aside your incoming donations for emergency purposes. You are still paying for your emergency. Most agencies do not do deputation (fundraising) for you, in other words, they do not raise funds for you. So what are missionary agencies for these days?

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

(Open Bible Acts 1:8)

A missionary agency will give you a legitimate name to be under, which the need for that can be debated. In remote unreached people groups, the unreached people will not know who that agency is. In the worst-case scenario, the bad guys in the country you are in might see this as an opportunity to extort money. Nevertheless, a mission agency can process your donations and give a tax-deductible receipt to your donors. If my donors want a tax receipt, I am not sure how I feel about that. Is God really honoring their donations if they give to get a tax break? Missionary agencies also have some special training which you can get and then go on your own. They also might have some expertise in situations you can encounter on the mission field. In remote peoples, what they know might do more harm than good. They may also have contacts on the field you are going to, but this may not be the best way you get to your unreached people group. Those contacts are probably known by the national, local authorities, or in the worst-case scenario, the bad guys and you might do best to steer clear of them. When you are finally in a remote people group, remote means also in many cases, no communications you are at the mercy of the people who live remotely. Jesus and the angels will just have to be at your side. For many years I traveled into very remote villages and I am still here (time of writing 2022).

Does a missionary need to go with an agency? It is commonly taught that you must go through an agency but Biblically and practically you don’t need one.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

(NIV John 20:21)

The pros of going on your own outweigh the pros of going with an agency. I was part of a large sending agency for many years and basically, they did not do much more than provide a name for me. I never processed my donations through them. I never got a visit from the regional director. I never got into trouble on the field and so basically I personally did not need them. I was cut from their mission in 2015 for not having enough monthly support and was recently asked if I want to come back. I declined as they are now taking 13% of my donations, a hike of 3% from 2015.

I have nothing against mission agencies. I was also under a missionary receiving agency for many years. A missionary receiving agency is the agency on the field or in the country you are going to. So I was sent from my country of origin’s agency to a receiving agency on the field. I am also a missionary under and supported monthly (not much) from my local congregation in my country of origin. I am also part of my missionary pastors organization and a member of the missionary cooperation at the country and continental level. For ten years I had a missionary visa to be legal on my mission field which was a complete waste of time and money. I will mention this later. I can say like Paul:

..though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Philippians 3:4-9

I, like Paul, can also say, I consider it all a loss. I would have done better to not have lost precious time trying to get under and maintain my “missionary” status with those entities. They gave little fruit for the time and money invested.

You really don’t need a missionary sending agency

Missionary sending agencies are organizations that will send a missionary to a foreign country on behalf of a church. “Sending,” usually refers to logistics, such as channeling finances, special training, pastoral care on the field, and getting things the missionary needs to go to the destination country. Some agencies specialize in sending to unreached people groups, but most do not. I don’t know where the sending agency entered the history of the Christian Church. I am sure someone will refer to the New Testament when justifying the need for a missionary sending agency, but I personally don’t see this model anywhere in New Testament teaching. The missionary sending agency has also hindered the spread of the Gospel. How? They limit how far the missionary can go. I will talk about “missionary reach in a later lesson. They are not necessary, and they are currently doing more damage than good.

The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.

Acts 13:4

We were in the middle of nowhere visiting a very remote unreached people and stumbled on a Christian family who had been there for about two years doing discipleship. After talking for a while, I asked the man how it happened that they became missionaries working in this group. He told me that they read in a book that this people group was unreached and decided to sell all their things and move out there. Their local church did not send them, and they didn’t go through an agency. They just saw the need and went. Practically speaking, if you are going to a remote unreached people, an agency isn’t going to be able to help you much, so it is probably to your advantage to not go through the process of joining one. I am going to explain this in detail.

If you are going to a remote unreached people group, first of all, there is probably no one in your agency that has experience in this kind of mission work. Secondly, there will be little that they can do to prepare you for it, and lastly, you will most likely be without communications and a way to receive monthly support, and/or you should not be communicating and receiving monthly support.

I recommend to all new candidates not to join a mission agency. I have been with two different sending agencies over the years and have worked with and done my research on many others. You must understand that we are talking about missions to remote unreached people groups. If you happen to have a huge amount of finances to channel, then an agency can help you some, but nowadays you can even outsource receiving your missionary support through ministries that only do that. “Channeling finances,” is when an agency provides a tax-deductible receipt to people who want to donate to you. Your supporters can give offerings to you and get a tax break for doing so. This is one of the main reasons that agencies exist. They channel your finances to you, giving a tax break to your supporters. You will not need all that money out in a remote people group. It will only be a stumbling block to you and the people to whom you minister. If you want to use an agency, you can just let the offerings store up for a rainy day. Or you can give your donors an Internet payment app and let the money build up until you can come down out of the mountains or out of the jungle to access it,, if you can access it.

I hope that I am writing to an audience that doesn’t need help putting on a backpack and hiking into the mountains or the jungle. I am hoping that you are young people who are reading this and that I can speak plainly. Many older folks will not agree with this article. They come from a structured generation where everything was done through a board or a committee or an agency. They also come from a time when hundreds of tiny congregations knew what missions were about and also gave to missionaries.

I am not saying that agencies are a terrible thing; all I’m saying is that you don’t need them and if you go through them they will only hold you back. Maybe I can illustrate this. Most agencies tie strings to you that allow you to only go so far. I call this limitation “the four areas of missionaries’ reach.” I will discuss it near the end of this series on Christ’s missiology. Those of you who have agencies will have to cut your strings before you will be able to go into the totally remote unreached places. Remote unreached people groups are usually beyond the length of those strings your agency has attached to you. If you consider this, how can they really help you when you are way out in Tibet with no cell phone service? They can receive your donations and give out a tax-deductible receipt, and that’s about it. Again, there is not much else they can do if you get hurt, sick or whatever.

What if you get hurt? What if you get kidnapped? What if you are thrown into jail? What if? Go ahead and join a missionary agency and pay them a percentage of your donations. But when you are out in the middle of nowhere thousands of miles away, they will be of no use to you. You can’t email them, and you can’t call them. No mission’s pastor is going to come and visit you, and if he or she did, it would only be putting your ministry in jeopardy. Missionaries going into remote areas, with no calling, no money, and no intention of returning don’t need an agency.

Recently, we were talking to a missionary candidate to Nepal about how she could receive visits from her mission pastor once she is on the field. This person doesn’t need visits from home and doesn’t need care packages with the latest books and her favorite snack foods. She would rather have the $2,500 dollars that someone would spend going to see her than to have a visit on the field. Most of these visits by agencies to missionaries are just a way for the visitor to play missionary for a few weeks. When talking with the missionary candidate to Nepal, we were trying to develop strategies whereby she could receive a visitor in a way that would not result in her being flagged by the government or the bad guys. She is a Bible-translating missionary and cannot lose her place on the mission field by receiving a visitor from her local church just wanting to sight see and get another stamp on their passport. All other kinds of missionaries can start over somewhere else, but a Bible translating missionary just can’t start over after three or four years of learning a local language. Well, they could, but it would be devastating to start all over just because the director of the mission agency came to check up on them.

I once saw a cartoon of two tribal men, hiding the television seeing that the anthropologist was walking into the village. If you are a director of a mission agency wanting to check up on the field missionaries they will hide the gaming consol and other items and quit sinning before you get there. If a missionary is on the field living in sin they are going to hide it from the director. If they don’t know better to disqualify themselves from the ministry God won’t be honoring their ministry.

I am the director of a mission agency (in the world’s terms) and watch over missionaries in the field. I have never been to visit them. They live in very remote and dangerous villages. I have traveled into these situations many times and know that my presence changes the spiritual dynamic of what the field missionaries are doing. I cant explain it more than that, but it is not good for the mission work being done. I am available to the field missionaries if they need me but rarely do they contact me. Sometimes they come out of the mountains as my wife and I are always there for them when they come to us, which is also rare. They have come out of the mountains to have their babies in clinics but it would have been better for them to have their babies in the village. I don’t do much for them.

When I was a missionary living in a remote village that had no communications, potable water, or access to medical help I was on my own. Once I asked the director of the field receiving agency to help me with a problem I had with a disciple. He told me, “You are the missionary, read your New Testament and seek God. He will give you the answer. I can’t help you, I don’t live there and I don’t know what is best for you.” At the time I was disappointed. But as I look back that impacted me and it is more in alignment with Christ’s missiology. Think about all of this and take it to prayer and think about what is best for the people group.

Your agency is also going to want you to come “home” after a period of time, usually every four years. This has damaged the field missionaries and many people groups that they were ministering to. Go don’t come back, put your hand to the plow, and don’t look back. Go without any gold or silver or copper in your belts so that Jesus will honor and bless you for taking him at his word.