Missionaries Focus Too Much on Their Support – part 6

The lack of having enough financial support is one of the main excuses used by missionaries for returning home. They say, “We didn’t have enough monthly support, so we had to come home.” It is also one of the main excuses used by missionary candidates for not ever going. “I can’t go to the mission field because I don’t have my monthly support raised. My mission won’t let me go until I have raised 80% of my monthly support.”

Taking no money for the journey is probably the most important concept to today’s missionary

So, let’s take a deeper look at it. The Catholic priest knows that you do not need money to be a missionary. All their ministers take vows of poverty, or they used to. And why is this? Money only distracts us from the work of the Lord. I am not saying don’t take money if it is given to you along the way. It is Biblical that the church supports you. The problem is that the church isn’t very consistent. Paul was supported by the church for his journeys, up until they cut his support. However, he did not let his missionary journeys depend on financial support from the church. He used it when he had it. When it was gone, he did not return home, he kept on going.

After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them. 4 Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks.

(NIV Acts 18:1-4)

Money is not the focus here; the mission is the focus. Finishing the great commission is the focus. It is God’s commission and he is responsible for getting it done. Leave the finances to God. Don’t ever let lack of money be the reason you don’t go to the mission field. If you have it, great! If you don’t, this is where faith has to come into play. This is where God shows his disciples that all they have to do is go and he will take care of the rest.

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

(NRSV Matthew 12:46-50)

I have met many missionaries that are way too worried about their financial support. Support is simply money that comes to a missionary from the group of donors that are back home. They are behind the missionary financially. Your donors or supporters are those who give, usually every month, so you can be on the mission field. These are all the things that are commonly taught to missionaries. The more I think about this teaching, something just doesn’t add up. A missionary gets it in their heart to go across the world to a place where the people have no access to the Gospel. And then,, all the focus turns from the unreached field to the task of asking many other people, friends, family, and churches to support them. Something is not right with this scenario. Let’s see what Jesus has to say about it.

Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

(NIV Matthew 10:9-10)

The worker is worth his keep. The worker is going to get provision along the way. You have to do work to be worth your keep. So, until you are out there on the field, no work can be done. Jesus teaches that you don’t take anything and that you will get it along the way because bringing the Good News that the Messiah has come is work. This Good News is the very salvation of those without Christ. It’s worth something. Jesus sends the disciples out and tells them to go heal the sick, raise the dead, preach the message, and that they will be hated and persecuted and killed for it, but at least they won’t lack anything. This is the promise Jesus gives. I am not sure if it is conditional, depending on if you take nothing for the journey. It is possible that the more you take along, the more quickly you will be coming home. Most missionaries come home before four years on the field. You go do the dangerous, hard work of missions, and he will provide. When you are going into places where people are not Christians, your provision is likely to come from those on the receiving end of the message.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

(NRSV Matthew 10:16-20)

Go with or without your monthly missionary budget raised. You may find that you are so busy that you don’t have much time to think about your missionary support. If you lose all your support, don’t go home. Just get a job. If you get tired of beans and rice, get a job. Get a job on the mission field; don’t go home just because your supporters quit giving. If you are able to be happy and content with “your keep,” then you might not have to get a secular job or use a skill to get enough money to eat. If you start living on a level too high above the local people, you might have to get a job. Don’t go home blaming your supporters because they are unwilling to support you at your mission agency’s set level. You wanted to go to the mission field, not them. Don’t be too hard on your supporters if they don’t feel like they should give to you anymore.

The late Dr. Ralph Winter was a well-known missiologist who founded the U.S. Center for World Mission. He was quoted saying, “Being a world Christian means a change of geography.” Your supporters who stayed are not world Christians, they didn’t change their geography. They really don’t understand your vision. If you get the message of this series, you, too, will be moving out into the world where there are no Christians present. You will soon be going into the darkness to shine your light. If all Christians would just move into the unreached people groups, we might finish the great commission naturally like we should have done, to begin with.

You need to understand your supporters and meet them where they are at. Don’t bash them. You have to be loving to your supporters even if they stop supporting you. God is giving through them and if he stops giving through them, he will give through someone else or something else. If they stop giving, they must feel they have a good reason for it, so let it go and move on. But it should not come as a surprise to you if they quit giving. What else can you do? One statistic shows that 95% of all Christians will never lead anyone to Christ. So, we should not be shocked that their commitment to world missions is only 5% consistent.

I come from a twenty-thousand-member church that sent me out as their first missionary over thirty years ago. I don’t receive support from them or anyone in that church, and I know the senior pastor. I’m not bitter or resentful. I’ve simply moved on, and God has taken care of me. Those of you reading this series who stayed home shouldn’t get too offended. This series is content from the book entitled Missions to Remote Unreached People Groups, so it is not meant for those of you who stayed home. However, if those of you who stayed home start supporting a missionary to remote unreached peoples, please finish what you started. God will bless you for it. It may be the only significant thing you do to advance the kingdom of God.

An unreached people research effort called The Joshua Project states that 85% of all Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists do not know one Christian. Something is terribly wrong with the Christian body and her missionary movement. It is not complicated: too many Christians have stayed home, too many missionary candidates have stayed home, and too many missionaries have returned home. So, possibly this series is for you if you are home. If you never went, because you thought that people would never support you as a missionary, don’t let that be the reason you stay home; you can go now. No one is keeping you from going but you. In the end, you will have to give an account to God about why you didn’t go. Your pastor or your people who didn’t support you will not have to give an account to God as to why you did not go. You won’t be able to blame the lack of missionary support as your reason. as you stand before God. His son Jesus told you not to take any money with you. You can theologize about it all you want, but the teaching is simple. Not enough money is the main reason people use for not going to unreached peoples, and it is not a valid reason. The great commission does not depend on money or prayer; it depends on you.

The state of world evangelism shows us that something is being erroneously taught to our missionary candidates. I believe that much of it has to do with finances. Statistics show that people leave the mission field for three reasons: [1.] One, for lack of finances, two, for personal problems with other missionaries, and three, for lack of training. That is what the missionaries tell us. More missionaries would go if finances were simply removed from the equation. I have a theory that, if we just move finances out of the way, more missionaries will stay on the field longer.

The second reason [2.] can also be moved out of the way if missionaries go to remote unreached people groups. If missionaries would just go to remote unreached people groups, they would not have any conflict with other missionaries, because there are no other missionaries around. That only leaves the third reason, [3.] they are lacking training. I believe that the lack of training — mainly in the language-learning and translation area — is one of the biggest. I do not refer to Bible translation in the traditional sense. The modern mission movement has over-complicated Bible translation altogether. Good training on creating Bible stories and audio is sufficient. You do not need a college education in linguistics. Not having this training, especially in language learning will definitely trip you up.

Most missionaries that wash out use these [3.] common excuses, but I believe that the main excuse is lack of finances. Lack if finances is an excuse, not a real reason. One of the other common excuse, lack of training, is not so much an excuse if it is the lack of training in language learning and reproducing scriptures in the language. This is a real reason to wash out. Translation of the Gospels is vital, even if you give them to the people in stories and audio form. If you can translate the majority of the New Testament and important parts of the Old Testament and then give them to the people in story form, or audio form, this is ideal. Remember learning the language and culture enough to translate important books of the Bible will require a lifetime commitment.

Not only have Christians over-complicated the Bible translation effort. Modern missionary sending structures have also created models that are also too complicated. Imagine that you have been taught that you need thousands of dollars in missionary support per month and you have to continually work your people back home to keep that amount of money coming in. Then you find yourself in the heat and poverty on the other side of the world with half of what your agency said you would need. You also have to go through tons of paperwork to keep your visas current. Then you have to plan your return home with your entire family every four years, and the list goes on and on. You should be perceiving things as being very hard because they are hard according to these models. If you go to the mission field under these conditions, and with half of your support, it will be hard. Let them go.

All those conditions take time, money, and lots of energy. I don’t know how modern missionaries have time to do their mission work with all the things on their long to-do lists. It would be much easier to tell your people back home that you are returning because you couldn’t get enough monthly support; it would be embarrassing to say that it was just too complicated to be a missionary. Either way, missionary work is hard but doesn’t have to be so complicated. If you lack training, solve the problem and get more training. Those who really lack training probably lack it in the language-learning area. I will also go into detail in the article entitled, “Missionaries Learn the Language.” When you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, you won’t be able to use any excuses. God cares not about your monthly support level or how hard the work is or how hard it is to live in another country and learn another language. If the disciples or the first church would have returned for any of these reasons, the first Christian movement quite possibly could have died.

I was at a graduation ceremony for a missionary training course, talking to the head of the mission’s department. He told me that they have a couple that wants to go to Saudi Arabia, but neither the mission nor the couple can afford it. I moved a saltshaker on the table in between a napkin and a glass. I said, “The glass is the missionary couple, and the napkin is the mission field. The saltshaker is their financial support. What if we just move the saltshaker off the table taking it totally out of the way?” I found out later that he continued to think about what I had said for weeks and now he is seriously thinking of taking the financial requirements off all their missionary couples.

Move finances out of the way. Take the salt shaker off the table and move the glass onto the napkin. Go and do what God is telling you to do and you will see that he will not let you go hungry. He may not provide all the things you think you need to be a missionary, but he will provide your keep.