Missions to Remote Unreached People Groups Is Work – part 11

Matthew 21:28-31 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered. (NIV)

When it comes down to it, missionaries do the work the rest don’t want to do. There is a job to be done, and someone has to do it. Missionaries do that job, even if they don’t want to. It is called missionary work for a reason. If you look up the words in the dictionary for fun and work, they are on two different pages and have two different definitions. Many times, I have thought to myself, “I am not going to do that,” or, “I will never do that again,” but somehow, I keep doing it. Somehow, I keep going. I love Jesus for what he said in Matthew chapter twenty-one because I am that first son. There is a job to be done, and I know that no one else is going to do it. I may not want to do it, but I know that, if I don’t, it will not get done. Here is a picture of today’s mission field; there is all this work to be done, and someone has to do it. There are all these mission fields (remote unreached people groups) that still do not have even one missionary. Who is going to do it? Who is going to get the job done? There are not a lot of first sons out there. The modern mission movement keeps preaching erroneously that we are getting close to finishing the task, and then, after doing additional research, we find more unreached people groups and unclassified languages.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

(NIV Genesis 3:17-19)

Mission work to remote unreached people groups is painful toil. Jesus often referred to work in his teaching. If you don’t like hard work, you are not exempt from being a missionary. You just need to ask the father to give you a work ethic. In the mission movement, we need a work ethic that gets the job done thoroughly. Too many mission fields have the job done up to a certain point and no more. Many mission fields are abandoned and left half done. There is a new term someone invented: abandoned people groups. The term should mean: an unreached people group where a missionary started to do something and then decided it was too much work and went back home. Many missionaries went and returned home because they just didn’t want to work that hard. The statistics tell us that missionaries come home for many other reasons, but I suspect that for many of them it was just too difficult. They will blame it on lack of finances, but they could have toughed it out with less. Mission work to remote unreached peoples requires another language be learned, scriptures translated, and many unsaved people converted and discipled. I can understand if they had problems with language learning. That requires training, but the missionaries came home because it was hard work. Adding children adds more work. Babies came along, and we cannot allow babies to suffer. Many missionaries give up because their children don’t have enough of one thing or another. It is work to help your children adjust to the harsh lifestyle.

Not only is missionary work hard, there is not a lot of glory in it either. The little glory that you get goes to God, so, if you are a person that needs constant encouragement from those back home telling you what a great job you are doing, you need to get over that. They will tell you how great you are for about two years. Many years ago, one of my missionary pastors told me something and I will never forget it. He said, “Brother, if you can do anything else and sleep at night with a clear conscience before the Lord, don’t become a missionary.” I have thought about that many times and wondered why he would say a thing like that to me? I guess I wasn’t going to be able to have a clear conscience. Missionary work is constantly battling against the situation of being in another worldview and against other people’s attitudes. Missionary work is pure spiritual warfare that never lets down. Missionary work is also the adjustments your children have to make if you have them. I would almost recommend that if you want to have children and be missionaries, choose between the two things. If you want to take children to the mission field you have to be willing to see them suffer, and if you can handle seeing your children suffer, you will be fine. Even if you stay home, you will have to watch your children suffer to some degree; it is a part of life. Having children on the mission field is double the work. Missionary work is a battle, and doing battle is work. Waging war in Satan-dominated mission fields is painful toil and suffering. After the honeymoon phase of being a missionary is over, you get down to hard missionary work. What is the missionary honeymoon phase? You are all excited about finally getting to the mission field and being in another culture and learning another language, and all that comes with experiencing a new thing. Then that newness wears away, and you are left with the normal, everyday job of being a missionary. As time goes on, you realize that there is no prestige, position, power, pleasure, promotion, or a pat on the back. Missionary work will hurt your pride, your pocketbook, and your personal ambitions. The nine P’s disappear fairly rapidly. You will be saving souls that no one else cares about but you, and this, too, is hard work. You will also have to face the discouragement that comes with spiritual warfare. You will have to pick yourself up again and again. On top of all this, add the antagonizing unbeliever’s comments and thwarts against what you are doing. All of this takes effort and determination, which is work.

In my opinion, missionary work is quite simply the hardest thing anyone could attempt to do. Think of the hardest thing that you could possibly do in the secular world, and it would be easier. Why would it be easier? Because there is absolutely no spiritual warfare against you. The Devil could care less that you want to do something difficult in the secular, nonspiritual world. Actually, he couldn’t be happier. You would be one less person that he has to worry about. God had to send his son to do this work because he was the only one who could accomplish something so difficult. The missionary should be able to do all things through Christ’s strength, however, many have been taught that they still need many things to be comfortable on the mission field. All missionaries are aware of his purpose, and he lives in us through his Holy Spirit, so you can do it, even if you are the laziest person you know. You can get out of your comfort zone and do it. You will be doing it in his strength and motivation. If all this wasn’t enough, there is also the added fact that mission work requires suffering, which in its own right takes work in order to endure. Suffering is the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship. This sounds like work to me. Someone has to suffer for the Gospel to enter into new territory. It has to be done, so add it to the list of things to do. You have to live in a country and culture foreign to your own, speaking a language that is not yours, eating food you don’t like, and loving people who are completely lost and who might not even care that you love them. Suffering comes to the missionary on so many levels, but, basically, it boils down to more hard work.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

(NIV 2 Corinthians 4:6-10)

Missionaries don’t get paid salaries. Real missionary work in remote unreached peoples will take people who work, sacrifice, suffer, and sow. However, many missionaries feel that they should get paid to do the work. Missionary work is done solely as a conviction to the written word of God. It is not a paid position in a corporate office complex. There are few missionaries who do get paid salaries. Some people think that because they are sent by a big church to a foreign land to suffer that they should have a salary. Sixty thousand dollars a year is the current average that modern western missionaries are supposed to raise. If they don’t raise it, they have no intention of suffering that much. This idea that missionaries get paid creates an attitude that they should only receive and not give. This idea will slowly degrade their conviction to do mission work long-term. On the contrary, you, the missionary, should be the biggest sower around you. You should be sowing finances into the lives of others and into good soil. If you happen to be one of the few missionaries who gets paid, live as though you didn’t, and sow even more.

Missionary work is a lifelong commitment. If you can’t work at something, or the same thing for a very long time, ask God to help you. I believe that even a little mission work among remote unreached peoples is better than none, but I don’t want to lose the point here. It will be better for the unreached people group that you don’t go at all if you are not willing to give your whole life to them. It requires a time commitment of life. Are you the person who says, “I will not,” and then goes and does what needed to be done? If not, seek God for a change in yourself, look around you and see the thing that needs to be done and do it.

Missionary work is a spiritual act; our weapons are not material, they are spiritual. Missionary work is winning and discipling souls in a constant battle between good and evil. Mission work is taking life-giving knowledge to the dead in spirit. The Gospel message has spiritual power to regenerate the deadened soul to new life. The New Testament is full of our moral obligation to do something about the lost condition of our fellow man; how could we ever lower ourselves to think of it as a paid position? Our current missionary mechanism is more and more focused on the cost-efficiency of world missions. It is simply not cost-effective to send a missionary couple to the other side of the world. Meetings have to be held to warrant this kind of expenditure from the budget. When the sending structures talk this way, our missionaries start to think of themselves as paid employees that need to produce results or face downsizing.

Remote unreached people groups require a lifelong commitment. This concept is similar to that of taking nothing for the journey. If you take that one thing, in your heart and mind, it will become so over-exaggerated that you could disqualify yourself or hinder yourself from getting out into the remote unreached people group. Similarly, with the concept of a lifetime commitment, if you have any intention of returning home or retiring to do something else when you are finished, you don’t have the required attitude to be a missionary. You need a life-commitment attitude. It is like you are burning your bridge to retirement. Missionaries do not need retirement. This book deals with many issues that hinder us from finishing the great commission, lack of a life commitment is one more. People are not committed for life. If you see solid third-generation discipleship happening in your unreached people group, move on to the next or better yet, train cross-cultural missionaries in your people group to go to other people groups. This will take your entire life. Anything less is a halfhearted commitment. Jesus went all the way to the cross for us. Then he went to heaven and still guides us through the Holy Spirit. He lives forever and does not stop. He is our role model. Plan on dying on your mission field. Finish what you start.

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

(NIV 2 Corinthians 4:15-18)

Several years ago, I worked with a youth movement and we came up with a new term: “life-term missions.” There are short-term missionaries and long-term missionaries, but we should go as life-term missionaries.

Missionaries Do Secular Work to Support Their Ministry

If you want to go as a missionary, you might have to take the term, “missionary work,” literally. The term being used currently referring to those who do secular work on the field is “self-sustaining missions.” In other words, these are missionaries who can sustain their ministries even when people don’t support them anymore. It’s nothing new. It used to be called, “tent-making,” or, “self-supporting missions.” The idea is that missionaries actually work for a living. I have been doing it the entire time I’ve been on the mission field. Since I work, I don’t have all day to do ministry. But do the math. There are 1,825 days in a five-year period. If I did mission work the traditional way — by raising support from people and churches — I would not only have to go home for one full year after four on the field, I would have to spend money to get home and to live at home for that year, which would be more expensive than staying on my mission field. I work two full days out of every seven, but I don’t ever have to go home. Also, I don’t have to work all day long for a boss in an office. I work when I want to work, unless I have a project that has a deadline, which is rare. I picked a job that would allow me to dictate my own hours. OK, I have to work a secular job, but I have found an occupation that does not require me to work every day. My secular job is also my business, so I run my own company. I also don’t have to keep supporters up to date every month, which also is time-consuming. If you add it all up, both methods of supporting yourself require time spent either on or off the field.

If you are a fully supported missionary, time and work are required to keep those finances coming in. You also lose much time starting up and shutting down logistics when you have to go home to raise support on furlough. It costs time and money. It is much more efficient to work a secular job on the mission field. It also gets me into the community, working with people. It will teach you culture, language, and worldview, and local people see you more like a normal person. Many unsaved people on the mission field don’t know what to think of full-time missionaries. Now, when I don’t need money, I don’t work. I am not against full-time missionary work. I also have plans to generate income in other ways so that I don’t have to work those two days out of seven.

It is important to know that Paul made tents. He chose a job that was not complicated and that could be done with few materials found almost everywhere. He did not have to carry materials from one place to another. His business had a low startup cost and did not have to have office space. So, if you are going to choose something to work at, keep it simple. Make something that everyone needs, something that requires little tools to carry around. Choose something that does not have costly logistics or require a major investment. It may be beneath your education or even your dignity to work, but it will keep food in your stomach. You are going to remote unreached peoples, and most likely there will not be electricity, Internet, or cell phone service. Learn skills that you can use in those situations.

Missionaries Who Work Focus On The Mission,
Not Business

There are many missionaries who want to go to the mission field with a great business idea. The focus is not on the lost souls in the people group, it is on business. Their idea will basically make them wealthy. This is not a correct reason to go to the mission field. Business-as-mission is not the great commission. We are to be making disciples, reaching unreached peoples, and translating scriptures. The illusion that you will grow a business to get enough time to do more ministry is usually a trick of the enemy to keep you distracted. I have fallen into this trap myself. If a business can get you time to do more ministry, it will be rare. If you think that more money will allow you to do more ministry, you do not understand Jesus’s teaching. Money will not resolve problems, nor will it complete the great commission. Business-as-mission is not intended to put food in your stomach, it is intended to grow a business.

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.

(NIV Proverbs 23:4)

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.

(NIV 1 Timothy 6:9)

Do you want to have wisdom and restraint or fall into ruin and destruction? The United States has made and spent more money on missions than all the other nations in the world combined, so why are half the people groups in the world still unreached? Evidently, it’s because money does not allow us to do more ministry. If you don’t understand this, go back and read chapter three again. There are some rare exceptions, but this idea that money is the answer to world evangelism is false, and it is out of control. Sadly, many ministries have fallen into the sin of making more money and pocketing more than they spend on the missionary endeavor. This “business-as-mission,” model has a certain attitude to it that is not the spirit of Jesus Christ, nor is it consistent with the lives and conduct of Christ and the disciples. Business-as-mission is not taught in the New Testament. They say that history only remembers what you did last. In the end, Jesus and the disciples died giving their lives to spread the Gospel, not spreading their results-based management business plan. If you want to go live in India and start a business to support missionaries, do it, but don’t plan on reaching an unreached people group. Plan on starting a business in India. If you want to go to India to reach a people group, plan on doing a little work only if needed. If you have to start a company to be able to do a little work, do so, but be very careful that you don’t end up focusing more on your company than the mission. It’s a heart matter.

I started a company on the mission field many years ago. I have gradually changed the way I run it so that it requires the least amount of time possible. Eventually, I will only have to spend half a day per week to keep it going. Almost everything is outsourced, and, eventually, it will produce residual income. I will be transparent and say that I wish that I had not had to spend those years building a business. I did not have other churches to fund our ministry just as the apostle Paul didn’t. After 911, we lost all supporting churches and only a handful of close friends and family still support us. Nevertheless, we have survived. We had to work secular jobs and doing so has taught us many things. This is a practical model for all the future missionaries we send. I could have easily gone back home when my support ran out.

Setting up national missionaries with businesses to make money to pay their way into unreached people groups has not worked very well. Do you see anywhere in New Testament teaching that we are to pay local workers to do our evangelism or discipleship? Many have tried this “business model,” and we are not reaching many unreached people groups this way. We are creating national businessmen, not pastors and evangelists. We are doing a lot more business on the mission field than missions. There are many more businessmen posing as missionaries than ever before. They get support and startup funding to take a business to a market that needs it in some far-off place. I recently heard a business-as-mission person talking about a $250,000 dollar startup. How much money does he need to live every month? Business is not missionary work. Missionaries have to work sometimes to further the mission; businessmen work to further their business. Make a clear distinction between the two before you go to the mission field. Are you more excited about the business or the people group? This should be an indication to show where your heart is. There are many verses in the New Testament that tell us not to make money off preaching the Gospel. If you do business, do business and be ethical. Sell your tents at a fair price.

Missionary work is not business education. The idea that we need to raise up the poor uneducated masses out of their economic despair so that they have the ability to understand the Gospel is erroneous. We can come in and give the people a business so that they can feed themselves, or we can come in and give people Jesus. Jesus ministered to the poor and hungry; he fed them on occasion, but not as a daily practice. It is interesting to me that we do not hear how the disciples got much of their food or money. I believe that little by little people gave them what they needed along the way. Thousands and thousands of house churches are supposedly starting up every year with this business model: business funds national workers to start house churches. I have serious doubts about much of this. I hope there are exceptions, but I haven’t heard of any. What I find is that this model gradually becomes more about the money. See John chapter 10:12-15 about the hired hands. The more money you make, the more focus is on money. The whole idea was more about the money to begin with. The mission disappears in all the activity, accounting, logistics, and expansion. I don’t see many business-as-mission models based on collaborative consumption. The reason is that business-as-mission is really about the money. The purpose of money is to create an unhealthy desire for more of it, thus pulling you into the trap of diminishing returns. This is why money was invented. Money and missions mix like oil and water. I imagine that the money came in and went out of the disciples’ accounting quite frequently and that they never had excess, but they never lacked, either.

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.

(NIV Matthew 11:4-5)

The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Consequently, when you introduce money into the ministry by mixing business with mission or paying missionaries or ministers a salary, you place the temptation to love money in front of them. I have experienced many problems on the mission field, many of which I have created. And I’ve had long conversations with people who know about these methods. I am not alone in my view. The current mission mechanism creates a money-based mentality in the missionary candidate. This mentality passes on to the ministers that the missionary disciples. When you teach about unreached people groups, money should never be mentioned. If you want to get involved in mission work, go and do the work. If you need money, make enough to keep doing missionary work. Let the businessmen do business. If you are a businessman interested in business more than the mission, have some integrity and say so. Don’t go around calling yourself a missionary. Many unbelieving businessmen live and do business in foreign countries. They also suffer the same hardships as field missionaries; they just do it for their business and to make money.

Keep trying to find a way to get food in your stomach and clothes on your back without getting tied down to secular work. Have some faith in God your provider. A lot of people are preaching that starting a secular business will help them get into unreached people groups. Starting and running a business is a full-time job. You will not have time to learn the language, disciple people, and translate scriptures if you have a full-time job. I am sure that Paul could have done many other things that would have made much more money. But he chose something simple so that he could keep doing the great commission and so that he could remain mobile. Do the same as Paul.