Where Do Mission Agencies Get Monthly Support Levels? – part 7

A missionary couple I know complained that they did not have enough missionary support. I was talking to the young man one day and had some words of wisdom for him. I said, “Brother, you say God is responsible to provide for you. So the amount of support you had come in this month is what God gave you. It is what you have in your hands today, and it is enough.” I recently got a prayer letter from them saying that their mission was requiring $60,000 U.S. dollars a year for them to go again to the mission field. I never would have dreamed that missionaries would have to ask supporters to give them so much monthly support. It adds up to $5,000 a month.

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

(NIV Luke 9:58)

Here is an important concept: What you have in your hands today is enough, and it is what God has provided. Jesus’s disciples didn’t have much when he sent them. If they had a bag, money, or extra clothing, they had to leave it behind before Jesus sent them out. Once you are sent out, what you have in your hands right now is God’s provision for you today, and, right now, today, it is enough. The amount of monthly support you have now is enough. Go now with what you have now. The monthly support you get right now is enough. What you have coming in every month right now is what God has provided, so it should be enough, right? Remember that pledges are just promises to give, it is not money in the bank.

Supporters forget you. They have babies, they need new cars, and they buy new houses, and so on. If you have the conviction that God has told you in his word to go, he probably does not mean two years from now when you have all your monthly support raised. He means now! What you have pledged or in your bank account is what you go with. You go with or without what you think you need. You go with or without what your mission agency thinks you need. What you have is what you have. What you have has absolutely no bearing on whether you go or not. Going is all about God. God is in the going. His provision comes later, as you go along; it is not the other way around. People will think that this is odd, but what is odd is that, when people buy a house, they usually don’t pay cash. When a young person goes to the university, they don’t pay it all upfront. They believe that the finances will come in somehow. They take out loans based on what they think will come in. It is a risk people take in good faith that it will somehow happen. But when people go to the mission field, they want everything upfront. They don’t budge until they have most of it pledged and the startup fund in the bank. The problem with being sent by a mission agency is that they set the level of finances you are required to raise. And don’t forget you will have to keep this level raised month after month, year after year. Normally, you have to reach 70% of this level before you can go. Where do mission agencies get these monthly support levels, anyway? Do they pull them out of a hat? Sometimes, one would think so. I would like to know who arrived at the figure $60,000 a year for my friends.

You hear it said, “Where God guides, God provides,” but as soon as you have raised most of your support, God may not guide you to live at the standard of living you had in your country of origin. For many years, I was with a mission agency that required much more than we needed on the field. We never got to their required monthly support level and eventually, they cut us from the mission. The modern missionary sending agency has set your monthly support to the point that, if you wait until you have the required amount of monthly support raised, you might not ever get it and therefore never go. If you go with less than 50% of your commitments and they don’t come in, you will eventually go home, because you have allowed a missionary agency to dictate what you need on the mission field.

If you go with what you have, trusting God and accepting that it is enough, you can stay on the mission field without the worry or bother with the continual generation of your monthly support. Some missionaries even feel that God didn’t want them on the field because their support did not ever come in. This is a lie from the enemy to keep people from being missionaries. God always provides; it just might not be what our mission agency says we need. It might not be what we think we need or what we want. Go with what you have and live on what you have. Don’t worry about your monthly support level. I don’t think God is worried about your monthly support level. If you are constantly thinking about how much support you do not have, it will only make you upset with all those people back home who are living it up. You will hear about them living as though you did not even exist. If you focus on them, you are not focusing on the mission. They are buying new houses, having more babies, and cuddled up on the couch in front of their sixty-inch plasma television snacking on all the goodies you don’t have access to. Most of them will not care that you do not have your set monthly support level. They pledged what they pledged and no more. They have no sense of urgency for the great commission to get finished. It may be that Jesus told his disciples to take nothing for the journey so that they would not have to look back. You can go to the mission field and never have to look back.

It will seem at times that your supporters and family are rubbing it in that they live back home with all the luxuries. This is why I personally don’t pay attention to the people in my country of origin. You can’t let it get to you. If they aren’t giving to you, it is between them and God. They are not the ones on the mission field. They stayed home to work jobs and live the good life. You decided to leave it all and obey God. No matter what your circumstances are, keep your eyes on Jesus. If you do, eventually you won’t care about any it anymore. Your supporters’ lifestyles will become insignificant and living on the mission field will become normal to you.

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” 28 Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!” 29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

(NIV Luke 18:27-30)

Jesus not only knows what he is doing, but he also knows how to reward his faithful. His reward is not proportionate to the sacrifice; it is far beyond it. Re-read the verse. The disciples say here that they have left everything to follow him. Take nothing for the journey is not hyperbole. Peter is not exaggerating when he says everything. So, what do you want, a seventy-five-inch plasma television in a $200,000 dollar home down here, or many times more in the age to come? If you could walk in heaven for one minute, all the material things in this world would look pretty ridiculous in comparison to his rewards.

How are the missionary monthly support levels set, anyway? Most mission agencies are based in the country of origin. Sometimes, they are staffed with people who have never been on the mission field, and, therefore, they want their missionaries to have everything they do. I guess it is their way of somehow comforting their missionaries on the field. They might think you deserve it; after all, you are leaving the posh homeland, but you the missionary might not get to live the lifestyle you once lived in your country of origin. You might not have everything you want on the mission field. You might not be able to put your children in the best schools. You might not get to live like other missionaries do. If you find yourself living similarly to when you were at home, you probably have not gone to remote unreached people groups.

But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

(NIV 1 Timothy – 6:8)

It might be that your mission sending structure is asking you to raise more than you need so that you end up with at least half. They may know that you can get by on half, or it might be that they have placed your monthly support level by the economy of the country you will be going to. They get these levels a number of ways. I could never understand how my mission figured that my wife and I needed $4,500 U.S. dollars per month to live in Mexico. I never made that much working a secular job in the U.S. My mission set the same level for all 250 missionaries around the world. Everyone had to raise that amount no matter where they lived. It might be that your agency really believes that you need to live nearly the same lifestyle on the mission field as you did in your country of origin. Many missionaries do; however, the higher you live above the people group to whom you are ministering, the harder it is to disciple them. You should know that the more money you have, the more stuff you will rent, buy and depend on. Also, the more things you have, the harder it is to go far enough to be in a remote unreached people group. The Mormon Church knows a little about missionary sending. Their missionary service used to be obligatory. If you are a good Mormon, you put in your two years, and you are sent with very little. They have learned to travel light. If the evangelical church had half of the dedication and common sense the Mormon Church has, we would have discipled the nations by now. The Mormons are becoming more serious about language learning and translating the Book of Mormon. I’m sure they also have a plan to reach all the ethnic groups and languages by now.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

(NIV Hebrews 11:1)

Faith is faith. Being a missionary means not having everything you think you need. God knows how much you need. Have faith in him. Commitments or pledges are not real yet. They are promises to give money that has not been given. They come supposedly after you arrive on the field. Here is a problem. First, we build up in the missionaries’ minds that they will have it pretty good on the mission field with $4,500 dollars per month. Then we build up the expectation that they will get all those pledges. The missionaries go, and the pledges don’t come in. The missionaries get depressed because they have to live on what they now think is less; they get discouraged and go home. They were set up to fail. What is worse is that the missionaries feel that people back home don’t care enough, and now the lies of the enemy enter in, saying God did not provide because it wasn’t his will that they go. They return home to try to raise more support and get trapped back into the same system, set up to fail again. Once back in the country of origin, many times, the missionaries find it harder to raise support and harder to break free of the temptation to live the materialistic delusion. Thousands of missionaries return home with full intentions of returning to the field and just can’t seem to get back. They wash out for lack of faith and a faulty sending agency protocol. We all know that individuals and churches are not giving to missions as they did in the past. In light of this, I cannot understand how agencies continue to have high support requirements.

Giving has decreased to missions overall, but does this mean that we are supposed to stop going to the mission field? Are we supposed to forget our convictions just because the Church is now uncommitted or disinterested? We hear candidates saying that they are not going to attempt to go to the field because the church will not help them. The solution is simple: you will live on whatever God provides this month. You can live on it, and you will have to live on it. If you cannot live on it, get a job on the field. Get out there and do some work. It was good enough for the apostle Paul. When he lost his support, he went to work. You can do it as well. You may be overqualified for the job you find to do out in remote unreached people groups, but it should not embarrass you at all that you don’t have people backing you and believing in you enough to have 100% of your set monthly support. If you are a humble servant of Jesus Christ, it will not be below your dignity to do a little work on the mission field.

If you wait on your friends back home to catch your vision, you may be waiting forever. It’s your vision, not theirs. Don’t get too upset if they don’t get behind you. Read the New Testament again, this time from a complete motivation to go to the mission field. I want to say this again in a different way: God did not give the vision to your friends; he gave it to you. Your friends are irrelevant. The focus is not on them. The entire church should be intently involved in the mission. Nevertheless, the support you have in your hands is what you have. It is what it is. If you don’t go because you think it is too little, what are you telling God? Are you telling him that he doesn’t know what he is doing? I once said to God that I would not go to the mission field until I had enough money for my missionary visa (which I did not need, and I will explain this in detail later). I thought that my monthly support would increase in order to pay for my visa. It did not increase, but I did find a way to make that money. God provided through work.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 6 So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

(NIV Hebrews 15:5-6)

The Lord needs committed disciples to go to remote unreached people groups, learning their language and getting the scripture translated into that language. Money is such a minuscule issue in this endeavor. If you get into what God is doing, you will not have time to worry about money and donors. The enemy always wants you to be thinking of money and your supporters and not the unreached people group you were called to disciple. This rut keeps your mind on things back home. It keeps you in a place where you are having to constantly be in communication with the people back home. It also requires you to live in a place that has enough technology so that you can keep up with all these communications.

A couple of years ago a friend gave me a book on missionary support-raising. On the cover is a cartoon character of a man with a sad face holding a ball and chain in his hand attached to his leg. This is pretty much the estimation of most missionaries about support-raising. We would all rather be doing what the Lord called us to do instead of raising support. Money can’t buy happiness, and it sure can’t buy world evangelism. It hasn’t been bought it yet. It is quite possible that it has hindered it. It is not a New Testament prerequisite, so just move the whole support-raising issue off the table. Free yourself up of it and go do missions. A materialistic society thinks that money solves all our problems. Satan has slowly and carefully deceived the mission effort into believing that we need to take many things for the journey. I was recently in a remote unreached people group with a veteran missionary, and he said that bringing finances onto the mission field makes it almost impossible to turn the work over to indigenous leadership. When missionaries come in with money, the local Christians don’t ever want to see the missionaries go. The indigenous leadership will even pretend to be immature in order to keep the missionary on the field, because, when the missionary goes, the money goes with him. Money also brings problems into the local church, because it creates an unhealthy desire for more money. Local believers become more concerned with the church building and all the equipment and gear needed to have church services than they are with discipleship. They need money to buy the latest supplement for their kit to grow a mega-church movement. They need all the latest church growth books translated so that they can become twice the sons of hell that we are. They actually believe that because the Western missionary has money, God is somehow behind him more.

The Global South, or the emerging missionary movement, will never send missionaries having all their finances pledged. They are unknowingly modeling to the Global North the way missions should be done. Most Global South missionaries have little or no monthly support. That is the New Testament model, like it or not. I live in the Global South and have interviewed hundreds of missionaries and candidates. The missionaries in India, Africa, Indonesia, and Latin America do not have sufficient monthly support by the Global North’s standards, but then again, they don’t need it. None of us need it. The Global North really doesn’t believe that it can be done without money and this is their problem. They have elevated their theology and missiology above Christ’s teachings. They think they are smarter than Jesus. It’s called a God complex. In this case, it is a God complex about mission work. They don’t make a move without a business plan. I have interviewed several people about what they think Luke 9:3 means. It means what it means. Global North missionaries have taught the Global South that money is very important, and this has hindered the expansion of the Gospel into the remote unreached areas and peoples. Had the Global South just gone and made disciples instead of wasting all that time trying to get money like they were taught, we would not be so far behind today.

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered.

(NIV Luke 22:35)

There are exceptions of Global North missionaries on the field living by faith and on very little. God bless you! Many missionaries reading this book are living month to month by faith. You went with what you had, not waiting until all your finances were in order. Be encouraged in the Lord.