As the typical Sunday morning service comes, you take a seat in the usual place awaiting the singing and a sermon. As you anticipate the events ahead, your eyes catch the bulletin or PowerPoint announcements. On one corner of the page or on a passing slide, an update from one of the church’s missionaries comes to your attention. If you remember the name of the missionary, you may quickly take note of their prayer requests and think about their side of the world, but your interaction normally doesn’t go beyond this.
The gospel spreading to make disciples of all nations is at the heart of Jesus’ last words to His disciples (Matthew 28:16-20), but it is often at the fringe of local church life. One remedy may be expanding the church’s mission budget to include a larger percentage of the whole or stimulating giving to the church in general.
While this may be needed, another practical catalyst to missions funding and missions interest may be making those missionaries already supported within the budget into greater partners. Making missionaries into closer ministry partners means developing these aspects of the relationship:
- Financial relationship
- Communicative relationship
- Prayer relationship
Financial Relationship of the Typical Model
If you want to stimulate a heart for missions at a time when missions giving is declining in your personal giving and your church (this doesn’t just have to be pastors!), you may find yourself contemplating personally or in a conversation about the idea of supporting a new missionary or organization. This is a great option, but one that should be reached after careful evaluation of current partnerships.
One popular model of missionary support has a myriad of missionaries supported by the church each receiving an equal small percentage of the missions budget with a periodic check sent to them. These same missionaries are most likely supported by a myriad of churches that each send them a similar check.
Before going to the field, these missionaries may have spent significant time traveling to each of these churches in order to raise support. Each church that helps them represents a small amount of their budget quota being met, therefore the missionary must make sales pitches to churches for months and even years before gaining enough support to make it to the field and sustain a family and church ministry there.
Financial Relationship of the Partnership Model
The alternative to these scattered financial relationships with many missionaries is the possibility of narrowing your focus to a just a few missionaries that each receive a significant amount of the budget. Adding another name to a list of twenty may stimulate missions interest in the church some, but try giving a third of the entire missions budget to supporting one of three missionaries. Givers to missions in your church will start asking questions about each one and want to know who they are. This is exactly what this model seeks to accomplish in a church/missionary relationship!
Though never demanding financial support (1 Corinthians 9:11-18, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, 9:1-15), Paul explained that he wished to be encouraged and supported by the church in Rome on his way as a missionary to Spain (Romans 1:8-15, 15:22-33).
Actual numbers in an example may give a bad impression since some churches deal with giving in thousands and others in tens of thousands based on size of the congregation alone. Personal budgets may have similar disparities. Whatever the size of the church or wallet, the principle is that missions should be as much of a partnership as possible for the sake of the gospel (Philippians 4:10-18).
From the missionaries’ perspective with the typical model, they only have time to send out a standardized, periodic update email to all of the churches who offer support. This is what you see in the church PowerPoint, and what many other churches see in theirs. But this communication only scratches the surface of the ministry needs facing the missionary.
They may have to keep a political tone or omit real ministry needs in an update message to make sure that support keeps coming and satisfy a large number of diverse churches. They may think of their letter as a formality or bargain for receiving the check contribution in the mail. Whatever the case, they are not pouring their heart out to their supporting church, letting them share in the burdens and victories of the advancing gospel of God’s love (Philippians 1:3-14).
The overall tone of this proposal could sound harsh. Evaluating partnerships as suggested could result in cutting support for some missionaries, and how could that help? However, the focus of any church/missionary decision must be on developing closer relationships with the right partners. This closeness maximizes in prayer. This benefits missionaries in the long run as well who would rather concern themselves with finding a few financially-faithful, praying supporting churches rather than twenty halfway committed ones.
If you support an organization, make sure you know the organization as well as possible and evaluate where you stand with them. If you support missionaries, make your relationship go a little deeper.
If you don’t know the basics about the missionaries your church supports, it may be a good idea to find out and see how you can be actively engaging in the kind of spiritual relationship Paul had with his supporting churches (Ephesians 6:18-22, Philippians 4:1-3). A missionary will want to tell everything to a band of faithful supporters who he knows is persevering in prayer.
McKinley Hildebrand is a representative of a company that specializes in all things credit cards and a theology student currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree. He has a passion for church planting and seeing wise spending among fellow Christians. Follow him on Twitter: @MacHildebrand.