I have had the privilege of being friends with various missionaries over the years, and they helped changed the way I think about missions. I have always been willing to “Go” on the mission field. There is nowhere I’m unwilling to go; God has simply kept my calling as a local pastor. So until God leads me otherwise, I’ll keep supporting missionaries as best I know how. So here’s this pastor’s philosophy of missions.
1) Yearly Missions Conferences
Keeping missions and missionaries before the local church is vitally important. Anyone who sits down and actually watches Star Wars – likes Star Wars. The same thing happens in a missions conference. Everyone likes it when the missionaries share their “war stories.” Growing up in church, missions conference week was the most interesting thing that ever happened at church. I want my church constantly exposed to missions and what God is doing around the world.
2) Support Individual Missionaries
I think mission organizations do a lot of great things, but I personally like supporting individual missionaries. Over the years, I’ve prayed for missionaries who were kidnapped and whose kids had run away. I’ve praised God over financial blessings and over souls saved. I’ve given money to print youth group materials and build radio towers. If I got some mass email about how some random missionary is in need of something, I’m just going to be honest with you, it doesn’t bring me to action. I know that might make me heartless, but it’s the truth. However, if John, Mark, Gerald, Mike, or Andy the Missionary calls me in need of something, I am guaranteed to act in some way. Even just something as simple as seeing a picture can bring a flood of emotions when I know the missionary in the picture. I feel a part of their ministry.
3) Give Missionaries a Cost of Living Increase
I had a missionary buddy of mine share a story with me that a church had started supporting his dad in 1973 for $250 a month. When his dad retired, the church lovingly offered to start supporting him for the same amount. That church has faithfully given that $250 per month for over 40 years. My first thought was what a great testimony of a missional giving church. So many churches have cut their missions budgets over the years, but not them. They’re a good example, right? But then in a moment of honesty, the missionary opened my eyes. That church essentially gave he and his dad a pay cut every single year. What?!? $250 in 1973 was a nice little chunk of change. Heck, you could buy a new car for around $3,000. In 2015, $250 per month wouldn’t even cover your groceries. If that church gave just a 1% cost of living increase to their giving each year, it would help cut-down on that shortfall. When you don’t do that cost of living increase, it’s essentially a yearly pay cut.
4) Increase the Church’s Missions Budget
How much should a church give to missions? 10%? 33%? 50%? 100%? I could take various Scriptures out of context and defend any of those above percentages. Obviously the Bible doesn’t give a clear answer. Acts 11 shares that the Christians at the church of Antioch gave in “proportion that they had means.” If I took all the Born-Again Believers around the world, I wonder what percentage of the “wealth” would belong to American Christians. I have no idea, but I actually think it’s a massive percentage. What I want to do at my church is to increase the missions budget by 1% of the total budget each year. (It makes it easier when you give your missionaries a 1% increase.) So I guess in a couple years we’ll be at 33%. Then in a couple decades we’ll be at 50%. I don’t know when we’ll stop. My church and I will just keep praying year after year if God wants us to increase the missions budget. I think it would be cool if the church in the next century hit 100% missions giving. What would that look like? All you mathematicians out there will try to nerdily tell me that it would be impossible. Well, I’m thankful that I serve a God who doesn’t like math (see the 5 loaves of bread feeding the 5,000 people.) Remember though, the church only has one means to increase their giving – more people, giving more. If you think it’s a good idea to increase your church’s missions budget, take however much you give to your church and increase it by 1% and give that specifically to missions. Do that year by year. Your overall giving will increase and I bet you will see God do some awesome stuff in the process.
5) Support Missionaries “Birthed” Out of Your Church
Raising support is a challenging process. It’s way more expensive than the average church-goer realizes. There’s an entire family’s salary, health insurance, ministry expenses, travel costs, facility rentals, and so much more. Just think of operating an entire church in another country. That’s what many missionaries are doing. Here’s where the rubber hits the road, if God raises up one of the kids, or teenagers, or leaders in your church, does God want you to support them? They heard your pastors preaching and your small groups leader’s Bible studies, are they your responsibility when they actually “buy into” what they are taught? I know several churches who give their “homegrown” missionaries for 50% of their support need. That sounds right to me. There’s no doubt that would be really tough for a church as small as ours, and the people who use the ancient art of addition and subtraction might show you the strain that would put on the budget. This is where a church’s priorities kick in. Is a church judged by its seating capacity or sending capacity? Should the church consume or should it give? When there’s a clear budget short-fall, that’s when we go to the God who owns a cattle on a thousand hills. I don’t know how much money that is, but it seems like a lot of cows. I would love for more churches to see how God moves heaven and earth to support His missionaries.
6) Cut the Budget Before You Cut a Missionary
A church should be patient and judicious and do their due diligence before deciding to support a missionary. But once you have, the only reason to ever stop supporting that missionary should be retirement, death, or sin. I’m telling you all right now, I would reduce my salary before even decreasing an active missionary’s salary. I’m not going to stand before Jesus and give an answer to why I caused a missionary to come off the field to raise more support. Whoever God calls my church to support, I want them to know that whatever small, insignificant amount we can give them – that it will NEVER stop! I would love for them to visit the church when they were in town, but they never HAVE to visit us in fear of losing their support. I even want to change the church’s constitution to state that our missionaries get all the assets if we were to ever close down.
7) Go on Short-term Missions Trips
The goal should always be to interact with the missionaries that the church supports to see if they actually need some help that the members could provide. But just getting people within an American church to see needs around the world, actually get involved with the work of the Gospel, and personally see how they too could be a missionary is so invaluable. Over the years, I’ve done such diverse things as cleaning out a building to be a Christian School in Puerto Rico; sharing the Gospel on the streets in Grenada; building a home for orphans in Brazil; doing dramas on the street-corners and in churches in NY, Chicago, Washington DC, LA, and Mexico; teaching English as a Second Language in South Korea; working a Christian camp for orphaned children in Romania; doing a VBS for Mong children living in Alaska; and painting a house for a poor Native American family in South Dakota. I can’t wait to find out what I get to do next. It changes your view of the World and Christ’s Kingdom. Friends and family all got to be a part whether they went with me or they supported my way there. If you haven’t gone yet… Go.