Abstract: We must know and believe the Bible's example that God gave the apostles (today's missionaries) the responsibility to lead the church. The missionary is responsible to God and donors to live an exemplary life and be devoted enough to missions to give up the world's luxurious lifestyle.

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Our perspective on missionary management

The need is great, inside the church and out.  There has been a great movement towards "open door" churches that appeal to the sinner by toning down the message of repentence.  There are advantages, not only to attract more money into the church.  But, if churches admit the unrepentent and non-growing people as members, these immature believers will have the votes necessary to affect the quality of leaders selected as elders, deacons, and pastor.  If they are permitted to serve in committees, the direction of the church changes.  This is exactly Satan's plan.  The Bride's desire to become bigger and wealthier works right into it.  Once in the Body, the cancer of unwholesome influence grows and metastasizes.

The world infiltrates the churches and ministries through the unsaved people to whom it is called to minister and through worldly desires and temptations in the saved people that form its memAndy and Pegbership.  As Romans says, we are doing battle with spiritual powers in high places, combating greed with love, sorrow with joy, division with peace, worry with patience, selfishness with kindness, "what's in it for me" with faithfulness, spite with gentleness, indulgence with self-control and "whatever" with excellence.   At least that is what we should be doing.
The evil spirits are at least as much in the church than in the world.  How can I say that?  Divorce rates are equal.  Pastors and missionaries are more overweight than the population at large.  Church debt climbs in order to have the plushest carpet, the biggest sanctuary, the nicest lightshow, the fanciest fellowship hall, and the chushiest pews.  The idea often voiced in the leadership councils is, "our members are in debt on their houses, so why shouldn't God be in debt to the bank on His house?"  As in the time Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders are at least as far from God as the world at large.
This is a generality, not a universal truth, but the fact remains that in order for us to be effective at reaching the world, we will have to experience a revival.  We must prune away the fruit of the Evil One and so that the Fruit of the Spirit will receive more nutrients and grow.  Jesus said that the world will know his followers not by their doctrine but by their love.  From discussions I've had with brothers and sisters this year, it seems like I am the last to realize that, for this revival, we need to look less to the religious leaders like myself and more to Jesus.

Whereas some missionaries seek a religious institution to be main support, we don't agree.  Consider:
  1. How often does a church change pastors and missions committees and how often does someone die?  Thus, if a missionary relies on an institution to be his main support, he often finds himself in a position that his pastor and mission committee has never met him.
  2. The typical church budget.  Of the following two cases, who is going to have a more vested interest in their missionary and will be more faithful to support in finances, prayer, and communication?  
    1. A person gives 1 tithe dollar to the church, 10 cents gets directed to the missions committee and 1 cent gets given to 10 missionaries.  
    2. A person gives 1 tithe dollar split among 5 or 10 missionaries.
  3. With the average American moving every 7 years, at the moment that hands are laid on the missionary to go, the average missions committee member may have known the missionary for the half of the 7 years that their lives intersected, or a total of 3.5 years.  I have known my donors an average of four times as long.  The binds are tighter and if a problem arises, they know what to do.
  4. The missionary doesn't know the type of person donating to him.  I would not let someone living in disobedience to God to support us for obvious reasons.  Once, I asked a donor who left his wife and family to refrain from donating his $100/month until he reconciles.  Another time, I almost lost a donor because I wrote her asking for a reference before I would receive more money from her.  (She turned out to be Laura's roommate and has become a strong supporter.)  But, what church do you know of that makes the smallest of efforts to screen who puts money into the offering plate?
  5. The size of the markets. If there are an average of 300 members in a church and churches give an average of $80 per month to a missionary (my case, at least) while my donors give $60 per month.  Why pursue a market 1/300th as large for only 30% more funds on an average?  I don't stop them, of course, unless they have some far-out doctrines or practices like the Mormons or JW, but I've never pursued them.
  6. This year, I found out that a church cannot give money to support a missionary or member of the congregation except through a 501c3 organization for fear of losing its tax-exempt status.  We could learn a lot from the Orthodox in this as well.  "The Byzantine Bishop was not simply a distant figure who attended councils. He was also, in many cases, a true father to his people, a friend and protector to whom men confidently turned when in distress."  If Jesus had waited 2000 years to establish his church in the US, Acts 4:34-35 would have read:  
    "Every one of them was needy except Church, Inc. for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostle's feet; and electric bills were paid, and big basketball gyms were built.  Many went hungry, but at least the family had a comfortable seat on Sundays."
  7. With church attendees having the same low level of self-control (part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit) as the world, the level of divorce, extra-marital sex, and obesity are approximately the same as in the world.  We would prefer to have people on the team that are committed to living the Gospel.  Once, we had a supporter that was living separated from his wife.  I asked him to please get that reconciled before joining our team again.  We are deeply devoted to our walks with God and want a team with the same priorities as ours.  We are no better in God's eyes than anyone else, but our priorities may be a bit different.  I know your priorities are like ours.  You want to please God above all else, for He is worthy.  Holy, holy, holy is the Lord almighty.
Is it any wonder that the Church and State are in the conditions they are in?  Having more zeal for money than for the Lord is the most cited reason why the Church is ineffective in reaching the lost.  How do we say that God must be one's lord to be saved and then follow mammon?  That question has been plaguing me for some time.
Three quotes that I never would have believed in my naive days but that are lived by virtually all churches and ministries and breathed only to insiders:dad and mom
  • The CEO of one mission told me "ministry is a business, sometimes the Bible doesn't apply."
  • My prospective teammate at another ministry told me that their board didn't care whether he lived up to his promises if he didn't feel like it.
  • "But historians of religion like to say that Christianity was born in the Middle East as a religion, moved to Greece and became a philosophy, journeyed to Rome and became a legal system, spread through Europe as a culture--and when it migrated to America, Christianity became big business."  FORTUNE magazine May 23, 2005 p. 24
We have had problems living this paradigm and likely always will.  We believe that it is fuzzy thinking for a missionary to be led by Church and State, Inc.  Who was the leader and who the follower between Paul and the Galatian church, Paul and the Ephesian church, Paul and the Philippian church, Paul and the Colossian church, and so on?  The Apostles were the leaders and the laity were the followers.  This is the case in the Bible and in denominational missions like the Catholics, Baptists, and so on.  So why is it not the case for "faith" missions?  

This doesn't mean that the Apostles were dictators without accountability to others.  Indeed, if the missionary understands his role as leader, he knows that his lifestyle will be held to higher standards.  He will have to be of greater character than the followers.  With the presently popular paradigm, the missionary sees his "leadership" (the church) living as the American church does today, and he follows along into materialism, hedonism, obesity, illicit affairs, and divorce.  Protestantism was founded on the idea of the priesthood of all believers meaning that all can approach Jesus without the need for a religious leader. Somehow, this has mutated into the lowering the bar for those less important religious leaders.  Ask an evangelical missionary today if he is a spiritual leader and he will often "humbly" say that he is like anyone else.  The problem is that it is usually more than "humility" but is reality.  In contrast, we believe that a missionary should be picked based on his exemplary character and held to it.  (See my essay "The character of a missionary") We also think that the individual should be held accountable by local Christians who know their culture, more than by Americans. But, that is another discussion for another time.

We want to pioneer a movement back to Biblical precedent in the faith missions.  For this reason, we have a board of Advisors.  Who are our Advisors?  We pick our Advisors for their orientation towards God, their interest in our work, their knowledge of us, and their knowledge of ministry.  Our donors and we want the most spiritually mature people to lead the way.  We have benefited from the advice and intervention of these Advisors (the Brimers (top), my parents (above), and the Leacocks (not pictured))    We may not be any better missionaries than others, but we definitely have a different perspective than many.  We believe our team is unanimously standing with us on this.  They are always available to speak with our partners and stakeholders.  Write me at the address below, and I'll give you their contact information.  We believe this model makes Biblical sense.

As you consider moving to this model, expect resistence from those who like to exercise their power and ego by the feeling of being in charge.  But examine their lives to see if this is godly.  Our experience has shown that the power-hungry are also the ones who usually try to avoid taking responsibility for their decisions.  My home church directed us to do many things that incurred financial hardship and then did not take financial responsibility for those decisions.  But, it was from them that we got the idea for this paradigm.

Contact me if you have questions or comments.

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