Mission Boards

There are approximately 8,853 Independent Fundamental Baptist mission boards in the United States. These organizations play a dual role of providing essential support and assistance to fundamentalist missionaries and giving sinecures to an army of vice presidents, and board representatives who would otherwise have to get actual jobs.

IFB mission boards actually support a wide range of missions-minded folks including the following:

Fundy missionaries actually serving on the foreign field: 406
Fundy missionaries serving in US cities that have “no gospel witness” (but more importantly do have a McDonalds): 5,284
Fundy wannabe missionaries who will spend eight years on ‘deputation’ and then take a job as a traveling salesman for a tract printing company: 14,836

Mission boards ostensibly create accountability for their missionaries while on the field, which is a rather tricky thing to do given the notion that each New Testament church is not answerable to anybody but God — including the one that the missionary just started five minutes ago. Very few people are as free to do whatever they want as a fundy missionary in his foreign church. Time would fail to tell the tales.

In addition to its other vital functions, the fundy mission board also serves as a way of identifying which ‘camp’ the missionary is in. This is very important since Hyles churches won’t support BJU missionaries and vice versa. To make sure that the missionary remains pure, the mission board does the work of setting standards on things like which English Bible translation their missionaries can use in countries that don’t even speak English and what color spouses their children can marry. Where would missionaries be without such guidance?

Go ye into all the world and raise money for missions. Somewhere, a vice president’s salary is depending on you.

41 thoughts on “Mission Boards”

  1. “8.”Not be nationals who have come to the States to do deputation for the purpose of returning to their country as missionaries. (This is due to the harm that such a practice does to the New Testament, indigenous church principle.)”

    Excuse me, my ‘heathen heart’ cannot fathom how this brings “harm” to the “indigenous church principle.”

  2. I’m more or less qualified to speak to that one since I’ve seen it first hand.

    It’s very, very easy for a foreign national to raise support in the US. Show up, tell some stories, speak with a cool accent and dollars fly at you.

    The problem is that the ministry then becomes very attractive to foreign nationals because it’s an easy path to gaining American wealth. That can, in fact, be very detrimental to a local work when the pastor is in it for the money.

    It’s a fine line to walk but they actually do sort of have a point on that one.

  3. I was in the BBFI camp basically my entire life. Never mind the fact that it was supposedly a much sought-after group and such (supposedly). Anyways, last fall as I recall it was, they held their annual “conference” locally to where I live. At the time, I felt inclined to go, just because. After those few evenings of glorious missions sermons, I then came to absolutely…dislike…the whole mission board scene. Though subtly masked, it all seemed to boil down to the money involved. Zeal was there. Yet it seemed quite…disturbing. (If that’s the right word here.)

  4. Ahhh, Baptist Missions to Heathern lands…like Billings, Montanna; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and Adak, Alaska where there are no Old Paths, 1611 KJV Bible preaching, sin hating, Jesus Loving Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches. Amen?

    And all you have to do to get your paid vacation to any of these exciting destinations is sign up with our missions board for life (or until your support runs out). We can even supply you with a sending church to put on your prayer card, “The Blessed Hope Baptist Church of Perpetual Deputation.”

    Think of all the fun you and your family will have going from church to church across this land collecting those brown bag cash “Luv Offerins.” Yep, armed with your canned presentation and your two best IFB sermons that you can tell people how you wrestled with what to preach to them and then that last song by Squeeky and the Wheezers (the local church quartet [who are about a pint shy of a quart]) was a sign from God that you should preach on, “Wimmin’ wearin’ Pants and other signs of a Jezebel.” Now that’ll preach amen!

    Sign up now and we can get you a guaranteed list of IFB Missions Conferences slated for this fall. Sign up in the next 10 mins and we will double the list with known known Honey in the Rock Churches who have never turned away a visiting missionary on deputation, and who have a Prophet’s chamber! Praise the Lord.

    Act now and we will send you a complementary issue of Sword of the Lord. All this for the absurdly low, low price of your life, and your family.


  5. My husband and I have discussed how much money churches are wasting every year on deputation, instead of getting the missionary to the field so he can actually do something there!

  6. Actually, I kind of like the philosophy of teaching true biblical principles to those who live in the foreign countries and then letting them teach their own people. It is disrespectful, IMHO, to plant American churches overseas.

  7. I worked for a mission (which may have been alluded to in this post) for a while. A few things I found absolutely absurd:

    1. It’s bad for missionaries to solicit building funds from the States to build church buildings. People in foreign fields need to trust the Lord like anyone else, right? But if the church that owns the mission chooses to sell off its old church property and move into mission property, which was funded by SOLICITED FUNDS from other churches, oh, well, that’s okay, then.

    2. It’s perfectly acceptable to keep sensitive missionary account information in financial software that was written in 1983, only compatible with dot-matrix printers, and had to be stored in a separate FAT partition no greater than a few megabytes on each computer which was otherwise running modern software because it had “worked so well” all these years. (Crashes, impending overdue obsolescence, and lack of support aside.)

    3. If anyone suggests modernizing anything in the office structure, they will soon be fired/leave as “troublemakers”.

    4. All missionaries must attend an annual, drawn-out “mission school” whose speakers consist of a bunch of evangelists and pastors whose experiences on the foreign field extend no further than the Mexican restaurant they ate at last week. Missionaries themselves are limited to no more than 30 minutes of testimony (15 if they are married because, hey, the wife can “testify”, just not preach).

    5. Any fallacies, lack of growth, financial difficulties, or controversies should simply be blamed on the fact that the “old guard” died off, usually with a sad nod toward their portraits on the wall, and addressed no more as the whole operation slowly chokes to death.

    There’s more, but I have to go to my real job now.

  8. You forgot about MK’s. At the annual “mission school” the adults would get two or three chapels services per day. The kids get all of those plus four more featuring such enlightening topics as “Why can’t you be more normal?” “The dangers of crossing cultural boundaries,” “Why my kid is better than all of you and you had no right to complain that he was trying to sneak into the girls’ shower,” and “Special music”.

    We attended one, then I quietly informed my father that it would not happen again. He made certain it did not.

    There is a real love-hate relationship between Fundies and Missionary Kids, which is why between 80 and 90 percent of MK’s end up back on the field or entirely out of church.

  9. You forgot about MK’s

    Nah, I’m just saving them for later.

    Fundies attempt to make “biblical” the equivalent of “real or imagined American tradition”

    When you grow up in a different culture you begin to realize what a load of crap that is.

  10. pg. 7 “Not allowed to be interracially married…Webster’s defines races as Caucosoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid”
    pg. 9 “Not allowed to adopt children outside their own race”
    Unbelievable. Where is that in the Bible?

    1. Why bring the Bible into any fundy discussion unless you’re trying to hurt people with it?

  11. “undy missionaries serving in US cities that have “no gospel witness” (but more importantly do have a McDonalds): 5,284”

    Oh this makes me crack up so hard. First there is actually a good number of people who refuse to recognize missionaries who aren’t in foreign countries. I’ve had many an argument over that one, but it seems that most churches these days and most boards do recognize domestic missionaries. What cracks me up is their thinking that any large city must be this way and is in need. When we moved to Boston my Wife’s parents, my parents and anyone we talked to from the churches of our youth thought that we would have a real hard time even finding 1 church that still preaches the gospel in the city. Of course the churches we found weren’t fundie, and therefore not truly “good” churches, but the idea that there is “no gospel witness” or a barren “wasteland” is a farse. Even in Boston, the liberal bastion of all things liberal, has a strong evangelical following in the city and at the universities.

    The problem, here, is that these missionaries raise good money to head into the “city” (usually a healthy distance away from the actual city) and then try to start a church using suburban methods and try to start a suburban church. They are destined to fail because they don’t really understand who they are dealing with. But also, there is little need for deputation in this case. You could just as easily get a job that brings you to the city and minister during off hours. Get converts and work into a church. This method would save time, wasted money and effort. But really it is the fact that fundies and citys are like oil and water. They just don’t understand how a city works or how those people work and tick. And they are so set in their ways that their churches are doomed to failure (3 services a week with “compulsory” attendance is just not possible for any person living in the city) Also the idea that one church can reach the entire city is absurd. For Boston just crossing the Charles river is hard enough. I barely know people from Park Street who live in a neighboring neighborhood to mine. Short distances become grand canyons in the city. A church in the city needs to focus on the neighborhoods before it can reach the city.

    Ok carry on. Soap box there for a minute.

  12. “6. Not have more than one living companion. (This applies to both men and women.)”

    Huh? What, no pets, LOL? What if you’ve got kids? Or are they trying to say, “no Mormons allowed”. 🙂

    “7. Not to be interracially married. (Note that it is interracial, not internationality.) All races are acceptable as missionaries, if they meet other requirements. Webster defines the races as: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid.”

    OMG…really??? I suppose this church is in Mississippi, but still.

    “8. Not be nationals who have come to the States to do deputation for the purpose of returning to their country as missionaries. (This is due to the harm that such a practice does to the New Testament, indigenous church principle.)”

    And I know you gave a…valid…explanation, Darrell, but still, this one is a little disingenuous because it’s not really about New Testament principles at all…

    “15. Missionaries are not permitted to adopt children outside their own race.”

    And…another WTF! You can get them saved, but DO NOT marry, or adopt any of them or you’ll catch the “heathen”!

  13. A non-fundy but believing friend of mine recently said that she no longer feels sorry for missionaries since she discovered that the missionary families in third world countries have . . . staff. Yes, you read that right — they have domestic staff. Many she knows personally do not want to return to the first world because their standard of living will diminish greatly (read: the woman of the house will have to do laundry).


  14. I’m confused. That document said they’d be kicked out if they were “guilty” of adhering to the following (including): 5-point Calvinism (TULIP) and Arminianism.”

    Besides Calvinism and Arminianism, what are the other options?

  15. Fundamentalists are Arminians up until a person gets saved and then they become staunch Calvinists.

  16. My home church did remove a missionary from their board because he wasn’t sure about his exact eschatology stance. The preacher actually preached a sermon about it mentioning the missionary by name and saying why they removed him. When my parents told me that I flipped out.

  17. The Southern Baptist’s missions program is much better than any alleged “independent” Baptist mission board.

  18. @Camille: When we were missionaries in Portugal, and my three children were small, I did have a Portuguese lady come in a couple of hours a week to help me. It helped her, too, because she saved enough money to open her own florist shop. It was all that she knew how to do to earn money to fulfill her dream. By the time she had her shop, I didn’t need help any more, and we met as friends. (Frankly, I enjoyed the interaction and friendship with the Portuguese way more than I did with other American missionaries, especially the ones who made fun of some of the Portuguese customs.)

    Most of us in the states do have “staff.” We have washing machines, dryers, dish washers, vacuum cleaners, electric mixers, cars, and a great section of frozen meals and such in a handy supermarket for quick meals. If I had my druthers, I’d still be in Portugal doing it the hard way. 🙂

    There were some who had regular live-in staff – mostly the Southern Baptists who got paid a great deal more than we did with Word of Life. Still, the Portuguese so employed were happy to have jobs where otherwise they would not have been able to earn money.

    1. With all due respect, I was born in Spain which is pretty much the same as Portugal and it is a very modern country with all of the modern conveniences that you enjoy in the U.S. In Spain and Portugal only the rich have help in their houses. However, I have also lived in Venezuela and Peru and it is very common for people to have help in their houses although even in these countries you have all of the modern conveniences. When did you live in Portugal? It sounds like you are discribing a third world country.

  19. they have domestic staff.

    Providing a decent income to some of the locals is probably the most useful thing some of them do if you think about it that way.

    Most of us in the states do have “staff.” We have washing machines, dryers, dish washers, vacuum cleaners, electric mixers, cars, and a great section of frozen meals and such in a handy supermarket for quick meals.

    And that’s the point. I’ve washed clothes by hand and carried five gallon buckets of water a quarter mile so someone could take a bath or get a drink. Life is hard in other parts of the world. Having domestic help isn’t as shocking as you might think — the locals who can afford it do it too.

  20. @Camille: I believe your story illustrates the dangers of assuming American concepts apply to foreign nations.

    Where I grew up, having domestic “staff” was required, not suggested. The government insisted we hire locals. This not only gave someone a job, but made it possible for the government to have an ear in our house, as they could always threaten the family of the domestic staff.

    Originally we hired a cook; he gave us food poisoning. Later we had a cleaner who starched underpants, three night guards who slept unless we honked at them, and two gardeners (although my father and I still did the gardening and I mowed the lawn).

    On the other hand, we had a two-meter wall with broken glass embedded in the top. We had a gate which could not be opened from the outside. We had running water roughly 65% of the year. We had electricity on good days, and candles most nights. The nearest doctor could be reached by short wave radio, but only by relay, which meant at least three people had to shout the symptoms over an open frequency.

    The lack of retirement funds prevents far more missionaries from “returning home” to the States than the standard of living.

    The US Consulate did complain that my father – by paying more than the equivalent of one US dollar per day to the most senior “staff” – was upsetting the local economy.

    And for less than he paid, I could hire “staff” to clean my house weekly in the US. I could get more than that, if I hired illegals and paid cash under the table.

    As for his own salary? My father makes the same dollar amount today that he did in 1985, with the same absence of any benefits like health, dental, or life insurance; this, by missionary standards in Fundyland, is considered remarkably good. Most take a significant cut over the years, which is part of the reason so many spend 6 months out of every year raising new funds.

    Take your family’s monthly earnings. Divide by fifty and multiply by three, the average number of churches an IFB missionary has to visit to get $50 monthly support. How many would you have to visit?

    When you laugh at the missions boards and the excesses of the worst of the missionaries, remember also that there are good people doing good work. No matter how many missionaries are “called” only after they fail at every possible form of ministry (and even getting a regular job) in the US, there are still a few living the George Muller way.

    The great shame is that one bad Fundy makes it difficult for the good Christians to be noticed.

  21. @Darrell I’ll let it slide this once, but all of my worst experiences as an MK came from Americans in full-time ministry or their immediate family (I’m thinking of you, PK’s). To qualify that statement, I have survived malaria, parasites, an African civil war, the Rodney King riots, and getting shot, and I’m still thinking the PK’s and their fathers were worse.

    Leaving out the u̶n̶h̶o̶l̶y̶ loving way Mission Boards ̶a̶b̶u̶s̶e̶ bless the MK’s is like trying to give the “Ru ru joke” a PC rendering.

  22. @Gabriel Spence

    Is it really? Then why were a good number of Southern Baptists missionaries fired because they truthfully admitted to having a “private prayer language”? Now there’s a rock and a hard place: lie, and keep your mission, or tell the truth, and lose it. The SBC has no business poking around in anyone’s private prayer life, missionary, pastor or layman.

  23. Are we seriously going to argue that the quarrels in the SBC over private prayer languages make them equal to IFB mission boards? Do you really want to defend that argument?

    It’s akin to arguing that the United States has a lower per capita income than Haiti because one saw three homeless people under a bridge in Cincinnati.

  24. Holy shit! I thought you were joking about the interracial marriage thing. What the fuck century is this?

  25. @matt

    Even BJU, which some would have us to believe is not IFB, had an anti-interracial dating/marriage policy until recently (2000). Knowing how IFBs are so fond of moving the “old paths” quickly, I have to wonder if an interracial couple would feel welcome on that campus even today…

  26. A couple years ago, a couple saw our church’s website and wanted to come visit, but they saw that we’d graduated from BJU so they called first and explained that they were an interracial couple. We were SO embarrassed that they felt they had to explain that! We let them know that they were totally welcome! In the end, they joined us, but it was humiliating for us that THAT was the first thing they considered when they saw our alma mater.

  27. As much as we may point out all the shortcomings of the IFB mission system…
    They still are brethren in Christ, and God still uses warped vessels to fulfill his will (just like he uses me and you). At least the gospel is being preached and souls are being saved.

  28. Most of us in the states do have “staff.” We have washing machines, dryers, dish washers, vacuum cleaners, electric mixers, cars, and a great section of frozen meals and such in a handy supermarket for quick meals.

    Riiiiiiiight. I remember that argument from the 1930s too.

    I’m just not going to ignore the obvious anglo-centric class reification in all that.

  29. You caught me. They’re totally made up.

    Oh, and I’ll go ahead and confess that I made up the mission board logo too. Baptist Missions to Heathern Lands is a total fabrication.

  30. I’m just not going to ignore the obvious anglo-centric class reification in all that.

    @Camille: Yes, thinking of people as commodities is wrong, and it’s a gigantic problem in the Capitalist world. Is that what you were referring to?

    @Susan, Darrell, and Kramobone: I’ve learned something from your comments that I didn’t know before. Just because missionaries have a “staff” doesn’t by necessity mean they’re lazy and self-indulgent. I’m embarrassed that I’ve sat here in the land of rich convenience and snorted at people from a distance without bothering to get the whole picture.

  31. Regarding the reaction to your fabricated stats: Now do you understand when Dr. Bragimony tells people that he led 6000 souls to Christ last year, no one stops to realize that that’s nearly 20 a day? Fundies love numbers they just can’t put 2 and 2 together.

  32. Darrell said: “Fundamentalists are Arminians up until a person gets saved and then they become staunch Calvinists.”

    Yes! Exactly! I’ve said this for years. I am NO fan of Calvinism whatsoever, but at least it’s consistent. If you can choose it, you can lose it. If you can’t, you can’t. This whole business of having free will up to the point that you use it, then immediately lose it, is just absurd.

    lots of unintentional rhyming there. carry on.

  33. @Pita —

    @Camille: Yes, thinking of people as commodities is wrong, and it’s a gigantic problem in the Capitalist world. Is that what you were referring to?

    Pretty much. The quaint ol’ idea that the “modern” woman has her mechanical “staff” is really blind to all the weighty class differences between the third world and the first world.

    Have you seen Manor House? They took accomplished people in their own right and forced them to live in a turn-of-the-century English manor — from the patriarch to the scullery maid. The way it *changed* the people — permanently almost — is startling. The patriarch didn’t want to leave. He had gotten used to world revolving around him. The matriarch — an accomplished doctor in the real world — had a hard time too. The scullery maid was out in a heart beat.

    I don’t think we like to talk about it. It’s the thing no one dare say. But how much are our missions works like a religious “Manor House”? I’ve heard my share of dominionists in missionary reports — and this is outside so-called fundamentalism.

    1. I have no doubt that a person’s occupation can and does change their mentalist, a la Manor House style. However, in this thread there was criticism of missionaries overseas who have staffs, and that criticism is, IMO, misplaced. You’re talking about completely different countries with much different levels of industrialization. There is a lot more manual labor that is absolutely necessary just to carry out daily existence. If the missionary has a large family, their children can carry out a lot of it, but then they’ll have a horrible time raising support, won’t they? In many Latin American countries, most households employ a maid, who is often a young woman on the verge of establishing her own household, or an older woman who has already raised her own children and is now looking for a new source of income. This whole system is a a mirror image of how life was in rural America in the early 1800’s.

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