63 thoughts on “Having More Missionaries Than Members”

  1. What I strongly dislike about IFB missions is that it’s — in my experience — an “ALL OR NOTHING” experience. You’re either a missionary for the rest of your life, or you’re not.

    What’s wrong with, say, taking a year or three to work in an area, then returning to finish your career, start a new career, retirement, what-have-you?

    The last church we attended — evangelical and absolutely not funnymentalist — would send people on Missions Trips, or even send people for a given period of time — say, a year.

    Works for me.

    For the record: I do not attend church now; probably won’t ever again.

    1. Seems that was the Biblical way of doing things. Paul went in started a work and spent some time teaching and training a core group of elders and then moved on.
      The real question with the IFB is, are they there to present the Gospel or Export King James Only, Independent, Baptist Fundamentalism?

  2. ahhhh, missionary walls – it seems like most missionaries don’t bother to proof-read their letters before sending them off to be publicly displayed in their supporting churches. either that or they honestly don’t notice all the typos!

  3. I’ve got a lot to say about missionaries. In fact, so much that I decided to start a new thread. here: http://www.stufffundieslike.com/forum/showthread.php?tid=839

    Following is a teaser:

    Costa Rica hosts the Instituto de Lengua Espa#ola, where many Evangelical missionaries from all denominations have gone to learn Spanish for a couple of years before going into Latin America.

    While I lived in Costa Rica, I met and got to know a fair amount of these missionaries. Some, I consider saints: men and women committed to furthering the Good News of Jesus. But I also met missionaries who were mediocre at best. And then there were the ones who evoke the images presented in Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible.” (Even though she claims it as fiction, I know those girls. They were classmates of mine in the Christian school I attended.)

    1. As I think you know, Barbara Kingsolver based the incidents and observations in that book largely on what she observed as a young girl when her family lived in the Congo for about a year (her parents were public health workers, not religious missionaries). However, people are about the same everywhere, so missionaries in Central America probably behave a lot like the ones in the Congo.

    1. I like that. Of course, then the missionaries are REALLY in trouble if the church folks ever get mad at them, but hopefully no one’s getting mad and separating over trivial things like they do in IFB churches.

  4. I once attended a church that had way more missionaries than this church -and they were VERY proud of it. I think I counted over 100 once. I believe the average support was $100/month.

    1. The church I attend sporadically has a missions display with about 500 people on it. But it’s actually from a mission board, so they don’t support people specifically, unless there is a sudden need and they will send financial aid, otherwise, they give their support to a mission board here in NZ which distributes the money amongst missionaries as needed.

  5. My GARB church growing up tried to support its missionaries faithfully, but we sometimes lacked the support to do so. One time we sent one of our regular missionaries $$, and it had been such a long time since we gave them anything that they thanked us for the unexpected donation!!!!

  6. I believe most IFB churches practice the universal Baptist principale of a inverse proportionality of the amount of support provided to the amount of control & influence they feel entitled to try to exert.

    One of my fave IFB missions board stories ever, multiple baptist churches complaining to the board and threatening to withdraw support over a missionary to Italy (I know — kind of ridiculous to be sending missionaries to Italy, but diff topic) using wine in communion. Somehow the mission board was able to get them to admit they believe in autonomy of the local body, and weren’t going to withdraw support.

    No idea how any one could ever consider a local body taking on $100 (or less) per month is even close to actually supporting a missionary.

    1. What issue could be more important for a local church than rioting because some of the few Baptists in Italy (Italy!) are having a sip of wine at the Lord’s Table? 😉

      1. I know! I just think how different my life could’ve been if I’d known one of my life/career options was to hear “The Call (TM)” to go to Italy (or really anywhere in western Europe).

        1. I appreciate it, but will never remember for as rarely as I use it. And I have a Mac, which I think it’s different on anyway. Here’s my 0153: º¡∞£

      2. A Baptist friend of mine told me of a Baptist Missionary to Italy – before he left, he had to sign a document stating that he will abstain from all alcohol. but the church in Italy used real Communion wine. His solution: To only pretend drinking. Thus, the result of their rules was that this missionary despised Holy Communion. 👿

        1. We were actually advised to do this by our mission board, if the situation required cultural drinking.

  7. The son of one of the missionaries we worked with in Portugal is going back to Portugal with his family. He is raising some support, but he is also going to teach English – a tent-making missionary.

    I think that the day when missionaries spend their entire lives on “the field” has passed. Too often, instead of giving nationals a foot up, and helping them to build a biblical but culturally relevant community, they have imposed American culture, and made them dependent on the American missionaries, instead of on Christ.

    If/when the Americans leave (and with the world the way it is now it’s almost inevitable that they will) the whole thing falls apart. We do the nationals a disservice by making them little American Christian Outposts.

    1. I’ve become interested lately in what happens in churches that were “missionary” churches when the foreign missionaries all leave. Two examples are the Protestant churches in Cuba, and all the churches in China. In both cases, most (sometimes all) of the clergy and church administrators were foreigners. All the foreign missionaries were expelled from China after the 1949 Communist victory, and almost all the foreign missionaries chose to leave Cuba after the 1959 revolution (some of them had been in Cuba for decades). In both countries, the native Christians carried on (without much outside support), and the churches there have developed in interesting ways.

  8. Let’s be honest: the “wall” is about boasting. If these churches actually cared about missions, they would support as many missionaries as they could at 100% – thus guaranteeing (As best we finite humans can) that gospel work is unhindered.

  9. My exIFB pastor was preaching on missions the weeks leading up to the Missions Conference. In an attempt to hype the congregation and thus amp up faith promise missions giving, he announced that his missions giving exceeded his tithe. I thought, “Well not aren’t you special.” I am convinced this guy was a “numbers” guy and was attempting to elevate his standing in IFB land.

  10. Well, I can see it from both sides. The “Pick one missionary and go full support” option sure would be nice in some ways, but what happens to the missionary if the church or its members fall on hard times? And it sure is nice to have more people praying/supporting you (in other ways than just finances) than from just one church.

    However, it’s obvious some churches take it the other way too far. One of the things that kept us from leaving earlier in our lives for overseas missions was the thought of spending 2-3 years raising support…when we knew we were only planning on doing it for a few years. The fact that any missionary has to face that struggle BEFORE ever getting to the stress of living every day in a culture other than their own is pathetic.

    1. 1 supporting church is probably too few for exactly the reason you cite, although lots of mega churches do this sending their own missionaries and don’t have any overhead on a mission board taking a slice. having to get multiple hundreds of churches that is often the case in IFBs, is preposterously overdone in the extreme opposite (extremism is one thing fundies are very very very good at after all).

  11. As somebody who has a family full of missionaries (seriously, people in my family either seem to go into construction (either design, realty, or actual construction) or preaching), man, can I ever relate. Although my parents don’t do missionary work (aside from a few weeks of mission trips about every year… highlight of my year, I can tell you that!), I know from my aunts and uncles how difficult it can be sometimes to try and get by only on charity!

    But the Lord doesn’t forget those who work for Him, even if His people (or those who claim to be His people…) do. Somehow there’s always enough to pay the rent and put food on the table, even if it means your kids have to wear stained hand-me-downs sent from well-meaning people and your car is a beat-up, rusted-out van from thirty years ago…

    Speaking of stained hand-me-downs, some of the things people send to missionaries is ridiculous. My aunt always tells the story she heard from another missionary who lived in a very warm climate (South America somewhere, if memory serves correctly). People would donate clothing and what-not to give out to the people there, but this one time they got this (used, of course) men’s WINTER suit jacket… an awful, thick, wool green monstrosity. Did I mention they lived in a place where fifty degrees was a COLD day?! Or the well-meaning British couple who sent the missionaries a box of teabags that had only been SLIGHTLY used.

    1. My mom was an MK in south east Asia in the 50’s. She has told me they were “gifted” with things like that as well–I know they received wool stockings at least one time.

      1. I don’t believe the “used tea bags” story. You know how many missionaries use that story into guilt tripping people into giving stuff that is way better than what they can provide for their own families? When I was a kid I collected lots of nice toys and clothes to send with a missionary, only to have them rejected because they weren’t brand new even though they were in good condition. I never got brand new things, and I had done my best.

        The used tea bag story is another lie used to guilt people into doing something.

        1. We served as missionaries for eleven years in a poor country. We never asked anyone in the states for anything unless they asked us what we needed. We were put upon to find room in our suitcases to transport luxuries back to our place of service for other missionaries, though.

          People in the United States are overall ignorant of living conditions overseas. Most missionaries could tell you of how when it became inconvenient to continue to support a missionary family, people would just stop without any warning. We never got any used tea bags, though.

      1. It is an urban legend. Or at least it’s a lie the missionaries made up. I’ve heard it from almost every missionary I’ve ever met all saying it happened to them. It’s another control tactic and there is no truth to it.

    1. Come to think of it, though we were never missionaries, we’ve received years-out-of-date canned goods in mangled cans for food showers that have been given for us. Hard to feel the love in a “gift” like that.

      1. Someone related to someone in our church gave us a box of food the other day. I should have double checked it. I gave some graham crackers to my 3 year old, and later tasted one myself! It was HORRIBLE! I checked and it had expired in Dec. of 2009. Bleckity bleckity bleck. Nearly everything in the box was expired!

  12. I went to an IFB church that was supported missionaries in a way that most IFB’s don’t. Our pastor made it a point to “know” the missionaries as best we could–communicating and praying for their specific needs. Throughout the year, specific needs were addressed and missionaries visited often. At Christmas, our church would record greetings which would then be sent to all the missionaries we supported. Funding was re-evaluated often as situations changed–additional children in a family or children now grown and on their own.

    I realize that was the exception rather than the rule, but it was a bright spot in my time in fundy land.

  13. The church I grew up in never had a missions wall. 😆

    The most we had, (for a while) was a fairly sparsely marked world map, and we knew those missionaries personally.

    We tried to support people they knew personally, church members who had gone into missions work, etc. By in large, it was fairly modest amounts from the church, but as a rule, individual contributions from church members doubled the ‘offical’ amount given. Less was better, as far as the amount of people supported.

    My wife and I are now some of those helped financially by my home church. We have lived comfortably (by local standards) for the last 10 years, although it took a few years before I could even get used to being called a missionary. 😆

    The two churches we grew up in have a set amount that they send us, but aside from that, we have no guarantee from month to month.

    We’ve never ‘raised support’, and first moved to Russia with the intention of supporting ourselves, which we did for about 2 1/2 years. (Before moving to a smaller, much poorer city, having children, etc.)

    We’ve never starved, and we’ve even been able to help local ministers/Christians with the money we do have.

    Also, BTW – I completely agree w/everything said about missionaries importing American culture, etc. There are indigenous ‘Evangelical-Baptist’ churches here NOT founded by westerners, and we have been working in/with local churches exclusively.Not that these local churches are ideal, by any means, but they’re better, IMHO than the imported ‘Let-Us-Teach-You-How-To-Be-Right-With-GOD’ type. 🙄

  14. The way IFB’ers do mission work is something I have thought about long and hard. I’ve been to the mission field and I have many IFB missionary friends. The years of deputation to even get on the field as broken several of my friends and they’ve given up. Then the ones that make it to the field, get to spend their furlough visiting all the churches instead of taking a well needed rest and catching up with family.

    We became Southern Baptist after we left IFB. They do missions completely different and much more effectively. Southern Baptist churches give to the SB convention and they give support the missionaries. The missionaries don’t have to beg for money, they essentially are hired to be missionaries by the convention. They have 3yr, 5yr and career contracts to be missionaries. On the field, their goal is to set up indigenous churches that are run by the locals, NOT the missionary. The SB missionaries are not allowed to pastor a church, they are to train others to do that and then move on.
    After I got my head wrapped around the very different way of doing it, I loved it. It makes a lot more sense and is more effective, less burnout.

    We’re not Southern Baptist any more either, but I think they have a well oiled machine in the mission field.

  15. weyall… ‘well-oiled machine’ is pretty accurate. 😉

    Many also receive a salary that would allow you to live not un-comfortably in the US. Three cheers for those that use part of their salary to help indigenous minister’s families, one family, two, multiple…

    Still, a church that is shaped by an American Southern Baptist missionary tends to look/seem/feel foreign to the locals, even after the Americans have left.

    Not to discount your positive points as opposed to IFB missionaries. 😉

  16. I don’t like missionary work of any kind, only humanitarian work. Today I was in line at the pediatrician when a mom very loudly and prundly checked her teenage son in for HIS MISSION. HE NEEDS HIS SHOTS. (insert golf clap here). Anyway, the receptionist asked where his mission was. Mom answered “Belize.” The receptionist could not help but chuckle and made a funny remark. Mom got all defensive. It was comical. For those of you who do not know, Belize is the new US retirement destination. It has low crime, good education and is English speaking.

  17. Our church “supports” several missionaries at $25/month. Our head deacon has suggested we should add some more, even though we haven’t met budget in months. And they’ve talked about not being able to pay a new pastor the full package we voted on. How’s that for backwards?

  18. Deffffinitely the case at the old IFB church I grew up in. Although I must say the board was quite out of date. I was sure half the pictures on the board were at least as old as I was.
    (man it’s been awhile since I’ve commented on here…)

  19. I prefer to support just a few missionaries and really get to know them. However, my way is not the only way. By having many missionaries, if a church closes down, it will not hurt the missionary all that much. Let the individual church decide how many they want to have. What is it to you. There are no set rules. What do you think is the “best” way? Is this really a battle to pick? Is this all you’ve got? Not much!

    1. If the church closes, it won’t hurt the missionary much if the church wasn’t giving much support anyway.
      By the same rationale, you could say it’s best not to donate to missions at all. That way, if the church closes down, it won’t hurt the missionary even a little. In fact, it won’t matter to the missionary, and maybe not to anyone else.

      1. This is irrational thinking. With a multiple of churches, little adds up to much. If a church goes under, the missionary can much easier get support to replace the church.

  20. I wonder what happened to the poor soul who was recently removed from the missionary wall (third row down, just to the right of the middle)? Did he go “soft” on the KJV while ministering in Russia? Did he stop preaching in a suit in Sri Lanka? Or did the church finally figure out that his “missionary to Hawaii” scheme was really an extended, paid family vacation?

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