Editorial note: We can’t wait to get back to Alaska and begin blogging about ministry there! But this is where God has us presently, and so our thoughts are filled with “lessons from the road.”
“The church has no capacity to enlarge our missionary support.”
As a missionary on the road raising support, we have heard this statement many times – most recently, yesterday – as a reason to decline an offer to present the ministry to the church. This statement reveals some underlying misconceptions about the Church. We all know that the Church is the people, not the building nor the non-profit corporation and accompanying structure, budget included. So when you say that “the church has no more capacity to enlarge missionary support,” do you mean that there is no room in the organization’s budget or that not one person in the church has the ability to give to missions work more than they already are? There is not one person who hasn’t already given all that they can to the Lord’s work? There is not one person who has discretionary income that they might be spending on some less-than-needed item? You see, we have been to churches that were not taking on new missionaries, but someone in the church was moved by God to partner with us. In one case, a widow lady cancelled some magazine subscriptions and rearranged other expenses so she could pledge $60.00 per month. The value of having missionaries speak at the church is not primarily to have them interview for support but to have the missionary challenge the Church with the needs of the lost, to have them evaluate their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel of Christ. I think a lot of pastors would be surprised at how much money there is available for missions in the Church, if they encouraged the Church to think Biblically about sacrificial giving.
Have you ever wondered why church budgets seem to grow so slowly? I saw a recent statistic that the average church spends about 16% of their budget on missions. When you look at the rest of the budget, it pays for salaries, facilities, programs, etc. which really aren’t giving, in the sense of giving with getting nothing in return. Giving is really pooling money so that “I” have a place to meet on Sunday, “I” have nice Sunday school classrooms for “my” kids, more programs for “my” teenagers. So, allow me to answer the question of why church budgets grow so slowly (i.e. why don’t people give more?) with another question. Would the Holy Spirit move people to give sacrificially to the church–when doing so is mainly pooling money for programs for themselves, and not really giving?
Additionally, let’s say that someone goes to a church as described above and decides he would like to give an extra $100 per month, hoping to expand the church’s budget so that it can support more missionaries. If they give that $100 to the church, only $16 per month would actually go to missions. The rest would go to expanding salaries, programs, or facility upgrades. Consider also that a new missionary won’t be considered until the next budgetary meeting; then it could be months before the $16 actually starts going to missions. So if a church member wants to give an extra $100 to missions, the church is the worst place to give!
Contrast that scenario with another church we know of. They had a desire to take on a new missionary for support. The elders presented the missionaries to the Church and asked, “How much a month could you commit to this missionary?” The replies from each individual member or family totaled $300 per month! Those extra funds started coming in the next month and immediately began going toward the missionary. Where there was no room in the budget before, suddenly there was an extra $300 per month. Was it worth the missionary and the Church’s time for him to present the ministry at a church with no room in the budget? Absolutely. As great a blessing as it was to the missionary, it was even more of a blessing to the people. They learned the blessing of sacrificial giving and were able to personally participate in God’s work in the Great Commission, going to make disciples in the uttermost parts of the earth.
Though I recognize that many church corporations’ budgets are tight and there is no capacity to enlarge missionary support, I would encourage pastors to consider the Church (the people). Even if from your perspective, they may have nothing to give, a visit from a missionary may be the very thing that convicts them to rearrange their priorities and start sacrificially giving toward the advancement of the Gospel.
Thank you to all who are sacrificially giving to God’s work in Alaska. As a missionary, it is humbling to be the catalyst God uses to prompt people to increase their devotion to Him, changing their priorities to His priorities.