Summary: This article is my view of why some of the way we do things in missions today is just wrong.
1) Missionaries are distanced from church people.
2) We expect missionaries to put on a song and dance show for the church people, but the churches never let them actually do what is their ministry.
3) We are locked into a Madison Avenue mentality that says, only with spending a lot of money can you do anything serious.
4) We have distorted and destroyed biblical spirituality.
5) We are experts at missions, all the while never “producing” or “reproducing” ourselves.
Our modern missionary model is greatly flawed because:
1) Missionaries are distanced from church people. They are very limitedly allowed to even speak, much less teach and preach. They hardly ever are long enough in town to go out witnessing and really build up the local church they asking funds from. I, as a missionary, wish that a pastor would ask me to come stay at his church for 3-4 months and go out door-to-door witnessing and to teach Bible studies in his church. Make a difference in that local church for even a short period of time, and let his people get to really know me as a minister. I would even go out without him to do evangelistic work. That is what is my duty and ministry as a missionary. If churches had steady streams of workers, not visitors, then maybe some of our churches would have additional funds to help missionaries.
2) We expect missionaries to put on a song and dance show for the church people, but the churches never let them actually do what is their ministry. Let me say, it is great to have good music, but music doesn’t get people saved, but entertains. Missionaries should be soul-winners, and teachers. Make your missionaries teach and witness, and see how they hold up.
3) We are locked into a Madison Avenue mentality that says, only with spending a lot of money can you do anything serious. Missions is about a spiritual activity which is much more on the spiritual side of things than pure economics of buying and selling. Yes, missionaries need money, but please note how far we are from the NT. Jesus had no buildings, no support group (except the disciples which abandoned him in his hour of need), and most of all, Jesus’ ministry was done in the open, in the public places, with volunteers! To make it clear, everybody involved in Jesus’ ministry lived from donations of whatever came in, no set salaries, nothing guaranteed. Note also Jesus’ ministry was seriously “crippled” by a lack of any promotional methods except word of mouth, and Jesus ministry generated its fnancial support from the satisfaction of people served by Him. The rule of iron I see here is that the people who support a minister should be the same people to whom he ministers. Some may say the exception is a missionary on a foreign field, and I accept that, and I receive donations from others to my ministry, but the rule should be a priority in our thinking.
Money should go principally into salaries of people we sit under and hear from week to week, or ministers who have spent considerable time teaching and exhorting us over the years, and have moved to the mission field or elsewhere to labor. The rule still stands.
4) We have distorted and destroyed biblical spirituality. Spirituality is being like Christ, and we would (should but don’t) judge a spiritual minister worthy of financial support, of our prayers, and of following his teaching and ministry ONLY IF HE IS LIKE CHRIST. Christ was humble and NEVER BRAGGED ABOUT HIS OWN TALENTS OR ACCHIEVEMENTS. We force our missionaries to break this biblical, spiritual principle in order to get any financial support, i.e. they must come bragging about their achievements instead of churches with money seeking out ministers they personally know and have heard minister to them to give these men of God donations. No wonder everything is messed up. Satan is the father of spiritual pride, and any missionary today that doesn’t “PUSH HIMSELF”, i.e. prayer cards, prayer letters, promotional material, ad nauseum, simply will starve to death. 1 in 1,000 churches send money to somebody they think is a humble missionary (if they can find one like that). What qualifies a minister as worthy of your prayers and financial donations is not his moral example, but his self promotion and haughtiness (but in a “spiritual manner”). How does that work? I am a missionary, and I have never figured that one out either. I am quiet and humble, and I don’t even get noticed in a missions conference, and if I have a service and don’t push my ministry, then the people don’t even care what happens to me, just get him out of here.
5) We are experts at missions, all the while never “producing” or “reproducing” ourselves. If you look at modern missions, 90% of what is going on is not involved in spiritual reproduction, but rather, spinning of our wheels. When we focus our efforts on medical missions, on social mission projects like food banks, and a tremendous amount of similar “ministries”, these things really do not reproduce ourselves. My concept of “myself” is a soul-winning, obedient Christian that worships in a local church each week, and I drag my converts and contacts into that ministry as forcefully as possible. Missions today (90% of it) doesn’t do that. There are not new converts being formed, and there are not new churches being formed. We segment everything, and those doing soul-winning don’t connect with any local church, but rather throw their converts to the wind, and they end up in cultish and false doctrine churches. Those who disciple and teach don’t evangelize, and since they don’t have new Christians (recently saved) coming in, they grab old Christians that have been around for years, and start them off as new disciples, and even then, these older Christians seldom get their own spiritual life in order. The focus has to be a singular person (minister) and spiritual activity that combines all into one, i.e. a true missionary.