Truly, every single missionary wants success. It is extremely important to really understand “what success is for a missionary”. For many people, success can be defined as the 3 B’s: Bodies, Bucks, and Buildings. See my tract ch31 3Bs of success: buildings, bodies, and bucks In this tract I refute those elements of success. The Jack Hyles school of ministry would clearly define success in these parameters. While these things may seem to be success for Christian ministries, it is very unspiritual, and it is very much not what the Bible presents. As far as we know, Jesus had no building EVER. The money aspect of Jesus’ ministry did not appear prominent, i.e. he did not have expensive things a lot of money could buy. When at the end he entered into Jerusalem at the beginning of his final week, he had to borrow somebody else’s “wheels” (a burro, not a nice horse), and he had to borrow somebody else’s upper room. Both of these elements, as well as all the other aspects of his ministry point to a ministry devoid of “riches”. He helped the poor, but he himself and his inner circle walked wherever they went from all indications.
Even the “helping aspect” of Jesus’ ministry is something that is speaking strongly against modern success oriented ministries. Notice that Jesus fed the thousands and healed many. These things were not the appeal that Jesus put forth as his main focus. We see nowhere that Jesus nor his followers went about advertising free food or free healing. These things were not the focus. Jesus’ focus was centrally and exclusively on the Gospel. People came to hear the Gospel, not for the food. This was the advertisement Jesus and his disciples’ used if there were even an advertisement at all. Word of mouth was what would appear to be the only advertisement they used.
Biblical success for missionaries
Biblically, we need to define success differently, in a spiritual sense that we can better understand things. Our orientation in this matter of success should come from our goals, and these goals are very visible whether we want them to be or not.
To Do God’s will
First of all, we want to do God’s will. Although many or most or every missionary says he wants to do God’s will, does he really go through with it? One thing is to have a great ministry for God, and another thing is to do the work that God wants for the individual. God is not in the business of setting up human, earthly empires, but rather spiritual workshops to do the work of God. If you understand that Jesus nowhere built an earthly empire around any servant nor his ministry, then you understand more closely what God’s will is. Self-adulation (worshipping and praising one’s own self, or to focus on trying to get others to worship and praise one’s own self) is very much against the Bible’s teaching. Colossians 2:8 means the worship of angels, and this is not the worship of celestial beings, but rather we should translate the word “angel” as it really is, “messenger”, so Paul condemned messenger worship (be it a celestial being or a pastor or missionary). With this in mind, it should be clear that missionaries and pastors that build empires “to themselves” are highly demonic and opposite of God’s plan and example.
Doing God’s will is doing God’s work. The work of God is to evangelize the lost, and disciple and train them in self supporting local churches. There can be no true success if this rule is not observed. Many missionaries have non-evangelism, and non-church planting ministries. Fine. Defend that from Scripture. Where does the Bible present that kind of ministry as valid, either in theory, in commanding it, or in example, because the New Testament doesn’t even hint at it.
Of those that do evangelism and church planting, we need to focus not on the personal greatness (“bigness Sunday School in North America”) of the minister or his ministry/church, but rather on the effectiveness of what he does as compared to the plan of the Bible for any Christian. Truly believe in Jesus Christ, and live for him, participating fully in a local church.
Truly Saved, Holy, and Serving
The objective of any biblical missionary ministry should be to convince other people of their need to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. By this, we are talking about a true salvation experience. There is a great need for ministers to train and equip these new converts, but note that God does the saving, not the individual ministers. The difference here is that at some point, normal new Christians will change their life and follow Christ. Does the minister exhort, rebuke, instruct, and try to persuade his new converts? Of course he does. But bridery is not in the equation. He does not “offer” economical gifts for those who do. This is a great evil in Christendom, because it undermines the work of the Holy Spirit. What Christians do is not purely nor mainly for the economical benefit they may or may not get from it. This is the lesson of the book of Job in the Bible. Seems many ministers haven’t learned that lesson. First of all, serving God doesn’t always result in you being rich, popular, powerful, influential, nor healthy. That cause and result, or action and consequence just in not biblically justified. To present that and then try to give financially to those under your control is not God’s work. It is a deception, and Satan’s work. One responds individually to our brethren’s needs, and this needs to be done locally, not “across the seas”. So missionaries that heavily rely on give-aways in their ministry (to make them work) do not have God’s power locally in their work. They are trying to “arrange a miracle”. A truly saved person will slowly grow spiritually, and his actions are not linked solely to the profit motive. He does things that just are not logical for a profit-only-motive person to do. For example, he gives, and he gives sacrifically to the work of God. This mark of holiness and spirituality is where ministries begin to separate into “good works”, and “fraudulent works”. What supports it, or props it up.
A Biblical New Testament Church
If God’s goal is the reproducing of God’s flock (salvation of souls) both at home (locally) and world wide, then it is also the replication of New Testament Churches. A pastor that had his own mission board in his church one time presented me with the pitch to join his group. One of his “golden boys” was a missionary in Brazil. He had a mission newpaper they put out every month, and showed me this guy’s ministry, complete with a complete list of all his supporting churches and how much each one gave to that missionary. The pitch included a mention that this missionary had 10,000 people in his church. “Great work of God our missionary is doing there. He is receiving well over $10,000/month.” This was supposed to entice me to enter in with them. My response was that that missionary was unbiblical in his ministry and it was a shame and fraud. “What? Brother Cox, how can you say that about such a great work of God?” If each of his church members (he was their pastor) gave the price of 1 Coke-a-Cola ($1) per month in their offerings, then that missionary could have survived completely without any missions donations from US churches. Everybody all over the world drink coke. Most of the times, a typical family (and poor families drink more coke that the rest) will spend a good bit of money each month on soft drinks. A tithe is 10%, and that is what biblically we are obliged to give as a minimum or base to start off with. I cannot believe that poor families can live on less than a few dollars a month. Most live on a few dollars a day. Times 30 is $30/month. Tithe is $3/month. God has set this as our standard, so I cannot stain God’s standard here. This money is for God’s work in a local church.
When missionaries pump up their church attendance by artificial means, this is invalid and destroys any biblical aspect of that ministry. People have to want to come to church and participate because God is working in their heart to get a spiritual remedy for their spiritual needs. They have a spiritual soul that needs to be fed with spiritual food. The material needs and concepts go into the background. Success then is when the people of a ministry get behind it, and they do the work of the ministry, and they pay for it.
Any ministry that boasts of great success by showing people and money (buildings, expensive items in their pictures, like properties, vans, buses, expensive audio/visual equipment, large church buildings, etc.), then the question has to be made, Why doesn’t the people in that great local church success story pay for what that ministry needs? Small works need economic help. Large works beg the question what are they doing over there? If they are doing things right, and these pictures and boastings of 1000s saved and serving in that ministry, then why cannot they give their tithe, and pay for things without going back to the US? Actually, why are they still missionaries even? If a missionary is a pastor of a church of several thousand, anywhere in the world, then why doesn’t those people financially support him fully? That is, why doesn’t he stop receiving funds from the U.S. altogether and just live the rest of his life on the field in that church, and be self-supporting? The answer is rough.
Ministers don’t do that because that “is not the game”. They are fishing for money from people, and they probably take a good healthy chunk of money from their church on the field, and they want money to come in also from the U.S. The point is that they are false prophets seeking to fleece the sheep of God and live high lifestyles of luxury.
See my Tract: Ch19 Marks of a False Prophet, specifically the section, These False Prophets Steal Money from the Brethren. One of the requirements for ministry (at home or abroad) is very simply, one is not given to covetousness. In the situation of missionaries, they PRESUME that they cannot live at the lifestyle level of the nationals, and therefore they will live “higher”. From that presumption, they live higher than any national, and actually higher even than well-off people in the US. Some missionaries are bringing in $10,000 to $30,000 of dollars each month. U.S. Churches blindly send more and more money down that “rabbit hole” to them without any responsibility or accountability. What this does is to ruin any honest servant of God coming up through their ranks. They want to be a missionary like this guy that led them to Jesus, because he has 4 new cars, a beautiful million dollar mansion, and they see no end to his riches. Well, when dealing with a false prophet, it doesn’t work that way. False prophets give meager salaries that people cannot live on while they spend vast amounts on their own pleasures and luxuries. This is when these ministers under the missionary “break-away” to do what they have seen done before their eyes. Again it doesn’t work, so they have to go back to the United States and do deputation there. To be a pastor in a far away country, building up your own church and living from the resources of your own people is not going to giving them the high luxurious life-style they have seen by their U.S. missionary. What is success again?
Success should be clearly designed and sought after as a group of truly saved nationals, that fully support and work the work of God in that foreign country without crutches or power/control apparatuses from other churches. These control apparatuses are like denominations. We will give you money if you obey us.
If the missionary presents such a fantastic picture of success, which would be thousands of people won to the Lord under his ministry, buildings, money galor via expensive equipment, and other such things, then why can’t those thousands also support his ministry from here on out? The biblical missionary and pastor wants to transfer over time all of his financial and economical support for both his own personal life and that of his ministry on the field from U.S. churches to that ministry where he is working. The fact that he cannot or does not want to do so implies that the work is not so much a success as he is presenting it.
I am not necessarily a good example of anything, but after 28 years on the mission field, we started our third church in 2002, and in about 10 years we have 40 people, and they are paying half of my income. To me, I am successful. As our church on the field grows, they are doing more each year than the year before. They are paying for 100% of this ministry’s needs, and I am giving, after year’s of paying for everything, I am giving just my tithe, and a little bit of offerings beyond that that is not the majority of what comes in. Am I earning more than some in the church? Yes. But we have a number in the church that have their own house (I don’t), they drive new cars (mine is 10+ years old), and they have their own businesses and investments in the stock market, thing that I don’t have either. If the missionary can live at the same level of at least the better off people in his church, then why should he seek to live in luxury at the expense of churches in the U.S.? Moreover, these types of missionaries who have to take in really large amounts of money every month soak up all the available funds for new missionaries starting out!
If they would use what their ministry on the field raises for their own personal and ministry expenses, and turn over their economic support back to those U.S. churches so that it could be used for new missionaries going out, the work of the Lord could maybe do the job better and more thorough.
The reason that doesn’t happen is because there are false prophets, wolves, among us that devour the sheep, abusing them, and this is their sign. U.S. churches don’t seem to care, nor do they demand accountability. Why not? Because mission boards are supposed to do that, and the mission boards likewise “get their cut of the profits” and give their blessings on anything in return.
Necessary Resources for Success as a Missionary (from BibleTalk)
2. Flexibility – Being able to bend with the changing situation that God has put you into.
3. Focus – Don’t major on the minors.
How To Prepare For A Career As A Missionary
Skip to 1:30 minutes to the good stuff. Note this video has some good thoughts, but I DON’T ENDORSE ANY OF THESE MISSIONS AGENCIES. I include this video for helping people see and hear some thoughts from real missionaries. The music in this video is also a little too jazy for me, so please excuse that.
“Translate information into inspiration.”