Competition between missionaries is an opinion from David Cox, a full time missionary since 1983 about competition that I have seen between missionaries.
It is a sad state of affair when instead of worrying about spiritual matters we are more concerned about how we stack up one against another. The bottom line is the “better” one missionary and his ministry can be presented, the easier it is for him to get funding. This missionary competition is pure carnality and anything but spiritual, but this is what many missionaries do, and basically they have to play the game of competing with other missionaries or they won’t get missionary support. This situation has been equally orchestrated by churches that give to missions as well as by the missionaries. Many a missions conference is arranged so that those who sing and dance (okay not dance but perform in order to entertain, same thing) better will get the funds, and in some way, these conferences seem to want to embarrass those missionaries who cannot do puppet shows, or sing, or play an instrument, etc.
Having been a missionary for 30 plus years, music and puppets and such is pretty low in what makes a mission field church work. Good preaching, good spiritual discernment, leadership elements in the missionary, persistence in the face of difficulties and opposition are major needs and advantages. None of these elements are every touched on in any missions conference I have attended. Maybe preaching, but if a missionary preaches better than the pastor, then most pastors resent him for that. Huh?
2Cor 10:12-18 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. But we will not boast of things without [our] measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you. For we stretch not ourselves beyond [our measure], as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in [preaching] the gospel of Christ: Not boasting of things without [our] measure, [that is], of other men’s labours; but having hope, when your faith is increased, that we shall be enlarged by you according to our rule abundantly, To preach the gospel in the [regions] beyond you, [and] not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand. But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
Paul addresses the contention that was being thrown about in the Corinthian church at the time, and it appears that the issue was that some were boasting of their own actions and authority as being the same as one of the 12 apostles, and despising and debasing Paul and his ministry, boasting that their ministry was superior to Paul’s missionary ministry in some way. This is exactly the same situation going on in churches today, and the churches are promoting this unhealthy and unspiritual competition between missionaries.
It is common for churches to have missions conferences where they put the missionaries “head to head” where they must sing and entertain or please the crowd. Two things come out loud and clear in these settings: (1) the missionary family with the most entertainment talents or charisma personality wins, and (2) the missionary who can brag about his own ministry most wins.
If we return to the Scriptures, all Christians should be examples of Christ, and Christ set the pace as being the more spiritual person as they are the meek and mild, never boasting or trumpeting his own virtues.
Prov 25:27 [It is] not good to eat much honey: so [for men] to search their own glory [is not] glory.
Prov 27:2 Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
2Cor 10:18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
2Cor 12:11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.
The bottom line here is that it is an extremely thin line (if there is even a line at all) between boasting of your own self and presenting your ministry. I never see anyone (anyone spiritual at least) in the Scriptures boast of their work. They work seeking to please the Lord, and the Lord is the one who matters, not your financial supporters. Paul in 2Cor 12 does tell things as they were, but his point was not to get missionary support, but to get a fair hearing on his doctrinal differences with the Corinthians, and to get his exhortations heard. Probably no money or support was involved between Paul and the Corinthian church.
How to “not compete”
When money and financial support is involved, then this issue becomes extremely tense, and backstabbing, blaspheming, and gossip coming from the lips of “good people.” This is sad, and probably God allows it for the spiritual churches to discern and reveal what kind of minister would attack a fellow man of God. Biblical issues of testimony, biblical doctrine or practice, and other important issues are not the usual fair for these attacks, because the Bible is only used when it is convenient, and anything that can be used to beat the other person’s testimony seems to be fair game, yet these same people seldom seem to take stands on the issues of the day. In other words, the same ones that get so bent out of shape at some brother missionary doing a good job, and he just has to mention to a pastor supporting him some issue with him, also has no problem with the Charismatic movement, worldly music, or visiting churches with bad doctrine or testimony (when they themselves are doing it).
The competition element should be shunned in Christianity. Some pastors are extremely cordial and courteous when one missionary doesn’t show a lot of stage talent (sing and entertainment routines before others). What probably should be of great importance is how well a missionary can preach or teach, and this seems to be the least important issue, and the issue that most pastors seem to overlook as a requirement. The bottom line here is that if a ministry cannot preach or teach in English before your church, chances are his ministry will be the same boring, lifeless ministry on the foreign field, just worse. Personally, I don’t mind a young or inexperienced missionary who cannot preach or teach so well if he is very sincere and trying hard. Dedication and passion go a long way to make up for talent. Give that kind of guy all the breaks in the world.
But note that pride and haughtiness are the characteristics of the devil and his children (Isaiah 14). When you see people always forcing into conversations all that they have done, and how great they are, be assured that Satan has a firm grip on their hearts, and they will do little for God, and they will do great damage to God’s name and work. Don’t pay those kinds of guys their salary.
How does a church choose a missionary to support?
This may be difficult for many pastors to comprehend, but doctrine and the person of the man of God are the main reasons why a church should support a missionary. We don’t do that at present. We have given mission boards, denominations (or fellowships for independents), and the good ole boy system (if my friend recommends you, you are in without any scrutiny, but if none of my friends recommend you, forget it, no matter what you are). Having done deputation services in probably going on 700 or more churches over 27 years of being a missionary, my experience is that few churches really even review the doctrine of their missionaries. Simply put, they don’t because they can’t. Most churches and even a lot of pastors cannot get to the real doctrine a guy believes because they don’t work well in doctrine.
Here things that would be important to me (what I would think pastors should be asking missionaries) are the following:
(1) your salvation experience. Sorry to say it folks, but there are pastors of churches and missionaries on the field that are just as lost as the worse pagan in the corner bar. I don’t say that to judge these people but to open your eyes. Having personally known fundamental Baptist independent missionaries who left the ministry and openly admitting to fornication, and that even with prostitutes, pedophilia, alcoholism and drugs, and other such things. I have heard pastors who were pastoring for 20 years and then get saved and give open testimony to that fact.
1Cor 9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
I have studied this text thoroughly, and I fully believe that Paul’s argument here is not that he had seen Jesus in his earthly ministry, nor really that he had seen Jesus in the road to Damascus. (He was blinded and didn’t see anything nor anybody). Paul’s defense of his missionary ministry is that he had seen Christ and received him as his personal savior. This is the only thing that makes sense. He is defending himself in that sense that he has a calling as an apostle (missionary), that he is not bound under a life dominating sin, and that he is truly saved (giving testimony of his own salvation to the heathen) and that the Corinthian church is the result of that testimony-ministry.
Maybe if we would investigate (at least ask the people you are investing money into how, when, and what was their understanding when they were saved), then we can avert many a tragedy on the mission field. It costs a lot of money, time, and energy to get a missionary family on the mission field. For every one that makes it to the mission field, probably there are 20-25 that never get their funds and don’t make it. Many then have them come back in disgrace which is horrible, and a great disgrace to the name of our Lord. If it can be averted by personally and individually knowing your missionary and being “picky” in first accepting a missionary, why not put forth the extra effort? This part of the church-missionary interview process cannot be delegated to a mission board or somebody else. This is how the missionary gets to know you personally, and you get to know him. How can you pray over him, his family, and his ministry if you won’t take the time to know his testimony?
(2) What are you going to do? How are you going to do it?
I think the most frustrating and ridiculous thing is that pastors and churches want to know as little about their missionaries as possible. If the missionary is an extension of your local church, then why does anything pass? If the missionary is out of sync with your beliefs and practices, why should you support him? Here please note that many missionaries are infamous in their beliefs and what they tell people. They will say anything to agree with you and get your financial support.
Rev 2:2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
What in the world does this passage talk about? The NT world knew very well who were the 12 apostles, and to identify one of them was simple, have somebody who personally walked with Christ identify them. Paul’s defense of his apostleship to the Corinthians in the previous verse we saw above was that “he was an apostle… and you are the proof of my apostleship”. In other words, Paul was not making himself “one of the number” (one of the 12 apostles), but he was claiming to be one of the missionary-apostles of the churches, and the proof of his apostleship was the Corinthian church, i.e. pagans converted to Christ, and a church formed from that group. Why cannot we clearly see this and go back to this as THE requirement for our missionaries? God commended the Ephesian church because they could not tolerate fake missionaries! How would our churches stack up to this standard today? They found them out to be liars.
Today there is just too much lying going on in the pulpits and in missions presentations. Perhaps some examples I have heard and comments would open your eyes.
Example one – We have a super church on the mission field.
One pastor was bragging on one of their missionaries to me that he has a church of 10,000 members, and he is getting $10,000 a month support. My question is to him was, how come those 10,000 people (even granting that they were poor) could not sacrifice $1 per month to pay their pastor’s salary? A laborer is worthy of his hire, or is he taking that $10,000 dollars and giving away the money to get the large numbers? Somewhere in all of this, shouldn’t the mission field church become self supporting? 10,000 members seems way beyond that point of becoming self-supporting.
Yet this success never causes the mission field church to become self supporting as far as their ministry and supporting their pastor. A church under 100 people needs help. That is true even in the US many times.
The problem is that we are so easily deceived by fraudsters. If by using their Madison Avenue methods, they can get spiritual and economic success, why are they raising money from a US church of 200? Their presentation is an afront to that pastor because his church hasn’t grown to thousands.