Missionary Red Herrings

Missionary Red Herrings explains how Satan is using unbiblical missionaries to soak the resources of God’s people so that people who truly are in the very activity of reproducing Christians and churches in other areas have no funds to do their work.

Definition of what is a Red Herring – Something that draws attention away from the matter being discussed or dealt with.

Missions in the United States has been changed starting in the 1970s or before from what I can tell, and between 1980s through today the situation is critical. Let me explain this to you as frankly, clearly, and to the point as I can.

“Understanding why Missions is broke”

As a missionary doing evangelism and planting local churches, it is extremely frustrating to go to churches in the United States to gather prayer and economic support, and find myself in competition with literally hundreds of other missionaries. Rather than being a joy that God’s work is growing all over the world, we find people who are “missionaries”, but who are doing “fringe Christian service,” not really preaching the gospel directly to the unsaved, nor are they planting local churches. They consume their lives in “Christian ministry”, but without the focus on the most important elements. Witnessing seems to be something that all these missionaries and ministers just cannot or will not dedicate themselves to do. You wonder if leading others to Christ really even crosses their mind. The participation, integration, and formation of local churches seems to be another lost thing, where although all these ministries want local churches to support them and give them all their young people as workers, but where they don’t do much or anything to really make new local churches, or build up the membership of those local churches.

As an alternative to God’s perfect and genius structure, a functioning, obedient local church, they set up alternatives. Things like the Boy Scouts and such. I was a Boy Scout, and when I was in it, the things that they wanted of all Boy Scouts was good and noble. But not under the specific structure of a local church, anybody can be a leader, and any church or group can be an organizer. Thus homosexual oriented group got into the mix and destroyed them. If the worker and leaders of a Boy Scout group were held to church norms, no homosexual would be allowed, and their demise could have been prevented.

I ask you to require your stateside “missionary” to admit that his habit is to go out with the church where he is to evangelize the lost. These people don’t know how or just don’t want to do door to door evangelism. And they are professional “missionaries.” Obviously their idea of missions is not that of the Bible.

While we are doing the work of God, it is extremely frustrating and unnerving that churches think that a ministry of putting some Christian message on a sign in yards around the US is the same as people who go to another country and witness door to door and establish churches from the converts of that evangelism. Likewise it is not the same as being a pastor or Sunday School teacher. I am not against putting a sign on your lawn with a Bible verse, but I am against taking missions money and paying some guy $50,000 dollars a year to do it.

This is the strategy of Satan folks. When you cannot stop missionaries, then dilute them so that all the real missionaries starve to death, and distract churches from giving and praying for true missions by creating a false missions ministry that doesn’t do t-hings the way God has commanded.

If you cannot stop them, then make fakes that soak up all the available resources.

Revelation 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:
If we can study this passage and understand what it is teaching, we will see what God is really recommending to the church at Ephesus because it examined those who say they are apostles (literally, those sent on a mission), and were not, and has found them to be liars. How were these missionaries liars? Because they said they were doing what Paul, Barnabas, and the rest of the non-twelve Apostles were doing, but they had no evidence to prove their work.
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?
Paul’s point here is to prove his apostleship (or the evidence that testifies that he is a true apostle-missionary), and this evidence for him is the existence of a local church (several actually) as the fruit of his hands.

Satan has inserted “fraudulent missionaries” into the formula which have achieved the Satanic goal of drying up all missions funds, resources, and attention that should be reserved for real missionaries.

Now I know I will have literally thousands or hundreds of thousands of these missionary middle men on top of me because of what I say, but please, if you are a pastor or layman, consider what I say. There are true ministers of God out there evangelizing in foreign countries, really good and dedicated men and women of God, and they get these people organized into local churches like Paul, Luke, Barnabas, Peter, John, etc. But these true missionaries are having to come home even though churches are spending more money on missions than ever in the history of Christianity. This is because all the money is going to people who are not doing true missions, but rather “other ancillary ministries”. You see, true missions create a product; they create new Christians from pagans and those in false religions, and they create local churches where these new Christians are. This new churches are soul-winning and missions giving churches. A single missionary MUST do both activities at the same time. These fake missionaries do all kinds of wonderful and glorious activities, but they don’t fulfill the great commission, and they do soak up all the missions resources, and most importantly they diminish a true missionary’s economic base, and the remove the prayer focus of God’s people from salvation and discipleship in local churches to other “kinds” of ministry.

Likewise, there are fraudulent churches on the mission field. They use funds from the United States to bribe people into their work. With thousands of dollars for their ministry, they give out food bags and other such things. But in reality, they find it very hard without large infusions of cash from the United States. If they were founding an independent local church, those very same people would pay for these charity elements and not live off of these cash donations from the states.

At this point, I would like to point out that the integral and essential element of true missions is that true missions is autonomous. By its very nature and purpose, a true missionary should have an extremely high priority and goal in forming local churches in foreign countries that support themselves. Fake missionaries conceive of missions as other people paying their bills. They look to soak up all the missions funds for buying them property and paying salaries. They make organizations, but they don’t make autonomous local churches.

If each missionary was to have as his goal the foundation of a local church where those church members would financially support their own ministry, then instead of one or two or three missionaries each making $20,000 per month (yes there are missionaries making this much and more per month), we could have a half dozen missionaries in their place.

“I want to help you Mr. Missionary”

Over the years, I have seen so many ministries built up to help the local church or to help missionaries that it turns my stomach. Each of these ministries has to be funded, and the rule is that nobody works for free any more. Instead of a godly individual in a local church who will donate their time, effort, and money, everybody wants to make a formal ministry that must have their own building (from hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions for mission boards), their own paid staff, and money for their ministry activities. None of these organizers are thinking of paying themselves an austere, small salary neither. When I compare this to my situation of working out of my bedroom as an office, I wonder what are the US Christians thinking? These fake missionaries aim to get missions dollars for all of this. Once they amass a lot of money, they want to get out of “missions” and they walk away with everything people have “given to missions.” Instead of churches investing their missions dollars in missionaries (salaries of workers doing the job), these ministries start calling themselves “missionaries” and “missions”, and they drain the local churches dry of their mission funds. We have tremendous pushes for millions of dollars for property and equipment that are not really necessary. We see none of this emphasis in the NT.

I continue to see every year more and more people “wanting to help me as a missionary”. Most of this help I simply turn down. In the end analysis, the quality is poor or non-existent, and these same people are running around year round in the US, every year trying to compete with me for missionary funding and for the prayers and interest of churches in the US. The point is that they are professional fund raisers, which invest 10s of thousands of dollars in promotional equipment which I as a regular biblical missionary cannot compete with. As a church, what does a missionary coming into your church with a $150,000 mobile home, a $15,000 floor to ceiling display, and $40,000 worth of projection equipment tell you? Where is your money going to? To win the lost? To disciple God’s people? No. It is going into expensive and unnecessary “toys” for chasing more missions money. When you analyze it, it is a machine to “chew up” and consume missions dollars without really doing the work of the Lord.

In my missions ministry, we have always had problems with enough money. Times were hard, and money is always scarce. I went to a mission’s conference of all Mexicans here in Mexico. I listened Mexican missionaries going to other Latin American countries to win souls. My joy turned to shock when they started talking money, and what they said was 1) you have to get into the US because you will never make it with what Mexican churches give you, and 2) the amount of money they as Mexicans would need to go to say Peru, Columbia, or Argentina. In 30 years of being a missionary in Mexico, I never made that much money in a month except once when a church in the US dissolved and distributed their assets among their missionaries. In Mexico, they could like on a fourth of that sum, and I don’t understand why they were saying what they were saying. But then I understand why Mexicans wanted to be missionaries (some of them). Missionaries make a lot of money they said. They are rich. But I don’t see the calling of the Lord and the dedication to keep on working even when what you are doing is making you broke.

Concerning missionary “helps”, let us be clear here. Missionaries need help from God’s people. But this help needs to come for free. Totally free. If a person wants to design my prayer card, fine. If he can do that, go get a job in something else, and do the prayer card designing on the side, taking no missionary funds from any church, and minister for God helping missionaries. When you live off of taking money from missionaries, something is wrong. When the missionary “helps” ministry is draining serious missions dollars from churches, and that ministry is in competition with what the missionary is doing, it is not a help. Let me ask you to apply a simple litmus test. Are they seriously dedicated with their own time, money, and initiative with them going out doing it, in evangelism? Do they have personal converts that they have made? Are there new national churches on the foreign field because of their ministry. When you do not see that, and these people are not interested in they themselves getting out and working in evangelism and church planting for the Lord, then don’t fund them with your missions dollars.

As a missionary it is difficult to say this, but people who aren’t in witnessing and church planting “shouldn’t put their hand in the missions pie”. There are many missionaries doing the work of evangelism and church planting that close up shop and go home or never get to the field in the first place because there are not enough funds available to keep them on the field or to send them. The biblical definition of a “missionary” is a couple that goes to another country to win converts to Christ, and then organize them into a local church. As I travel around visiting churches from time to time I always look at a church’s missionaries. In general, most medium sized churches have 20-40 missionaries. Out of this number, probably 3-4 are church planters. The rest are ministries that “help missionaries” or are “home missions”, supported totally by churches as missionaries (and not church planting in the US, but some other “good thing”).

These “missionary helpers” really help precious little, and they always need their own office, staff, etc that means hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in US personal and stateside expenses which are unnecessary. They require a lot of money that is necessary for them to keep their ministry operating, but missionaries can get the same services for cheaper or for free elsewhere. They are NEVER CHEAPER than a secular service which does the same thing like design a prayer card, and they are usually poorer quality. (Most missionaries not financially involved in receiving a “cut” from that ministry just stop using them after a while because of quality issues, or they see them in competition with real missionaries.)

In Bible college missions class, we learned that China was closed to missions. I consider it still closed. In a missions conference in Kentucky once, we were some 8 missionary families. One family was missionaries to China. In a meal the church provided for us, I sat with this man and asked him about his ministry in China. He has an orphanage with some 20 children. He cannot teach them the plan of salvation nor the Bible nor anything that would be considered “religious.” In order to get permission from the Chinese Communist government to have the orphanage, he has to pay two Chinese nationals, selected by the Communist government, to make sure he does not teach anything religious.

On top of that, I asked him if he had an English church for he, his wife, and his own 5 or 6 children. No. That was prohibited also. They attended the endorsed Communist church, where the preacher had to submit his sermon in advance to the Communist authorities for approval. So in the missions conference, pastors were lining up to book this missionary and take him on. We left the conference without any other bookings in churches, and without support. Not that I am jealous, but I am jealous for the Lord’s work when I see something that is just not right.

When Christians wake up to see 80% or more of missions dollars going to supposed missionaries and ministries which don’t do evangelism directly and actively, and which are not local church oriented (establishing and raising up a local church from their own evangelism efforts), it should be a wake up call. Something is wrong. Where did biblical missions go?