by J. Ronald Blue
Increasingly, people all over America are spelling missions with dollar signs. Missions means money. Missions means more dollars and less sense. Missions means anxious young candidates with price tags in their ears and all too few bargains.
Increasingly, people all over America are spelling missions with dollar signs. Missions means money. Missions means more dollars and less sense. Missions means anxious young candidates with price tags in their ears and all too few bargains. Missions means ballooning budgets and high-priced products. Is there no relief? Will financial indigestion continue to threaten that vital organ called missions?
One of the greatest tragedies today is the seemingly unbreakable stranglehold money has on missionary outreach. Ask any pastor or missions committee chairman about their church missions program. Like some well-oiled computer they will spout out a dollar amount, "We gave over $120, 000 to missions last year," or "We have a faith promise goal of $360,000!"
Missions is all wrapped up in adding machine tape and financial reports. The temperature of a church’s interest in world evangelism seems to be measured by the rise of red ribbon on some gawdy cardboard faithpromise thermometer. The success of a missions conference is no longer measured by increased vision but by increased budgets.
Obviously, the problem is not with faith-promise goals, ever-increasing budgets, fund-raising banquets, or brightly colored thermometers. The problem is the excessive and almost exclusive focus on these monetary concerns. To center missions in money is like making the family budget the foundation of the Christian home.
The temperature of a church’s interest in missions is not to be measured with dollar signs but with dedicated servants. Has the church produced workers? How many home-grown missionaries have been sent to reproduce a harvest in the thorny fields of God’s favored planet earth?
The success of a missions conference is not found on faith-promise cards but in faith-powered candidates. It is not the giving but the going that must be emphasized. How many have responded to God’s mandate to disciple all the nations, to preach the gospel to every creature, to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all peoples, to be sent as Christ was sent into a needy world?
The focus needs to shift from the collection plate to consecrated personnel, from decimal points to dedicated people, from financial programs to faithful proclamation, from money to manpower.
Simply put, missions means sending and sending means more than giving. Yes, there is relief to the financial indigestion that is bringing heartburn and internal distress to missions. How do you spell relief? ADOPT. It is time to go beyond "supporting" missionaries. Missionaries need to be "adopted." What is needed is the concern and care afforded a family member.
If the church is indeed the "family of God" comprised of bloodbought "brothers and sisters," it is only natural that the family members care for those who are directed by the Father to serve in far away or alien territories. The Royal Family is to "multiply and fill the earth" with the glory of the Father and the King.
"Support," like "missions," has taken on the taint of money. It is time to call for a moratorium on supporting missionaries and plead for adopting them. The procedure is not at all complicated. In order to insure that no missionary of the church be counted an outsider or a distant cousin and thus suffer from neglect, people of the church need to be encouraged to follow adoption procedures that will provide a close tie with the new family members.
A young family with three small children will select a missionary family with small children so that there may be more interest and involvement on the part of each member of the new "extended household." A college student will most naturally want to adopt a single missionary, while a retired couple might be interested in veteran missionaries who face some of the same challenges and opportunities of life. The obvious goal is that of making missions people -centered.
A simple five-fold adoption contract insures continued commitment. This is no nebulous or ambiguous plan. It includes, but goes beyond, the decimal precision of financial contributions. The plan is practical and measurable. It fulfills these five responsibilities.
1. Pray daily. Every day one prays for the members of his adopted family. To insure that this commitment is kept, it is advisable to secure a prayer card for the adopted missionary or missionary family and post it on the bathroom mirror, in the breakfast nook, or in some other conspicuous place where it can serve as a daily reminder for prayer.
What are the prayer requests? That is easy. Even when there are no known specific prayer needs, prayer can be specific. Missionary needs are not unlike a church member’s needs. It is often helpful to utilize a simple "P. S. system. " As a person prays for his children he simply adds, " P. S. Please help our missionary children in their studies, too. Protect Jimmy and Susan. Help them grow in your grace and knowledge. " As one prays for the decisions facing him in the day, he adds, "P. S. Guide Dick in the decisions he must make today in Thailand. " Prayer for the adopted family becomes a delightful and rewarding experience.
A conspicuous clock set to the time zone of the adopted family helps to give an idea what they might be doing there. The daily exercise of prayer can take on new meaning with an added awareness of the missionaries’ probable schedule of activities. The more personal the plan, the more productive the procedure. Other creative ideas can add to the effectiveness of the daily prayer project.
2. Give weekly. Although missions is not money, missions does require money. The focus, however, is shifted from money to manpower when it is conceived as a part of a family enterprise. The sustenance and care of an adopted missionary family or families becomes the main concern. The offering placed in the collection plate each Sunday is part of a deeper family commitment.
The apostle Paul instructed the Corinthian Christians to set aside a sum in keeping with their income "on the first day of every week." This can become a new service of worship. Proportional, systematic giving is a weekly exercise to insure adequate provision for the "brothers and sisters" in service overseas.
Giving should not be a burden but a delight. God loves the cheerful giver. The Bible does not say, "Give until it hurts. " In essence the biblical instruction is, "Give until you are happy!" To be able to provide for a much loved family member is not a pain but a pleasure. It is not forced but a very natural exercise. Missionary support suddenly takes on the fuller meaning it should rightfully claim.
3. Write monthly. There is nothing that encourages missionaries more than a letter. Letter writing need not be a laborious chore. Nor need it involve a great deal of time. Perhaps the best way to accomplish this aspect of the adoption contract is to secure a good supply of aerogrammes from the post office. These letter-forms require neither an envelope nor a stamp. They speed by air mail to any destination in the world at the bargain rate of a mere thirty cents.
A quick note relating some family or church news is ideal. The most important sentence of every letter, however, is, "We are praying for you every day. " There is no greater encouragement to a close relative in far away places than to know of the systematic support in prayer.
4. Send a "care Package" quarterly. A small package or manila envelope filled with simple items, like some recent magazine, the latest best-selling paperback book, a "match-box" car, a miniature stuffed animal, or some gum and candy sent three or four times a year will bring untold joy to the adopted relatives. Especially helpful to them are items not attainable in their country of service. For example, dry yeast is not readily available in many countries of the world. Quality cloth diapers are either not sold or are extremely expensive in some nations.
The adopted missionary family, of course, knows both the items they wish that they could get and any special mailing instructions needed to avoid excessive duty charges or other customs restrictions. In most cases a small package identified with a green sticker available at any U.S. Post Office will be received with no duty charged.
5. Remember birthdays and anniversaries annually. Nothing carries a more personal touch than a birthday or anniversary greeting. It is just one more way of demonstrating close loving concern for the adopted missionary family.
It is advisable either to sign the card lightly in pencil or to enclose a note and leave the card unsigned. Why? Birthday greeting cards in English are another item that cannot normally be purchased overseas. If the card is not signed it may be recycled! The one who sends the card may very well be blessed with the same card on his birthday the following year!
The financial indigestion of missions has a cure. Relief from distressing dollar signs and the budget is readily available. The focus need only move from money to manpower. The shift from supporting missionaries to adopting missionaries can provide the personal touch that will not only relieve the financial pain but provide full health to the most important Body in the world: the Church of Jesus Christ. The church around the world can become the multiplying force God desires it to be a family of redeemed people committed to work together to reach alienated people with the message of life. This is real missions!
Copyright © 1982 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.