by George H. Slavin
In his book, The Bible Speaks to Our Times, Alan Redpath writes, “If you are a Christian and not a church member, then you are out of the will of God!” Mr. Redpath is right!
In his book, The Bible Speaks to Our Times, Alan Redpath writes, "If you are a Christian and not a church member, then you are out of the will of God!" Mr. Redpath is right! A Christian is one who has confessed the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and his own personal Savior. Such an individual is then identified with the universal church, the invisible body of Christ, which is comprised of believers now dead and with Christ, of believers now living, and of believers yet to be. The only visible manifestation of this church universal is the local assembly where its members gather for worship, instruction, fellowship and ministry.
The missionary is one of these local church members. He is recognized by the local church as particularly gifted and called for a specific task. The act of setting such an one apart has precedent in Scripture (Acts 13), and commits the church to prayer, financial support and communication.
Not to belong to a local church is to evade responsibility. Usually such people are motivated by selfishness, personal interests, and refusal to submit to any external authority. However, for those who do belong to an assembly of believers and accept their responsibility, it is expected that they will be active in worship, informed as to ministry, and involved in its program.
THE CHURCH AND ITS MISSIONS EMPHASIS
We do not have to apologize for missionary emphasis. God’s Word gives us not only authority for the church’s right of existence, but also for its concept of missions. Missions is evangelism around the world as the church fulfills the Great Commission. Missions is the church placing accent on its evangelistic mandate, that the gospel must be preached in our generation to all the world.
THE CHURCH AND ITS MISSIONS PROGRAM
The program will indicate how great the accent. It will begin at Jerusalem, for missions cannot ignore any area. It is regrettable that some churches are bound by the unscriptural tradition that insists that missions means only foreign missions. There is no distinction with God.
Some suggestions on how to implement a constant missions awareness in the local church are as follows:
1. Missionary messages from the pastor, a key figure in the program.
2. Missionary prayer emphasis. Our church mentions its missionaries by name during the morning prayer on Sundays. We publish prayer requests and a missionary family booklet is given each member.
3. Missionary speakers arranged for church, Sunday school and youth programs.
4. Missionary correspondence. We provide airmail forms, etc. all addressed, once a month for our folks to write.
5. Missionary information. We present a five-minute description of afield each month to the Sunday school, giving geography, culture, need, etc.
6. Missionary hospitality. We urge members of the church to have missionaries in their homes.
7. Missionary conference. Could be week or weekend, with suitable displays, maps, curios.
THE CHURCH AND TIDE MISSIONARY CANDIDATE
The missionary candidate is the representative of the local church and has the right to expect proper support. It is conversely true that those who send him forth have the right to expect that the missionary and his ministry warrant such support.
1. As we see the missionary. We would expect the following:
(a) A personal commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Ability to witness to a real conversion experience, consecration to the Lord and a conviction of his call. We would expect proper training for the task and the kind of perseverance that will endure.
(b) A workable knowledge of the Word of God and the acceptance of serving under a chain of command. Too independent a spirit makes too poor a servant. (c) An understanding of his own local church and his relationship to it. During youth, up to and including high school, the pastoral and church relationship is fairly close with guidance and direction. It is during the years of higher education away from home that the relationship tends to be broken. If the young person is spoken to by the Lord during his years away at school, the usual procedure is to make application to some mission board. The pastor and the church usually learn about this step when reference papers are received. Sympathize with the pastor, if you will. Neither he nor the church have seen the young person for four years, except occasionally. The reference form asks: "Is the young person reliable?" "A soul winner?" "Dedicated?" "Qualified for missionary service?" "Worthy of your church support?" And many more personal questions.
How does the pastor answer honestly? Sometimes a mission board refuses someone approved by the church. And there are times when someone approved by a mission board is disapproved by his own church. It is a delight when the young person has the approval of both. During deputation the local church can be of great help in going over the list of the missionary’s needs. When the missionary is finally on the field, an adequate flow of information is much desired. Needs ought to be made known, and emergencies shared, in keeping with the policy of the church and the mission board.
2. As the missionary sees the church
One missionary looking at his church said, "Out of sight, out of mind." This is unfortunate, but often true. The way to overcome it is not to get out of sight. If I were a missionary, I would expect the support of my pastor and my church in money, in prayer and in communication. I would be conscious that I represent the Lord through them. I would seek to keep them up-to-date on as many details as possible, and not generalize as, "The Lord is blessing in our area." I would expect when I came home on furlough to be able to give a report to the church, when convenient. Therefore, I would immediately see the pastor, go over my tentative schedule, and seek his counsel.
If I were a missionary, I would never bypass the chain of command. It is sometimes embarrassing to a pastor to be cornered by someone and asked what the church is going to do to help missionary so and so in his terrible need, when you do not know anything about it. Has the missionary written to thirty other people about his need? Has it already been met? Our church urges missionaries to write directly concerning their particular need. If we can help, fine. If we cannot, we let them know and why.
THE CHURCH AND MISSIONARY SUPPORT
Dr. George Peters suggests: "A local congregation should accept first and full responsibility for the missionaries of its own church….a partial or token monthly support can hardly be justified morally or scripturally, and it dislocates and disinherits a rightful member of the church by making him or her a member at large and a debtor to several churches and at times to numerous individuals. Where a church cannot alone bear the full financial burden, the congregation should seek to enlist the help of neighboring churches and thus free the candidate and society from this obligation…"
As ideal as the above plan is, it faces many difficulties. The candidate may come from a church not interested in faith missions, or from a small church not able to support even one missionary.
Our church frowns upon our members giving personal support directly to missionaries. There may be honest exceptions, but usually the person giving directly to the missionary is dividing his church offering and robbing Peter to pay Paul. We hold that the tithe is the Lord’s and the oversight is delegated to those who hold such office. In the Old Testament tithes were given as directed. There was no practice of any individual sending his tithe to a particular Levite under the guise of "I felt led." It is true that as Christians we are not under the same law, but the practice of giving in the New Testament follows the same pattern. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 8:19, "…which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord, and declaration of your ready mind…" There is no record of individual support in the New Testament, but rather submission to those who have the rule over us.
This does not mean an individual should not send a personal gift to a missionary. But it does mean he should not decide how much of his church offering should go to a particular person or place. If one person has the right to designate the Lord’s money, then all have this right – not only to missionaries, but to the pastor, custodian, organist, etc. The result would be chaos.
Our church prepares a missionary budget and presents this to the congregation. If approved, the entire congregation is responsible. In order to plan the budget we seek from each of our missionaries the following information: Total support need and what this covers as field supports medical, administration, furlough, etc.; total passage needed; total equipment needed; total housing need, if extra.
Our church has a missionary policy and seeks first to support our own young people committed to the mission field. If they are single this usually means full support. If married, it usually means approximately 50 percent of the support needed for the couple, because one of the couple is usually supported by another church.
Periodically we make a survey of our missionaries’ needs by asking them to report to us in simple form as follows:
Your need for one year as approved by your mission; support received (apart from personal gifts).
We then find out what percentage of support we underwrite, and increase accordingly, if a deficit is shown. A recent survey indicated that we had to increase our personal missionary support by $10,000 before we could consider taking on any new missionaries.
We continue our support of missionaries when retired, and we begin missionary support when they are approved as candidates.
THE CHURCH AND MISSIONARY FURLOUGH
Our church is interested in the missionary and his furlough. A furlough is defined as leave of absence, permission to leave the field of duty for the purpose of rest, medical attention, visit with family, etc. The armed forces, the State Department, and even industry will send a man on foreign service, and then bring him home, but reassign him for service here. It is doubtful if any such personnel would be on their own for a year or more without specific duties and adequate supervision. From observation, the following occurs during missionary furlough:
1. The missionary may take further training either at the request of the mission board or on his own. It would seem wise to seek the supporting church’s assent in this.
2. The missionary follows a deputation schedule, either set up by the board or by himself. Some of these are strenuous and expensive. The general pattern is to get as many meetings as possible. The usual stated objective is to make known the work and seek people to pray.
3. The missionary is entirely on his own and he may or may not report to his mission board. Generally, he does not report to his supporting churches.
4. Because furlough support is seldom adequate to meet family needs, the missionary may be forced to take a job. What we would like to receive is information from the mission board as: "Missionary John Doe and family. Furlough time, Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 1971. Tentative plan to leave field on Jan. 2, arriving Kennedy airport TWA Flight No. 800, due to arrive 9:30 a.m., Jan 3rd. Housing: John will be living with-or at-or adequate housing is needed. Please contact mission board for arrangement. Support: John will be receiving-per month during furlough. Additional need while at home estimated to be .Transportation: a small car is needed. Furlough Schedule: two months (Jan. – Feb.) for rest. Please do not contact for meetings. One month (or more) for ministry to supporting churches. One month for reorientation at home office. Six months for deputation. Remaining time preparation for return to the field."
THE CHURCH AND SOME MISSIONARY PROBLEMS
Problems must be faced realistically and honestly, such as the following:
1. The problem of mission needs. All mission societies differ in policy. Some allow needs to be known, some do not. As a local church we need to be informed of specific needs and what is expected of us.
2. Return passage. Most missionaries have to raise this during furlough, and for some the amount is staggering. Could not this be included in their overall support and held in escrow for their return?
3. Missionary and deputation speakers. Appeals for personnel are often general. It would be better to say, "We need three nurses in Peru with their RN – no Bible School needed; or a missionary-pastor, must be a graduate of Bible College, etc."
4. Communication. Always needed between missionary and local church. Also needed between local church and mission board.
5. Missionary children and education. A real problem of cost is involved for education and possible need of housing, if away from their parents.
6. Missionary retirement. All of us get old and must anticipate this. This is almost impossible for the missionary with minimum support. Social Security, pension plans, etc., ought to be considered and the local church urged to continue support after retirement.
The missionary and his local church: they need each other. I hear them prayed for every Sunday; I know their names; I remember their faces: I read some of their letters. Perhaps, I am more of a spectator than I ought to be, but this does not mean I am uninterested. Spectators watch the game, support the team, and follow its progress.
That teamwork, between church and missionary, is obviously what Paul was talking about to the Philippians when he wrote: "I thank my God for you all every time I think of you… because of the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel,…I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. But it was very good of you to help me in my trouble. . . you were the only church to help me; you were the only ones who shared my profits and losses" (1:3, S; 4:13-15).
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