There seems to be a growing trend among fundamental Baptist churches to throw mission agencies under the bus. The question is frequently asked, “Where are mission boards mentioned in the Bible?” The answer is clear: They are referenced right between the verse on Master Clubs and the verse on Sunday School. The point is that historically independent churches have not considered it a violation of autonomy to use various instruments to help them fulfill the Great Commission.
There are several significant reasons why I believe it is wise not to reject a missionary simply because his sending church chooses to use a mission board. When the Philippian church sent its money to the Apostle Paul, it solicited the agency of Epaphroditus to assist in getting the money there (Philippians 4:18). To be sure, Epaphroditus was no mission board. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the Philippian church felt no violation of autonomy by using an agent to deliver funds from its coffers to a supported missionary. At least three immediate reasons for the employment of such agents immediately come to mind.
First, mission boards can assist with accountability. Greater Rhode Island Baptist Temple currently supports 106 missionaries in various parts of the world. My former church, Grace Baptist Church of Columbus, Georgia, supported 220 missionaries at the time of my departure. There is no way that these churches can provide adequate oversight of each supported missionary. Therefore, we have employed the services of a mission agency to help us when doctrinal or moral deviancy occurs. Missionaries are not always honest when they take a doctrinal turn or when they slip morally. Someone on the scene can help us with needed information when it becomes necessary.
Second, mission boards can assist with feasibility. Not all local churches are up on exchange rates of foreign currencies, health insurance in foreign lands, and evacuation procedures in hostile political climates. Mission boards have been of inestimable value in these and a host of other procedural issues. It is amazing that the number of churches that are against mission boards still call these same boards for assistance when they are not sure of what to do feasibly.
Third, mission boards can assist with identity. Because fundamental churches are moving rapidly into new evangelicism, we cannot always be sure of the “stripe” of the missionary candidate that is seeking support from our churches. I may not know of the philosophy of a local church in North Dakota, but if a missionary from that rural church has picked a solid, fundamental agency to assist his sending church in his calling, then I can feel a certain level of comfort in leading my church to support the endeavor.
Let me candid that many churches that are dropping missionaries because they are affiliated with boards frequently are not churches characterized by a growing missionary budget. They are churches that are looking for a spiritual reason to take money that has historically gone to world evangelism and use it to pave the parking lot. The various representatives of separatist boards are also worthy of support because: 1) they have usually sought to maintain a fervent mission presence in the world in years of retirement; 2) they have are helping increase missionary presence in the world through active recruitment; 3) they help preserve missionary longevity on the field by putting out fires at home and abroad as well as provide functions that save missionary finance from being unduly eradicated; and 4) help churches raise their mission dollars through faith promise implementation and enhancement.
To be sure, there are some mission agencies that treat the local church with disdain and believe that the local church should not interfere when their field council has already decided to act. Such boards should be cut. But the fact that bad boards exist is no reason to drop good boards that provide tremendous logistical help to missions minded churches. A mission board is not a compromise of autonomy any more than a wife who does grocery shopping for her husband is compromising his ability to provide. The wife is shopping under his authority, for his help, and with his blessing. The same is true of every mission board used by Greater Rhode Island Baptist Temple. They are used under are authority, for our help, and with our blessing. We praise the Lord for them. I really don’t believe that all this anti-mission board rhetoric is helping us get the Gospel out in “such a time as this.”