Is All This Anti-Mission Board Rhetoric Helping?

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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.”

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4 Responses so far.

  1. David Gates says:

    Praise the Lord for this clear and practical truth. The Lord Jesus Christ is worthy to be praised in all the earth. People are dying without Him and many churches are fighting over things that just do not matter while we are here fighting sin, false religion and cultures that are godless. I pray that we would work together to see Christ magnified in all the earth. Thanks again for this helpful article.

  2. Mark Lawrence says:

    I saw this article on the sidebar while reading another one of your posts. I would like to say that although mission boards are not unbiblical, they are more often than not inefficient. I am tired of new missionaries trying to get to the field and can’t be entertained for support by churches that support home office workers in top heavy mission boards.

    Although ministry is not a business, we should at least be as good of a steward with ministry finances for God as a corporation would be for its stockholders. When the economy gets tough, business managers make tough decisions for a company by cutting unneeded positions. I think it would be fair to say that some mission boards don’t evaluate their own staffing with the same scrutiny.

    How do they pay for these positions? Generally, 1 of 3 ways:

    1. They tax a missionary more than he ought to be taxed. (How much additional support does a missionary need to raise if he is going to tithe to his church, give his faith promise, and then pay the mission board fees.)
    2. They take “voluntary” offerings. They pretend they do not charge the missionary anything, but yet there is an unspoken rule that a missionary is going to give to them anyways.
    3. They cannibalize mission dollars by being counted as “missionaries” and raising their own support, which in turn limits support available for actual missionaries.

    I’m sorry that some dear brother didn’t plan wisely for his retirement. I’m sorry that his home church and family isn’t fulfilling their responsibility to take care of him. I’m sorry many of them don’t want to go back and get a job like every other church member. But does this mean we need to create some position for them at the home office and make the process even more costly and inefficient for active missionaries? Does this mean that we need to give them love offerings and honorariums that should be going towards missionary support?

    Although mission agencies can be helpful, without a doubt, some of them have too much staff and are taking too much money from missionaries and churches to fund the monster they have created.

    Let’s face it. Fundamentalism isn’t growing, and if we are truly pre-trib, premillenialists, we shouldn’t be surprised at that. The applicable question then is what are we going to do to revamp our missions process to get the most missionaries to the field for the dollars we have available?

    I love many mission agencies. These are just some honest observations that will have to be addressed for the cause of Christ. We always focus on increasing missions giving as the solution to our problems. This is the same concept as the way liberals want to fund the government. But any good fiscal conservative realizes the answer to an ailing economy is not by increasing revenues (taxes or in this case offerings). We mustcut spending and tighten our belts. And some of that has to happen at the mission agencies.


  3. Pastor Amsbaugh,
    Thank you for writing an article on this important subject. The need for logistical help that a mission agency can supply, along with the accountability that you mentioned, is of great help to missionaries. We have served as missionaries and Bible translators for twenty-two years, and have been greatly blessed through the mission agency that we are a part of, and serve with until now. Your encouragement and insight are refreshing.

    • Mark Lawrence says:

      As a disclaimer, would it be fair to point out that you are either now or were the president of the agency with which you serve, and therefore have a vested interest in the mission agency?

      While I greatly admire your years and service, as well as many others in home offices who used to or currently serve actively on mission fields, there are some simple facts with which we should mostly agree:

      1. Fundamentalism is not currently growing as a whole, and giving is not keeping up with inflation.
      2. Fewer and fewer people are going to the field because of a lack of available finances.
      3. Retiring missionaries and home office workers are taking a larger and larger part of available mission dollars for their own support, thus limiting what is available for those seeking support.

      Mission boards have their roles, but we must reduce administrative costs to maximize the number of missionaries who are on or are going to foreign mission fields. Otherwise, it will be less than a generation before we are sending zero missionaries and all of the agencies close up shop.

      It is my prayer that The Lord will not return to find the shepherds feeding themselves, instead of His flock.

      Mission boards are not unbiblical or biblical. And since they aren’t commanded by Scripture, we should feel free to change them or do away with some of them all together if their cost exceeds their usefulness.


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