How should local churches fund missionaries?

A friend of mine just alerted me to an important post on a subject every local church should consider. Douglas Wilson recently posted an insightful piece on the relationship of local churches to the people they support as missionaries. I suggest that you read it.

He compares supporting missionaries to investing in mutual funds. When you invest in a mutual fund, you don’t get involved in the inner workings of buying and selling, you don’t care how well a single investment is going, whether or not its worthwhile; instead, you care about the bottom line and leave the dirty work up to the fund manager. Is this the proper relationship between a local church and missionaries they send and support?

He closes with the following well-aimed quip:

But because we love our independence, because we are soft in our doctrine of how the Trinity knits us together, we would rather diversify the risk. We love our mutual funds.

He advocates that churches consider supporting fewer missionaries (giving the fewer a greater proportion of funds) for the purpose of providing accountability and spiritual support.

What do you think?

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4 Comments

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  1. Wes, what a very interesting post and some great thoughts here. As one currently raising support and running ragged around the east coast forming a team of partners in order to begin ministry abroad, I find this very refreshing and consonant with our aim. We sincerely desire not simply donors for our ministry with Wycliffe but partners in our ministry: those who want to play a key part in both our lives (through all kinds of support not only financial) and in what God is doing through Bible translation while we connect them to the latter. In this regard, we hope never to be independent but live in close relationship with our church families.

    I personally would love more accountability and spiritual support. It may not always be comfortable but it’s necessary.

    • Drew,

      Based on where we are going with the Missions Ministry Team, I believe you will find that FBCD will be committed to providing that accountability and support! I only wish we had committed a great dollar amount to you guys, but perhaps we can increase it in the future.

      with love,

      -Wes

  2. Wes, your comment is a great reminder of the tension between funding and the need of accountability for missionaries on the field. I know some organizations provide that accountability, but it may not be on a weekly basis. I find that a balance is still needed between a one church sponsored missionary verses multi-churchsupport because the urgency to spread the Gospel remains because time is short. With that reminder, if we solely return to a one church method, we slip back into history and do not fully capitalize on wisdom gained over the years. Though not perfect and in need of rethinking and restructuring, I believe the multi church method of supporting missionaries must remain along with churches that are able to support one or two missionaries completely. Ultimately, we must not forget our brothers and sisters on the field and be willing to pay the cost of maintaining effective relationships.

    • Mike, good response. I like your important addition to the conversation. Let me piggyback on that a little bit:

      One thing us Southern Baptists have that other churches do not is the Cooperative Program. And I definitely see that as a priority in missions giving for SB. However, there are always dozens of other requests for funds from our church; I’m sure Richland Creek receives those as well. We have, with Drew above, a family from Wycliffe, others with Campus Crusade, USCWM, NAMB, etc, who are funded differently. Local churches often don’t do enough to think through their giving strategy. I appreciate the contribution you have made to my thinking, as well as elders from North Wake, Treasuring Christ, and Open Door, in the Raleigh area in particular.

      I love the info you provided me a while back on levels of partnership. I think when it comes to monies being dispersed, we should be very strategic with our giving, as local churches, and like you said very well

      be willing to pay the cost of maintaining effective relationships

      This may mean limiting the breadth of our giving so that we can provide meaningful accountability. I think it also ties missions more closely to the ongoing ministry of the local church.

      Thanks again Mike for your comments!

      With love,

      -Wes

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