My Struggles with Modern Missions – part 6 (of the series)

This is the final (and part 6) of this topic:

  • To read part one – go HERE.
  • To read part two – go HERE.
  • To read part three – go HERE.
  • To read part four – go HERE.
  • To read part five – go HERE.

One more question I have about missions…

6) Is supporting nationals really a much better solution than supporting American missionaries?

The most common response that I've been getting to these questions are ministries that focus on supporting nationals. There are many things that are attractive about that:

  • We likely avoid the Americanization of Christianity. That is good.
  • It is  much less expensive to support nationals than to support Americans to do the same thing.

BUT – there are a couple of things that I am concerned about – when it comes to supporting nationals.

  • First, although we (perhaps) avoid the Americanization of that field, we do make that pastor dependent on American money. And then is it really a local church (self-supporting, self-governing)
  • Second, how are these pastors held accountable? I'm sure there must be accountability – but it seems even more difficult to hold a national pastor accountable compared to a missionary from our church.

I love the concept of supporting nationals, but I see a couple of pretty big hurdles.

What do you think? What am I missing? Would you rather support an American missionary raising $60,000 per year, or a national pastor who needs $5000 per year?

  1. If a local pastor can be supported for $5,000 per year, why does an American pastor need 60? I hate to think he has $55,000 a year back home in bills/debts. Isn’t part of the idea to not lord it over the nationals by living at a higher standard than them? Wouldn’t he (and his family) relate more to the nationals if they lived at their “standard of living?”

  2. Trevor –

    You would think that is true, but it doesnt seem to work out that way. Check it out… Ask missionaries what their support need is, and ask what the average income is in the country they are going to. It will shock you. Now some of those reasons include: 1) They have travel needs to get home occasionally (or regularly)… 2) If they have children who will go to college, they have to prep for that… 3) They wont retire there – so they often have a 403b (like a 401K)… 4) A large percentage of a missionarys support goes to their home agency.

    But typically, in the poorest countries, many missionaries dont live in the same place as those they are reaching (thats an entirely blog post)…

    So – I agree with you in theory, but reality is different and the reasons for that are different. When you connect with the group you are talking to – ask them some of these questions!

  3. What determines the call of a missionary, whether American or national? While it is true we should be good stewards of the Lord’s money, it is not money that should determine a call. It was the Lord who told Paul he would be a minister to the Gentiles in Acts 9:15 (despite the language and cultural difference and the geographical distance). It was the Lord who spoke to Philip in Acts 8 and told him to go to The road to Gaza (8:26), in spite of the fact that he was already doing an effective ministry in another place. It was the Lord in Acts 9:10 who spoke to Ananias to go and find Saul. It was the Lord who gave Peter the vision to reach the Gentiles and go to Cornelius house, etc. etc. The Lord led Paul many miles from home, at great effort and expense because He had called Paul on a specific mission. It is important to have good strategy and good stewardship but that is not the bottom line when it comes to where a person serves.
    We have sent you an email with some other thoughts (we explain in the email why we did it that way). We hope it gives you some things to think about from the view of the field. In Him, Phil and Barb

  4. Phil Barb –

    Thanks for your thoughts. Your questions bring up another topic I chose to not write about – which is why I get frustrated when people approach the elders of a church saying, God called me to missions, and Im going to go ________. 

    Without any input from the leadership of the church, discipleship or mentoring by the elders, and no evaluation by the leaders of the church – that is frustrating to me. 

    Your examples from Acts are descriptive, but I dont think they are prescriptive. I dont see God working today that same way that He did in the book of Acts (signs, wonders, and miracles). So I also dont think He typically calls people in the same way.  And I dont think we want to allow their mystical call to hold a church hostage (that we have to support them because they are called). I would guess that we probably see eye-to-eye on this. Right?

  5. I’m a little late in this discussion I know but one thing that comes to mind is if the National cannot find his own support locally to pastor a church we should help him do that (find local support). If that is out than he might have to learn how to become an entrepreneuer before he learns how to pastor a church. Paul went on the mission field with knowledge of a trade and how to support himself with that trade in different cultures. This may sound like even harder work but we must continue to ask ourselves if the current m.o. is working.

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