It’s amazing how thoughtless church missions trends can sometimes be. In the 1970s (and possibly earlier) many churches thought it was virtuous to support as many missionaries as possible. The only way it was feasible for a local church to do that was to support missionaries for relatively low amounts. So, typically, a church would try to put as many stick pins in the world map as possible supporting as many missionaries as possible for $25 per month or $50 per month. If the church was financially able or had a special relationship with a particular missionary they might support some of them for $100 a month. One church made it their stated goal to put a missionary support pin in every country (or at least every continent) on the map. This is not only shallow, it exhibits an arrogant self-centeredness and extremely poor strategic value.
The results of such thinking in using a total shotgun approach was superficial relationships with missionaries. Further, missionaries felt a financial obligation to keep a frenetic pace of travel during furloughs in order to touch base with tens if not scores of churches that supported them.
We suppose it is possible to err on the side of being too narrow. If a local church consciously narrows their vision to an exclusive focus, they may miss out on the joy of learning how God is moving and working in other parts of the world. They may also limit or rebuff open doors of opportunity to their people who may feel called to express or pursue ministry in other areas which are not a part of that exclusive focus.
The answer of course, as in many areas of Christian life and ministry, is a balance. The men and women and ministries your church supports should definitely remain in alignment with your doctrine and priorities. Your missionaries are, after all, an extension of your local church to the unreached world. Their teaching, methodology, and end goals should appropriately represent your church and its biblical distinctives (this is not to say your Western cultural expression).
So, as your church grows, you will be able to take on an expanding number of missionaries, ministries, and foci. We recommend that you not take on more relationships then you can adequately fulfill to a significant amount of depth and accountability. It will probably be different from church to church. It becomes obvious that your church has too many missionaries and ministries on its support roster when significant life and ministry changes fall through the cracks and you don’t find out about it until much too late.
One of the best reasons to cut back your missionary support list is that God is raising up more workers from your congregation which have become a financial priority. Another good reason is that your church leadership has agreed to pursue a particular strategic focus which, by attrition, will begin to graciously pare down those missions interests which do not fit.
Balance, prayer, and grace need to be exercised generously.
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