Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point. The Propempo perspective on church and missions. This is episode 71 of Missions on Point. We're in the third of a four-part series on missions funding. Today, we're going to look at how do we know who and what to support. Through the series, we're talking about practical principles that guide our support from how do we get more funds for missions to how do we determine the right amount to give as a church. Now, how do we know who and what to support, and the last one will deal with how do we distinguish between local ministries versus missions? We've gotten good feedback already on how practical this is not just for the church, but even for individuals giving to missions and missionaries, so it's just a reminder to let you know that we invite comments and suggestions, you can write us at email address,

Certainly, you can leave comments on your particular podcast feed, but we would encourage you to subscribe or follow the podcast and recommend it to others. Thanks. Now, let's get into it. How do we know who and what to support? Probably, the one overarching character attribute that needs to be developed and applied is discernment. Discernment, learning to discern what is the best option among many options and variables out there. It is no secret that America in its great creativity has generated tens of thousands of options for giving, and our missionary enterprise follows the same kind of pattern. There are tons of specialty ministries and missionaries that are doing pretty unique and sometimes pretty strange kinds of things in the name of the gospel, in the name of Christ, in the name of missions. Discernment means that you're learning how to distinguish between what is good, better and best. And hopefully, we're going to be choosing the best as we figure out who and what to support.

There are so many examples of poor discernment that I would venture to say it is the majority of the times and opportunities that discernment has not been applied in a way that is helpful in understanding the best of who and what to support. Very fine Christian churches and Christian friends have seem to throw discernment out the window, even though they want to be so discerning about worship and doctrine and fellowship. When it comes to missions, they flip the switch off in their mind and let their heart throw them here and there, and everywhere in relation to supporting ministries that they would never accept as a part of their local church ministry. So many churches come to Propempo newly awakened to the concern that they have a bunch of ministries and missionaries they support across the world with no unifying thread or theme, or relationship or ministry type.

It is the proverbial shotgun pattern on the map. I'm going to talk about four key perspectives to help you with your discernment. These perspectives are mentioned in other episodes of Missions on Point, so you may want to go back and listen to some of those. Start with episodes 10 and 11 about a biblical definition of missions. Then take a listen to episodes 40 through 45, which is two short series back to back about three central truths and the mission's committee essentials. Episode 53 is titled Help: We Have No Missions Focus. Try that one. But before I begin those four perspectives, I just want to tell you about some, quote, unquote "opportunities" that should cause you to pause and make sure you flip your discernment switch to on mode. One is that a missionary or opportunity is a friend of the pastor. That alone doesn't rule them out, but it doesn't also rule them in. Perhaps, a friend or a relative or someone or some organization that claims they are especially called by God, just a reminder, because they say so, doesn't make it so.

For you, some churches have the quote, unquote, "opportunity" of filling a need that is, they have room in their budget or they're a new church and they're trying to support missions, and they pretty much latch onto anybody that crosses their path and start supporting them without really thinking or being discerning about it. Another quote, unquote, "opportunity" is someone or some ministry that you run into just because of relationship with your church's fellowship or affiliation, or association or denomination. Just because they pass muster at a certain level for that church connection, it doesn't necessarily mean that your church must support them or that cause. The first three principles of the four are principles that we expand more on the website in our Propempo teaching. The first perspective is relationship to the church. Does the person or ministry have a substantial positive long-term relationship to the church?

If you can measure that attribute, the closer they are to the church, the more support they may get. The farther away they are from the church, the less support all away into... If they really have no connection to the church and no potential for a long term quality relationship with the church, you probably ought not to be supporting them. The second perspective is priority of ministry. That is when you look at all the possible ministries out there, biblically, we want to be focused on proclamation of the gospel and all those things connected with the establishment of healthy, biblical, reproducing local churches in their indigenous context. So similarly, if you can apply some metric to measuring that priority of ministry, you would put things like pioneering kind of evangelism, discipleship, church planting, the training of qualified church leaders and pastors, Bible translation.

You would put all those in a little cluster at the high end of priority. In fact, I would say any ministry whatsoever needs to be connected in a trackable chain of intentionality toward developing those kinds of churches. So things like youth ministry, literature ministry, publications, music and worship, agriculture, well drilling, any of those things need to be intentionally and consciously connected to the church planting and development priority, else, they slide off the metric into the area of humanitarian works, which are not focused on proclamation of the gospel and ought not to be prioritized in our funding. This thinking even extends to the unpopular view that humanitarian causes like human trafficking, alleviation of poverty, general community development, remediation for substance abuse, humanitarian assistance for refugees, and aid and relief for natural disasters, all of those need to be connected to the gospel and to the church in a vital way.

Otherwise, they just become secular ministries and in our discernment, a lower priority overall, at least for church funding. The third perspective is gospel impact or access to the gospel. At the high end of the spectrum on measuring access to the gospel or gospel impact, we look for unreached people groups or unreached language groups. We try to find, where is the gospel not accessible or unlikely to be accessible? We need to be careful about how we think about this because there are lots of majority populations where the gospel has had a significant impact in times past, but the quality of understanding of the gospel and biblical doctrine, availability of healthy churches is way less than you might think. So we're moving in this realm of thinking of where the church does not exist at all to also including where the church may exist but it is extremely weak and unable to sustain itself primarily because of poor teaching and practice, and the need for biblically qualified doctrinally sound, church leaders leading the church to reproduce itself and reach its own population.

If you think like that, there are large sections of the globe that are de-christianized or have very, very weak biblical Christian presence. This includes swaths of the globe where unbiblical and even anti-biblical teaching is going on with a prosperity gospel, self-centered name it and claim it focus is preached, which we would say is Galatians 1, not the gospel and anathema. The cute little catchphrase across swaths of Central Africa and Latin America is that Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep. Truly, that's just another way of saying that it is just a thin veneer and not actually biblical Christianity preaching of biblical gospel. So there are places like that that have low gospel impact, low access to a true understanding of the biblical gospel and the transformation of lives, and a healthy biblical church. The fourth perspective is your own identity or your church's own identity.

I've mentioned this previously by way of illustration, but does your church have a large number of congregants that are associated with the medical industry? Perhaps, medical kinds of missions related again to the planting and establishing of healthy, biblical churches should be part of your repertoire. Is your church congregation primarily related to the farming industry or to engineering, or to commercial flight industry? Look at your strengths, your gifting, your interests and try to find ministries that line up with that in relationship to the church in a priority of ministry, and having a significant gospel impact. So again, here's some practical aspects of the flip side of that coin. Don't support someone just because they're a friend of the pastor or went to the same seminary. Don't support someone just because they're your friend. Don't support someone just because they're a relative. Don't support someone just because they say they're called. Don't support someone just because you happen to have some resources with which to support them.

In fact, I would say it's better to reserve that and save it for the best person in ministry than to support something less than the best. What this means in practice is that you need to ask questions, get beneath the surface, find out a little bit more about the ministry opportunity or the person that is seeking support and find out if they really do match up with these perspectives. One of the hardest things and missions is to say no to good things in order to say yes to the best things. I hope you've experienced this in your life as I have in mine. Sometimes when it's really hard to make a decision yes or no on something, and you finally land on no and you communicate that, it feels so good because you know in your heart that you did the right thing.

Sometimes it's tough to say no, but you realize when you explain it to the person you're saying no to, that your reasons are sound and that God has given you a certain limited amount of stewardship for which you need to be wise and apply discernment so that you know who and what to support. So when those opportunities or decision points come, take your time, be thoughtful, pray, seek good counsel, ask lots of questions. We want you and your church to be confident when you make that decision that it was the best decision that you could make and that it lasts for a long time. One more note, once you make a decision to support a ministry or missionary, it doesn't necessarily mean that you have to do it for a lifetime. It's not a lifetime contract. If the ministry shifts, if the missionary changes direction, if there are significant changes in their ministry or your ability for that stewardship, it's okay to make a change.

As you move from the real where you are now to the ideal, there will be points of attrition and change that take place which are healthy and good, and if you do need to make a change, communicate it. Let the folks who are affected know about your change and the reasons behind it, that will be a blessing to them and ultimately to you and your own conscience. Thanks for joining us today on Missions On Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, Please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry. Now, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

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