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Why Independent Baptist mission is failing… and some thoughts on fixing it | InFocus
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Jason Harris

Jason loves to communicate God's word both in the local church and at conferences and retreats. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research and is currently a PhD candidate and lecturer in the College of Business, Law, and Governance at James Cook University, Cairns. Jason is also a pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@teaminfocus.com.au.

9 Comments

  1. avatar

    Jeremy crooks

    Some great points which ihave been pondering for a while too.

    The systemic problems of this structure are determined by our independent baptist model. The deputation/furlough model is no where near as onerous in the CMS (Anglican system)

    I have friends who studied missions at Bible college. With all due respect, I think that is a wasted degree. The best advice I would give a person with a missions heart, it to study ‘international business’. They should then move to their field and start a business. This would
    1 give them an income which makes them semi-self sufficient financially
    2 give them the opportunity to employ and witness to locals
    3 reduce the need for furlough at the whim of missions boards
    4 insulate missionaries from the volatility of currency changes
    5 give them a street cred with locals

    I still believe missionaries need an accountably structure, but the current one is regulated to death.

    Reply
  2. avatar

    PJ

    I agree with almost all of the points, though the reality is that many independent churches in Australia can barely afford to pay their own pastors a decent wage! And so given those circumstances the little that churches can give to missionaries is a blessing.

    I disagree with point 6. As much as is possible missionaries need to be able to devote their time and energy to the Gospel ministry, particularly in a church planting setting. Without sufficient time to prepare for the teaching of God’s Word, and without time to shepherd the saved, the mission will always be hamstrung.

    Reply
  3. avatar

    Jason Harris

    @PJ, Yeah, that is a difficulty. I think the inevitable outcome of this idea would be for a church who supports five missionaries at $50 to drop four of them and support one for $250. While I’m sure that might be a difficult transition both for the church and for the missionaries, I think mathematically, it works out to be wise stewardship.

    On point six, I see three stages in church planting. Stage 1 is where there is no church to pastor. Here, a pastor could reasonably earn at least some of a living on his own. This seems to have been Paul’s pattern at least some of the time. In stage 2, there is a church to pastor, but they are not mature enough to pay their own bills. In stage 3, the church is mature enough to pay their own bills. I think perhaps one of the weaknesses of the current model is that stage 2 tends to be drawn out over years and even decades. I don’t see this as legitimate. Certainly there is a time to focus on the basics. But growing believers always have a heart to meet their financial obligations to those who minister to them. It is implied in the gospel.

    I think there are two dynamics in why churches take so long to become self-supporting. One is that they do give, but it all goes to advertising/building/mission/etc. instead of to meeting their own obligations to their pastor. The second is that it seems some pastors do not want to receive their salary from their own congregation because that entails an inherent accountability to the local congregation that they do not want to have.

    What do you reckon?

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  4. avatar

    PJ

    @Jason – “What do you reckon?”

    I don’t really know! You’ve raised some interesting points about church planting that probably defy a simple explanation – and I’d need quite a bit of time to think them through.

    All I know for sure now is that giving is a very difficult subject to teach on. It would be very difficult for a church planter in a small work to tell the people that they need to give in order to pay his wage.

    Reply
  5. avatar

    Steve

    This is an excellent post and has some very good points that really need to be considered. Some churches that I know of here in NSW have already realised that the old fashioned missions system doesn’t work any more. Furlough is damaging to the ministry and deputation is largely a waste of time.
    Giving a larger amount of support to fewer missionaries per church is a much better way to go about it, since it gives stability to the missionary, and prevents time wasted in deputation, which should be used for the ministry.

    At the risk of offending some, I would like to suggest that missionaries also need to be prepared to lower their standard of living when they minister in third world countries, thereby reducing the amount of support they need and also reducing the perception with the locals that missionaries are rich westerners that have come to live in a poor country. I have seen this over and over again and it is very damaging to the ministry of the missionary.

    Perhaps missionaries need to realise that to be able to have an effective ministry to those people requires a greater level of sacrifice on their behalf, and they need to make themselves of “no reputation”, thereby demonstrating what Christ did to accomplish our redemption.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jeremy Crooks

      Steve. Good point regarding the living expectations of missionaries on the field. I have found that it is often the missions agencies that dictate support and living standards. I do wonder if much of the problem stems from these agency rules and structures.

  6. avatar

    Elizabeth

    Why are mission agencies needed? Is it really necessary for missionaries to be sent out by a church? If someone feels called to go and tell, why not simply do just that. It all seems like we complicate the process. Are there any verses which indicate that mission agencies are necessary and that missionaries must be sent from a church?

    Reply
  7. avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Steve,

    You’ve raised a very difficult issue there. One we need to be very cautious about. I have two sisters who live in third world countries as missionaries. Having been to some of these places, it is difficult to do what you suggest. For instance, in many countries, the only way to avoid armed robberies and sexual assaults on your wife and children is to have a walled property with dogs and armed guards on duty 24/7. This is the norm for missionaries in many parts of the world. A man who carelessly exposes his wife and children to the dangers that are guaranteed (not possible, but guaranteed) in these places is, as Scripture teaches, worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8).

    And then there are other issues… for instance, keeping a home relatively clean and sanitary is a massive task in some of these places. As is cooking. You either own a refrigerator (which implies a safe location to keep it, power to run it, money to stock it, etc.) or you go to the markets every day and spend all day every day making sure your family has food to eat and a clean place to live.

    Then there are questions of schooling. Is it wise to allow your kids to grow up un- or poorly educated and virtually unaware of their original culture? Do I try to protect the opportunity for them to move back to the original country to pursue university and their own life when they grow up? Saved or not, I wouldn’t want my kids to be seriously disadvantaged by having grown up on the mission field (though under the best circumstances, they will be). And if you are going to provide a good education, are you willing to send them off to boarding school? Or do you school them at home? If so, how do you find time unless someone is helping with cooking/cleaning. And you then need a safe, healthy environment for learning. All of this implies staff in a third world country: guards, cleaners, cooks, etc. And since you can hire all of this staff for a negligible amount of money, is it not good stewardship to do so?

    Of course these are difficult issues to work through. Ultimately, I think there’s something to be said for getting more single guys into these sorts of places. Or funding indigenous pastors. But if we are going to transplant whole families to third world countries, we have to be willing to fund what is necessary for their proper care.

    @Elizabeth,

    Good questions. Acts 13 gives a clear example of the sending of the first missionaries where it was the Holy Spirit who called these people for their task and instructed the church to send them.

    As far as mission agencies, there is no direct biblical support for their existence. Of course that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. It just means they don’t have to. They tend to fill an important administrative hole in helping missionaries with managing their finances, communication, etc. But they can also be a huge help in giving specialised advise, helping missionaries in medical emergencies, helping in legal and visa issues, etc. Many national governments will not allow missionaries in unless they are backed by a mission agency that is registered in that country and willing to guarantee the missionaries’ salary. Additionally, a mission agency can vet missionaries for doctrinal and moral fidelity. So they definitely serve some important functions, but they can also be a source of problems.

    Reply

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