Death of Biblical Missions
Death of Biblical Missions
By David Cox (missionary pastor)
In this article I describe what I (as a missionary) see as the death of biblical missions in America. I am very critical of stuff here, so be prepared. I am going to explain things as I see them. Note: I have been a missionary since 1984, and I have both been under a mission board, and am presently an independent missionary under a local church. I have been on both sides of the board issue, and I will speak to this also. I do consider myself doing “Biblical Missions.”
First let me address the reason why this topic is important in the first place. Missions is very simply the reproduction of the entire Christianity in new places where the gospel is not named, or having been named in the place, is currently dead. America has gone from being a missionary sending country to being a missionary needing country in my lifetime. How sad.
The fruitful activity of missions is how churches reproduce themselves on an individual saved person level as well as a church level. By this statement you can see my first salvo broadside again certain people, i.e. a missionary is a minister who’s primary ministry is the evangelization of lost souls, and the planting of churches. NOTHING ELSE IS BIBLICAL MISSIONS! Yes there can be other ministries other there besides evangelism and church planting, but THEY ARE NOT MISSIONS. Let me explain why. Missions is the heartbeat of the church Jesus died and was resurrected for. Without missions, Christianity stops. So biblical missions will continue on, and Jesus himself has promised us that.
Missions has a right to certain priorities. Biblical missions must receive a lion’s share of the money given by God’s people which is spent away from the local area of the church. This is because it is pushing the reproduction process. It is like cattle. If you get a lot of steril cattle, with time your herd will not exist. Missions is what keeps Christianity going on. Without it, all the other ministries out there will not have a population with which to work. A Christian summer camp, a Bible school, a counseling ministry, all of these become meaningless if there are not Christians out there with which to work.
For Christianity to reproduce, you must first have new people getting saved, and second these new people must bond together in a local church of likeminded believers which execute the ministry.
What is not missions is what does not directly accomplish both individual reproduction AND church level reproduction. While these other ministries can exist if God so desires, we as Christians must keep our heads clear on what our priority is. God never commanded us to focus on healing ministries (or praying for the sick), nor education ministries, nor counseling ministries. All of these things can be effectively done without expense of personnel or funds from within local churches that are doing God’s work. Money, dedicated personnel, and especially heavy prayer activity should be given to true biblical missions, the reproduction of the church. Our world is slowly becoming pagan after having a great Christian heritage because good believing people have let biblical missions escape their grasp, and now we are paying for this on a country level, on a world level.
Loss of Bearings: Bible no longer the Authority
The primary problem in missions is that we have lost our spiritual bearings and our compass is broke. Actually the compass is fine, it is the fact that the compass is in our pockets and we never reference is what is the problem. What this means is that instead of looking to the Bible, especially the New Testament as our guide for WHAT TO DO, HOW TO DO IT, SETTING OUR GOALS, etc., we now allow and use anything, and mostly nothing. When my best guess is what drives my life and ministry, all is lost. This is true on a personal level, and this is true when pastors and churches do it.
If we look at the New Testament, we see a Christianity that is lively, working unceasingly, dedicated, and sacrificial. Our Christianity today isn’t like that. Moreover, everybody knows that, and nobody cares, because the goal of being like the New Testament Christians just isn’t important to anybody any more. Preachers don’t preach it, and lay people don’t want it.
What happens when you lose your bearings is that you never know where you are going, and you don’t know if you are there or not. This futility is very much Christianity in our day. When missionaries do their ministries without the guidebook of Scripture, they make a train wreck of their own life and ministry, and of Christianity in general.
Moral Change into the Image of Christ is a laugh
When we continue with the New Testament as our guide and law, we see that santification is a very high goal. What this means is that the very fabric of “church” is geared towards this moral change. A key element is people who live the principles of God teaching others by precept and by example what that moral image of Christ is. Actually “receiving Christ” means not just as Savior, but as our moral example. Every sermon in a biblical church will be geared towards application of moral principles which are extracted from Bible exposition of Scripture, and then forcefully applied by spiritual men who preach through the power of prayer. Your church is dead and useless to God if the sermons, ALL OF THEM, are not geared towards confronting and rebuking sin, and exhorting to follow that example of Jesus Christ.
It is extremely important here to note that moral change only works when the person himself doing the instructing first is a moral example of Christ. The transition of morality from one person to another will not happen (hypocrisy will be replaced, knowing but not doing) if the teacher doesn’t first live that moral pattern.
In our churches pastors don’t live the Christlife. That destroys anything and everything else they do in the ministry. Missions is built on the same.
Missions can only be really done if the sending body embodies the gospel correctly. Churches who select, support, and pay for missionaries to do the work of the ministry MUST THEMSELVES FIRST AND FOREMOST BE EXAMPLES. How hypocritical for a church to demand that a missionary go out and evangelize the lost when they themselves are not dedicated to doing it! The issue here is that true missions, a living and vital missions is already dead in the sending church’s life. Missions is not about paying a person to do it. It is about reproducing ourselves. When we as a sending church just throw some money at missions thinking that we are good in God’s sight by taking 10% of our budget and giving it to missions, that is wrong.
God wants us (sending churches) to embody the missionary spirit. When this happens, we are highly motivated to know what the trials, failures, and successes of our missionaries are, and most of all, to pray through these ministry problems and challenges with our missionaries. The death of missions is seen in the lack of interest in missions by our lay people. As a missionary, I remember churches that did a lot of “little things” for us. Those constant notes in the “snail mail” of yesterday meant people were supporting us (not just sending us money). I used to like to visit my supporting churches unannounced. Walking in, see how many people recognize who I am? In a lot of churches, I was just a visitor. In a very, very few, the greeting was, “Hello brother David! How is (such and such prayer situation) going?” Those were churches that really supported me.
People were interested in others in other countries becoming like Christ as they were concerned about they themselves becoming like Christ. This passion is what Christ showed us. Yet it is gone today. Missions is hopelessly going down the drain with it.
Our Mission has been Lost: We are using Another Gospel
Let me be very specific here so that people understand. There is only one purpose for any church, ministry, or missionary. That is to get to gospel out to the unsaved. That means that a person which is saved and with a good testimony must meet an unsaved, open Scripture and show them from the Word of God that they are a sinner going to hell, and that only by repenting of and abandoning that sin, and then believing in Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross in dying for him, will he go to heaven. That is the essence of the gospel, and it should saturate and embidue everything we say and do.
Moreover the thrust of the gospel should be seen constantly in our services, in our lives, in our ministries, in our churches. We should see concern and worry over that gospel message reaching to individuals. We should see laymen and laywomen in our local churches praying for the unsaved, going out and witnessing to them, and once they accept Christ, bringing these new believers in the local church to disciple them and bring them into a co-worker position with them.
When social issues cloud and overcome this gospel mission, we are lost and going down the quick path of destruction. When this is no longer our greatest priority, then we see our churches filled with nominal Christians, i.e. people that call each other Christian but are just reformed pagans. These people have no discernment nor burden to fulfill the Great Commission, and then and there missions is dead.
The social gospel, no mission, or a wrong gospel is commonly what takes the true biblical mission at this point. People are considered “brethren” or “saved” because their family was Christian, because they were baptized, or they made a verbal admittance to believing in Jesus but nothing really changed in their life.
Funding has been turned upside down
In the early days when I was a missionary, older missionaries would have contact with those younger wanting to go. One of the things was the hardships and the things one had to sacrifice to accomplish God’s work on the foreign mission field. Today people stop pastoring and doing other things and go into missions, “because missions is where the money is.” I actually heard from a pastor that left the pastorate to be a missionary “because of all the money missionaries make“.
Missions is dying because of their over financing! Yes you read that right. Some missionaries have become professional fund raisers. Instead of them actually doing the work on a foreign field, they run back and forth to the United States so much that they accomplish nothing on the field. They hire hirelings to do a poor job while they make tons of money. As a missionary, what we need to do the work increases more and more. But some unscrupulous missionaries have taken it upon themselves to start soaking up missions funds so that other missionaries cannot continue on.
Ask your missionary how much money he makes. That is personal and ministry, and any other funds that he has discretionary authority over (like church offerings of a church on the field). When you see people making $10,000, $20,000, and even more per month, ask yourself, is it really best to have a fund raiser like this guy running back and forth, inventing ministries with lots of pictures of people to get more money, or to support half a dozen people actually doing the work of God.
Sacrifice is not a concept for many of these people. The difference between a hireling and a pastor is that a hireling is in it for the money. When missionaries have costly houses, properties in the US and on the field, and excessive and luxury elements of their lifestyle, missions is destroyed. Other missionaries cannot get even minimal funding to go because churches are sending their missions monies to sponges.
Another factor here is fake missionary ministries. These are ministries that somebody has cooked up to again soak up the scarce mission funds that are out there. When I was an assistant pastor in the US, we had a young fellow come wanting our support. He had not gone to Bible School (shows no committment nor sacrifice on his part for his ministry). He wanted us to pay for him to buy a yaght so he could minister to the millionaires in the marina every Sunday morning. My questions were (1) how is a millionaire going to respect a young fellow under 25 in anything he might say? (2) Why can’t you rent a facility nearby and invite them there? People’s solution seems to fall into a common idea, fund me so I can live high, and maybe I can do something for Christ. Why don’t you go out on the street and get people saved from hard work and then come present what you have done?
Another one is Jewish missions. One Jewish missionary was asking for support about 4 times normal for a foreign missionary. He was working in New York city, trying to reach the Jews. He had to live in an expensive apartment to reach them. He had no church, and only witnessed to one or two Jewish individuals every month, having coffee with them in a restaruant. Again, there are cheaper ways of doing this, and basically churches had to shoulder the burden of this guys monthly support while he did little.
Another one is a missionary which made signs that he put in people’s front yards. Why did churches have to provide him with $5000/month income to do that full time is beyond me.
Compromise has made Unity with Liberals forced down our Throats
When good churches accept mediocre missionaries, then good missionaries have to go to mediocre or liberal churches or quit. I am supposing that the real options here are to do without or quit.
There is a spiritual principle at play in all of this. The truth stands as men of God stand firm for it. These men of God exist only as there are other faithful Christians who also support this truth, and their spokesmen (these men of God). As the laymen become apathetic and lose their dedication, the support of the men of God causes them to back down from their positions. Money has a lot to do with. Churches, good, fundamental, strong churches become weak and disappear or change their standards, and these men of God are slowly “left out in the cold.” Eventually there are no more strong men of God.
The principle at work is that when good Christian people direct all their prayer, concern, and economic support into good men of God, the truth continues. When they seek Biblical Missions, where good men of God sacrifice for God’s work and his truth, then things are different. If the Christians in an area let this get away from them, God will take his hand of blessing off of them, and raise up other good men of God in some other place, and eventually, like in our situation, God moves to some other country altogether.
The weakening, decline, and eventual death of biblical missions in the United States of America is a deciding, important factor. Stand for truth. Support it. Examine what goes on, and reject the bad, seek the good.