Let’s start with a definition of what is a missionary. A missionary is very simply a man of God who has the charge from God to carry the gospel message into a land where the gospel is not present, or is not abundant, and he organizes the converts of his evangelism into local churches which continue the work of the Lord after he is gone.
We do not find the work “missionary” in the Bible, but the concept is correctly identified in persons such as Paul, Barnabas, Luke, Mark, Titus, Timothy, and others. Technically missionaries have to be sent out from a group, and there are no “home missionaries” per se. Home missionaries confuse completely the concept of missionaries. Should those who are home missionaries now cease their ministries? No. They should be understood as being a part of a church in their area.
In the New Testament the local church had an array of ministries that they involved themselves in. But all of those ministries can be divided into local ministries or foreign ministries. The local ministries were under the direction and supervision of the local church. Men of God were given a charge to head up that ministry, but they were still under control of the local church. By that I do not mean that they had to ask permission of the pastor for everything they did. Rather I mean that they ministered as God led them, but if in matters of doctrine or personal conduct they strayed, the local church had the ability and authority to remove that minister and replace him. Part of this has to do with financial support. The local church wholly supported the minister, and if he has problems, the local church withdraws their approval of his ministry and the people simply stop giving to his financial support. Issues have to be resolved under this situation, and it is not just a matter of changing his economic base of support. So these are not home missionaries, they are simply ministers.
If we return to the New Testament model of missions, we find that church planting was the only valid missions in the New Testament. Church plant has to involve two concepts, evangelism and planting a new church from the results of that evangelism. We cannot separate these concepts, take one, and do only that. Evangelists are obligated to get their converts into a local church, and no local church is valid if it is not doing a lot of evangelism. They go hand in hand.
What we have today are ministries that are calling themselves “missions” and “missionaries” raising funds from churches (missions funds) that have nothing or little to do with this focus. I am a church planting missionary and typically I go to missions conferences today. In a typical church mission’s conference where there are 20 missionary families represented, there are always some printing ministry, some missionaries that are teaching missionary kids, an orphanage ministry, a ministry of social help (getting food and clothing to people in foreign lands), and even a medical ministry or two. If you pin these people down, none of them are really involved in a church plant. What they are doing is addressing the “other” kinds of ministry.
In the Bible scheme of things, all of these things are done as part of the ministries of a local church. In other words, a local church in a foreign land does these things “in-house”. By demanding this, we guarantee that the funds are not misused. We guarantee that the gospel is presented along with any other ministry given, and we guarantee that there is a local church there to follow up this ministry and any conversions that happen.
I talked with a missionary to China one time. He has an orphanage. He has several Chinese workers, and the Communist government picks half of them (which are spies for the government). He is not allowed to have services, teach religion to the children, nor witness to any Chinese people and he himself is paying the salaries of these government spies. He can only have services with his own family or with foreigners, and even that is monitored and subject to expelling him if he says anything against the Communist government. Now he has pastors lining up to give him monthly support where as a church planter gets no interest with these same pastors. If he gets converts in China (which would be a miracle since by his own mouth they don’t witness), where would they go? This is in stark contrast to the underground church movement in China where people witness and organize into churches and pay the price by jail and death.
We need to limit our missionary dollars to only true missionaries, those who are actively involved in witnessing and establishing these converts through the God ordained means of a local church. If we establish local churches in other lands that are autonomous (self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating) then we our funds “start churches” and help them until they are adult and self supporting. Otherwise these ministries are depend forever on our funds, and they never become autonomous.
If God has invested in his structure of local churches the genius of how to become independent and self supporting, why should we break with that norm and make them dependent on one another?
We can justify all kinds of ministries as being “the work of God”, but we cannot find a Scriptural warrant for these ministries as being independent of a local church which wholly takes care of them, from the standpoint of paying the bills to fielding the staff.
You may say that this is a hard line to take. No it is not. If there were double the number of local churches in the world than there is now, with double the number of Christians, would there be as great a need in missions funds as there is now? No. If all missionaries started local churches that each one of them started giving to missions, we could reach the world for Christ. But the problem is that we get more and more “Christians”, more and more ministries, but these ministries are incorrectly focused, and as such they cut the throat of the people who found them and fund them, the local church.
PARASITES AND BABIES
These Christian ministries say that they are the arm of the local church. There is a big different between a person’s arm and what these ministries do. My arm helps me by protecting and providing sustenance to my body. It is integral to my body, controlled by my brain, and is not independent in itself, moving where it wants to etc. These ministries are parasites on the body of Christ because they are separate entities, with a life of their own. They feed off the body of Christ (local churches) but there is no real benefit to the local church from their existence. Across the board their concept of evangelism is one that leaves the new born on the doorstep of a cult or in a back alley for nobody to care for. None of these ministries put money back into the local church to use for ministering in other areas, but they “save” money supposedly and even that is few and far between.
A Christian camp ministry for example says that they can do much better with many churches supporting them than what one church can do with their own young people. They can spend more money, they can produce nicer facilities, and they can have more staff and more expensive programs. But the bottom line is not all of this but the spiritual aspect of what they do. Spiritually are they producing a better product? When our young people come home with new friends from neo-evangelical churches and Charismatic churches is this better? When our young people hear pastors and youth pastor from churches that we don’t agree with doctrinally, is this better?
The bottom line here is always the same in every Christian ministry. If you limit your ministry to people of a single thought line (for example Fundamentalists, or Baptists) then you cannot get enough consensus to pay the bills. If you open your ministry widely, you will not be accepted among other groups because of your restrictive doctrines, practices, and fellowship. So you must sacrifice doctrine, practice, and standards of fellowship in order to get acceptance.
AWANA Bible clubs started out from a group of Fundamental people who wanted to minister to only Fundamentalists. Soon they found that they had grown to a limit where they could grow no more. The boundaries that restricted them were that the Fundamental churches that wanted a Children’s ministry like what they offered were all in AWANAs and they had no where to grow. That is when they backed off of their strong stand and open their ministry to American Baptist Churches which is clearly against what they stated as their limits. Soon after they AWANA clubs started in Southern Baptist Churches and now Charismatic churches. This is just an example, but the forces behind what they did are in place in every Christian ministry out there except a local church.
Christian Universities which start with a limited feeder group such as a denomination or a group of local churches may start with high standards, but over time they will never be satisfied with being smaller than what they can be. They will want to grow and when they do, their distinctive begins to fade away. Baptism cannot be only by immersion because now they accept Methodists and Presbyterians. Eternal security is also hit because of the groups who reject it. Divorce is worked over so that divorced men can be in the ministry without any problem. Women in authority over men is also attacked and slowly a concept of equality is generated that is not in the Bible. One of the requirements of a bishop is that he is a man of one single wife. Homosexuality also has its forces at play. A strong stance against Catholicism, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the like creep up.
It was instructive for me that in the changes that I observed in Bob Jones University over the years, their motto was changed from “The World’s Most Unusual University” to “The World’s Friendliest University”. The founder spoke boldly about all that was wrong in Christianity and outside of it. Catholicism was a false religion leading people to hell which was to be condemned. Billy Graham was condemned even though he was popular. Over the years, BJU now does community service projects sending their students out to do positive PR (public relations) things like cleaning city parks. We hear no condemnation of Catholicism but a warming up to it by soft talk about “how we love Catholics.” Dr. Bob III sent his son to a Catholic university now to study. Depending on who they are talking with, they change their face. With outspoken fundamentalists, they are strong Fundamentalists. But with others they seek acceptance by softening their words.
Slowly all of these particular doctrines and standards are de-emphasized in Christian ministries until they no longer exist except on paper. The point here is not to condemn one in particular but to understand what is happening and why. These forces are always in place and these forces always destroy. Satan is behind it. God is behind the local church. The best way to deceive people is to start one of these ministries in an extremely narrow and strong stand. The louder and more narrow the beginning the more that idea of acceptance because they are not standing with the crowd of the world is ingrained. But the forces always change these organizations to weaken and destroy their stand for God.
The “ivy league” schools were four seminaries that were started in America. These were the first colleges or universities in the US. Harvard began and before they graduated their first generation of students Yale was started because Harvard University no longer “stood for the Lord.” This is nothing new. These forces are always in force out there, and if some particular ministry can resist these forces for a generation, it is a miracle. But time is against. The Lord is against it.
In contrast a local church can maintain a set of standards and doctrines without any problem because the local people there are taught and convinced of these things, and they see their tithes and offerings as going to continue their teaching. The local church has the strength of taking strong stands and defending them across the changes of generations. Unfortunately most local churches get strongly involved in these Christian ministries and fall into the traps they set for them. They hand over their young people to a Christian university instead of training them themselves. They hand over control of their missions programs to mission boards. They hand over the ministries under their own church to Christian organizations such as AWANA’s or a denominational structure that writes and decides everything.
I see no Sunday School in the New Testament. I see no separation of the children from the adults in the services. If a church wants to do that, fine. But let’s get specific, it is not a necessity that we have to do it. We do not have to entertain our people. That is Satan’s Hollywood way of doing things. We preach the Bible. If there are not people in a local church that can preach and teach, why aren’t they there? The usual answer is that the church cannot afford to pay the salary of a young person from a Christian university to come and do that. Right. What happened to the local church capacitating its own people (locally) to do the work of the ministry? Do you not see where this vision of the New Testament way of doing things has been stolen from us and replaced by concepts modeled by Christian ministries (specifically Universities)? We must return to the Bible way of doing things.
Why do the church’s young people like getting involved in these camps, outings, and other things? Because of the good strong Bible preaching that is there? No. It is because of the other things they offer, fun, entertainment, fellowship with other kids their own age. The motive behind this is carnal, not spiritual. If the young people really like strong Bible preaching, how about a week long Bible conference in the church. None will hardly attend. We are drugging our young people with fun thinking that learning has to be fun or it is no good. We are instilling an idea of ease and comfort in the Christian life that God advises us is exactly the opposite of what truth Christianity will cause.
1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
2 Timothy 3:12 Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.
Acts14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
I can show you literally dozens of Scriptures that talk of our suffering for the Lord, but show me one single Scripture reference where God promises comfort and ease on this side of glory? Is this not what the rich man sought and received in Luke 16:19ff?
Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
The entire outlook of these ministries is to give people the good things mixing them with Bible. In principle they teach principles that are against God. What Christian school teaches their students to go directly to another student that sins and confront him alone without telling or involving anybody else? If he repents, then it is forgiven and forgotten. No, they teach everything goes through the administration, tale tell on others.
The level where all of this must stop is the local church. All Christian organizations live off the life blood of the local church. If local churches would teach what is the work of God, and restrict their involvement in only local ministries under their own control and true missions, these organizations would fold up and disappear.
It is hard to confront people in ministries that have the wrong orientation and practice and “straighten them out”, but that is exactly what has to be done.