Summary: In this page I will express my views towards specific Christian ministries. I do not deal here with ministries within or under a local church, but those ministries which have broken with a local church setting, and now are independent.
GENERAL COMMENTS: To begin with, it is my contention that God’s plan, God’s example, and God’s commands all center around making a local church the center of the Work of God. That concept of church has the genius of God in it so that it works and corrects itself and does things in a way that God has decided is best.
Having clearly put forth that the local church is THE ONLY METHOD OF GOD that is valid for us to use, I feel that it is important to understand that a local church may have many different ministries within its administration. By this I think we should be clear on a few key issues.
First we need to understand that God has given each church gifted people. On the one side, this is particular to each church and the church should respond to, encourage, and support the gifted people God has given her. But on the other hand, those who make up a particular church should understand the objectives of God, and if there are no “gifted people” among them, they should feel this as a calling to prepare themselves and undertake the challenge. For example, if a particular church has no pastor, no deacons, no Sunday School teachers, they should not take the attitude that these ministries and ministers are unnecessary and try to make some kind of situation without them. Among those in that church they should prepare themselves and undertake the challenge.
The essential elements of a valid local church ministry
The essential elements of a valid local church ministry are that the ministry should be under the authority and administration of a single local church. By this I mean that the ministry should be such that that local church is responsible for its activities, its doctrine, its practices, and the qualifications of its ministers. The church should have oversight such that it can replace any minister in that ministry if that should be necessary.
The church should also “house” the ministry. By this I mean that the local church which is responsible for it has bought the place of ministry or is paying its rent. Financially it is responsible for that ministry. The people in the church are observing or benefiting from that ministry, and the church promotes that ministry among its members for prayer, participation, and financial support. This is acceptable.
Specific Ministries: Christian Universities, Seminaries, Christian Schools, Christian Camps, Orphanages, Christian Radio Stations, Christian Bible and Tract Printing Ministries, Evangelistic Ministries, Mission Boards.
Let’s begin by explaining the validation they give for existing. Because they expand on the concept of the universal church, they take one part of what we are supposed to be doing as Christians (educating in the Scriptures) and they take that as their ministry.
Let’s be clear here, who is supposed to be teaching Bible to Christian? Isn’t this the job of the local church? Every Christian University steals the most basic ministry of every local church. It is galling to me to see Christian Universities attacking the ability of local churches to train and spiritually prepare their own people for the work of God, and then these same “competitors” turn around and want the same churches they are replacing to send them Christian young people and then put them on their missions budgets as a missionary work.
Let’s clarify a point here. Through church history, it is not the seminaries that have stood firm for the truth of God but local churches and individuals. As a rule of history, what we repeatedly see is simply a seminary starting off good, only to gain much momentum in Christian circles and then to drag all under their influence into the ditch of compromise and false doctrine.
The main ministry of a seminary is to prepare young men for the ministry. Biblically God does this by men of God preparing themselves, and then through the regular preaching and studying involved in ministering in a local church, they have something to communicate to a young preacher. The seminaries in themselves admit this same thing, because they hold as the best teachers those who have pastored and taught for long periods of time in churches. So if the experts are in the local churches, why go to a seminary? Because we are poisoned by these seminaries against doing that. We are skillfully convinced that the only possibility of getting a good education is from a seminary. Since they “taint” all churches and local church pastors, we can only trust these pastors if they have been “sanitized” by the seminary. How they do this is a mystery, but because they have all wisdom, they invite certain pastors to come speak to their students, and therefore these are the acceptable (sanitized) ones. The rest you are at high risk if you listen to them. Oh, by the way, just by coincidence, every pastor they invite also is supporting their school, and is fully convinced on sending students to that seminary.
Sheep reproduce sheep, pastors reproduce pastors, and seminaries reproduce seminaries.
As stupid as this sounds, it is all truth. In my experience in Mexico, I came with a Masters in Educational Administration and Supervision, and a Masters in Bible. I came to start a “little Bob Jones” in Mexico. I think the Administration part of my education at Bob Jones was good, and as such I started analyzing the Bible institutes and schools already here. My discernment was that the major problem was the lack of students to field a full sized Christian University. How to fix that? Start more local churches. But the graduates of the Bible Institutes here weren’t doing that, and they didn’t want to do that. Mexican pastors starve to death in Mexico. The people are poor, and they are not taught to support their ministers like the Bible teaches.
What concerned me is that after 3 years of a Bible Institute, they wanted to start a University. I thought myself unqualified with two Masters, and was working or planning on returning to work on a Doctorate. It began to dawn on me that the whole thing of Bible schools feel on its face without local churches (fundamental ones) and that without evangelism and discipleship, the local church falls on its face too.
Here we talk about Christian schools Kindergarten through High School. The point here is that when a Christian school is formed it needs to have a mission to perform before it can fulfill that mission. Some Christian schools are started to meet the need of teaching the children of that church’s members. This is the purest and most biblical reason I see for starting a Christian school. If that is the mission, then growth needs to be severely limited and gauged according to that church’s growth. It is unreasonable to want a Christian School of several hundred when the church only has 20 members.
As a missionary, I started out when the Christian School movement was just kicking in good. What my experience has been is that before the Christian School movement, churches had mission’s projects where they raised money for missionaries’ special financial needs. When these active churches began getting involved in Christian Schools, they dropped their missionaries, and started calling their school teachers missionaries, and calling their schools missions, and their missionary projects began school projects.
Perhaps I am jealous as a missionary, but like Paul I have godly jealousy because I see “my children” being deceived by Satan. Indeed today the number one enemy of missions in churches is Christian schools. The church members refuse to pay for their children’s education (what it really costs) so they drain off all the funds from the church into the school so it can function.
The ideas of growth and a grand, big (read expensive) Christian School causes them put their priorities on that instead of anything else. In many churches the Christian School (new students from the community coming in that are not saved or going to other churches) is the ONLY evangelism being engaged in. Our position is that biblical evangelism is to take the gospel (without deception but a direct presentation) to the people in their places of living, work, and social gatherings.
To teach a Bible class in school is not the same as evangelism. Moreover it becomes a great problem when the school swells its enrollment with unsaved students so that it can pay the bills, while losing its Christian emphasis. A Christian school has to be made up of Christians, both students and teachers and administrators. When there is a significant part of that composition that is unsaved or unspiritual, the net spiritual effect is bad.
A biblical Christian School should be thought of as a school that ministers principally to its members children, is a small scale in house thing that works on the basis of what needs are in the church members families and nothing else. Perhaps some grades need to be combined, or a home school type situation needs to be forced for some grades.
One of the hidden spiritual problems of Christian schools is the teacher payment practices. If you are looking to support your own family in a meager, modest, non-luxurious way, don’t think of being a Christian school teacher. Because the fact of the matter is that hardly a Christian school that exists pays enough for a man to pay the bills for his family and his wife staying home to be a mom and wife. When one of a couple is a Christian school teacher, the other better get a “real job”.
Jeremiah 22:13 Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;
Leviticus 19:13 Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.
Deuteronomy 24:14 Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: 15 At his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee.
James 5:4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
After everything is said and done, the Christian who refuses to pay what is just to his workers is sinning, and God curses whatever is his endeavor. This I think is why the Christian School movement is doomed to failure.
On another issue, why is it that every fundamental church must have its own Christian school? Because our Christian universities are churning out so many Christian school teachers that they have to create a work place need for the work force they are producing. It used to be one church would refrain from starting a Christian school if another good church in their area had a Christian school. Then everybody had to have a Christian school, and now we see after great financial fiascos (among them the abandoning of our true missionaries), and now churches are going back to the reality that they cannot pay the bills of a Christian school and stay financially solvent.
I was saved at a Christian camp. I understand the possibilities in Christian camp ministries. But the bottom line here is simply that we are caving in to the entertainment forces in our society. Our young people SIMPLY MUST BE ENTERTAINED or we “will lose them”. To suggest that we train them to think and act differently is impossible.
The whole idea of a Christian Camp ministry is based on “slipping in something spiritual” while we have fun. I remember sitting in a cold windowless Sunday School room learning the Bible. That is an impossibility in our modern day. I have not figured out why except that our kids are so drugged up with experiences, games, fun, diversion, entertainment, and luxuries that they refuse to accept anything else.
In my concept of things, a truly biblical Christian camp ministry would be one that is run by a local church for their own young people and perhaps some of their young people’s friends. It should be something that is oriented towards imparting intensively the Bible more than just evangelistic. There should be some evangelistic elements, because even among a group of people claiming to be saved, there are some that aren’t. But the whole thrust should be to get away from the normal demands of life, the distractions of TV, games, and entertainment, and dedicate some real time to Bible study and learning. Therefore the amount of time and energy on Bible classes should be about 4 or 5 times more than any entertainment or fun.
The fact that there are children who lose their parents is a tragedy. We as Christians should open our hearts and homes to such children. But let’s put some clarity into this issue too. First of all, not all the orphans are real orphans. Today what we have is the result of godless living. Babies born by people who don’t want them. Parents who abuse their children and lose them or give them away.
The point of an orphan should be (has to be) temporary. In other words, any kind of orphanage should be simply a temporary holding place until they are placed in a Christian home. The emphasis here is a normal Christian home with a mom that takes care of her home, preferably staying home all day, and a day that supports the home through his work. This is the biblical ideal of a godly Christian home.
We should reject any kind of orphanage that does not have this biblical element of godly people sharing their faith and understanding of God’s word to the children. I was in a mission’s conference once and met a missionary to China. I was greatly interested in his ministry because to my knowledge China is very closed to the gospel. I talked with him one day about what they are doing there. He said that they have about 30 orphans. But I was shocked to find out that he does not witness to them, even less does he teach them Bible because that is prohibited. Because they have a lot of US money (missionary support) coming from the states they have Chinese employees. The China government places a communist spy in among his employees (the government has to choose and send one employee that he has to pay their salary). They do not even take the children to church. They (the missionary and biological children and wife) go to an English speaking church, and the children go nowhere on Sundays. He is “so busy” with the orphanage that he does little to nothing at that church except attend. The other workers at his orphanage do not go anywhere either.
When we speak of sending mission dollars to support the work of God, I have a hard time accepting this as missions. Yet in that conference pastors were seeking him out, offering him support even though he couldn’t actually come present his work in their church. Meanwhile we had our calendar half empty and I couldn’t pigeonhole a pastor to even ask him because they had no time for me.
I have limited experience with Christian Radio stations, but one of my supporting churches does have their own radio station. In my experience most situations are that a church buys time in a secular radio station. There are several Christian radio station chains about, and they fall under the same problems as every other Christian organization. They are independent of any local church, and as such they are trying to get money from a wide and varied (theologically) economic support basis, so they have to gut all their doctrines and standards, stick to the very minimal of Christian doctrines, and trying present themselves as standing for something when they stand for nothing for fear of losing economic support.
In the one case of the church that has their own radio station, they have no fears of “offending” anybody with the doctrinal stand and norms, because they themselves pay all the bills, and they do not need to kowtow to others in other to survive economically.
Let’s be honest here. There is a need for Christian literature, but most of the hype about bad Christian literature and these ministries that have sprung up to meet that need is just hype. In a Christian printing ministry, the point is to supply a need.
I ran across a church which had 5 representatives for their Christian printing ministry. That means one man and his family in Texas, another in Illinois, another in Virginia, another in Florida, and another in California being paid to go to churches and present their ministry and do fund raising. This church paid them regular salaries, so this had to be somewhere around $3000-$4000 a month per family (judging from what he himself said), so that the first $20,000 a month they received in missionary donations went to pay salaries of people outside of their print shop. They had another 4 or 5 working inside their printshop, so there goes the first $40,000 a month and they haven’t even put a dot of ink on a piece of paper yet. Is this wise? Is this the best use of God’s money? Is this good stewardship on your part as an individual or a church?
The kicker is that they print Spanish Bibles and tracts. I asked how I could get free Bibles and tracts (I am a missionary in Mexico, and I purchase my literature at its commercial price, so getting it free or reduced is something that greatly interests me). His answer was that they only supply literature to a few missionaries, basically missionaries that their particular church support, so it would be impossible for them to help me. I could ask, but I would have to ask their pastor, and he doesn’t know how to get in touch with him at the moment.
I would not even repeat this situation except that I have had it repeated in variations some dozen times over my ministry. It is unethical and illegal to raise money telling the people you get the money from one thing and then to spend the money in some other way you did not clearly state to the donors. This is what gets people put in jail for fraud. Yet this is common fair among Christian ministries today.
Let me define “free” for you. When you tell somebody that you print literature and Bibles to give to missionaries so that it is free for them, that means they do not have to pay even a minimal amount for it. Paying half price is not free. Paying nothing is free. Perhaps you may quibble over who pays for shipping, but I have even offered to show up at the print shop and pick up the literature (because I perceive that shipping a box of Bibles should not cost hundreds of dollars) and even that has been thrown back into my face that “We don’t do that”.
A biblical printing ministry is one that prints in house, using church facilities and personnel without having all the other churches and missionaries out there pay for. If they use a mimeograph machine or a photocopier, good. As long as they are doing it for the Lord and not to support an infrastructure that they themselves devise and want others to pay for. If it is free for all missionaries, then barring that the missionary has some distinct doctrinal difference, it should be given away.
Let me repeat the biblical concept of evangelism and evangelist. Biblical evangelism is taking the gospel message out into the world where the unsaved are, and presenting it to them without deception or disguising it. By this I mean we do not offer candy to kids to get them to come to church so we can witness to them. We do not offer a free church meal to people without up front telling them what is our purpose, that they hear the gospel and get saved. To do otherwise is to use Satan’s methods to do God’s work, and this brings the curse of God on whatever you do.
A biblical evangelist then is a member of a local church who goes out into the community and presents the gospel plan of salvation to a person and if he accepts the Lord as his savior, or if he is at least willing, brings him back into that evangelist’s local church. If the person lives far away, then he directs him to a good local church somewhere near where he lives. The entire purpose of an evangelist is to skillfully present the gospel and bring the unsaved into salvation and the church community.
What we have been deceived into believing is that an evangelist is somebody who travels from church to church preaching to saved people. Most of the time he does not even present the Gospel nor does he motivate and encourage people to witness to others. He is simply a conferencist or somebody who holds meetings (we usually cannot even say evangelistic meetings because that is not what he speaks about).
The people we see in the New Testament going around from church to church was missionaries. In some occasions some ministers went from one church to another for some reason, but they did not raise missionary support to do so. They went at their own expense or their home church undertook their expenses if it was on their behalf.
To me a biblical evangelist is somebody who works in my local church to win people to the local in our area and get them grounded in the Scriptures and their Christian lives.
Let me take a minute to attack some common practices among “evangelists”. First of all, it is simply bold and audacious for an invited speaker to set terms of how much his offering or remuneration is going to be. If he cannot come because he fears the offering will be too small, he should refuse without explaining or conditioning. Secondly, where is his faith that God will provide? On another issue, it is also audacious and wrong for an invited speaker to insist on staying in a hotel or a certain high quality hotel, eating only in restaurants, etc. This is ridiculous and it is very common today among speakers. If a speaker needs to stay in a hotel, then he should say so and offer to pay from his own pocket all the expenses related to that, and if the church helps him with it, it is their option, not their obligation.
Another thing common among evangelists is to double book. They do this because they are popular. So they usually have the current year booked up every Sunday. Some smaller church wants them and cannot get them, unless they want to book two years in ahead. So they go ahead and do so. But then a few months before that meeting, a large influential (big love offerings for the evangelist) asks him to come in two months. He checks his schedule, cancels with the smaller church and takes the larger influential church. This is double booking. This ridiculously wrong and ungodly. I found out that most Christian University presidents use this excessively.
I am a missionary. I understand the working of mission boards. In our ministry we were under a “regular” mission board from 1984 through 1999. In 2000 we moved under the direction of our home church, which at the time had no other missionaries like us (where they received donations from other churches for us), although they had 2 dozen or so missionaries that they personally supported.
I am completely familiar now with both set ups, and as a person experienced under both systems, I cannot recommend any mission board because of the unbiblical nature of ALL MISSION BOARDS. They work against the biblical example, they do not follow the biblical example.
As a missionary having lived and worked significant time under both situations, I give my reasons why Mission Boards are unbiblical in our website section “Our Positions”.
To summarize what is in this 6 part study, (1) Mission boards break with the New Testament example for missions. (2) Mission boards duplicate the infrastructure of the local church and is unneeded. (3) Mission boards promote themselves and not the Lord’s work. (4) They have an unbiblical concept of loyalty and discipline. (5) Mission boards have not grasp the biblical thrust of New Testament missions. (6) Mission boards compete with “regular” missionaries for missions funds and financial support.
Missionary “Helps” Ministries
Being a missionary we need all the help we can get. But unfortunately we are being helped to death and getting nothing out of it. I have had seriously bad experiences with these help ministries that are “free” for missionaries when in reality it is simply some unscrupulous “christian” wanting to support himself in a high life style from church missions funds.
It is highly unethical, no it is just a plain lie to raise funds from churches saying your services are free and then to charge the missionary, either up front or through hidden charges. The first month I was a missionary I had recommended to me through my mission board a man who lived in Greenville South Carolina and had a help ministry to missionaries. He would do the graphics for prayer cards and print them. After paying him a large amount of money, he sent me a proof back that was unacceptable to the mission board. Thereafter he refused to return me any of the money nor change the few things they wanted changed nor print prayer cards.
In the end I went to the secular printers around the corner from my house with my pencil design, and they did the whole thing for half the amount as the Christian printer wanted. They did a good job and I had my prayer cards in about a week, after hassling with this Christian missionary help ministry for close to three months.
Moral of the story, when somebody comes up to you offering a free help service, turn and run away as fast as you can. That principal has served me in good stead over the years, and it seems as though the missionary help ministries even know to stay away from missionaries because they take you at your word, free and do thing for me.
The bottom line is that economically it is unfeasible and wrong for a person to think he can receive his salary in the US for doing minor help to a missionary, and yet enter into the competition with the same missionary for financial support from church missions funds.
It is no help to the missionary to give his salary to somebody who will steal, defraud, and mistreat him! That is the complaint of most missionaries with these services. Those who get good treatment, ask what churches and pastors support them, and you will usually find that the missionaries home church is that help ministry’s biggest supporter. That is usually the way things work.
The “Real” Helpers
I have been greatly blessed on a few occasions by churches and individuals who truly are a help to me. Let me describe who these people are. (1) They are always in a local church, faithful member who are concerned about missions, and usually heavily supporting missions besides their “help” ministry. (2) They are self supported by some secular job or are on church staff and not competing with me for church funds. (3) They do not charge anything for their help, and usually you can see where they have spent their own money to provide me with what I need. Here you can also add that their conditions on receiving their “help” is usually very little. They may make some conditions to prevent missionary abuse of their help, but that does not get ridiculous. (4) They are intensely interested in changing their “help ministry” so that it really meets the missionary’s needs, and not just throwing something out at the missionary whether he wants it or needs it or not. Did I mean they do not charge me nor go around beside me raising missionary funds? That is the most important point of all.
Over the years, we have seen churches that had apartments on grounds that they opened to us, and in drastic contrast to a missionary help ministry which was “free” but pounded us monthly with hidden fees, the church paid everything and asked nothing of us. The church gave us cable TV, and a telephone in which the church paid all the long distance bills. It came furnished, and they fixed whatever was broken or got broken, they didn’t even expect us to fix it if we broke it. That is a very different attitude from a help ministry that was advertised as “free” but charged us with gas, lights, telephone (we had to contract our own), and then made us work on their grounds if we were not traveling.
Churches gave canned goods and meat to that ministry “for the missionaries” and they charged us for these “freebies”. The only cuts of meat left for us was hamburger, and they charge 10 cent more per pound than Walmart. Where is the point then? Of course if we actually got anything from their meat locker, we had to write thank you notes to the church that donated it. I was invited one time to a fund raising dinner that the help ministry put on for new pastors they wanted to present their ministry to (invitation only dinner) and they had some 70 top cuts of meat from that which was donated to us missionaries, and I got a single steak for free out of that.
But the point here is that God’s people are giving and donating and sacrificing, and for all that they are doing, the effect where it counts is zilch, nada, nothing. Why? Churches have allowed intermediaries to step in and cripple their giving and render null their sacrifices. These intermediaries are “Christian Religious Organization”. The entire principle stinks because it goes against what the Bible clearly teaches, and is giving in to “what is easy.” Churches don’t want to take the time to examine, question, probe, and make sure what they are doing for the Lord, so they take an easy route to destroy everything they do for God.