One of the main reasons I now live in America instead of overseas is money. Our support plummeted and we had to come home. So obviously this topic is very personal, but even before this happened, from looking at many other missionaries I know (some of whom are thousands of dollars in debt to their organizations), it’s a wide-spread problem. “But,” says a well-meaning Christian woman of my acquaintance, “I hope you don’t worry about money!” She means that she hopes I am mature enough to have moved beyond this. Her face goes a bit pink; she assumes I am mature enough. After all, I Am Missionary! Shake not my pedestal! But that’s another topic for another post.
I know of a young man who felt God’s call on his life to go overseas. He went to his church. They said, “We can’t really shepherd you in this. Go talk to a mission agency.” He refrained from pointing out the role of church taught in Acts, and went to an agency. They gave him a lot of psychological tests and appointed him, then sent him to raise his support. He went back to his church. “If God wants you to go, you’ll raise your money,” they told him.
This is a pretty common attitude in the church today. Becoming a missionary is not in the calling of God or in obedience to His Word—it’s in the money. You think you’re called? Prove it! Raise your support. Be great at public speaking! Be talented at sharing your vision. Be skilled at power-point presentations. Should you manage to actually raise your support and go overseas, it is entirely your responsibility to keep the money up! Write lots of letters, but they can’t be too long or boring and should have lots of white space. People are too busy to read long letters. But also, most people aren’t really reading your letters. They need to see you often to remember to give to you. So you should make frequent trips home.
If you study the history of overseas missions, you’ll see it was initially a part of the church (i.e. Paul, early apostles, etc) then dwindled in the Middle Ages to the Crusades, which instead of spreading the love of Christ sowed seeds of hatred and fear whose harvest we reap to this day. After that, overseas missions pretty much died for a couple of hundred years, bolstered by the ideas of hyper-Calvinism, and the doctrine that God would save those he’d chosen and we pretty much could leave it up to him. When William Carey wanted to go to India to spread the gospel, an elder in his church told him, “If God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do so without your help or mine.”
This is shocking to us nowadays. But how is it different than telling people that if God wants them overseas, he can provide the money without your help or mine?
“God is sovereign” people respond. Yes, he is. But he still allows us to sin. He still allows us to be selfish with our money and selfish with our time and selfish with our actions. I don’t think it was his “perfect will” that left generations of people living and dying without ever once hearing the name of Christ. And I think he calls some people to go and allows them to stay home, because others who should have given are in disobedience.