Posts Tagged ‘missions funding’

All the money for missions is controlled by a very small group of men in churches of Christ.

These are all good, well-intentioned men—elders, deacons, mission committee members—but if churches of Christ have 200-300 congregations that oversee virtually all American missionaries , which typically includes managing the funds that are contributed by individuals and smaller congregations, then my best estimate is that a couple of thousand men control all of the mission work of churches of Christ.

Is this good?

Typically, most congregations have a small mission committee that receives requests, selects which works to support, determines the amount that they want to request, and passes that request on to the elders—an even smaller group, further removed from the request—who make the final decision.  Some churches do use variations on this standard approach.

I know of one large, outstanding congregation which has a long history of generous support for missions, a great track record in every way, where the entire mission program and the dispersal of all the mission funds is completely the decision of one brother.  Another one of our exemplary, mission-minded congregations has a model where small sub-committees funnel all financial requests for missions up to a small group of deacons. In practice, if the chairman of this oversight committee is personally unconvinced of the merits of a request, the likelihood of it being funded is very low. I know of another good congregation where the preaching minister must sign-off on all mission funding.

As I have repeatedly said, God uses us in our frailty and in our ignorance. Much good work has been done, so please don’t misunderstand me when I suggest that there must be a better way!

Here are what I see as the basic weaknesses of our standard model for supporting missionaries:

1)      Mission work becomes the responsibility of a small number of people rather than of the whole body of Christ.

2)      Mission information rarely gets out of committee, so congregations are ill-informed and uninspired about their missionaries.

3)      With decisive power in the hands of a few, any change in personnel creates the potential for radical restructuring of that church’s mission strategy. Every new mission committee chairman brings a new agenda. New preachers and new elders often create the same instability.

4)       Centralized money creates centralized power! And power corrupts! Mission committees are notorious for establishing small fiefdoms. Because missions is central to the agenda of most congregations, those who control the funds for missions—elders, preacher, or committees—control that agenda!  Unfortunately, the more experienced they become and bigger the budget, the more indispensable they consider themselves and their own personal missions agenda—sometimes even to the detriment of the overall health of the congregation.

5)      Decisions about financial support are easier than decisions about spiritual needs, so the financial decisions direct our strategies for world missions.

6)      Financial decisions can be very far removed from relationships with those we are supporting.  Nothing good can come from the missionary becoming primarily an employee of the church.

I talked with a missionary once who reported his own conversation with a local preacher who, completely frustrated in a great church using a standard model, said he would just like to blow up the mission committee at his congregation!  Now why do you think he said that??

Twice during the Pepperdine Bible Lectures this year, I sat with great non-American missionaries who said that they were desperately trying to figure out how to survive if they gave up their American support.  Although both have been supported by some of our largest churches for many years, their experiences with our congregational power structure for funding missions had been bitter!  They talked of how often they were confronted and confounded with personal agendas, pettiness, over-control, micro-management—all power-mongering.  It broke my heart to hear them talk, but I could not offer any rebuttal.

My conclusion is that we need a model that separates power and money!  That is where we will go with the next few posts, so stay with me!


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