The Importance of Supporting Missionaries
by Douglas Hoff
Most Americans probably have at least a basic grasp of what a missionary is. They are mentioned often enough in churches and even in the media. After all, most Bible class teachers talk about the missionary travels of the apostle Paul which are found in the book of Acts. However, the words mission, missionary and missionaries do not appear in the New Testament. By definition a missionary is one on a mission. But what is the purpose of these journeys? Jesus sent out the apostles to accomplish the great work of preaching the gospel to all the world. The record of this “great commission” (as it is often called) is found in all four accounts of the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:19-24).
Since the word is not mentioned in the scriptures obviously there can be no strict definition for a missionary or what locations qualify as mission areas. Paul desired to work wherever the gospel had not been preached (Romans ). He also worked with existing churches to build them up in the faith (Acts , 22). Thus, the church can have missionaries in foreign countries as well as in parts of this country where congregations are weak.
Modern Christians need to appreciate the mission of the church is an ongoing effort. Each member of the Lord’s church ought to consider himself as a missionary for the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelism keeps the church alive and growing. The lack of it often means a slow death for the congregation. If a friend, neighbor, co-worker, class mate or family member has not heard the message of salvation by grace through faith, then there is work to be done for the sake of the kingdom.
The world’s population is now estimated to be over 6 billions souls. Most of them have never heard the gospel. As such, the vast majority of the world is a big mission field. Since the scope of the great commission is global (“all the nations,” “all the world” and “every creature”), then it is clear the Lord’s church must send forth workers into the vineyard (Matthew 9:37, 38; 20:1ff). In the first century Jesus sent the apostles and the seventy out to preach and teach (Luke 9:1; 10:1). The 21 century church would do well to follow this example to get the job done. Jesus made provisions for supporting these workers as they went out. Today, the church must provide for its workers.
The Bible teaches us to support worthy workers. In his epistles the apostle John wrote of some who went forth teaching a message. Some were teaching the gospel while others were not (1 John 4:1; 2 John 9-11). Those teaching the truth were to be received and given assistance (3 John 1:5-8). Part of sending those men on their journey would be making sure they had enough money and supplies for the task at hand since “they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles” (v. 7). Paul also said much the same thing about Timothy’s labors (1 Corinthians , 11).
It is important that those engaged in the work of preaching the gospel be adequately supported for the sake of saving souls. Each work has unique needs because of the different economies, cultures and needs of the workers. The Lord did not specify a dollar amount but left those decisions in the realm of judgment since situations change over time. Nevertheless, the Lord did ordain that “those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians ). If a man is not supported sufficiently he will have to secure income in other ways. On occasion Paul had to make tents but this certainly would have taken time away from his primary interest of reaching the lost (Acts 18:1-3; 1 Corinthians 9:18, 19; Philippians 2:25; 4:15-19).
An important aspect of supporting a missionary is having reasonable expectations of the work. Fruit takes time to grow. A man who will be going to a foreign country has a lot to deal with. He may need to learn a new language or employ a translator. Certainly he will have to adapt his behavior to a different culture.
Communication is also vital. Paul wrote letters to congregations to keep them informed (Colossians , 17). Wise missionaries keep in touch with supporting congregations and wise elders will stay abreast of what is happening in the mission field.
Douglas Hoff, preacher
(734) 782 -2886 [office]
Flat Rock, Ml 48134-0012
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