Saturday, January 05, 2008

Supporting Missionaries in a Manner Worthy of God

I guess I'll never forget the first time I ever read Third John. A few months before, I had decided that if was going to be a real preacher, it just made good sense to read the Bible. All of it. So I was making my way through those sections of Scripture I'd never read before when I came across something that really struck me.

In 3 John 6, the writer is talking about what we call traveling preachers. He says to Gaius, the reader, "You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God." As scholars tell us, "send them on their way" is not a reference to their going-away party. It's a euphemism for financial support. I knew that from my study of Romans. Paul uses the same sort of expression in 15:24 where he tells the church that he expects them to speed him on his way towards Spain. Translation: Get ready to write a check, pull out the plastic, etc.

What got to me in 3 John 6 is that it says the support of traveling preachers, or missionaries, should be done "in a manner worthy of God." I knew I was supposed to participate in the Lord's Supper "in a worthy manner." But here in Third John, the same kind of language was used to speak of support for missionaries.

I don't know about you, but when I was a kid my limited experience taught me that missionaries were those people who seemed to have the least. They were so in love with the Lord. They were so used to the sub-standard conditions in their countries of choice. For the sake of their work, their mission, their passion, they just got by on whatever churches doled out to them. If they ever quit and came back to the United States, they seemed to be on the verge of bankruptcy. That's the way it seemed to me.

" . . . in a manner worth of God."

I have little evidence for this conclusion, but my sense is that missionaries might be a little more demanding these days, expecting and receiving more from their sponsoring congregations than they did in years gone by. But I don't know. My suspicion is that, especially in previous generations, missionary support didn't measure up to the standard of being worthy of God.

Some of you may be missionaries or former missionaries. Some of you sit on missions committees at your home churches. Some of you know and have known missionaries and their families. What can you tell me about the history and the state of missionary support?



Frank - Missionaries have always been my heroes. The amazing me by what they are willing to do, where they are willing to go and what they're willing to give up ... all for the sake of winning others to Christ.

For too long missionaries and their work have taken a backseat to things of lesser importance. Too often we it's the missionaries that suffer when we have a parking lot that needs repaved or a kitchen that needs remodeling. When budgets get tight, missionaries are the ones that seem to get the short end of the stick.

So many have wanted to go, but haven't been able to because we won't send.

My prayer for missions is simple ... that we'd be more open minded and openhanded to missions.

Love you blog.


Matthew said...

This is a great post, that is needed. We sometimes have a terrible attitude in supporting missionaries. It seems that it is a after thought to the local work. Both works are equally important.