The following is a must read as you develop your mission’s philosophy in your local church.
1 December, AD 51
Dear Paul, Silas, and Timothy,
Greetings from Antioch. We trust you are well and that your ministry in Corinth is also continuing well. Our mission committee met last week to discuss your work, and we have decided to discontinue the annual support that we have been sending for your ministry. You are probably wondering what led us to this decision, and so here are ten of our primary concerns.
First, of the three of you, only Paul was originally sent out from this church. Silas is from Jerusalem, and Timothy is from Lystra. Our policy is to support missionaries who come from Antioch. Also, our policy is to support our missionaries at 5% of their total support needs, and we expect them to find the rest of their support from other churches. We, however, will not support missionaries who do not come from our own church.
Second, our church likes to focus on certain countries. We have a flag for every country where one of our missionaries has gone, and when they report back to us, we like to have them tell us about that country, share some recipes from that country, speak some of the language for us, and wear the traditional clothes from that country. We chose to support you for ministry in Macedonia, and we were greatly impressed by your vision, Paul, to minister there. However, word has reached us that you only spent a few weeks in Macedonia, starting churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea. Now, however, we hear that you have moved on to Corinth in Achaia. Since we tie mission work to specific countries, we do not feel that we can continue to support you in your present work outside Macedonia.
Third, we had sent you out to do the work of church planting. Our church has decided only to fund church planters in missionary work. We appreciate that you also started a church in Corinth, but we understand that you are moving into ministry that involves theological education. For our part, we want to see churches planted and are not financially behind educating pastors for those churches.
Fourth, you did not fill out your financial application form for our church on time last year. We know that the Holy Spirit originally told us to send Paul and Barnabas out for the ministry that God had called them to do. At first, that led us to the idea that we are to support missionaries themselves and not to support them based on the places they went or the projects that they have submitted. However, and we are sure you will understand this, when missionaries are gone a long time, we begin to lose that personal connection that we once had with them. Over time, it is far easier to treat them like projects and require them to fill out forms so that we can support the project of ministry that they are doing. These project forms are very important to us.
Fifth, we have over the years taken on new projects for support that some of our newer members want to support—members who do not remember you or who never met you. We now support a pregnancy support ministry here in Antioch, a feeding and clean water programme in the region of Tyre and Sidon, an elementary schools project in rural areas of Syria, and so forth. We simply cannot support every worthy cause, and these are causes that our church members get enthused about. Our congregation likes to support projects more than missionaries. We also, as you will notice from these places of ministry, think that we should focus more on ministry closer to home than to the ends of the earth, as it were. In addition, and to be perfectly honest, hearing that you are only involved in preaching the Gospel and teaching theology and not in some tangible ministry that makes a difference in people’s lives is a concern for us. Ever since we combined benevolence funding along with our missionary support, we have been increasingly interested in funding those projects.
Sixth, we have also had word that you are working on the side by making tents in order to make ends meet. We did not send you out so that you could spend your time working a job; we expected you to be involved in ministry full-time if we support you. We know that working in the market-place is a good way to meet people and do relational evangelism, but it sounds to us as though you are getting two salaries.
Seventh, you have fallen behind on your monthly newsletters to us. We expect to hear from you more regularly, and challenges in ministry are not excuses for failing to communicate with your financial supporters. We want short letters with a story of interest that we can pin up on the back wall of the church next to the map of places where we have sent missionaries. You not only do not write often enough, but when you write you send theological treatises that nobody wants to read.
Eighth, we understand that you are a little too open to work with some groups that are not very sound. Some of those Corinthians have the wrong theology and are immoral. Why would you ever engage in ministry to them? Shouldn’t we minister to people who are theologically sound and morally upright?
Ninth, our budget for supporting mission work has shrunk in recent years. We’ve moved from the cave where we used to meet to a nice new facility in the centre of Antioch near the Orontes River. This has taken a lot of our funds that we once set aside for missions, and the upkeep of our new building is also going to keep us from supporting as many missionaries as we used to support.
Tenth, our short-term mission programme has taken off wonderfully. We send our youth on two week mission trips to build huts in Cappadocia, and they come back very excited. Along with the new projects we support, this short-term mission work has eaten into funding for long-term missionaries such as yourselves.
So, for quite a number of reasons, we simply can no longer support your ministry. We will continue to pray for your work and hope to hear from you from time to time, and we wish the Lord’s blessing on your ministry. We are happy to have been able to send you some financial assistance over the past eight years, but we think that this has been long enough by now for you to stand on your own two feet—we are sure that you will agree that there has to be a limit to philanthropy.