Thought Question: Missions: Mark Woodward, Part 2

In Part 2 of Mark’s city, Mark writes,

The most ambitious [missionaries] for God are sometimes even successful [at finding supporting and sponsoring congregations], but most potential missionaries are lost to the mission field, giving up on their call because they

a) have only a small number of congregations who know them personally and none of those is willing or in a position to offer oversight and/or support, or

b) they personally do not have the resources to fund weeks, if not months, of cross-country travel for full-time fund raising, or

c) they simply do not have the skills for fund raising. Their desire and training, perhaps their giftedness, is being a missionary, not a fundraiser.

So — is he right? Are we losing missionaries who could be very effective in the field because they are unable to find sponsoring congregations or aren’t skilled at fundraising?

If so, what’s a better plan?


About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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18 Responses to Thought Question: Missions: Mark Woodward, Part 2

  1. David Himes says:

    One of the flaws here is that there seems to be a presumption that if someone has a strong desire to be a missionary, they will actually be a good missionary. I've not seen a discussion of what characteristics or skills actually contribute to being an effective missionary.

    Frankly, I can make a strong case that the skills needed to be an effective fund raiser are the same skills needed to be an effective missionary.

    A person needs to be comfortable meeting strangers … engaging others in conversation when you've just met them … being willing to "take no for an answer" but then come back and ask again.

    Am I describing a missionary or a fund raiser?

    Could be either one, couldn't it?

    If someone seeking to be a missionary cannot successfully raise funds, they are unlikely to be an effective missionary. The necessary traits to do one are exactly the same ones needed to do the other.

  2. Oh no, David throws in the E-word – effective! Missionaries are supposed to be effective?

    All kidding aside, do we delve into the subject of missionaries (and preachers and teachers and Elders and Deacons and …) being effective?

    If we toss aside "effective," yes, the ABILITY to raise funds and the DESIRE to be a missionary are often contradictory or at least their intersection is the null set.

  3. aBasnar says:

    Is it really the responsibilty of the missionary to raise funds? Is it not rather the responsibilty of the sending congregation(s) to support their workers on the field spiritually and with the necessesities for life?


  4. Price says:

    Paul built tents…was that an example ??

  5. Richard Kruse says:

    There is a basic flaw in this: The word and/or work of the "missionary" needs to be defined. There are "tent making" missionaries, "full-time" teachers, evangelists, translators, "administrators", etc. Each needs different skills. One size doesn't fit all – even though, unfortunately – many missionaries are expected to be over-qualified to be under-supported! Ideally congregations would be preparing and sending out missionaries from among themselves.

  6. Jerry Starling says:

    <div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-158550897"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(158550897)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" onclick="IDC.ui.fb_wrapper(158550897)" href="javascript: void(null)" style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(158550897)">Close Message With the majority of our congregations being fewer than 100 members – and with each of these attempting to provide a building for itself and a full time local preacher – most of these churches are not in a position to be able to provide complete support for a missionary. The result is they send small amounts, perhaps to several different mission points.

    These small churches are usually not in a position to provide effective oversight as well. That is WHY we are in the position we are in. That does nothing to get us out of our current situation, which is not the best we could have.

    Eastern European Mission is one effort to gain collective support for mission activity, though we do not sponsor American missionaries. We do provide logistic support – and we have a few full-time workers in various parts of Eastern Europe, nearly all of whom are European. We also sponsor annual church-planting seminar(s) and help with a national TV program,both in Ukraine. There are other local activities we assist in sponsoring in various countries, mostly of nationals who are proven to be effective in what they are doing. We also organize short-term mission projects to work with youth camps and/or orphans. All of this is in addition to "major opportunities" we receive from time to time, such as an invitation to put Bibles into the curriculum of the public schools of entire state-sized regions at a time, projects that require one of our "Million Dollar Sunday" efforts to finance.

    In other words, we provide an avenue for the small church to make a significant contribution to a mission program that has strong oversight without the church having to be able to visit the field, understand what they see, and give guidance to the people on the field.

    For more information, visit <a href="; target="_blank"&gt <a href="http://;” target=”_blank”>;

  7. Adam Legler says:

    It's a double edged sword. I know of churches that will support the missionary but the missionary still has to raise money for their working fund so they have a buy in to and giving the missionary more reason to feel accountable financially.

    That does give the missionary a chance to inform more churches and individuals that wouldn't otherwise know about the work and increase their faith by God providing. But it does put some stress on them.

    I think it's best to fully fund a missionary and do 3-5 year contracts at a time. That way they don't lose motivation to be the best they can be while not leaving them to search for funds on their own.

  8. aBasnar says:

    With the majority of our congregations being fewer than 100 members – and with each of these attempting to provide a building for itself and a full time local preacher – most of these churches are not in a position to be able to provide complete support for a missionary.

    Which boils down to: First come our own needs, then we see what's left …

    I've been in a small Brethren church of about 50 members for 11 years. They had one missionary sent out to Saudia Arabia, another one to turkey and support a third one in Bulgaria. The support is in part by cooperation with other congregations, in part they work part- or fulltime. The elders of the church exercise oversight over them by staying in regular contact and visting them on the field.

    I have seen that this is not unsolvable … as soon as we let go of a full-time-paid minister (small congregations don't need them), and if we keep housing costs at a minimum.


  9. Jerry Starling says:

    Well said! When we quit putting ourselves first and giving missions the left-overs there will be much more that we can do. This still does not mean that the small congregation is necessarily well-equipped to provide guidance and oversight for a missionary in a strange (to them and to the missionary) culture.

  10. aBasnar says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention: They sent out men who have served as teachers in the congregation and were part of the leadership for some years. This meant a great sacrifice for the church.

    But, yes – it does not come automatically. A church has to grwo into this mindset and vision.


  11. Jay Guin says:


    I agree that there’s likely a correlation between the ability to fundraise and to be an effective missionary. But the problem is often not the personality of the missionary but his lack of a network within which to raise funds. We get letters from people wanting to go on a mission every day. We can’t give them all a hearing, much less money. The ones who get a hearing are likely to have someone that we know to vouch for them.

    This is one of the several advantages of groups like MRN. Their support of a prospective missionary assures us that they will be part of an effort that’s been given serious thought by people more expert than us, and that we’ll be supported by the same experts as we try to support the missionary. If things go badly, we can sit down with the good people at MRN and discuss how to help the mission effort improve — or perhaps just give it more time.

  12. Jay Guin says:


    Maybe the measure should be “faithfulness” rather than “effectiveness,” but ultimately, a missionary who doesn’t bring others to Jesus should be trained, coached, relocated, prayed for, encouraged, mentored — whatever is needed for the success of the mission. Perhaps he needs to shake the dust off his feet and move to the next place.

    The same is true for elders, deacons, members, bloggers, whatever. If you’re not accomplishing the mission you’ve undertaken, you need to discover the problem (and be willing to ask for help) or else try something else.

    Even Jesus and Paul weren’t effective in all cities, and when they weren’t, they moved on.

  13. Jay Guin says:


    I entirely agree that the primary fundraiser should be the sponsoring congregation — preferably the missionary’s home congregation. And yet that often doesn’t happen.

    Sometimes the home church is already fully committed to other missionaries and just can’t give more money. (But that wouldn’t keep them from raising funds from other churches.)

    Sometimes the home church isn’t networked with other churches willing to help. When autonomy becomes isolation, then we have no friendly churches to reach out to for funds based on our recommendation.

    Sometimes the home church is too doctrinally persnickety to work with missionary-support organizations. When our doctrines keep us from cooperating with one another to send missionaries, we really need to re-evaluate our doctrines.

  14. Jay Guin says:


    Many mission efforts today include “vocational” missionaries who join the mission team and take “secular” work where the mission team is and serve as deeply committed volunteers to help the effort. In some settings, it can be a very effective model.

  15. Jay Guin says:

    Richard wrote,

    “Ideally congregations would be preparing and sending out missionaries from among themselves.”


  16. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for mentioning the work of EEM. When the average congregation has 75 members, it’s just not realistic to expect all churches to have the necessary expertise to be capable mission-sending organizations. My church of 650 has struggled to learn how to do this. (It’s not like they teach this in college, you know.)

    Organizations and EEM and MRN can train ANY size congregation to be much better as sending and supporting congregations.

    When I was a kid, my church hired a singing instructor to teach the church to sing better and to re-train our song leaders.

    We should care about missions at least enough to do the same. It should be routine for churches to bring in experts in such critically important areas to help us be better.

  17. Jay Guin says:

    Adam L,

    I agree that a sponsoring church should give a missionary a firm time commitment. We have a formal policy on these things worked out with some of our existing missionaries, so the missionary is assured that he won’t be cut off before he has a chance to get his work off the ground.

  18. KP says:

    A big problem is that the missionary often has to “sell” the idea of the great commission to the churches out there. Why should the missionary have to convince a church to participate in something they should already be doing?

    Even tent-making missionaries like myself and my husband still need financial support. We’ve had several deaths in the family and haven’t been able to afford plane tickets back home. We’ve had moms and dads have heart attacks and major surgeries and all we can do is wait for them to recover so that we can skype them to see if they’re ok. It would be awesome to have a a little extra besides what you need to survive.

    Many of you argue about the effectiveness of missionaries, but I have to say, it’s much easier to get someone hooked on God than it is to get someone hooked on giving their money to help someone spread the news in a foreign land. It has become increasingly more difficult as we hear the same excuse over and over since the economic recession: “If we support you then we can’t afford our building.” How sad that saving a building is more important than saving souls.

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