Missionary or Mercenary?

by Pastor Thomas Cassidy

       I am an Independent Baptist. I am not affiliated with any denomination, convention, association, fellowship, or group. That, to me, is the meaning of the word "independent."

I believe, according to the example of Acts chapter 13, that the local, New Testament, Baptist church is solely responsible for the training, ordaining, sending, and supervising of missionaries. I do not believe any of that responsibility can be "farmed out" to a mission board or agency. We don't "farm out" those whom we have seen saved in our churches to other churches to be baptized, or to be taught, why should we do so for the sending and supervision of our missionaries?

Missions are a function of the local church. To allow any organization other than the local church to perform any of the functions that God has assigned to the church is to step outside of the bounds of the Biblical pattern.

I am about to make myself one of the most unpopular men in America. My 'sin' will be to tell the truth. The truth often hurts. It attacks our pre-conceived ideas about ourselves, our friends, our fellow servants, our very ministries.

I just returned from a missions survey trip to the Philippines. I spent about 3 weeks looking at the ongoing works in Metro-Manila, as well as out in some of the provinces. I found many good and Godly Filipino Pastors doing a great work for the Lord. I saw churches being planted, nurtured, growing, training men for more church planting. What a great blessing to be in some of those new churches and see the excitement of those pastors as they served Him.

My host was a 37 year old Filipino pastor that started a church 16 years ago. That church has since started fourteen new 'daughter' churches in the Philippines as well as thirty-six new churches on the foreign (to them) field. The fourteen 'daughter' churches have started twenty-four 'grand-daughter' churches. Out of one man's vision of what God can do there are now seventy-five independent Bible believing Baptist churches, working, winning souls, growing, and training men for the ministry.

While at a pastor's luncheon I made the mistake of asking the local pastors about the American missionaries in the Philippines. There are about 75 American missionaries in the Philippines, representing 5 mission agencies and numerous local churches. As I asked the question, a hush fell in the room, and the Filipino pastors looked at one another, looked down, and did not answer me. The host pastor, trying to be very gracious to his American guest, stepped into the void and said, "Only time and eternity will tell." That was not the answer I was looking for. I asked the host pastor to give me his honest assessment of the Americans he knew that were in the Philippines. He hesitated again, then asked if I really wanted an answer. I replied that I did. He cleared his throat and told me the American missionaries in the Philippines fall into six categories:

1. The true Missionary: Doing the job God called him to do, preaching the gospel, winning souls for Christ, planting New Testament Baptist churches, training indigenous men to pastor the churches being planted. This group is the smallest minority of those Americans present in the Philippines at this time.

2. The Stationary: Came to the Philippines some time ago, started a church, hunkered down and has been pastoring that little flock ever since, never leading the church to be self- supporting, cashing his missions check each month, and is effectively retired-in-place. This is what the Filipinos call 'welfare missions'; supported by the rich Americans because 'everyone knows those poor stupid Filipino's can't support a pastor, they can hardly feed themselves.'

3. The Vacationary: Can be identified by the camera around his neck, and the tour bus ticket stubs sticking out of his pocket. He is having such a great time touring the beautiful country he has little time for church planting and soul winning. However, to salve his conscience he makes it a point to give every tour bus driver a copy of the tract "God's Simple Plan of Salvation." Of course all of the money for his travel comes from his faithful supporters back home.

4. The Businessionary: Is the man that is in the import/export business with his brother-in-law back in the states and does not have the time to plant churches or train men for the ministry. He usually just gives $50 or so to a local pastor and claims that man's work as his own. He makes a lot of money, but continues to receive support from the churches in the states, which is often invested in his business rather than the Lord's work.

5. The Mercenary: Is for sale to the highest bidder. He may be offered a job managing a resort or other business (American's are very popular in the Philippines and can open a lot of business doors for those for whom they work). He holds a 'Bible study' semi-regularly at the resort or business, which is the spiritual equivalent of the object lesson in junior church last week, and continues to receive support money from the states.

6. The Mission-hari: Hari is the Tagalog word for 'King'. He has raised 3 or 4 thousand dollars a month support money, comes to the field and rents or buys a big house, hires cooks and maids for his wife, and a gardener and sometimes even a driver for himself, goes out to some of the small indigenous works in the area and has his picture taken in front of the church buildings with his arm around the local pastors, gives the pastors $50 a month of his support and sends the pictures back to the states telling the supporting churches what a great job he is doing working with the local people, being a real help to them. All the while living in his 'palace', swimming in his pool, being waited on by the maid, watching the driver wash his car, and looking out over the little 'kingdom' he has built for himself. Saying 'Isn't God good.'

If you are a pastor, and you have sent a missionary from your church to the foreign field, I have some friendly advice for you. Get off your duff, beg, borrow, or steal enough money to get a plane ticket and go to the field and see just how that missionary is living, and what EXACTLY he is doing! Do not tell him you are coming, just drop in! If he is not all that he should be, take him home with you! Tell the supporting churches to send their missions money somewhere where it will be used as the giving churches intended it to be!

If you are a lay person in a church that supports missions, check up on where your missions money is going and what it is being used for. Write some of the indigenous pastors and get the real story. Go to the field yourself if you can. Get a first hand look at the work being done. It may surprise you what is going on. It did me!

We have literally dozens of good men seeking missions support to go to the foreign field to do a work for the Lord who can't get support because it is being sent to the types of 'missionaries' in 2 through 6 above. This, brethren, ought not to be. We, the pastors and lay persons that are paying the bills must begin to hold the missionaries accountable for the money sent and the work being done. In the past many of us have abdicated our pastoral responsibilities to 'mission boards' that have failed. Two well known mission boards have just bought more land and built new buildings in the states worth millions of dollars. Why? We don't need buildings and land here, the people on the foreign field need church buildings and land there. Sell the buildings and land here and send the money where it will do some good! And make sure it goes to the kind of missionary in example number one above. It is our responsibility before a holy God.

Think about it.

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