Every pastor receives numerous calls from missionaries who are seeking financial support. The question of what to do when the missionary calls is an important one. When a missionary calls, if possible, answer the call and speak with them. They may spend valuable time and money by continually calling and trying to reach the pastor. Also, a terse response is never in order. Even though you may have received several calls and you don’t have enough money to support any new missionaries you should be kind and attentive as you listen to the missionary’s heart.
If you are a new pastor, you may be surprised when that first missionary calls. What do you do when you receive that call? Remember, many other calls will follow. You need to be prepared to respond properly to these calls. When speaking with a missionary listen carefully to his burden. Be kind and understanding even if you are not able to support the missionary.
Though every man of God would like to support every missionary, it is not possible to do so. Therefore, it is important to have a plan to follow concerning who you will support and the protocol that you will follow. No missionary wants to be bombarded with a ten page questionnaire, but every pastor is responsible to make sure his missionaries meet the basic standards of his church and that they have the same philosophy.
Here are some general principles that I trust will help you develop appropriate guidelines for your missions program:
1. Every church should have a plan to get the gospel to the ends of the earth through the support of missionaries both at home and abroad. Remember, the Great Commission commands us to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.
2. Determine guidelines and expectations for your missionaries. Do they fit your doctrinal standard? Under what mission board are they serving? Who is their sending church? Do they have a good recommendation from a reliable source? What training and education have they received? You should examine their experience and preparedness. These and other questions should be properly answered before the missionary presents his ministry to the church.
3. Do not use missionaries to fill your pulpit in your absence. This is unethical, unless of course it is someone from your church and they have an open date that cannot be filled.
4. If you have no ability to support them let them know before scheduling a meeting with them.
5. Give them a love offering. They have spent money and taken time to come to your meeting. The love offering should more than compensate for their visit.
6. Don’t wait until they go to the field before beginning support. Give them at least half of the committed support and the rest as soon as they leave for the field.
7. Support them at an appropriate level. The cost of correspondence and reporting to churches may be greater than the amount of support if the monthly amount is too small. A larger amount with fewer missionaries is usually a good idea for a new church. However, the amount of support is subjective and a personal preference.
8. A good investment for any church is to support church planting in their area. If only 10% were designated for this purpose it would not only help local churches in your region to get started, but these churches, when established, will be able to provide additional support for missions world-wide.
9. Does the missionary have a world-wide vision for church planting? Every church—even on the mission field—should have a goal to support missionaries to other countries.
10. Conduct a yearly mission’s conference. Every church should recognize the importance of church planting in their vicinity, their region, and to the ends of the earth. To omit any one of these steps is to misunderstand the Great Commission. I am sure there are many valid ministries that are not directly starting churches, but the primary goal for missions should be church planting. Missions should be a major part of every new church!