Thursday, August 25, 2005

It's Not Just About Money

I sat down in my pastor’s office while he was on the phone. There was a stack of missionary letters on the corner of this desk, so I thumbed through them while waiting for him to finish his conversation. I was struck by the one common theme in each letter, money.

Please pray about: Tickets back to the field, $4,500…$750 monthly support still needed…purchase of land, $30,000…$2,000 for computer and printer.” All legitimate needs. All, probably, worthy of support. What struck me was that seemingly, EVERY letter had a plea for money.

The most difficult aspect of missionary/pastor relationship is over the issue of money, and that’s tragic. Pastors, who are generally friendly and outgoing people in a non-formal setting, get weird when they see a missionary at a fellowship meeting (one reason I stopped going to them), because missionaries, if they don’t have their hand out, will have their calendar out trying to book a meeting. And, though everyone knows the reason missionaries are on the road is to seek the limited funds available for the work we have been “called” to, it’s sad that that our relationship seems to be around only dollars.

I was on the east coast last week and made an appointment with a supporting pastor. He told me that if I was ever in his part of the world to stop by and I took him up on it. This pastor is both gracious and generous, and was kind enough to provide lodging for me as well as supper. He showed me around his church and talked about his vision and which is truly impressive. I’m not sure what he was expecting, but I told him I was not there to hit him up for money, did not really talk a lot about our ministry other than my philosophy of missions. My real reason for visiting him was an unconditional thanks for his partnership.

To my missionary colleagues, I understand your struggle as raising support is the necessary evil of our profession. Though dollars are important, our greatest need on the mission field cannot be solved by additional support. I desire people who know me and really know the ministry I am involved in. I wish for people who will read my newsletters and not be afraid that the only thing they will see is monetary considerations. I long for partners to share in the ministry, not just support the ministry. Perhaps if we change our attitude of what missions is about we will find the equality of ministry that we long for.