“Can’t a missionary just get a job in another country instead of asking for support?” “Shouldn’t a missionary have enough faith to go without raising money?” “I understand a little help, but why can’t they just get a little money and head out with that?”
We understand there are many questions or concerns regarding a missionary’s support and we want to address some of those concerns. As we better understand how support helps not just a missionary but also the ministry, we are better equipped to enable the missionary to do the ministry God has led him to do.
One major reason a missionary needs support is that he is there to start a ministry not to take over one. It is a given that he will need money to rent a house, eat, and live a normal life. Church-planting missionaries moved to their country specifically and principally to start a church and ministry. When he starts a church, it will be him, the missionary, who will be paying to rent the building and pay the utility bills. He will be the one to purchase the chairs, tracts, and all the basic items needed for a ministry to begin. The missionary’s end goal is to train young men to take the leadership of the church, allowing the church to become indigenous, so that he can begin other churches. However, until the church becomes indigenous, every church plant, Bible college, radio or other type of ministry the Lord allows will be funded by the support a missionary receives from churches who support him.
Another reason a missionary should needs support is that he should focus on ministry and not on just survival. Some people have suggested that a missionary should get a job in his host country so he can get to know people or have a way to support himself and not take support from churches. While this idea may seem attractive, most countries will not allow an immigrant to work in their borders. Missionaries typically retain the citizenship of their home country and are therefore considered immigrants in the field in which they serve. In open countries, missionaries typically are allowed entry on a missionary or religious visa, which does not allow them to work for money. In a closed country, a missionary may need to gain access for entry through a student or tourist visa, which would likely prevent him from having a secular job as well. The biggest reason a missionary should not seek secular employment on the field is that he should focus his entire attention on the reason he is there. Churches do not support a missionary just to live on the field; churches support a missionary to win people to Christ, start churches, train national leadership, and do the work of the Lord. If a missionary gets a job he may still be able to preach but he will not be able to focus entirely on what he was sent to the field to accomplish.
Missionaries also need the support of local churches because the Biblical pattern is that churches in one country would partner with someone going to spread the Gospel. In Philippians 4:15, Paul says, “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.” Acts 13 shows how Paul and Barnabas were sent out from church in Antioch. Certainly the boats or other modes of transportation didn’t provide free passage or food for their journey. Paul and Barnabas had backing from their church. Romans 10:15 tells us that people can’t hear without a preacher and goes on to say that the preacher must be sent.There are several passages to prove this point, but the simple truth is that God wants the Gospel taken all over the world. The local church is the agent to get the Gospel out. We send our own people and help others willing to go as well. The local church helps the missionaries get to their country; then the missionaries tell people about Jesus to give fruit to the local churches’ accounts. Both aspects are important and both are taking a part in getting the Gospel out.