#3 in a series devoted to sending churches. The content of this post is adapted from BMW’s 6-hour apoLuo workshop. Numbered articles are intended to be read sequentially for maximum benefit.

In your view, what are the fifteen most critical issues in missions today?

That was a question with which we wrestled at a BMW administrators’ retreat in 2009. One of the fifteen issues we identified is the deputation crisis—the reality that it often takes missionary appointees three years (sometimes, even longer) to raise sufficient funds to get to their fields of ministry. Even though God can use it to teach missionaries valuable lessons they may not learn any other way, the support raising process is stressful, and it deters many  people from pursuing missionary service.


Fifteen tactical teams were assigned the task of examining these critical issues and providing biblical, practical, innovative measures for addressing them. The Deputation tactical team (comprised of field missionaries, a BMW administrator, a successful businessman, a college Missions Department head, and a missionary appointee) spent six months planning and researching, another six months compiling and analyzing the data, and a year producing resources that address the problem.

Two critical issues emerged as the team conducted its research. The first confirmed a hypothesis based on biblical evidence, history and observation:

The deputation crisis is not, at its core, an economic issue.  

Giving—missionary giving included—has never been an economic issue, but a heart issue. That is not to say it is not affected by economic stresses. It is. But even in Paul’s day, the economy was not the game-changer. Perhaps you recall his words to the Corinthians when he reminded them about their promise to contribute to an offering he was collecting for the famine-stricken believers in Judea. Writing to the most affluent church he had planted about the most impoverished, he said:

for in a severe test of affliction, their [the Macedonian churches’] abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord, and then by the will of God to us.” (2 Cor 8.2-5, emphasis mine)

The Macedonians had a completely different perspective on giving in their poverty than we have in our plenty. I remember when the Canadian government would publish the province-by-province charitable giving statistics each year. They corresponded inversely to the province-by-province per capita income statistics. Giving wasn’t an economic issue then, either. It still isn’t.

In saying that, I don’t mean to diminish the economic hardships many families face, or to suggest that missionaries should expect donors to live sacrificially so they don’t have to. But when we examine giving statistics even in our hard economic times, we come to grips with the fact that there is still a lot of money in North America—a lot of money—and less and less of it is being used to support the Lord’s work around the world. (The links at the end of this post, while they are admittedly not the most recent, will give you an idea of how much money is out there and how it’s being spent. Even if you adjust for the current economic milieu and a narrower demographic, you may be astonished at what you read.)

At BMW, we thank God for faithful constituents who give sacrificially, through good times and bad, so missionaries can continue their work. (By the way, “their” in that last sentence modifies, “constituents”, not, “missionaries”!) We thank God for pastors who have taken pay cuts so their supported missionaries won’t have to. And we thank God for churches who have initially said it was impossible to take on new missionaries for support, but have nonetheless found a way to do it. All of these treasured partners demonstrate the spirit of those Macedonian churches of which Paul wrote.

They realize it ain’t just about the money.

For more reading related to charitable giving in North America, please check the articles below. Please note that these are provided for information purposes only. Citations in no way constitute endorsement of the sources.

Rob Heijermans, Biblical Ministries Worldwide

Jesus May Save, But Christians Spend     What Americans Give to Churches, Charities and Foreign Missions    Missions Giving Not Keeping Up With Church Offering Increases     Who Gives Two Cents for Missions?     Giving Levels Across Congregations in the United States in 2008, by Faith Tradition    Has the Economy Influenced Americans’ Priorities?    The Economy’s Impact on Churches     The Unreached

Picture credits: