if the shoe fits…

Dave Doran has a post on the subject of missionary pastors. Here is his description:

One major concern I have is regarding the too common practice of missionaries serving as the long-term pastor of a mission church. I’m not speaking about the short-term practice of planting a church and serving it until it can call a pastor. I’m concerned about the practical reality that some men are essentially serving as a pastor on the mission field while remaining supported by churches back in their sending country. I’ve seen cases where the same man has served as the pastor of a mission church for decades—so long, in fact, that the church itself would no longer really consider itself a mission church. The congregation looks and acts mainly like an independent congregation, but its pastor is actually supported by other churches, not them.

In principle, I think I agree with Dave on this concern. His point resonates with me, because in many ways, “I resemble that remark.” I am a missionary pastor. I am (in part) supported as a missionary. I have served at our mission church now for literally decades (25 years this last August).

I say that I agree with Dave’s concerns ‘in principle’, but I would like to point out some factors that in my mind must be taken into consideration on this question. This isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ question.

Dave’s further points are these:

  • The missionary pastor model is not consistent with the biblical pattern for missionary work.
  • The missionary pastor model is not consistent with Baptist polity especially concerning local church autonomy and independence.
  • The missionary pastor model is pursued apparently without thought to raising up a pastor from within the local congregation.
  • The missionary pastor model is not honest when the ‘mission church’ owns its own building and supports other missionaries.

(Note: this is my paraphrase of Dave’s points. He might state them differently than I have here.)

Dave concludes:

This should not be happening, but it won’t stop happening until we stop supporting it.

Well, that would put an end to the practice, I suppose. Whether that is the right solution or not depends on varying circumstances. I have seen some churches where it seems little to no thought is given to raising up pastors from the congregation, the church is quite comfortable with pursuing its life with a missionary pastor and fails to take on responsibilities it should be taking on. In fact, some have been very resistant to taking on their responsibilities. They have developed a kind of “welfare mentality” of entitlement. I agree that such problems need to be addressed.

But let’s consider each point Dave makes and consider some other factors in the equation.

The Biblical Pattern

The pattern we see in the book of Acts for church planting is, to my knowledge, never followed anywhere. One of the reasons for that is our circumstances are entirely different from that of the first century. Paul’s example of church planting is the one of which we have the most information. We have a bit of information from the work of the deacon Phillip and even less information about the work of the other apostles.

Paul’s pattern was to arrive in a city, go to the synagogue and start preaching there until he was kicked out, then continue to preach to Jew and Gentile alike until he had a group formed. From these converts he would appoint elders for each church and would move on in his evangelistic efforts. From our records, the longest time he stayed in any one location was his ministry  in Ephesus where he only stayed 3 years at the most.

Paul traveled in the Roman Empire, benefited from a common trade language (Greek) and as a Jew had ready access to the synagogues where there were men already knowledgeable about the Scriptures. While I don’t think every elder of a local church in the book of Acts came from the ranks of the former Jews, it is quite likely that a number of them did. The Gentile converts might be capable men in other ways, but certainly would take some time to get up to speed in the Scriptures. This would be a factor in Paul’s pattern of church planting.

Consider our day… Do you think missionaries should enter a country and immediately begin an itinerant ministry preaching a few weeks in each place, upon leaving an area establishing a church and appointing an elder of maybe only a few weeks of Christian experience? Do you think the missionary should leave that fledgling church to itinerate in some other local, repeating the same process after only a few weeks or months, and them moving on again? Do you think the missionary should enter synagogues first (if there are any), attempt to preach to the Jews there, then preach to the Gentiles of that city?

It is a little too easy to dismiss a current practice by saying it doesn’t fit the Biblical pattern. I would challenge anyone to point to ANY missionary today who is really following the Biblical pattern. I don’t believe Paul’s methods are mandated as the only way to do it for all time.

Baptist Polity

The points Dave makes about accountability, autonomy and independence are (in my opinion) his strongest. It is an anomaly to have a church functioning for decades on missionary support. The pastor is accountable in this system primarily to those who are supporting him financially, not so much to those to whom he is ministering. The church isn’t being taught to take care of its responsibilities, especially when the whole operation is being entirely run out of missionary support. Different mission fields have different requirements, third-world is not the same as first-world, but the local body should be taught to take responsibility for itself and for its own ministry from day one.

One failing I have observed in this area is a failure to keep before the people the need for their own pastor and raising support for a pastor. (I speak mostly of my experience in Canada, I can’t speak so much for third-world countries.) There should be annual business meetings (and other business meetings) held in the local church where the people themselves are made aware of their needs and are led to make decisions concerning their financial responsibilities. A budget should be presented, the local church operation should primarily be funded out of the local church offerings. The missionary’s personal budget should not include too much support for the local ministry, other than his own tithe. (This may not be entirely possible at first.)

Rent, teaching materials, costs for group gatherings, outreach materials, evangelistic meetings and other evangelistic efforts, all of these should be funded locally. The local congregation should be led to have a “Pastor’s Fund” as well as a Building Fund. This fund should build up funds with which to call a local pastor at some point and fund his relocation or settlement costs. The fund may not need to be built up to some massive amount, but should be a regular budget item to remind the people of their need to take on this responsibility.

Having said that, one must bear in mind the requirements that each ministry might have for a future pastor. Suppose you take a man qualified to be an elder in a third-world mission church and transplant him to a first-world mission church (assuming no language barrier). Would the educational, financial, and cultural requirements be the same between a pastor in a third-world country and a first-world country? Would the costs be the same? A group of thirty believers in a third-world country might be able to take on a whole ministry there much easier than a group of thirty believers in a first-world country. This is not to denigrate believers in the third-world! There are, however, differences to the ministry in differing cultures and circumstances that must be taken into account. In some countries it seems easier to gather a group of believers together than in other countries. Some ministries take off faster than others. Who can explain it? We have to deal with the realities we are faced with. And of course, we do have to follow our polity as closely as we can, allowing for temporary situations. (‘Temporary’ should not normally be decades, I agree.)

No Thought for Raising Up a Pastor

I can’t speak for every situation, certainly. I suppose there are some who take no thought for raising up a pastor to take over the work. That is a foolish proposition in my opinion.

Some circumstances will militate against any soon arrival of a local man capable of leading the mission church, however. I know of a missionary situation in very small villages where there is rampant alcohol and drug abuse, not to mention all kinds of child and sexual abuse including every imaginable problem in these areas. I know that God can change lives, but really, in these villages, it will take a generation to raise up a little boy who gets saved, keeps his testimony clean enough to meet the Biblical requirement of blamelessness, and is qualified to lead the local ministry. At the same time, such a young man may still need outside support because the villages (and churches) are so impoverished that they could never support that young man, once he is qualified. He could take secular work as a supplement, perhaps, but should he work full time and be the pastor? What if there are no jobs available? Should villages like that expect that a missionary will come in for four or five years max, then leave? What would be left? Who could take over the ministry? Should the missionaries just not bother to go to such places? How long should we give the missionary to raise up a young man? Would you be willing to give him decades? (I would.)

In some countries it takes a long time and a lot of money to build up a local congregation. I have witnessed it first hand in my own ministry and in church planting efforts in Mormon country in the USA. Most of the missionaries I know in works such as these are actively encouraging young men to grow in the Lord with a view to seeing some of them called to the ministry, trained, and (hopefully) returning to the field from whence they came. One burden we have had is seeing young men (and women) head off to get advanced Christian/ministerial training only to have them get involved in some established ministry somewhere else and never return. It is especially heart-breaking when they settle down in the locale of the college or university they attended and never leave the comfort zone those regions afford.

In the meantime, it is a struggle in hard areas to build up the congregants in the faith. There are competing voices everywhere. If we are trying to build up faithful disciples we see an attrition rate of converts who are attracted to things they see in larger (and looser) evangelical churches, on the internet, or what have you. Often our ministries seem like “two steps forward, three steps back.” Should we bother with church planting in such areas? When there are relatively conservative gospel preaching churches in an area, should we leave it alone and seek some other place of service? Should we plant churches in North America at all, knowing that it will be costly, will take time, and may not produce local elders qualified to serve as pastors in five years or less?

With respect to North American church planting, one solution has been to offer a man support for a specified period of time (say five years) and then to cut him off, sink or swim, at that point. There is some merit to that approach, but it might be better to guarantee full support for four or five years, followed by a four or five year process of gradually reducing the support. In some areas that will be more realistic than simply cutting support at an arbitrary date.

Mission Church Buildings and Missionaries

On this point I have to strenuously object. The fact that a church has a building it owns as opposed to a meeting place it rents is irrelevant to the question. It costs money to meet anywhere. Often, after the down payment hurdle is overcome, it is less costly to own than to rent. Which is more prudent? Which furthers the ministry more? I can testify that owning one’s own building in Canada is a step up for a mission church and helps in the ongoing church planting effort. Our experience led us into a building at a certain point in our history that really was of the Lord. By virtue of having our building, our ministry is finally at the point where I would say we are 80% self-supporting. By God’s grace we hope to be able to reach 100% soon. But the building itself has been a step forward in reaching that goal. It is an asset in the process, and should not be denigrated.

And the fact is, if we didn’t own a building, we would have to rent somewhere. It would cost us more to rent than to own. So we should rent just to say we truly are a mission church? I don’t buy that.

And missionaries… I believe churches should tithe, just like we ask our people to tithe. We have a modest missions program. We have used it to teach our people that they have a responsibility beyond our four walls. We have been giving to others almost since day one. I think it is the right thing to do. Should mission churches be exclusively concerned about their own ministry until the can “afford” to support missions? When will that day every come?

Conclusion:

I am not writing to oppose Dave’s arguments. I think his concern is genuine, and I agree with it in principle. I just think there are a number of factors to consider in raising and receiving missionary support.

I also acknowledge that I might be just a bit defensive, because “I resemble that remark”, but I have to say that these concerns are not something that we are unmindful of. Our burden originally was for planting churches, plural. In God’s providence (and perhaps given my limitations) our burden has changed. We hope now to have fully planted one church before I die. We are taking steps even as we speak to make changes in our ministry to make that a reality.

And regardless of any debate of these points, I do thank God for the privilege of having been able to win some souls to Christ whose fellowship I will be able to enjoy for eternity.

don_sig2

Comments

  1. Interesting. Posted over on Sharper Iron. Thanks

  2. d4v34x says:

    “I would challenge anyone to point to ANY missionary today who is really following the Biblical pattern.”

    Rob Howell, Tanzania.

    Last time he visited us with to preach/update us he had transitioned 3 indiginous churches over to pastors raised up from relatively new congregations. He continues to start new churches in his country, and hopes to so transition them as well. He has been on the field for about a decade, I think.

    Although Tanzania may resemble the world in Paul’s day much more than other more “civilized” regions such as BC, so there might be some apples-and-orange-ing going on due to differing contexts.

    Interesting thoughts.

  3. Darren says:

    Don, the original article and yours are thought provoking. As a missionary I am constantly holding the need of our people to become independent financially – however, no one in the congregation has the ability to actually act upon the principle until the Lord has done the work in regeneration/membership.

    Furthermore, it seems to me that some would be quick to cut off missionaries if they didn’t “perform” (according to the supporting church’s standard), however, they would not be as quick to stop supporting foreign training institutions.

    It seems to me since the task of the Great Commission is planting churches, then supporting church planters should be a higher priority than supporting training institutions or those serving within the training institutions. Should there not be equal emphasis upon foreign churches establishing and supporting their own training institutions as there is on foreign churches supporting their own churches?

    • @ Jim, thanks!

      @ Darren, I agree… there are a lot of complicating factors and no one size fits all.

      @D4 Dave

      I meant to reply to your comment when I approved it a few minutes ago. I got distracted… my wife was interrupting my blogging! The nerve!

      I am aware of Rob in Tanzania, but I would bet he didn’t just spend a few weeks or months in a locale, appoint an elder (or elders!!) and then move on. There probably aren’t many synagogues where he is either! However, he would be a guy who might be closest to following the Acts model that we have today.

      Try that in Germany though… or Great Britain… or Utah…

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Thanks Don, your expansion has put some “flesh” to Doran’s “bones.” This is not to denigrate Doran’s article, I too appreciate what he had to say. Some things needed more articulation and I believe you have done that Don. Having served as a missionary on my home turf for a time I understand the various forces at work, sometimes that are counterproductive to actually seeing the work of Christ advance.
    Greatly appreciate your insight and thoughts.

  5. There is much more than an ocean between the world in which Dr. Doran ministers and the world in which I serve. I suppose by working I’m personally supporting what he says churches shouldn’t be supporting. Almost 12 years, and we’re far from self-supporting, with no pastors-in-training right now.

    We do “look and act” like an “independent congregation” as much as possible. I thought that was a good thing.

    I have a hard time reconciling this with the article to which he linked recently on “Measuring Ministry” by Carl Trueman. If you are in a difficult work, it can take literally decades. Does that make the work a failure?

    Ultimately, that’s what Dr. Doran’s comments boil down to. If you serve for 20 years, you still aren’t self-supporting, and you don’t have a trained pastor to take over, you’ve failed. Perhaps we could just make it easy and say, “Stop supporting anyone in Europe, because they aren’t likely to be a success.”

    I understand his point, but in not acknowledging the differences between fields of service, he’s made blanket statements which are likely to be quite offensive to many missionaries on difficult fields.

    • In thinking about this and having a side e-mail conversation with someone about the need for building up local elders, it reminded me of one of the difficulties we have faced.

      We have had the experience of investing time into men who seemed to be showing some promise – apparent zeal, could say the right words, etc. I try to give men opportunities to serve, to teach, to preach, etc. Spend time with them one on one, trying to build them up in the faith.

      One guy was fixing to preach for the first time… then he revealed that he was still drinking “the odd beer”. I told him that maybe we should wait on the preaching. He seemed fine with it at the time, but a few weeks later he disappeared. Never darkened the door of the church again. Started logging on to the local library computers under assumed names and sending me all kinds of filthy e-mails. The library staff figured out what he was doing and blocked him somehow… after months of hate mail. We eventually disciplined him out of the church. Hours and months of seemingly profitable discipleship time down the tubes.

      Or what about the situation where a guy is coming along nicely, apparently, but falls into immorality just as you think he is going to make good? I haven’t had that happen here, but I know of missionaries who have. It’s heart-breaking. What if you have invested hours of time and have hoped to lead the church to call this man to be the pastor eventually? What then?

      So my point is, this isn’t necessarily as easy as it looks. And while I don’t countenance a missionary neglecting the duty to raise up men after him, it is easy to sit in a chair thousands of miles away and criticize, isn’t it?

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Arlyn Ubben says:

    I face a similar situation in the church where I currently serve as interim. They are not dependent upon outside support, but they are hamstringed with unbibilcal ideas.

    The church has been together for over 40 years. The last pastor served for 25 years. However, the church cannot make any progress. 1/2 of its income goes to missionaries outside of the local church. Therefore, the church is not able to offer much in the way of salary because of this anomaly. The church has no deacons, no elders and a board that only deals with finances and building maintenance.

    I am all for supporting missionaries, but when a group of people buys into the misunderstanding that “God blesses a church that gives to missions” and sends a hug portion of its money overseas so that the local man is not adequately supported, how is that church going to make it? The church has not seen the need for men to step forward to be discipled so that they can provide biblical leadership. The women of the church have stepped into the gap to keep things going since the men have not done so.

    Some churches are content just to exist. They seem not to see the urgency of making disciples in this generation. May God help us all to focus on what is eternal and right so that His church can advance.

    Arlyn

    • Hi Arlyn

      That might be a case study of the very problem Dave is raising. I certainly would agree that such a church has major problems that need to be overcome.

      When I advocate missions from the get go, please note that I use the notion of tithing. I think the church should tithe its income and I mean 10% when I say tithe. In other words, we need to have our eyes outside of our own direct concerns. But I think it is foolish to lead a church to give anything much over 10% if you can’t support a pastor. Some missions giving achieves the purpose of thinking of others besides self, but it doesn’t hamstring your budget.

      And I use the 10% standard as a rough goal, not a legalistic inflexible rule. I think we are currently a little bit under 10%.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. Dave Doran says:

    Jon,

    I am not sure that I follow the connection you’ve made between the two posts of mine. I did not call anybody’s work a failure. I was challenging a model which I believe is inconsistent with biblical teaching. I also said nothing about bi-vocational pastors. A man who works to supplement his income avoids most of the concerns that I expressed (e.g., being influenced by external ecclesiastical entities).

    I probably should have been more clear that by calling them “missionary pastors” I was referring to those who have raised support as missionaries to plant churches that would be handed over to nationals, not those who go to a location to plant a church which they intend to pastor. IOW, my point was really about men who do the regular missionary stuff–term, furlough, term, furlough, repeat until retirement–but basically serve as a pastor in a foreign country (who takes one year breaks every few years).

    Though I was not directly addressing the church planter who is supported by others until the church is able to assume support, I do believe that the same dangers still are present. But, since that man intends to pastor that church, he really has no immediate and pressing obligation to train a pastor to take over. It would seem the proper course would be to see the congregation strong enough to be able to call its next pastor once the founding pastor is ready to move on.

    I will readily concede that there are contexts for ministry that are extremely difficult. I suppose where I don’t feel comfortable is accepting that 2 Timothy 2:2 cannot be obeyed. My concern is that we’ve allowed our our ideas about church life and leadership to be shaped by our ecclesiastical culture more than what is biblically mandated (e.g., buildings, degrees).

    • Dave, just for clarification, are you saying that this is a typical approach: missionaries go to some field, plan to plant a church and stay there, have no intention or make no effort to raising up a national pastor, just turn the thing over to another missionary eventually? If so, how prevalent do you think this is?

      As far as “accepting that 2 Timothy 2:2 cannot be obeyed” — I don’t think we have been saying that. The effort can be very frustrating and full of disappointment, but I don’t know of missionaries who aren’t interested making the attempt. Of course my exposure is quite limited on that point.

      Last thing, coming back to the building issue – that is one area where I really differ with you. I don’t think having a building is somehow part of American ecclesiastical culture. A church has to meet somewhere. There are costs to meeting anywhere. We have a record of Paul renting a building to meet in – Corinth? I think that is where it was. Archaeologists are constantly unearthing ancient churches in Asia Minor and Europe. In Peace Child, Don Richardson shows a picture of the church his Christian tribesmen built with their own hands. Having a building in some way is just something churches do, and is a normal part of the planting process. It is not more virtuous to rent than to own, sometimes it is cheaper to own.

      Where I think we sometimes go off the rails is when the missionary/missions support provides the building. The local people should provide their own building, either by renting or building or buying. A little help along the way from outside might be acceptable, but I have heard of situations where the mission or some foreign church actually owns the building. That would seem to me to be the wrong way to go.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. Hi Don,

    I had read Dave’s article and when I read, I thought, I agree with that. And this is how the church sent missionaries we support operate. It’s exactly what I see Doug Hammett doing in Botswana. As I read your article, I then thought, “Huh, Dave may have a big target on Don on this one.”

    Out here in California, we get a lot of Pacific rim country pastors visiting immigrants, raising money for their churches in their American churches to build their buildings, or just getting support for themselves. And then some of those immigrants also move here, raise money in American churches, and go back to their beloved country fully supported by American dollars to live in a way they never could in their native country. The extra money from America also often supports other pastors, so it looks like things are really, really growing. I’ve seen this firsthand supported by fundamentalist mission boards. And I have no axe to grind there, by the way, just is what it is. I’m not connected at all with those boards, however, and this is one reason I’m glad for it.

    I’ve been preaching through Luke on Wednesdays and am in chapter 13 and when I read Jon Gleason’s comment, I was thinking of the section I’m in and the thought of the purpose of the evangelism, that is, the growth of the kingdom of God. The kingdom grows like a mustard seed. Jon, what might seem like slow growth and few are saved because they won’t strive to enter the strait gate is actually contributing to kingdom growth that can’t be measured in the short term, even in one person’s, such as yours, lifetime.

    • Kent, just a quick comment – I don’t take it that Dave is targeting anyone. I agree with the essence of his philosophy, but I’m “nuancing” it. How bout that now?

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  9. Dave Doran says:

    Don,

    No, I was not saying that it is the typical approach, but a still too common one. And I am not referring to debatable situations where one might legitimately defend the need to have stayed there in this way. I am not referring to hard contexts where a man chooses to serve bi-vocationally.

    As for the building issue, I think you’re flattening the discussion too much–it’s not just about money. Having a permanent location and the attending obligations of it introduces changes into the nature of church life and remove flexibility. But, even the money question isn’t as simple as you suggest–ownership involves more than just rent vs. mortgage payments. I was trying to write a brief post that pointed in certain directions without elaborating every detail and while trying to be generic enough not to be accused of targeting people specifically (as Kent did).

    I don’t think an exception always disproves a rule, and I was trying to focus on the rule. I am convinced that there is an apostolic pattern to be followed by missionaries: evangelism that produces disciples who are gathered into congregations, followed by the appointment of leadership that meet the biblical qualifications and serve according to biblical guidelines. It seems to me that you can tell if someone is genuinely pursuing that or not.

    • Hi Dave

      Thanks for the clarification. Perhaps we should explore the building question separately at some undefined point in the future.

      As to your last paragraph, I certainly agree with those principles.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. Yes,

    I targeted people more specifically than Dave did, but isn’t that the elephant in the room, what “our” mission boards do. And I think Dave’s article was saying that we needed to do something about it. Don’t separatists separate from unscriptural practices? And that’s how we put an end to those practices, at least scripturally. On the other hand, we can just complain about them, but allow them to go on. Not saying that is all Dave is doing, but the missions affiliation should be more of a mainstream issue to people.

    And Dave,

    Target Don. Target me. I don’t mind getting targeted. Your article should be considered.

    • Hey, Kent, after recent controversies, I think we need to separate from the word “elephant”. At least the use of “elephant” and “room” in the same context…

      But seriously, no, separation is not the only or first option in attempting to bring about change. Talk does need to come first.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  11. Dr. Doran, thank you for interacting so extensively with my comments. I know you are busy.

    My final paragraph said that you had 1) not acknowledged differences in fields of service and 2) made blanket statements. Since we’re talking about missions, #1 is rather important.

    #2 refers especially to “I can think of no good reason for this to happen.” There are also references to “weak excuses” and the need to “stop supporting”. The implication was that if anyone serves for a long time in the same place without training a replacement pastor, they have weak excuses, there’s no reason for it, and they shouldn’t be supported.

    This does not call anyone’s work a failure, but for the faithful man on a difficult field who labours for years and even decades without ever having the opportunity to train a pastor, without ever approaching self-supporting status, it might as well. “No good reason” is somewhat all-encompassing.

    If we believe that “God gives the increase”, then we can’t really blame the servant if the Master hasn’t brought in potential pastors to train. Nor can we blame the trainer if the men they are training do not carry through. I suspect your seminary ministry makes you very aware of this. No one blames you for dropouts (though if they go to a conservative evangelical ministry, THAT’s another matter :-)).

    God has greatly blessed us in our work, compared to many in this country. Just before our second year in this ministry, we were “sold” a building — for £5000. We have an American missionary attending right now who has been hindered by very serious health problems, but putting him aside, we have 4 men attending at least semi-regularly (including my son). Many American missionaries don’t have four men in their church. (Just as an aside, if you divided the men in most churches into groups of four, you would have many groups with zero potential pastors.)

    We had five men. One man learned much, went to Bible school, but has decided he belongs with the Plymouth Brethren. He is still preaching. I don’t consider the time and effort invested in him wasted, but it didn’t get us any closer to a “replacement pastor”.

    I’m not sure any of these men in our church are potential pastors, but that doesn’t mean we don’t apply II Timothy 2:2. They all have spent (limited) time behind the pulpit giving the Word to the congregation. They all lead in prayer publicly (that’s a big step for some men).

    One year ago, I wondered if my health would force me into a work vs pastoring decision. If I had decided to try to raise support, your initial post would have made me steer clear of your church. I could not give you any confidence that our church would ever be self-supporting, or that I would have been able to train another pastor to replace me within my lifetime. I wouldn’t have had any confidence, after reading your post, that you had any understanding of ministry in Scotland.

    We have all the “problems” you describe. We have a building. We support a missionary (our “Pastor’s Fund” monthly allotment is larger than our missions support, however). We look and act like an independent church as much as we can. If I died tomorrow, though, we would either need another bi-voc pastor, or one supported by other churches.

    Would it be wrong for a supported pastor to come in and carry on, without any assurance of ever achieving the “success” your original post said should be happening? Or is the type of ministry I have only acceptable for bi-voc men? Having read your comment here, I think that you would not be opposed to supporting such a ministry — but your original post gave quite a different impression. “No good reason” perhaps conveys more than you wanted to convey.

    Kent, thanks for the comment. A friend told me a long time ago that God made me too stubborn to ever need encouragement, but that He keeps sending me encouragement anyway. He was correct both in his assessment of my character, and of God’s goodness.

    As usual, I’m probably too wordy, and I apologise for the length of this comment.

  12. Don,

    I agree that a long process should precede separation with those with whom we are already in fellowship. That is the right thing to do even if the participants are not enjoying the process.

    And I did consider the “elephant room” connection when I used it, but your joke showed you’re not only nuanced but savvy, even though savvy and ox seem mutually exclusive.

    Jon, I’ve noticed Jesus showing a certain indifference toward numbers with a greater interest toward sincerity.

  13. Dave Doran says:

    Jon,

    I appreciate all that you’ve written and very much recognize that it is not, ultimately, my assessment of things that really matters. Where, I suppose, we are not communicating very well with each other is simply rooted in the fact that I did not supply enough caveats and qualifiers to satisfy those who would like to point out exceptions. And I can understand why, since I spoke very dogmatically and sweepingly, that would be troubling to those who see the caveats and exceptions. For the record, I do not believe that any decisions about missionary support should be made without actual examination of the specific situation. I will readily concede that my experience on mission fields, while perhaps more than many pastors, is far from extensive. I remain convinced, however, that there are far more of the situation about which I am concerned than which you offer as a counterpoint.

  14. Dr. Doran,

    Thank you for a good assessment of our discussion.

    As to your final sentence, I am relatively confident that in the UK (perhaps all of Western Europe) there are more cases that are the exception than there are that fit your rule. Beyond Western Europe, you may well be correct — your knowledge of those fields is undoubtedly much broader than mine.

    Thank you for the discussion.