I have listened as they recount their pain. Time and time again, missionary after missionary, the story of absurd treatment reinvents itself with different names and an all-too-familiar plot. We in the Independent Baptist world have a lot of explaining to do when those who should be treated as our finest are treated as if second class and suspect at that.
Of course some of us love missionaries, and I know personally many pastors who make it a point to honor, help, and support missionaries in every way possible. But, sadly, this is not true across the board. The ill treatment comes in three categories:
1. Abuse in the screening process.
Since no pastor or church can support every missionary who calls, nor is every missionary equally worthy of support, some screening must take place. Actually there are more great missionaries than that can be taken on, so we must learn more about each one so the Lord can lead to those we should support. Still, some questions are degrading and give the impression that no missionary is worthy of that particular church and pastor’s support. It presents a standard that no one could live up to and really presents that pastor’s ministry as the gold standard to judge all others by. In other words, if you don’t do everything exactly as we do to the smallest details of life, you aren’t worthy! Besides the audacious pride involved, and instead of just saying that the Lord hasn’t led us to take you on, it insults the missionary as if to say we aren’t taking you on because you aren’t worthy! You are under no obligation to take any particular missionary on, but it is cruel to degrade instead of just politely saying no.
Some pastors question about personal standards in a perverse way. I know of dozens of missionaries who have been asked the question: What does your wife wear to bed? The point is apparently if the wife wears pajama pants, but I always fear a pastor who goes here has his mind in the gutter and I would keep my eyes on him if my wife or daughters were around him. Plus, this is an embarrassment for all of us who are Independent Baptists.
2. Abuse in the interviewing process.
Let’s face it, deputation is tough. All that traveling and living out of a vehicle must be draining. For most missionaries, there are some children thrown in the mix. The best child on earth can’t always be at his or her best after 8 hours in the car. Actually, I can’t even be at my best at such a time! The Lord made them with all that extra energy and it can’t be bottled up for such extended periods. Many times missionaries will rush to the next meeting, barely getting there on time, go straight into a church service, and then they will be taken out to eat. While the meal is a wonderful idea, oftentimes these children have now reached their limit and some “hyperness” starts leaking out. It usually isn’t too bad, but a little noisy. Many pastors have picked just such a time to lecture the missionary on child training. When they do not support the missionary then, the missionary is left to assume that this is the issue–again just not worthy because not quite perfect enough. I imagine the pastor would not like his child rearing skills analyzed in such a way.
This is just a sample of some horror stories. If they mention they like a certain preacher, church, or school, that could change a pleasant visit into the proverbial laying your head on the chopping block. I have even heard of such an innocent comment leading to the missionary being denied getting to present his ministry after all and being sent on his way with no love offering! This is criminal!
3. Abuse in the supporting process.
Some actually get through the above with such pastors and get support while on the field. Then, they feel in a few of these pastor’s cases that they are ever being watched with a nitpicking eye. At times it seems they are vultures just waiting to cut support and leave the missionary in a difficult place until the next furlough. Of course there are real reasons to drop support if there are major doctrinal changes, or a denial of the great fundamentals of the faith, or a failure to serve, but smaller things and whims should never do something that would endanger a missionary family and jeopardize their work for Christ.
As an example, think of social media sites like Facebook. What a blessing it could be to a lonely missionary to both stay connected to family and dear friends and to share pray needs with supporters. ( I always read the statuses of missionaries on my newsfeed when I see them.) What a win-win situation, but there is the fear that the activity, or outfit, or personal opinion, that they would love to share with family might make some pastor angry and support will be lost.
Then they are faced with two scenarios. They are either forced to back away from social media, or they can present an image of themselves that is not altogether who they are and they are left feeling dishonest. Neither is an option that any missionary should ever face.
Then there are pastors who visit the field and forgo the opportunity to pour fellowship and encouragement into these valiant soldiers of the cross. Instead they criticize and force unneeded counsel in an area they really know nothing about. For example, I know of a well known pastor who went to the field once and told the missionaries there that they were failing because they didn’t have a bus ministry!
It seems to me that in these cases the sacrifice made is forgotten. The heroic nature of what they have given their lives to is overlooked. Use your imagination and think how you would feel. I can just see that missionary missing fun things he did at home. I can see that missionary wife slipping to her room to hide her tears that the family will gather for Christmas and she will not be there. I can see that missionary child asking why they never get to see Grandma. The costs are real, the sacrifice substantial, and we should honor it as such and give every benefit of the doubt.
One of the greatest badges of honor Independent Baptists can hold up is the great band of dedicated missionaries they have sent around the world. Why any of our number would ever do anything to increase their load is beyond me. No matter what others may do, I stand before our missionaries today and tip my hat to them for their glorious service to our worthy Christ! I want to enter into their labors by offering every possible encouragement I can. Dear missionaries, I thank God for you and for your taking the Gospel for me to the world. Every one of you the Lord has allowed me to know has enriched my life. May every pastor neither complicate their lives, nor miss a golden opportunity to encourage every one of them.
Find all articles in the series here.
17 thoughts on “Missions-Minded Pastor Or Tyrant? (Independent Baptist Truth Revolution #7)”
As a missionary and agree on most and hate to say this just scratches the surface. I have been told if my church name changes, I could then have a meeting. Also told I would never make it to the field during a phone call! Thanks for your heart!
Thanks Bob! Many missionaries tell a story like yours!
This not only happens in missions, it also happens to assistants/staff in the church. We all have our “ministry burn stories”.
I have heard so many of these stories too. Perhaps it should be a future article!
Thanks for sharing my article on your blog. Your blog looks nice!
I appreciate that you could write an article like this without the typical bitterness that is usually attached. The truth should be told in a way that neither creates a dislike for ministry or causes someone to turn from God, perpetuating the false belief that He is to blame for our own sinful natures.
There are great ministries out there with loving, godly people. Fortunately we’ve found several, one if which we are involved in today.
Thanks! Glad you have found a wonderful ministry to work in!
Definitely should be something to cover under its own headline. I’m not sure that the motives are always the same, but it seemed in the situation I’m intimate with that the SR Pastor felt threatened by good men who where extremely loyal to him. It was much like the battered wife syndrome. In public He was the perfect pastor, no one could say enough good things about him. But when He got his staff inside the confines of His holy office he’d turn into a cruel vindictive bully. He’s thrown things at an assistant, cussed, compared their best effort (sometimes going 2-3 days without sleep to meet His deadline) to drunken monkeys, or said he’d have done better to hire a lost pervert for all the good a particular assistant did him. And PLEASE never let anyone say they had their hands to full to take the next task- because then we’d all be in for the “you don’t know how hard it is to be the SR Pastor” speech. The trouble is, I really do think he’s a good guy when he’s not micro-managing his staff or playing “what if” concerning all the possible fall out in the church politics around a decision. He forbade his assistants from having lunch together without him, because he thought they were plotting his overthrow. He forbade his deacon who taught a group of 20-55 year-olds from changing the group name from Young Marrieds (55y.o. ha ha) to Family Builders because “you can’t call it Family Builders because I’m the Family Builder around here.” All behind closed doors.
When someone gets shipped off – if they go quietly its because God called them to minister in another part of the US, if they make a stink its because they’re disgruntled and need to be shunned by the fellowship so the root of bitterness doesn’t spread. I’ve seen some of our best quietly leave because they don’t want to split the church or bring reproach to the name of Christ. Oh, and did I mention that the three most important characteristics for an assistant are 1) loyalty 2) loyalty 3) loyalty all to the Pastor, oh yeah and to God and the bible and the church where they agree with the Pastor. Like I said Great in Public, not so much in private.
Thanks for sharing. As wild as what you shared is, I have heard many similar stories. This is a problem that needs addressed as well!
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As a veteran missionary, I’m very grateful for “surviving” deputation in just 15 months.
This article, as true as it may be, barely glances over the severe atrocities that occur to some of God’s choicest servants during the unholy time called Deputation.
We’re very grateful to the Lord for the special group of churches which He raised up to support our work here, as their overwhelming Christ-likeness offset many of the injustices & insults caused by a few others.
Independent Baptists need to seriously rethink this monstrosity thats been created called Deputation.
#1 reason why MK’s (who have grown up on the foreign field, who have learned the language & culture) don’t want to surrender to missions: “I will never go through Deputation like my parents had to when I was a little kid.”
That *must* be a warning, brethren.
Thanks for sharing this warning! I pray pastors will listen!
I realize those on foreign fields make sacrifices we know nothing about, but it’s happening to home missionaries as well, and to church staff, as mentioned above. We recently fled from a place where we spent many years building THEIR deaf ministry as missionaries, on a volunteer basis. After 5 yrs there, it was apparent God was moving us to establish new deaf ministries. Three times we went to counsel with the pastor and all 3 times we were told that the Holy Spirit had not given HIM the green light about this being God’s will for us. This kind of control was also imposed on our homeschool style. We were told not to let our kids outdoors during school hours, even for recess, b/c it would reflect badly on the church that our people homeschool and cause neighbors to call the police, thereby giving the church a cult reputation. This was one of many control issues. We hung on by our fingernails for 4 more years…
The fourth time a door opened for us to move and start a new ministry, we decided by faith to walk through it, believing the Holy Spirit could speak to us. Being left out of the loop made our pastor furious. He threatened to hold all our incoming support checks and call our other supporting pastors and slander us to them. He said God could not bless us, because we had made the decision without him, and that we would get hurt someday, just as we had hurt him, because “you reap what you sow.”
They were financially very generous to us, and that was the first thing thrown in our faces when God led us to move to start a new deaf ministry. We were pressured into agreeing to start an independent deaf church in order to keep their support. After landing in our new area, it became apparent very quickly that was an unreasonable expectation, as the deaf are a minority with hearing family members, to whom we must also minister. We had to regroup our plans and entered an agreement to build a deaf ministry in conjunction with our new church. This was the same model we had followed at our old church and it had worked very well. It was a reasonable change of plans and was a relief to us. Our goal had not changed–reaching the deaf of this area with the gospel–our calling had not changed–missionaries to the deaf. However when we sent out our update, our former pastor sent us a nasty “I told you so” email, calling us failures, dishonest, etc etc… and dropping our support.
I can only say what a relief it is to be free of such tyranny. Now we can raise our kids to serve Jesus, instead of worrying about constantly walking on eggshells to appease someone’s ego.
God bless you for your work with the deaf! My wife and I have such a tender spot for that ministry. I am glad you followed through even at such cost.
I love the office of pastor and believe it has such potential for good as God designed it. That is why I write against such practices as you describe. These men are hirelings who sully the name “pastor”. It must stop and we should all work together to stop it.
I plan to write an article on staff abuse sometime in January. Pray that the Lord will guide me in what to say.
Thanks for your article. As a MK, I remember some of the things my parents went through in order here in the US in order to be able to have the money to live on the field.
I enjoyed this article; there are excellent points made here, and I agree with them. I, too, have heard horror stories from missionaries (more usually from the children of missionaries) about what they had to endure as they go out on deputation.
But there is another side to the story: consider the average person in the pew. Bro Bill has an average job, and he and his wife have a few kids. They are getting by, but it’s tough – most “vacations”, if they can even take one, are trips to a relative’s house. They are told to “sacrifice” to support the missionary.
But then they read the missionary letters: If the missionary is on the field in Europe, they read about vacations all over Europe, which they could never afford. If the missionary is on deputation, they post about going to Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon, or Mammoth Cave – places Bro Bill would love to take his family, but they cannot afford it.
I know that missionary work can be hard work, and I don’t begrudge anyone a vacation. However, when your prayer letters or social media posts make it sound like they are enjoying life at others’ expense, the wrong message is being sent.
Another item that someone brought up… so many of the faith promise meetings I’ve been in have suggested (implicitly or explicitly) that saving for a rainy day shows lack of faith and we should give that to the missionary. However, many missionary budgets include savings of some type. It seems very hypocritical to demand that the missionary save money, but exhort the members to not save in order to give.