For the past 10 years, I have been blessed to be a state missionary supported by the Missionary Baptist Association of Texas. In the past 10 years, I have seen a robust missions fund be exhausted by new and continued requests for support, and I have seen that fund rebuilt by God’s provision through the generosity of the churches of the Missionary Baptist Association of Texas. I have seen us go from “We have all this money and no missionaries” to “We have all these missionaries and no money,” to “let’s try to keep that from happening again.”
Bro. Curtis Gilbert is right to try to shore up the mission policy for the betterment of the program. I fear, however, that some policy is being put forth on common misconceptions. I will put forth statements made at this past week’s meeting, match them to the misconception, then address the misconception.
“We have missionaries on the field for 14 years.” This is false. This has been a problem in the past, but has not been a problem since the passage of the new mission policy. The state missionary who has been supported the longest by MBA of Texas is myself, and I have been supported for 10 years. We started this work from scratch 10 years ago. We had no property, no money, no congregation and no connections in the community. This work was not started by a split, and we didn’t obtain a “launch team” from another congregation.
Over the past 10 years, we have evangelized this community, acquired resources by raising support from our sister churches (both individually and through the MBA of Texas, and associational ministries), discipled those who came to know Christ through our ministry, and reached many that had been isolated in their faith. As a result, we saw a congregation rapidly grow over the first 5 years.
Then, Satan entered in through a few individuals, we experienced some conflict, and we had some move out of town. In 2014, we basically had to start over. We did. We utilized the resources God had provided through the MBA of Texas, built a building, and God built a new congregation. I believe we are within reach of going self-supporting.
We went through some hard times, but the MBA of Texas was with us every step of the way. Thanks to the MBA’s generous and patient support, we were able to recover and we will have a local church here in Early, Tex. We could very well be off support after this year.
I share that story to show that when a missionary is on support for a lengthy period of time, there is often a back story to that situation.
“We need to get our missionaries and sponsoring churches to refocus.” This statement indicates that the state missionaries are not focused on their work, or don’t know what they’re doing, or cannot assess whether God is still in the work. I don’t get to fellowship with all of the state missionaries, but I see 3 or 4 of them regularly at Southwest Association mission rallies. Their mission projects and ministries are all they think about.
When things fell apart with my work in 2013 and 2014, I spent much time in prayer searching whether God was finished with the work or not. Absent of a call to leave the field, I found that God still wanted the work to continue. At that point, to have left the field would have been disobedient to God, would have resulted in the waste of associational resources, and would have left those who remained in the congregation without pastoral leadership. It would have (in my case) been irresponsible and selfish. So, we continued. The “refocusing” that was called for is happening.
“We need (annual reductions in support) for accountability.” Actually, that idea does not create accountability. Accountability is the setting of goals, the formulation of a plan to reach those goals, and the direction to keep the missionary on task to accomplish that plan. That responsibility falls on the sponsoring church.
Regarding the reductions in missionary support, I actually think it’s a good idea. That is the goal, to increase offerings from the mission while decreasing support from the state association. That’s why at least 3 missionaries I talked to at the meeting reduced support. It’s also why we reduced our request last year by $500/month, or 25%.
The reductions sought by the proposed (and failed) change to the mission policy are already happening on a voluntary basis. Many times, these voluntary reductions are happening at greater percentages than the policy change proposed. Furthermore, these reductions are being taken from requests that are significantly smaller than the historic “full salary” designation.
Brethren, I hope this post has not come across as defensive or angry. It is neither. I am merely trying to encourage you that our state missions program is strong. We have good men on the field who are laboring for the Lord, who wish to do so at minimal expense to the association and our sister churches, who wish to organize as soon as possible. These men are sufficiently funded by the generous support of MBA of Texas churches, who have never failed to answer the call to keep missionaries on the field.
As we look toward the 2019 meeting, I know that the mission policy and the program will be on the minds of many who will look to make improvements over the next few years. This is a good thing. I am blessed that we have so many pastors and churches concerned about state missions that they want to make sure the policy is optimized for a robust missions program. My only desire is that the changes are made with the right perspective, and factually correct information, and not on misconceptions based on anecdotal instances that are now past, and are no longer impacting the work.