My name is Michael and I want your money


Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

My name is Michael, and I want your money.

I want you to believe that I’m homeless, hungry and looking for a handout.
I couldn’t cut it pastoring in the only place that God is blessing, so I figured I’d go hide on the other side of the world, where it’s easier. I’m going to do as little as possible while I’m hiding out, and I expect you to fund the whole endeavor. I’ll be asking for money early and often. By the way, it’s your biblical responsibility to support me. If you don’t, your church won’t grow at all.

While the previous statements are pure hyperbole, when I introduce myself to a new pastor, it’s exactly what I think they hear.

Maybe it’s more like this…

My name is Michael and nobody really cares what I do or how I’m doing, as long as I send a letter every 2-3 months that says 500 people got saved, 2000 people were baptized and 3 churches were started…since the last update.
If I don’t write that sort of letter, 6 churches will inevitably decide to not to send us the $50 per quarter that they are currently sending. 
They expect all of my children to be mini-D.L. Moodys with perfect behavior who can all play three instruments while proving Einstein’s theory of relativity. It’s certain that I’ll die in obscurity while on the field and nobody will know or care. Widowed, my wife will be forced to work three jobs until she’s 80, just to make the proverbial ends-meet. 

Again, hyperbole. But that’s sometimes how we feel. Reality looks more like this:

IMG_0025My name is Michael, and I’m a missionary. 
I am not homeless, destitute or naked.
I am a pastor whose congregation is in one of the least evangelized nations in the world. I am not on a perpetual vacation funded by a conglomerate of churches who have banded together to provide a Christian based welfare system. If your church is not able to support us, I trust that God will raise up another church to continue His work.

I’m probably not the only missionary in the world that feels like this, and you probably don’t attend the only church in the world whose missions’ program has stumbled in importance over the last few years.

Don’t get me wrong, we have some fantastic supporting churches. They go out of their way to minister to us.

They send emails or cards on our kids’ birthdays. They beg us to send a Christmas wish list and then buy everything on that list. They read our prayer letters and then respond with a phone call or email or Facebook message asking about our health issues.

But, they are more the exception that the rule.

Sadly, if the relationship between the church and its missionaries were a marriage, too often, that marriage would be on the rocks. Counseling would be in order.

There’s enough blame to go around for the lack of communication, misunderstandings and unreal expectations that continue to plague so many church-missionary relationships.

One veteran missionary who had also pastored for over thirty years once shared his opinion with me:

I believe every missionary should pastor before going to the foreign field, and I believe that every pastor should have to raise financial support as many missionaries do, before pastoring.

Things would be a whole lot different if that were the case.

So, instead of just complaining, I want to have a dialogue. I want to talk about what we can do to help these relationships, even if on a micro level. I want to talk about what I can do and where I have failed, but I don’t want it to be a one way dialogue. I want it to be a real conversation where issues are dealt with, lines of communication are opened, and misperceptions are clarified.

Would you like to participate in this dialogue? In the comments, let me know what are some issues that you’d like to hear about?

How could churches improve the relationship they have with missionaries? How could missionaries do the same?

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  • The Domestic Fringe

    I don’t understand why American missionaries have to spend 3-5 years dragging their families all over the states, begging people to see a need and support them $25, $50, or a $100 dollars a month. Seems like a waste of time to me. It takes a bad toll on good families too. Who said that was the way to do things? Is it even Biblical or is it just the way it’s always been?

    Why can’t churches get fully behind their families and support missionaries called out of their church? That looks like a more Biblical model to me. In the states, the more missionaries your church supports the better it looks. But if your church only had one or two and you gave them a large chunk of their support, it would cut down on deputation.

    I don’t know. I don’t have answers, but I am asking questions, because I’ve seen first hand how our system is broken, how churches don’t put enough weight in the $50 dollars they send to missionaries.

    I’m sorry. I feel like I’m venting on your blog and I don’t want to do that. I’m just so confused by this system and I see how difficult deputation is on a family.
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    • Michael

      I’ve asked a lot of the same questions that you are asking, FringeGirl. I don’t have the answers either, but I’d love to, in a small way, try to improve on the system that we have. Full support from one church would be fantastic, but with the ebb and tide of churches and the coming and going of pastors, that system could be a little “risky”. I would hate to have to come off the field because my support was wrapped into one church, and they decided to go another direction or could no longer sustain a family or for whatever reason. There are just so many different variables. Honestly, some missionaries that I’ve met need deputation to gain more experience before getting to the field. Thanks for your comment. Venting is allowed here.

  • The Domestic Fringe

    Yes. I can see what you are saying about relying on one church for all your support…kind of like the saying about not putting all of our eggs in one basket.

    Gaining experience is a subject to discuss too. I recently (very recently) watched as a very large church took a young couple who felt called by God to plant a church and just sent them. He was newly saved and has very little knowledge of the Bible. Now this couple is struggling in a very bad way. Are we being careless with God’s call?? Perhaps getting ahead of God and not putting weight in learning the ropes in a local church? I don’t know, but it makes me sad when I see people set up to fail. There’s that line between faith and foolishness.
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  • William Harper

    I think one way of improving understanding would be for pastors to take more missions trips. If they would come to Europe and experience what we have to deal with, I am sure they would be more understanding. The combination of spiritual coldness, materialism, spiritual oppression, false religions, and any thing else I have left out is present here in ways that are not replicated anywhere in the US. (Sorry pastors, a trip to to Mexico or Manila does not give you an understanding of life on the European field.)
    As far as missionaries understanding pastors more, I think it is an excellent idea for them to pastor or at least work on staff for a few years. I can’t believe some of the stuff I have heard from deputation missionaries, things that they would have known had they had some experience in the ministry.
    Well, better go before I start venting. I do enjoy your blogs.

    • Michael

      Bro. Harper, I would love for a pastor(s) to come visit. I know that it helped me, as pastor, to understand missions more. Going to Mexico was a blessing, but visiting Germany also opened my eyes to a whole new bag of issues, like the ones that you mentioned. It also allowed me to see the need for more missionaries all over Europe – north, south, east and west. When I left from the pastorate to begin raising support, I told our church more than once that I felt like my time there served as preparation for the mission field. I shudder to think how ill prepared I would have been, had we gone to the foreign field without the ministry experience I gained in the short four years that I pastored.
      And, like I told FringeGirl, venting is allowed here. Thank you very much for your input and for the compliment. Keep plowing in Lithuania!

  • Rob Lanham

    Having pastored two churches for 7 years total, and now being a member of another small Baptist church, I have seen the various perceptions of missionaries. The first church had a heart for missions and responded to our focus on that (an annual missions conference was vital) and we supported over 30 missionaries anywhere from $50-$400 per month. God provided wonderfully. The second church was a missionary pastorate in remote Alaska. We went there with no support and no income from the church, but we had a place to live and a vehicle. I also have military retirement, so that helped. They said I could work as needed to provide for my family, yet when I did so, some people in the church complained about this behind our backs. We never received any salary during the 3+ years there, though every other pastor they have had received at least $500 monthly. They did support missionaries well, even though in that part of the world you will not see missionaries on deputation because it is just a logistics nightmare. But we used videos from missionaries and they responded with excellent suppport, as I believe Bro Michael can attest to. We now belong to a small church in Indiana and they have recently asked another brother and I to put together a missions program. However, they followed that with, “We don’t need a bunch of missionaries on deputation coming through here begging for money!” So there is obviously much work to be done here to reset the mindset from a negative view to a Biblical view. Prayer is in order here for sure. Last comment: I think a pastor taking mission trips is a good idea, but also frequently seen by the pastor’s church as a “free vacation” instead of what it is really intended to be. God Bless you, Andrzejewski family. We love and appreciate you and your faithful steadfastness. Please hug all the mini-D.L. Moody’s for us!

    • Michael

      Bro. Rob, thanks for the comment. I’m with you. A missions trip is not a free vacation for the pastor. The focus is completely different. May the Lord bless your labor in this new missions ministry.

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