Dr. Earl Jessup
“Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers: Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey, after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because for his name’s sake they went forth taking nothing of the Gentiles, We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.”
III John 5-8
Church planters and missionaries are some of the finest people on the face of the earth. They overcome obstacles that most of us do not want to face and if we did, we would probably give up and quit. While trying to raise their support, many live out of a suitcase, travel the entire continent with their families, and do their best to use their time wisely. They trust God to care for them and sadly, many churches take advantage of them and, in some cases, abuse them.
At the recent Canadian National Preacher’s Conference, Pastor Dave Bueckert (a veteran church planter to Prince Edward Island, CANADA) spoke on the topic, “Do’s and Don’t’s of How To Treat a Missionary.” It was very interesting and enlightening. As he spoke of his experiences in raising support, I quickly realized the number one stumbling block for church planters and missionaries are pastors who are either lazy or just inconsiderate.
Pastor Bueckert related how in one week, he made 200 phone calls a day, for four days, to pastors in Canada, California, Washington and Colorado. Prior to his calls, he sent an email to the pastors and also sent another email after leaving a message on the voice mail or with the secretary. How many pastors do you think returned his phone call…...25% or maybe 50%? Surely at least fifty (25%) pastors would be kind enough to call? However, only four pastors returned his call. Only 2% of pastors were kind enough to return the call of a pastor who resigned his church to plant another church.
Dear pastor friend, there is no excuse for not returning a call to a church planter or missionary that is trying to raise their support to get to the field. None of us would like to be treated as this church planter was treated. You are making it very difficult for them by acting in such an inconsiderate and lazy manner. It demonstrates a serious lack of character, and it is no wonder we miss the blessing of God on our ministries. We are violating the clear teaching of the Word of God when treating these wonderful servants in such a negligent way.
We all have our excuses. You may not have a time for them in the church schedule or the mission’s budget is already extended, or your schedule is so full you just do not have time to call. Regardless of the excuse, they deserve some acknowledgement of their effort. How would you like it if your church members or businesses in your area treated you in the same manner? Would you have respect for any businessman that did not return your call? It is a wonder that any of our faithful missionaries put up with this.
The Bible clearly teaches we are to care for those in itinerate ministries. 1 Corinthians 16:5-6, “Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.” This is a biblical responsibility given to the church. Romans 15:24, Titus 3:13, as well as other verses, teach the same truth. What if the church in Rome decided not to respond to the Apostle Paul when he wrote them about coming to Rome? Surely a return phone call to those who are trying to raise enough support to care for their families on the mission field isn’t too much to ask!!
One of the most used “excuses” for not returning a call is, “I don’t know them so I don’t have to return the call.” 3 John 5-8 says, “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers: Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey, after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles, We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellow-helpers to the truth.” They may be “strangers” to you, but your response to them is known by God, and your failure to treat them respectfully is a sin before God. It is no wonder we struggle in building our ministries when something so simple and obvious is left undone. Just a phone call saying you cannot have them or there is no money to support them will “bring them forward on their journey” because they no longer have to wonder or wait to see if you will respond. They can move on to other churches that may be able to help them. We are failing to be “fellow-helpers to the truth” and “if thou bring forward on their journey, after a godly sort, thou shalt do well.”
I realize this admonition does not apply to every pastor. We praise the Lord for pastors who have enough character and spiritual understanding to respond, or at least have one of the staff respond, to the calls of church planters and missionaries. I know you get a lot of calls each week, and it takes time to respond. Thank you so much for doing so. It is a great blessing to those who are on the road trying to raise their support.
Please understand the reason I am writing about this. Those headed into church planting or going to the mission field will do just fine. They are trusting God and not any church. The reason I write about this is because so many churches seeking the blessing and power of God are missing it because they fail to understand that the heart of God is missions and reaching this world for Christ. We cannot mistreat those who are going to the fields and have the best God intends for us. May the Lord help us to to be “fellow-helpers to the truth.”