03 Nov When Should a New Church Begin a Missions Program?
Dr. Earl Jessup
Over the past ten years one of the most asked questions I receive is, “When should a new church begin to take on missionaries?” This question comes from reproducing pastors, from church planters, and from others that seem to be concerned about this issue. It mainly revolves around the issue of support for the pastor of the new church. Those who normally ask the question do so because they feel the new church should be supporting the new pastor full-time before starting to support missionaries.
The rationale for their question is that the new church should take care of their own man before they send funds to others. They feel it is inconsistent to take funds from the new church when the new church is receiving funds from other churches to meet the needs of supporting their pastor and other expenses of the local church. On the surface this seems to be very logical but the real issue is whether or not it is biblical.
Part of the problem stems from the personal philosophy of missions and supporting missionaries out of the local church. I personally practice and teach Faith Promise mission giving. I hold a number of conferences each year in churches, particularly the new churches we help start, and teach the church the principles of Faith Promise giving. Many reading this understand and practice this type of giving but others do not. Those who do not use this type of giving are the ones who question a new church giving to missions before supporting the pastor full-time. The reason is because churches that do not use Faith Promise support their missionaries from the budget of the church. I can fully understand why they would expect the church to support the pastor fully before taking on missionaries. When you take money from the General Fund of the local church to support missionaries other churches must give to the new church to meet their needs. Their reasoning is that they should take care of their own needs first and then support missionaries.
When a church adopts the principles of Faith Promise missions giving the money for missions does not come from the General Fund of the local church. This giving is above the tithes and offerings given to the local church and is used exclusively for missions. The passage of Scripture we use to develop these principles is found in II Corinthians 8 and 9. In this passage, the churches in Macedonia, Galatia, and Achaia were giving an offering above their tithe for the saints at Jerusalem. We know it was not the tithe since they were not required to give it according to II Corinthians 9:7. This was given because they wanted to give it. Faith Promise missions giving is taken from the principles of this type of giving. Therefore, the new church can give this way because is does not affect the General Fund of the new church. Some argue that this giving reduces the amount given to the General Fund but I have yet to see that happen. In every church that I know of the General Fund increases when a church gives to Faith Promise. One pastor mentioned this to me before I held the conference and six weeks after the conference he called me to tell me that the giving to Faith Promise was on schedule and that the giving to the General Fund increased by $1,000 per week. His people understood they could not give to missions unless they tithed.
One still may question whether a church should begin immediately to support missionaries. Paul’s letter to the Philippian church should solve this for anyone who wants to live by biblical standards. This letter was written as a thank you for the gifts they had sent to Paul. This church was started in Acts 16 on Paul’s second missionary journey. Immediately after he left Philippi Paul went down to Thessalonica to minister there. He was there only four weeks at the most, Acts 17:2. He was then chased from this town as he was from many others. Note what Paul writes to the church at Philippi in Philippians 4:15-16, “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.” What does this tell us? It clearly tells us that the church in Philippi supported the Apostle Paul IMMEDIATELY after their church was started. Was this church already self-supporting? I would have to say that it almost certainly was not and others would agree with me unless they want a reason NOT to have a mission’s program in the local church.
From this same passage we learn that God promises to bless the church that is involved in mission giving. Many take Philippians 4:19 out of context applying it to every situation. If you look at the context, Paul is writing this to a church that had been involved in giving to missions.
We need our young churches supporting missionaries because they need the blessing of God upon their ministries. God promises to bless a church that gives to missions and to miss that blessing because one thinks they should support the pastor full-time before supporting missionaries is unwise.