I recently ran across an article that listed out countries “where missions efforts should (or shouldn’t) be concentrated.” I was tempted to post the full list, for sake of discussion, but I feel like doing so would sidetrack a greater issue. True, it would read well. It would shock you to see what countries made which side of the list. For instance, Japan and China made the “should not” side. But they also made the “should” side. People like lists. They like being told what to believe and be given the facts to back up that belief. With missions, it is easy to be fed a line that you swallow for years. I have done it myself. I hear some statistics or percentages and latch onto them for a long time. But are we using these studies the right way? For instance, don’t send missionaries to China because of the numbers of new literate believers baptized, or number of Bibles distributed per year (which also put the US, Brazil, Spain, Italy, South Korea, Britain, Pakistan, Germany, and Australia on the “shouldn’t list”). That is ridiculous. And for the sake of challenging silly systems, I recommend a better strategy for deciding where or where not to place your church’s or personal missions giving.
- Bathe it in prayer. You cannot function as a member of the body of Christ without prayer. We are to be people who pray without ceasing. Pray for each other. If you cannot pray for someone, then what is your true motive for giving to them?
- Consider the Spirit. The intimacy that we have as believers comes from our unity in Christ and our oneness in the Spirit. If the Spirit is not evident in the work of a missionary, be bold enough to say so. Don’t unite your giving to something that is contrary to the Spirit within you.
- Consult the Scriptures. Is your reason for supporting, or not supporting, this missionary biblical? Ponder deeply on this point, because you may give account for it later. For instance, did you know that the passage about “the least of these” was actually given in the context of believers? Don’t let your strategic thinking interject blindness in lieu of biblical foresight. If you do, you may be in sin.
- Have Compassion. We are so inundated with opportunities to help others. Let your compassion be motivated not just by guilt, but through the lens of God’s justice and grace. That man with the cardboard sign may tug at your giving heart, but is your gift building the kingdom? It may.
- Remember God’s Faithfulness. When you say that you cannot afford to give, make sure that it is not an excuse. Be honest. Remember that God is your provider, not your employer, and not you. Don’t make the decision based on money alone.
- Understand Self Sacrifice. Nobody gave up more of his rights and comforts than Christ. Have you ever thought of giving that way? If you have to cut things out of your budget to be able to support missions more greatly, weigh the loss.
- Be honest. Honesty is not always the easiest or bluntest option. It may take thought to reevaluate what you should do or say. Sometimes being honest with yourself includes knowing when to say no. Other times, you may need to evaluate why you want to say no. Don’t accept expedience over truth.