The Myth of “Insufficient Resources”

I’ve been part of a couple of conversations lately about whether or not we still need denominations or associations of churches. Many times, supporters of these associations cite the benefits of smaller churches partnering with larger ones to be more effective in missions. There may be a good reason to hold on to denominations, but partnering for missions isn’t one of them.

More often than not, when you say that a collection of churches is “partnering in missions,” you really mean that small churches give what little money they think they can afford to a larger church or a missions sending agency that will handle mobilization, screening, indoctrination, training, sending, and maintenance of missionaries on the field. This is not “partnering,” it’s outsourcing.

The difference is subtle, but detrimental to our efforts and disastrous for our missiology. The myth of “insufficient resources” has left missions strategy to those with the most. It perpetuates the distinction between the “professionals” and everyone else. For members of the small church who faithfully send their offerings to “missions” there is very little personal connection with the work or the missionaries they “send.” Motivation (apart from guilt) can be hard to come by. The larger churches are left with the most influence over what “missions monies” are used for and by whom.

Small churches can do missions. These days, travel, education, and communication (essential for missions) are easier, faster, and cheaper than ever. Even in the smallest of towns, “the nations” live next door. No matter how big your church may be, incarnational ministry is done person-to-person. The myth that it takes lots of money or people to make a difference has left the commission in the hands of the megachurches and sending organizations for too long.

A true missions network would not connect churches in order to do missions, it would connect churches who are doing missions.

10 thoughts on “The Myth of “Insufficient Resources”

  1. Doing leads to learning … just as preschoolers learn by doing, all people learn by doing. By doing missions we learn and experience new cultures and meet new people.

  2. Ernest,

    I agree to an extent. Our association last year provided resources for us to plant our first church and to do a sports camp in our area. Those are funds that we could not have provided on our own. We worked in partnership. We initiated the planting and the sports camp, initiated the contact with both the potential planner (did an initial screening) and the church from Mississippi, gave people to it, etc, but to come up with $25K this past year for a church plant and $15K for next year so our state convention would pitch in $$ was just not possible.

    Now it could be said that had we not given money to the association, we could have used that to do what we did. Unfortunately, at our size, that would not have been the case. And through all my contacts throughout my tribe, I could not get any financial support to these mission endeavors. I asked churches to make a $400/month investment for 3 years, and to come and help us do ministry in Delaware for 3 years. I even blogged about it. I begged a contingent from Kentucky to make a commitment. No one would or could help us. Had our local association not helped us, they would not have gotten done, at least at this point in time.

    I would have loved to connect with other churches in mission mode, but I could not find those with that thought process. So our association became our partner in our mission.

    I know this may not be the norm, and I feel certain it isn’t. But some associations, like ours, push the responsibility back to the churches and become a resource for the local church to do ministry instead of doing the ministry themselves.

  3. Excellent thoughts, Ernest. I have been saying the same thing for a while now and people think I’m crazy. Well, they think I’m crazy anyway, but that’s another story.

    Kevin,

    The problems that you had are very real. Ideally, we would network together and formulate ideas together, instead of just trying to get support for our thing. We face a similar issue with what we are doing in India, so I understand what you are saying. One day, we’ll start talking at the strategy stage, instead of just at the support and implementation stage. I look forward to that day.

  4. David,
    I think your story makes the point I was going for. If everyone who is doing missions in your area were somehow networked together (in your case, it was the churches of the association), then we’d have an effective missional partnership.

    Because those churches had some interest in the work you were starting, they could give and (had the chance to) be part of the ministry. That’s what I mean when I say that a true missions network is one that connects people who are doing missions instead of connecting people in order to to missions.

    On the other hand, the friends you were trying to rally support from didn’t come through for you. I’d say that’s more like the way most associations work today- you “pitch” your idea, and have to try to convince the people who hold the purse strings that it’s a valid, viable, important cause worthy of their support. In those cases, when money is granted, there tends to be less personal involvement. The attitude is, “Why should we get involved? We’re paying you to do it.”

    I’m glad to hear that you were able to find partners, though.

    Alan,
    I don’t think you’re crazy. But if you are, at least you’re not alone!

  5. A true missions network would not connect churches in order to do missions, it would connect churches who are doing missions.

    Oooh that’s good. I am writing this one down. I too think this way and I am seeing that more and more are getting involved in this way.

  6. Ernest, I have been struggling with what you have articulated for a long time. If you are an unconventional church in a conventional association, it is difficult to create the network you speak of. We just don’t speak the same language as the big guys do, and there’s some differences in what we value. As a pastor, I know from experience that doing accelerates both belonging and believing and drives a person out of the comfortable routines and ways of living out their faith into the uncharted and exhilarating waters of depending on the Holy Spirit – now that’s real growth.

    I don’t want to do missions by proxy. I don’t want to send money off and have it parsed as it passes through so many hands that a pittance gets to those who can actually get something done that lasts. I don’t want to cooperate in a program, I want to partner with people I know to change the world.

    So I am listening intently, and eager to hear more from anyone who can help us realize the dream of a glocal missional church here.

    David Wilson
    lead pastor
    New Hope, Valparaiso, FL

  7. David,
    Sorry to take so long to respond. I think you are not alone in your desire for real involvement and partnerships that make sense.

    I think there are some options for churches like yours. I want to help. Stay tuned for more.

    Oh, and thanks for reading.

  8. Ernest, my husband says that we work with what we have on hand, bless it, and let the Lord multiply it to be enough. (like the loaves & fishes). We can’t wait on the “company” to provide us the funds we have to do what we can now with what we got.

    It’s amazing that God is still in the multiplying, baskets left over business. The Lord manages to accomplish what He desires, which may or may not be what we planned.

    We also tend to be “selective” in working with those at home. We offer our strategy and what we hope to accomplish, we offer it persuasively and with conviction (giving a Biblical rationale) and then we let them decide whether or not the Lord is leading them to join us in His work with us here or not. It’s not a one-size-fits-all.

    We also try to be thankful for all those on the other side that support, give and join in the world-wide work at whatever level they feel comfortable. We’re all in different parts of the journey, we all have different tasks (breaking up the soil, preparing the soil, planting, watering, reaping), so we try to graciously accept the lots of no’s that we get for working with us. That’s okay, it just means that they have another place that the Lord wants them to work, it’s just not with us.

    You’re right…it’s always a myth that we don’t have what we need to do what God’s called us to do. If He calls, then He provides. Sometimes we need to stop having a McDonald’s super-size mentality. With God, 5 loaves & 2 fishes are enough to feed 5000plus!

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