This is Missions emphasis week at Proclaim & Defend.
We call the process of missionary fund-raising “deputation.” Deputation means “the act of appointing a deputy.” When a missionary comes to your church, the missionary is seeking to represent you as your deputy, serving in your place in another location. The function the missionary serves in that other location is to fulfill an obligation that belongs to you. What is that obligation? Jesus laid it on you when he said, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” (Mt 28.19) and, more simply, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16.15)
You have an obligation to the world – an obligation to preach the gospel. Since you can’t be everywhere, your obligation can be fulfilled by a deputy. That’s why we send missionaries. To fulfill our own function in another location, whether it be a church-planting ministry in our own nation or one in some foreign field. Our field is the world, we ought to be busy evangelizing our corner of the world and supporting evangelization in every corner of the world that we can.
Another way to think of missions is by the term “fellowship.” We use “fellowship” a lot in the Christian church. The Greek word for that is koinonia. It means more than just having a meal or having coffee with someone. Joseph Thayer defines it as “to come into communion or fellowship, to become a sharer, be made a partner.” No doubt there is the camaraderie that informs our English word “fellowship,” but the word in Greek includes especially the ideas of sharing in a common task, entering into a partnership with someone. It means participation with another person.
Paul uses the verb form of this word in his epistle to the Philippians, where he says, “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.” (4.15) By communication, he means money, as he goes on to say in v. 16: “for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” It is no wonder that he thanks God “For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” (Phil 1.5) Paul saw the Philippians as partners in the ministry who participated with him in the work by means of sharing money the “representation of their life energy” as I heard one wag call it.
When you support a missionary through the local church, your local giving (representing the fruit of your own life energy, your labour at work) sustains the life and work of your missionary deputy who fulfills your obligations somewhere else in the world.
You may not think of yourself as especially gifted at evangelism. You may not be! But you should evangelize. And you should support the work of evangelists (missionaries) elsewhere who can work with you for fruit to redound to your account. It is all one mission, our Lord’s mission, and we are all labourers together in the one mission field, the world.
Deputation among independent Baptists is a long and arduous process. There are a lot of reasons for that. One is that there aren’t enough independent Baptists! Another is related to the relative economic strength of our independent Baptist churches. It is no matter. The resources are God’s. If we will pool our loaves and fishes, He can multiply those resources in a way as only He is able. If you will give, God will make your resources go around the world, fulfilling God’s great mission.
While the process we follow is cumbersome in some ways, good independent Baptist churches try to keep missions close to their hearts, and to especially keep their missionaries close to their hearts. I hope that you take the time to get to know your missionaries, to read their letters and join with them in regular prayer for their missions.
Don Johnson is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada. He was also formerly a missionary appointee under Baptist World Mission and is grateful for many ministry partners who enabled over thirty years of ministry (and counting) to reach souls in Victoria.