“Recognize that most prospective missionaries face this dilemma to some extent.”
Support from your local church is very important, but if you find yourself in a congregation that isn’t missions minded, don’t automatically leave that church. Most prospective missionaries are in the same spot you are: most of their church leaders and members apathetic about missions. So, seek a friend or someone from a mission agency to coach you. And let God use you to raise missions awareness in your church.
Answer from mission mobilizer John McVay.
“Yes, there’s a time for leaving.”
If your church thinks you don’t belong in ministry or are not ready, you want to find out why and do what you can to address those issues. It may be the case, however, that God is giving you a vision for a ministry that is different from the vision he has given the church you are a part of. That doesn’t mean you are in the wrong, or that the church is; many churches are trying to approach missions with a greater sense of focus and intentionality than once was the case, and this is a good thing! But it may mean you should look at other churches in your area or with which you have a connection and consider asking one of them to send you, instead.
The staff who “coach” newly appointed missionaries in the organization with which I serve report that whereas twenty years ago a missionary might receive support from five or ten churches (or more!), most today have one to two supporting churches. If you are like most, you will receive the majority of your support from individuals, not from a church or churches. And some missionaries are part of churches they see as their “home” or “sending” church but that do not provide for them financially. They takes responsibility for them in other ways, commissioning and caring for them and giving them opportunities to serve and learn. Money is not the only factor.
You need a sending church, absolutely, and one that is committed to you and can care for you and provide spiritual oversight for you regardless of where the money comes from. That’s the kind of thing that’s important enough that you should be willing to consider leaving one church to be sent out by another. Do your best to maintain relationships with the first church, though, to include them in your journey and to speak well of them to others.
Answer from Marti, an AskaMissionary.com editor who has served in mission for more than 20 years, most recently with Pioneers.
“No; there must be a reason for it.”
Short answer: NO!
Longer answer: God has placed you in that congregation for a purpose. His ultimate goal is to conform you to the image of Christ. There must be some reason why the leadership is not (at this time) giving their support.
When you say that you are “preparing to go,” does that mean that a mission agency has already accepted you? If they have accepted you without your home church’s approval, you are already in trouble! You need that foundation of a strong home church to support your through all that you will encounter.
Answer from Neal Pirolo of Emmaus Road International, who has served in 64 countries for more than 45 years.
“Maybe, especially if you come from a church tradition that expects independent decision-making.”
Before I give an answer, let me say that my wife and I did this, two times!
First, the year before we applied to a mission agency we started considering the huge task we would face in raising our financial support. We talked with the missions pastor of the church where we were attending and serving and he expressed that they would not financially support us. That they could “endorse” us, but would only give us financial help if we went to one of three locations/projects they were currently funding. Their policy was that supported missionaries had to be with a sending agency, but none of the three locations they would support were connected to a U.S. sending agency. Because we knew church support would be vital, we felt let to move on.
After that experience, we found a church which was encouraging toward our call and their support of it. The pastor in particular was excited at the possibility of sending out their a missionary from within the congregation (others they supported were from other churches). The problem came when we were appointed with an agency. The missions committee felt that the agency’s support requirement was too high. The pastor suddenly was more concerned about the church’s budget than funding missionaries. And, for some reason, the field we were going to wasn’t “priority.” It was obvious that we weren’t going to be supported emotionally, spiritually, or financially. We left that church and found a church that supports us to this day.
NOW on to the question: Is it acceptable?
An answer depends on how your tradition believes God calls you to this service. I am from the non-denominational Bible church tradition. We are individually minded. There is almost no way to really go to the mission field in my tradition without, in some sense, doing it on your own. Even most churches in my tradition were planted by lone-ranger type figures. There is no central authority and every local church’s form of obedience varies.
If your tradition is similar to mine, I think the ecclesiology we have set up forces you to make the decision on your own. If you’re in this tradition, I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with leaving. Moving to the mission field and raising funds is hard enough to have to deal with your own church that won’t support you. Now that doesn’t mean they have to support you, but you should find one that does. Again, this apply to the independent church tradition.
Answer from Eric in Colorado, who has served with Joshua Project and ARM ministries in the U.S. and Singapore for six years.
“Is it a question of faith?”
A few years ago my wife and I were praying about joining an organization and living on support. Like many people, we saw finances as a big question. We attended a church that does not support missionaries out of their budget but approves and endorses them to the body. We also knew that the church had a lot of “homegrown” missionaries that were supported by members of the congregation. We definitely felt that the church was tapped out.
God did a big work in our hearts and challenged our faith with this question, “Is your funding determined by your church situation or something else?” We believe the something else is our calling from God. Essentially what we were doing was telling God he was incapable of providing unless we went and found a new network, new community, and new funding.
Praise God; he provided the faith. We are still at the same church, working full time for Global Fellowship, and fully funded. Over 2/3rds of our funding comes from individuals from our home church. Go figure: God’s pretty big.
This might not be your exact situation, I think others that answered this question who suggested you might need to leave your current church did so with good reasons. Especially if your church does not support you in ways other than financially.
Answer from Jeremy, who has served in the US, India, Slovenia, France, Spain, Czech Republic, and Thailand.