“Consider the advantages of both.”
Before joining your denomination’s missionary force, ask yourself these preliminary questions: “Am I happy with the work my denomination is doing?” “Am I happy with their policies and their history?” “Is my denomination serving in ways or places where God is leading me?”
If your answers to the questions above are positive, then consider the following advantages of being sent as a missionary under your denominational board:
- You’re familiar with their theology, traditions, and methods.
- You may not have to raise support, since denominations usually have a mission budget; so, if they accept you, they will support you.
- You have a ready-made support system in the churches that make up the denomination.
- You’ll feel more a part of your home church.
- You’ll have an influence in your denomination as the years go by.
You, however, may be unhappy with your denomination’s mission work, policies, or history. Or, your denomination may not work in the area where God is leading you; yet, you feel led to serve God as a missionary. Then you might want to explore a nondenominational agency. However, don’t leap too quickly. Take time to explore.
When we were ready to go abroad, we were not happy with the theological orientation of our denomination, even though I had served as a minister within this denomination and had attended one of its seminaries. God led us to a nondenominational mission agency. We had to raise support, which by God’s grace we did.
Most of our support came from churches within our denomination. Our experience has been a happy one, but so was that of my parents who served within the denomination.
Answer from Jack Voelkel, former missionary-in-residence with the Urbana Student Mission Convention; originally published on the Urbana website. Previously, Jack served thirty years with Latin America Mission in Peru and Colombia.
“Don’t let fear of raising support make your decision.”
The easy answer is to go for a salary with your denominational agency so you “don’t have to beg for money.” But that is a poor reason. Raising support is hard, no doubt. But there are some real advantages you may not have if your funding comes automatically from a denomination:
- You learn to share your vision in a way that is compelling and inviting to others. It is important to be able to do this, since there will come many times in your missionary service when you wonder why you’re there. Being firm in your vision is important.
- You realize in a tangible way that you cannot do this on your own. You see how God provides, which is an important lesson to learn and to live once on the field.
- Many missionaries on denominational salary do not make the effort to build a solid prayer-support team. We were so thankful for the hundreds of people we had praying for us, people we probably never would have met if not for our support-raising efforts.
Effective denominational agencies connect individual missionaries to individual local churches for partnership and prayer support.
Answer from Jim, who has served with The Mission Society for ten years in Kazakhstan.
“Ask God for his specific plan for you.”
When I was preparing to join WEC International, I was approached by a denomination that offered full support if I would join them. Doctrinally we were in harmony, and it seemed ideal. However, the denomination did not work where the Lord was leading my wife and me.
About the same time a church contacted us and said that if we would work with them for two years in our own country, then they would pay our total support while overseas. That was also exciting. But as we prayed, we felt the Lord leading us to decline and join WEC immediately.
We did join WEC, and saw God provide funding for us in the short we spent time visiting friends and churches. When we got to the field, God arranged n Guinea-Bissau for us to be the first missionaries to enter the Muslim half of the country and work with the blessing of the Muslim governor. Six months later the entire situation changed. If we had not already been there, we might have missed a wonderful open door.
God has a particular plan for you and he wants you to trust him (Psalm 32:8,9) to find his way. Though I serve with a nondenominational agency, I am on the missions committee of a denominational church and I encourage members to serve with the denomination even as I recruit for WEC. I see full validity for both. Ask those who know you for input and pray for guidance.
Editor’s Note: Some denominations partner with agencies. It’s worth checking to see if you can work with both your denomination and an agency.
Answer from David Smith, director of mobilization with WEC International. David has been a missionary for twenty-five years as a field worker in West Africa and at WEC USA headquarters.