Pray for the Bennetts in Australia as they with God's help and for His glory are seeking to establish: Western Plains Baptist Fellowship, and Gilgandra Baptist Fellowship as New Testament Baptist churches.
A CASE FOR LOCAL CHURCH
MISSIONARY DAVID C. BENNETT, D. Min.
My wife and I spent eighteen years serving overseas with a mission board. Through my personal experience with the mission, field council, and searching the Scriptures I came to the conclusion that mission boards/agencies are not Biblical. This paper is a product of that search.
You may also be interested in reading my booklet LETíS GET BACK TO BIBLE BASICS - BFT #2430 available from The Bible For Today, 900 Park Ave. Collingswood, NJ 08108.
I encourage you to read this paper and allow God to saturate your mind and heart with the material. Then because what is written is Biblical begin to implement those things necessary to bring your mission programme in line with the Scriptures.
Your friend and brother,
Missionary David C. Bennett
A CASE FOR
LOCAL CHURCH MISSIONS
Missionary David C. Bennett, D. Min.
Amos 3: 3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
Millions of dollars are spent each year on missionary outreach through local independent Baptist churches in America. When speaking of an independent Baptist church the term is very broad. Those affiliated with organizations such as the GARBC, BBF, South wide Baptist, etc. all consider themselves independent Baptists. It is this broad meaning to which this paper then refers to independent Baptist. It would be safe to say most of the missionary money from local independent Baptist churches is channeled through mission boards/agencies. Most pastors of independent Baptist churches only know missionary outreach via boards/agencies. The pastor was probably saved in an independent Baptist church and heard only those missionaries serving with a mission board/agency. When the pastor was called to preach he went to a recommended school where he again heard missionaries who were serving with a mission board/agency. In mission classes he was taught missions and in that teaching was included teaching on mission boards/agencies. When the man left school and entered the pastorate he found his church supported missionaries serving under mission boards/agencies. Many pastors serve their entire pastoral life without questioning (at least verbally) mission boards/agencies. Sometimes this is because the pastor serves or has served as a member of a mission board/agency. Affiliation often brings silence.
The obedience to the Great Commission through independent Baptist churches in America has spawned a multitude of mission boards/agencies. Some independent Baptist churches will only support missionaries from certain mission boards/agencies while other independent Baptist churches are not concerned what mission board/agency a missionary serves with saying "we support the missionary and not the board".
There is probably not one independent Baptist preacher or independent Baptist church that would openly deny the fact God has commissioned the local church to go into the entire world and preach the gospel. To most of these churches obedience to this Commission is sending and supporting missionaries under the banner of a mission board/agency. The question may be asked, are mission boards/agencies wrong? Most pastors and those in the pew have not thought this through and would immediately answer, "No they are not wrong". Now, put the question this way, "Are they Biblical"? This may prompt the pastor and some in the pew to search the Bible for a proof text for mission boards/agencies. However, their search will prove fruitless as it is impossible to defend mission boards/agencies from the Scriptures. On the other hand, there are some who will reverse the question and ask, "Are mission boards/agencies unbiblical"? To help answer that question the following address is given below. It is taken from the BLACK ROCK ADDRESS circa 1832 delivered at Black Rock, Maryland. It was a general address by conservative Baptists (later known as Primitive Baptists) in which was announced and explained their resolve to withdraw fellowship from those they believed held liberal doctrines and practices. One of those liberal practices was the establishment of mission societies.
We will now call your attention to the subject of Missions. Previous to stating our objections to the mission plans, we will meet some of the false charges brought against us relative to this subject, by a simple and unequivocal declaration, that we do regard as of the first importance the command given of Christ, primarily to His apostles, and through them to his ministers in every age, to "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," and do feel an earnest desire to be found acting in obedience thereunto, as the providence of God directs our way, and opens a door of utterance for us. We also believe it to be the duty of individuals and churches to contribute according to their abilities, for the support, not only of their pastors, but also of those who go preaching the gospel of Christ among the destitute. But we at the same time contend, that we have no right to depart from the order which the Master himself has seen fit to lay down, relative to the ministration of the word. We therefore cannot fellowship the plans for spreading the gospel, generally adopted at this day, under the name of Missions; because we consider those plans throughout a subversion of the order marked out in the New Testament.
lst. In reference to the medium by which the gospel minister is to be sent forth to labor in the field. Agreeable to the Prophecy going before, that out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, the Lord has manifestly established the order, that his ministers should be sent forth by the churches. But the mission plan is to send them out by a Mission Society. The gospel society or church is to be composed of baptized believers; the poor is placed on an equal footing with the rich, and money is of no consideration, with regard to membership, or church privileges. Not so with Mission Societies; they are so organized that the unregenerate, the enemies of the Cross of Christ, have equal privileges as to membership, &c., with the people of God, and money is the principal consideration; a certain sum entitles to membership, a larger sum to life membership, a still larger to directorship, &c., so that their constitutions, contrary to the direction of James, are partial, saying to the rich man, sit thou here, and to the poor, stand thou there. In Christ's kingdom, all His subjects are sons, and have equal rights, and an equal voice, as well in calling persons into the ministry, as in other things. But the mission administration is all lodged in the hands of a few, who are distinguished from the rest, by great swelling titles, as Presidents, Vice Presidents, &c. Again, each gospel church acts as the independent kingdom of Christ in calling and sending forth its members into the ministry. Very different from this is the mission order. The mission community being so arranged that from the little Mite Society, on the State Conventions, and from them on to the Triennial Convention, and General Board, there is formed a general amalgamation, and a concentration of power in the hands of a dozen dignitaries, who with some exceptions have the control of all the funds designed for supporting ministers among the destitute, at home and abroad, and the sovereign authority to designate who from among the professed ministers of Christ, shall be supported from these funds, and also to assign them the field of their labors. Yea, the authority to appoint females, and school-masters, and printers, and farmers, as such, to be solemnly set apart by prayer, and the impositions of hands, as missionaries of the cross, and to be supported from these funds. Whereas in ancient times the preachers of the gospel [were called] by the Holy Ghost. - Acts xiii. 1,4.
2nd. In reference to ministerial support. - The gospel order is to extend support to them who preach the gospel; but the mission plan is to hire persons to preach. The gospel order is not to prefer one before another, and do nothing by partiality. See 1 Tim. v. 17,21. But the Mission Boards exclude all from participation in the benefits of their funds, who do not come under their direction and own their authority, however regularly they may have been set apart according to gospel order, to the work of the ministry, and however zealously they may be laboring to preach the gospel among the destitute. And what is more, these Boards by their auxiliaries and agents, so scour every hole and corner to scrape up money for their funds that the people think they have nothing left to give a preacher who may come among them alone upon the authority of Christ, and by the fellowship of the church. Formerly not only did preachers generally feel themselves bound to devote a part of their time to traveling and preaching among the destitute, but the people also among whom they came dispensing the word of life, felt themselves bound to contribute something to meet their expenses. These were the days when Christian affections flowed freely. Then the hearts of the preachers flowed out toward the people, and the affections of the people were manifested toward the preachers who visited them. There was then more preaching of the gospel among the people at large, according to the number of Baptists, than has ever been since the rage of missions commenced. How different are things now from what they were in those by-gone days. Now, generally speaking, persons who are novices in the gospel, however learned they may profess to be in the sciences, have taken the field in the place of those who, have been taught in the school of Christ, were capacitated to administer consolation to God's afflicted people.
The missionary, instead of going into such neighborhoods as Christ's ministers used to visit, where they would be most likely to have an opportunity of administering food to the poor of the flock, seeks the more populous villages and towns, where he can attract the most attention, and do the most to promote the cause of missions and other popular institution's. His leading motive, judging from his movements, is not love to souls, but love of fame; hence his anxiety to have something to publish of what he has done, and hence his anxiety to constitute churches, even taking disaffected, disorderly, and as has been the case, excluded persons, to form a church, in the absence of better materials. And the people, instead of glowing with the affection for the preacher as such, feel burdened with the whole system of modern mendicancy, but have no resolution to shake off their oppression, because it is represented so deistical to withhold and so popular to give.
Brethren, we cheerfully acknowledge that there have been some honorable exceptions to the character we have here drawn of the modern missionary, and some societies have existed under the name of Mission Societies which were in some important exceptions from the above drawn sketch; but on a general scale we believe we have given a correct view of the mission plans and operations, and of the effects which have resulted from them, and our hearts really sicken at this state of things. How can we therefore forbear to express our disapprobation of the system that has produced it?
One wonders what those Baptists would think of the situation today? In reference to the question "are mission boards/agencies unbiblical?" again note: (1) It impossible to defend mission boards/agencies from the Scriptures (that should be enough said) and (2) consider the added financial drain mission boards/agencies are to the local independent Baptist church. One independent Baptist church states on its web site "Instead of sending the money to some denominational headquarters where 80% or 90% of it is used up in administration costs, we send it direct to the missionary, through their home church. This way he gets 100% of the money and not just 10% or 20%." Now that percentage might be exaggerated but the truth is mission boards/agencies do have administrative costs that must be paid and are paid from the finances given directly or indirectly from the local church.
Today (2002) mission boards/agencies usually have office buildings (some far better equipped than many independent Baptist churches), staff and executives ( more staff than most independent Baptist churches have and often paid better than the average independent Baptist church pastor) claiming to conduct mission business on behalf of the local churches missionaries. The operation of these mission boards/agencies takes finances from the local independent Baptist churches mission dollar! Whether the finances for the mission board/agency come from the missionaryís support or the local church budgets a portion for mission boards/agencies doesnít really matter. The mission board/agency is still an added drain on the local church missionary dollar! Four questions: (1) Can mission boards/agencies be clearly defended from the Bible? No. (2) What really do mission boards/agencies do for the local church and the missionary? Ask the mission board/agency and then ask several missionaries exactly what the mission board/agency does for them as a missionary? Ask if the board/agency requires a certain amount from the missionaryís support to be given to the board/agency as "maintenance"? Ask if the board/agency requires the missionary to submit to the board/agency or to the missionaryís local sending church? Ask if the missionary is required to work in a field council situation where the majority rules? (3) Is there such a Biblical office in the Bible as Mission Executive? The answer is no. The following is an example of the hierarchy and unbiblical pattern mission boards/agencies have come to. This is taken directly from the web site of a large "independent" Baptist mission agency. "Dr.___________ announced this summer that the ___________Board has approved a new position in the ____ Administration. Beginning January 1, 2002, Dr. ____________will serve as the International Vice-President (Emphasis added) for Strategic Initiative and Research (Emphasis added). ______ _________will report directly to the President working with every region of the ______ world to ensure implementation of strategic plans on each field. In his enlarged role, _____ will seek to provide a more complete missiological perspective (Emphasis added) and serve as strategic advisor and resource (Emphasis added) to our Administration, missionaries, and national partners."
What is this "new" position all about? What is "Strategic Initiative Research"? Whatever it is the churches are paying for it! What is "missiological perspective"? What makes someone a "strategic advisor and resource" person? Do you know, Pastor? If your church supports this mission agency your church is paying the salary for this "International Vice-President".
The following is from an "independent" Baptist College web site informing people of a missions module the school is sponsoring. The following describes the qualifications the man has to teach the module.
Dr. ___________________ is a graduate of ____ _____University, __________Baptist Seminary, and _________College, and has his doctoral degree in missions from _________University. He has served as a pastor, a missionary for nine years in _____, and presently as a missions executive (Emphasis added) with Baptist _____ ______."
Now what is "a missions executive"? Whatever "a missions executive" is and whatever the job description is the churches are paying the salary. Remember, mission boards/agencies do not generate their own income! Is the advice of the local church and the pastor sought for concerning the need for these "executive" positions within the structure of the mission board/agency? It would be safe to say never unless the pastor serves on the board and then his opinion may not be sought.
When a local independent Baptist church supports a missionary serving with a board/agency it is also cooperating with other churches with whom they may not agree doctrinally or methodologically. This cooperation is a break down in Biblical separation! This is disobedience! Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
It is interesting to speak to pastors who consider themselves a separatist and will not fellowship with certain churches due to (1) types of music used, (2) styles of worship, (3) speakers, (4) denominational associations, (5) camps, (6) youth clubs used, (7) Bible college associations and the list could go on. For instance one independent Baptist church has on its web site "Blended in worship (the best of the praise choruses with the best of the hymns are sung to God's glory)." This independent Baptist church supports mission agencies/boards such as Baptist Mid Missions and the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. It is not surprising then some independent Baptist churches that would not use "blended worship" music are supporting the same missionaries under these boards/agencies. Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
Another independent Baptist church has on its web site links to Sudan Interior Missions, Focus on the Family, Moody Bible Institute, Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Cornerstone University, and Baptist Mid-Missions. Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Those fundamental independent Baptist churches which will not support for example an ABWE missionary but will a Baptist Mid-Missions missionary believing Baptist Mid-Missions is more separatist are sending a mixed message. The truth is this fundamental independent Baptist church is in cooperation with this other independent Baptist church through their missions programme. Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
Still along the line of separation some independent Baptist churches will use only the King James Bible while other churches will use another version of the Bible such as NASV or NIV. Yet these two independent Baptist churches with different convictions on the Bible often support the same missionaries serving with a mission board/agency. Does the supported missionary have a conviction or only a preference of what Bible or version of the Bible he uses? Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
The list of what churches and pastors will separate over could go on but this separated fundamental independent Baptist pastor that will not cooperate with another independent Baptist church and pastor due to music, versions, etc. will support missionaries under the same mission board/agency and think nothing about the contradiction! This certainly sends a mixed message to the people in the pew and it is open disobedience to the doctrine of Bible separation. Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
Nevertheless, there is a light amidst the darkness. There are independent Baptist churches seeking to go back to the New Testament principle of what may be called local church or biblical missions. Once a pastor or church clearly sees local church missions as that which the New Testament teaches they must confront the issue or continue in direct disobedience to Godís Word.
One of the first issues the independent Baptist pastor and church must confront is the issue of what to do with those missionaries they support with a board/agency. Let it be clear God established the local church and one of its primary tasks is to carry out His Great Commission. Matthew 28:19, 20 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." Does it matter how we carry out this Commission? Yes it does. Amos 3:3 "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?"
Below are some points which may prompt and help independent Baptist preachers and churches to consider and return to Godís Biblical programme of carrying out His Great Commission through the local church.
Local church missions is Biblical and practical. 1 Samuel 15:22 "And
Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and
sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is
better than sacrifice." May God help those who have seen the
Scriptural light to obey and follow His Word in carrying out His Great
Commission through the churches!
Missionaries David and Pamela Bennett
The Bennetts Serving the Lord in Australia Since 1979.
Address: Dr. and Mrs. Bennett, PO Box 1241 Dubbo NSW 2830, AUSTRALIA
Send Support to: The Bible For Today Baptist Church --
c/o Dr. and Mrs. Bennett Mission Fund --
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