“And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.” Acts 14:25-27
In this modern era of church history, most pastors, churches, and missions agencies are used to the tradition of missionaries going on deputation to raise financial support before going to their respective fields. I will start off by saying that the first century missionaries did not go on deputation. God told the church to send them, and they left almost immediately. As you read this article please keep in mind that deputation is a tradition. I am not against deputation. It is a very useful tool as we will find out in this article and the following one. The title will probably turn some heads and cause others to scratch theirs. Some will even consider it controversial although that is not my intent. I want to help pastors, churches, and missionaries understand and have a profitable deputation.
The verses above would be more applicable to missionaries coming back for furlough. Paul and Barnabas have gone on their journey, won many people to Christ, and started many churches. Now they are coming back to their sending church to give a report. As stated above, the early missionaries did not go on deputation; they trusted God to take care of them as they went. Having said that, we can learn a lot about deputation from these men and from this passage. I often wonder what the Apostle Paul would say concerning modern missions, and, in this case, deputation. The principles expressed in this work will help pastors support more missionaries, and they will help missionaries get to the field in a timely manner.
Deputation is not about raising money! Most missionaries are told to go on deputation to raise monetary funds to survive on the mission field. If that is the missionary’s goal, he will be severely disappointed. There are also pastors who groan when they hear the voicemail or read the email from a missionary asking to visit the churches to present their particular field. Some churches try to cut to the chase by telling the missionary that they cannot take them on for financial support. Both of these attitudes are not good.
Look back to the verses. They went to the mission field and came back to tell what God had done and what God had put on their heart for the future. They were just getting started, and they were excited about it. Paul and Barnabas wanted the sending/supporting church to get excited about it also. Money was the last thing on their minds. How does this tie in to modern missions? Most missionaries take a survey trip and come back to tell the wonderful things God wants to do among the people in their field.
In another article we will discuss what deputation is about. Before we get there, we must see what deputation is not about. It is not about money. The following are some reasons why deputation is not about money:
Your heavenly Father already knows what you need. “Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8) God already knows how much the missionary needs and where the money will come from. Besides, we are supposed to ask God for the monetary support. The verse does not say, “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask other Baptist churches for support.”
This was the philosophy of George Muller and J. Hudson Taylor. Hudson Taylor never asked people for money or recruits. A missionary who signed up for the China Inland Mission had to sign a contract which said they would only ask God for financial support not any humans. Their trust was to be in God only. The missionary and the supporting pastor must ask themselves who they are trusting. Deputation is not about raising money because God wants the missionary to trust Him for the support. Deputation is not about raising money because God wants the pastors to trust Him for the support to give. That is why it is called Faith Promise.
There are more important things in your life and ministry than money. “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:11) Christ here is speaking of taking care of the money you have, so you can be trusted with bigger things. There are things bigger than money? Yes, sir. There are things more important than money? Yes, sir. He said true riches as if money was of false value. And it is of false value. What kinds of things are true riches? How about winning souls as you are on deputation? How about Christians making decisions for Christ while you are on deputation? How about your supporting churches seeing a Holy Spirit-filled man preach the gospel of Christ? The churches a missionary goes to should be better off after he leaves, or that missionary has not done his job. Paul and Barnabas were concerned with the church in Antioch being more involved in missions after they left. As a result, their merry band split in two, and they got twice as much done for God. Barnabas got John Mark back in the saddle, and Paul got Silas, the new guy. Anyone would say that what those two men accomplished for God was better than any amount of money in the world!
The missionary and the pastor who are only concerned with money in missions are going to miss some blessings that God has for them. “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (I Timothy 6:10) At the very least the missionary who is concerned with money is going to be very disappointed and discouraged when deputation does not go as planned. At the worst that missionary will compromise what he believes just to raise support.
Besides that, God is not going to do for that missionary or pastor what He had planned to do. Many times Christ went somewhere and could not do many miracles because of their unbelief and hardness of heart. What makes us think that God works any differently 2,000 years later? I understand that a pastor could not possibly have every missionary in who calls, but money should not be the reason he turns the missionary down from coming. Mr. Missionary, remember that being a blessing is the greatest blessing.
Now that you know what deputation is not about, you are able to be equipped to have a successful deputation. This is the reason why both missionaries and pastors must stay close to God. Missionary, let God guide what you say and how you say it when you call churches for meetings. Pastor, let God guide you in deciding what missionary should come and if the church should financially support him.