Mission Agencies

Biblical Mission Agencies

Mission Agencies

Mission AgenciesWhat are mission agencies?

Also known as mission boards, mission agencies are organizations that send and support cross-cultural missionaries.

What types of mission agencies exist?

They range from the minimalist groups that only process donations for the missionaries and make them tax deductible for the donors to 'full service' organizations that hire and manage missionaries as employees. Many if not most of them have issues, as discussed below.

Claimed roles of mission agencies:

• Screen and qualify prospective missionaries.
• Train and counsel the missionary prior to deployment.
• Facilitate visas and other legal requirements for residing overseas.
• Guide the missionary (& family) through vaccinations, insurance and other preparations.
• Coordinate flights, cargo shipments, airport pick ups and transfers.
• Make introductions and confer credibility to local contacts and partners.
• Refer school options for language training and for the children.
• Counsel the missionary and family as they settle in and become acclimated.
• Receive and forward donations and issue tax deductible receipts to donors.
• Receive and evaluate activity reports and expenditures.
• Visit the missionary once is a while.
• Pray and encourage.

Issues with missions agencies

1.  Most fleece the flock and the missionaries

Even the minimalist agencies that only process donations charge a 6-12% commission (on top of the credit card fees), which often becomes their focus. The more donations a missionary receives, the more money the agency makes. So they pressure the missionary to constantly beg their supporters to give more. The missionary's actual work in the field becomes not the end but the means to increasing commissions for the agency, some of whom even contact and pressure the missionary's supporters directly to also support its other missionaries and/or its own operations, while others outright lie. For example, some claim the credit card processing fee is higher and keep the difference, while others add a "Please also support the agency that cares for your missionary" donation box next to or below the donation box for the missionary, and instruct the missionaries to not tell their supporters that the agency already charges a commission on the amount donated to the missionary. Most agencies are inefficient and overstaffed by people, often related to each other, with extravagant titles to justify bloated salaries that allow them to live at least comfortably in the West by siphoning from the Lord's resources intended for the frontlines.

2.  They keep in the field too many uncalled missionaries

To increase and protect their cashflow, many agencies accept missionaries who are not called, pressure them to stay in the field when they say they want to return home, and cover up scandals. Also, all cross-cultural workers, let alone cross-cultural missionaries, need to be resourceful. Missionaries who need all of the hand holding services listed above, which require extra resources and raise the cost for everyone, don't last long in the field. Missionaries who are called and empowered by God bear fruit without a mission agency; missionaries who are not called or empowered by God don't, even with a mission agency.

3.  They slow down the performing missionaries

The missionaries who don't need their hands held tend to be the ones who do the most work and bear the most fruit. Instead of letting them focus on laboring in the field, mission agencies bog them down with demands to file more reports, write more newsletters even when there is nothing new to report, do more activities to raise funds, etc., as well as bureaucracy and petty politics, etc.

4.  They lack Biblical legitimacy

The missionaries in the Bible were called, sent out, and encouraged by God (Acts 8:9-11, 23:11). In obedience to His command, the church in Antioch of Syria prayed for Paul and Barnabas and sent them on their way (Acts 13:1-4), and upon their return heard what the Lord had done through them (Acts 14:24-27). But Paul and Barnabas also "reported" to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2-4), and Paul received financial support from the church in Philippi. The Biblical role of praying for and supporting missionaries belongs to churches, which must take back this God-given duty and privilege.

5.  They have been disintermediated

In the ages when letters and missionaries crossed the earth by ships and no single church could know what the Lord is doing in distant continents, centralized missions agencies were easier to justify. Today, social media, email, and electronic fund transfer enable a missionary's supporters to financially support and keep up with the missionary in real time without going through an intermediary.

The best reason for the continued existence of missions agency arguably is to make the donations tax deductible for the donors, and this presents a ministry opportunity for any established church in the West to provide just tax deductible donation processing for the thousands of performing missionaries around the world who are seeking such help, as well as even more donors who want to be left alone to donate only when led by the Holy Spirit.

If you provide this help for free, you can legitimately claim that every missionary you serve as above is supported by you. If you cannot offer this help for free and need to charge a fee to cover your operational costs, the following scale would be far more reasonable than what the missions agencies charge today:

3% for donations under $10,000
2% for $10,000 to $99,999
1% for $100,000 and up

If you launch or already have such a ministry, please feel free to advise, and your ministry will be featured on and linked to from this site.