Mission Agencies

Biblical Mission Agencies

Mission Agencies

Mission AgenciesWhat are mission agencies?

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

What types of mission agencies exist?

They range from the minimalist mission agencies that simply make donations to the missionary tax deductible and forward the donations received, less commission, to the missionary, to 'full service' mission agencies, including some that hire and support the missionaries as employees. The discussion below focuses on the full service mission agencies.

Roles of mission agencies

• Screen and qualify prospective missionaries.
• Train and counsel the missionary prior to deployment.
• Guide the missionary (& family) through vaccinations, insurance and other preparations.
• Facilitate visas and other legal requirements for entering and residing overseas.
• Coordinate flights, cargo shipments, airport pick ups and transfers.
• Counsel the missionary and family as they settle in and become acclimated.
• Refer school options for children and language training programs.
• Make introductions and confer credibility to local contacts and partners.
• Transfer knowledge, pray and encourage.
• Provide tax deductibility for support donations and issue receipts to donors.
• Forward support and facilitate contributions to retirement pension.
• Receive and evaluate the missionary's reports on ministry activities and expenditures.
• Communicate with the missionary regularly and visit the missionary periodically.
• Provide supervision and ensure accountability.
• Coordinate furloughs and emergency (medical) repatriation.
• Advocate for the release of abducted missionaries.

The issues with mission agencies

1.  They are costly

Staffed by Westerners living in the West, many mission agencies have "leaders" whose salaries exceed $100,000 and who work in headquarters that would be considered opulent by the people they aim to evangelize, as well as by many donors.

2.  Many push fundraising

Mission agencies that keep a percentage of the support raised by the missionaries often push them to raise more money, so that they can keep more of it.

3.  They keep more dead weight in the field

All of the above services enable people who shouldn't be in the mission field stay longer in it, requiring disproportionate resources to be dedicated to them, which in turn raises the costs for everyone else, including the performing missionaries.

4.  They slow down the performing missionaries

The missionaries who don't need their hand held tend to be the ones who bear the most fruit. Instead of laboring in the harvest, mission agencies often bog down filing reports, dealing with bureaucracy, petty politics and jealousies.

5.  They lack Biblical legitimacy

The missionaries in the Bible were called, sent out, encouraged and accountable directly by and to God. In obedience to His command, the church in Antioch of Syria prayed for Paul and Barnabas sent them on their way,* and upon their return heard what the Lord had done through them.** But Paul and Barnabas also "reported" to the church in Jerusalem,*** and Paul was financed and encouraged, not supervised, by the churches, let alone a mission agency.


1.  Will a missionary who is called and empowered by God fail in the mission field because of the absence of support from a mission agency?

2.  Will a "missionary" who isn't called or empowered by God succeed in the field because of the support of a mission agency?

3.  If mission agencies are succeeding why do about half of their missionaries fail to last until or beyond their first furlough?

4.  In the internet age of real-time knowledge transfer, is the importance of mission agencies increasing or decreasing?

5.  Do mission agencies exist to do what the churches can't do or won't do?

6.  Is the top priority of those who staff and lead mission agencies their jobs or the Lord's harvest abroad?

7.  Do they make the same sacrifices at home that they ask their missionaries to make abroad?

8.  Are the donors transparently informed how much of their donations for the missionaries are spent by the mission agency in the West?

9.  To what extent do mission agencies try to professionalize the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit?

10.  If the role of mission agencies was reduced to just making donations tax deductible, how much more resources will flow to the mission field?

* Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. (Acts 13:1-4)

** And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed. Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. (Acts 14:24-27)

*** Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren. And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them. (Acts 15:2-4)