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Should I as an individual support a missionary?

Posted by Matt Postiff February 20, 2020 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology 

From time to time the question arises as to whether a believer in the church should support a missionary as an individual, instead of through the church. While I cannot Biblically prohibit the practice of individual supporters, I have encouraged anyone who asks to channel their financial support for missions through the church instead of apart from it. I am aware that many missionaries receive a large percentage of their support from individuals instead of churches, and that some mission agencies direct their missionaries to seek such support. I am not under any delusion that this post will persuade everyone to stop the practice.

Our approach of emphasizing that missionary financial support should come through the local church has several advantages:

  • It allows the entire church the blessing of partnering with and praying for the missionary instead of only a single individual or family partaking of that blessing.
  • It protects the missionary in that when the individual donor is no longer able to give, the church can provide a buffer and continue supporting the missionary. We try to be very conservative with how many missionaries we take on for support so that we do not have to eliminate any from support. You can imagine what happens to a missionary if they get word that such-and-such supporter has died and is no longer sending money monthly. That has a real impact on ministry.
  • It protects the church members when a missionary comes and “tugs at the heart strings” of those who are vulnerable to an emotional type of appeal. More objective factors and a careful evaluation are in order before we support a missionary (see 2 John 8-11).
  • It helps put the emphasis in missions at the local church level, where it should be, instead of at the level of the parachurch group or agency.
  • It protects the donor with the additional “insider knowledge” and expertise of the church’s pastor and deacons to watch over the missionary and his or her sending organization, doctrinal fidelity, philosophy of ministry, and the like.

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