What About Mission Boards
by Robert Breaker III
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I've recently finished reading several books about "Missions," and I've found that there are two camps within our ranks of Independent Baptists when it comes to the topic of "Mission Boards." Some say that Mission Boards are "anti-biblical" and are not to be tolerated in any form. Others accept them (and yea even look down upon a Missionary without a Mission Board), as they believe they are essential in the furthering of taking the gospel to foreign lands. While one camp stands dogmatically against any Mission organization, the other camp passively accepts them without searching the scriptures to see if they have a Bible origin. But where did Mission boards come from? Are they in the Bible? Does a Missionary need a "Mission Board" to help him or send him to the Mission field? Let us attempt to answer the following questions and more. But first let us look to see where "Mission Boards" originated.
The very first "Mission Board" was started not by a church, but by the English government in 1649. On July 27th, an act of Parliament established the "Corporation of the Promoting and Propagation the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England." Those who were in charge of this organization (the board members if you will), were given authority to acquire lands, goods, and money in their attempt to reach the Indians and Colonists with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then in 1701, William III of England chartered another society that was organized by the English Episcopalians. He was the head of this board and fixed the tenure for certain ecclesiastics. This organization had connections with a church, but was given its authority by Parliament and the King. Following down through history we find another "Board" organized in North Olser, Denmark in June of 1721. Then the well-known Moravians at Hernhutt, Germany in 1732 became very active in Missions as they to organized their efforts to evangelize the heathen.
But, probably the most known of Mission Boards is the renowned, "Baptist Missionary Society" (1792) in which "the father of Modern Missions," William Carey, had a part in starting. This society was instituted by Baptist pastors and did not come from the state, a King, a church, or a government, but from a denomination. From 1792 on there have been many more "Societies," "Boards," and "Organizations" instituted for the purpose to carry the gospel to foreign lands. For example: The London Missionary Society (1795), The Church Missionary Society (1799), The Netherlands Missionary Society (1797), The Basel Mission (1815), The China Inland Mission, etc.
But, where were "Mission Boards" and "Societies" before the 1600's? Did such a thing exist? Were they necessary to propagate the gospel? The answer is clear that they did not exist. Nor were they necessary, as the gospel was preached without them just like it was preached in the days of the apostles and the early church fathers. So what profit then hath a Mission board? And how did they become so widely accepted? Let us not just ask these questions and more, but let us ask the more important question, "What is the fruit of Mission Boards today?"
In the days in which we live, many Missionaries will not be allowed to speak in the typical local church unless they have a Mission board. But, what does the Bible say about "Mission Boards?" As we have already established, Mission boards are not found in the word of God. In fact, they are a relatively new invention that has been created to try to get not only missionaries, but the gospel out to as many different places in our world as they possible can. But, the question must needs be asked: "Are Mission Boards a good thing or a bad thing?"
Through my studying, I've come to the conclusion that "Mission Boards" can either be a help or a hindrance to the gospel depending upon how they carry out their means. Lest I lose some of you before you read the rest of this article, let me say that I have a Mission Board. As a Missionary to Honduras, I am part of Bible Baptist Missions which is a part of my home church, Bible Baptist Church. Thus, I am not "anti-Mission Board." However, there are some things that I have seen going on today that are quite disturbing when it comes to Missions and there are some preoccupations that I have in regards to many of the modern Mission "boards" that exist today. Let me explain.
About the only place in the Bible that you could find any type of "board" that helped a Missionary would be found in Acts 27:44. In this verse we find the apostle Paul shipwrecked and having to abandon ship in order to save his life and get safely to shore. The verse says, "...some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land." It would be stretching it, but you could say that if Paul was one of those on a "board" that floated him safely to shore, that the "board" helped that missionary! Now, I know that is stretching things, but I say that to say this, "The primary reason that Mission Boards were established were to help missionaries, and not to rule over them, nor tell them what to do!"
We live in a day and age of apostasy. The word "apostasy" means a falling away. And this is exactly what has happened with many Christians today in regards to sound doctrine. In fact, they've forgotten what God said and have gone about to "change the rules." Rather than do it God's way, they've decided to do it their way. Is this not what Laodicea did, as she kicked God out of the church?
Today we have Mission Boards who think the Great Commission was given to them rather than the local church. And for this reason, they have downgraded the local church and uplifted their organizations as the most important institution in the land. By so doing, they have slowly exalted themselves above the Saviour, and have stolen the rights that God has given to the church. Let's look at some examples.
When I was on deputation traveling to many different churches trying to raise some support to come to Honduras as a Missionary, I heard many missionaries tell Pastors that they were "sent out of such and such a Mission Board." But, is this the truth? According to the Bible, a Missionary is sent out of his local church. Notice with me if you will what Acts 13:4 says about Paul and Barnabas: "And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." The "they's" refers to the church. So it was the church that sent them to the field, and not the Mission board. That's not all. Look with me at verse 4. It states, "So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus." This time the "they's" refer to Barnabas and Paul, and it was the Holy Ghost who sent them! So one must be careful when they say that a Mission Board sends Missionaries, for the Bible says that it's the church and the Holy Spirit that does the sending. Let us not be so foolish as to call the Mission board God, nor mistake it for the local church.
Another thing that is very important is that the local church is to play a key part in the Missionary's ministry. God gave authority to the local church to carry out the Great Commission. He told his hand picked men to go unto all the world and preach the gospel. He told them to teach them the truth. And, it was the church that was supposed to take up the slack and help them do this. The Missionary's authority is derived from his church. But, in this day and age in which we live, there are Mission boards that think they have authority over the Missionary. They believe it's their duty to tell them what to do, where to go, and how long they can stay there. But, wasn't God supposed to be in control of this? Wasn't God the one who called the Missionary to the field, and then sustained him there? Wasn't he supposed to yielded to God and His control rather than that of a man?
Sadly, in the day in which we live, some Mission Boards have tried to take God's place. They want to control a Missionary and tell him what he can and can't do in the ministry into which God has called him. And at times, I have even heard of Mission Boards trying to "play God" by telling a person where they should go with the gospel!
I remember a missionary I met one time who was working in Honduras. While sitting at his table eating, I asked him to tell me his testimony and how God called him to the field of Honduras. His answer was that he wanted to go to Mexico, but when he went to his Mission board and told them about it, they told him that they needed a man to go to Honduras, and that he should go there instead. Well, that didn't add up to me, so I asked him again, "So, when did God call you to Honduras?" He had no answer. I wondered about that for sometime. And, I think that if the truth be known, that Mission Board is the one who called that Missionary to Honduras, and God never had a say so in the matter. How important it is to make sure that you are called by God to go to a certain place (or places). How awful it would be to hit the Judgment Seat of Christ and have God tell you that he wanted you to go somewhere else, but you weren't listening to his voice. You were listening to a Mission Board who tried to take his place.
When a Mission board gets to the point where it says that it "sends out Missionaries." It has usurped the role of the church. When it tries to control Missionaries rather than help them, it has usurped the Position of God the Holy Spirit and has in reality made itself God.
We have even reached a day and age when Mission Boards have made it a requirement for a Missionary to "tithe" to them. This idea definitely did not come from the Bible! Now, I do not believe in a tithe per se. I believe that in the O.T. they were commanded to give a tithe under the law. But, before the Law, Abraham gave 10 % to Mechisidek. Because of this, we have many today who say that because we are not under the law but under grace like Abraham, we too are under bondage to give 10% as well. I don't believe that. I believe and have always believed that because we are not under the law, and under grace, we should give more then just 10 %. Why? Because if a Jew under the law that doesn't have eternal life is commanded to do so, and a man before the law gave it because he wanted to, how much more should a child of God with all the benefits of New Testament salvation (eternal life, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, given God's righteousness, etc) give to God who gave so much to him? I believe every child of God who is saved by faith in the blood ought to give more than just a measly 10% to God. I think he ought to give more! And, then give a Mission's offering on top of that! But, I don't believe that this offering is to go to any "board." It should be given to God. And, a Mission Board has no right to demand that it be given to them. Whatever that Missionary gives is between him and God. And what he gives should be given willingly, and with a cheerful heart (2 Cor. 9:7).
Sadly, we live in a day and age of "Mission Board" madness. Where the Mission Board has replaced the local church. Nowadays, all you need is a Mission Board rather than a church, for many say that they are the ones that send you, call you, and tell you what to do once you get to the field. But, is this right according to the Bible?
That leads to a very important question. Does the Mission board have a right to tell the missionary what to do? I've heard many stories from many Missionaries who say that their Mission Board tells them that they must do this, or must do that. But is this scriptural? I believe the answer is "No!" That Missionary is to be in subjection to two people. First and foremost to God, and his directing and leading. And secondly, he is to yield himself to the spiritual authority of his pastor (Hebrew 13:17) who is praying for him, and sincerely concerned for him and wants to help him in anyway he can to continue to get the gospel out. A Mission Board is given no special powers or authorites according to the word of God. But, so many boards today have tried to put a Missionary under them and make them submit to them. Is this correct? Clearly the answer is "No!" Someone just wants power, and money. And the truth is that there is "big business" nowadays in Missions. Not too much money comes into the local church for Missions. But, if you can get 40 or 50 Missionaries traveling around the country on deputation for support to come under your authority and make them tithe to you (the Mission board), you can become very rich! Truly the word of God is correct when it says, "The love of money is the root of all evil."
Just like that board helped Paul to float to shore, so ought a Mission Board help Missionaries today. They ought to realize that they have no real authority given to them from the Bible, and they are an organization that has been formed only to help the furtherance of the gospel. Shame on any "Board" that tries to steals a "tithe" from a missionary that belongs to God! Shame on any "society" that tries to take the place of God and hinder his leading of each Missionary. And double shame on any Man who starts a "Mission Board" who does it for the wrong motive. It should be only to help the gospel go out, and not to put Missionaries under them. Mission Organizations must realize that they have a tremendous opportunity to win rewards in glory if they will help Missions rather than try to control Missions and Missionaries.
So, in closing, let me say that I'm not against Mission Boards. I think they are a tremendous tool to any Missionary. But, I am against those Mission Boards that have set themselves up to replace God, the local Church, and the Pastor. These organizations have become a hindrance to the gospel rather than a help. What a Mission Board ought to be is a helper to those that are being sent to a foreign field by their own church. And, God knows that a missionary needs all the help that he can get! I thank God for my Mission Board. They do not try to control me in anyway. Nor do they demand a tithe. They live by faith just as I do. Nor do they claim to have sent me to the field of Honduras. They don't want bragging rights on me. They genuinely love souls, and want to help me as I try to win people to Christ here on a foreign field. How about you Missionary? Are you at liberty to do what God has called you to do? Or are you in bondage to an organization that tries to control you, usurp the authority of your local church, and make themselves your God?