Monday, June 18, 2007

kiss the ass that feeds you, Part I

Few people would call me a missionary. And that’s fine because I would probably never call myself one. At least, not in public. But, mentally I consider myself one. It’s a paradox, I know.

In this part one of this three part series, I hope to explore what it means to be a missionary AND to fund the financial realities of that particular mission work including the personal needs of those doing the mission work (ie: food, shelter, clothing, and hey..."those limos out back ain’t free"*).

There are three options:

1) Be employed - by some organization (like say...a church) to BE their missionary. Thus draw a paycheck of some sort from said organization. Doing the mission is exchanged for currency just like any other employment: the boss (organization) says to do X, Y, and Z (in that order) for $X amount per year. The required faith level on a scale of 1-10 (10 is highest): 1-3**.

2) “Raise support” - from various organizations and/or individuals. Thus operating exactly like #1, but with more headaches and much less financial stability. Support from any individual could end without warning. This mode seems more difficult, because instead of having just ONE “boss”, there are many “bosses”. However, these “bosses” did not establish the mission. They came in AFTER the mission was established. They found something they agreed with and chose to support it, as opposed to option #1 where a mission (job) is established and “we’ll hire you to do it”. Faith level: 4-6.

3) Support yourself - via any means necessary (employment PT or FT, investments, hustling for a buck, faith that the CEO will provide fresh manna, or all of the above). Of course, becoming employed in a job outside the original mission work always, there runs the risk of lacking time to DO the mission work, thus getting sidetracked. Experience in time juggling and prioritizing is necessary. Needed faith level:7-10+

And, of course, a mixture of all three options is a possibility. Like being part-time employed by a church and making up the rest of one’s income needs via support letters, outside work, or faith.

*Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons episode about the kid who fell in the well.

**This “faith level” thing is my personal opinion and best guess from having operated within all three options. No scientific data exists here. Also, This is not a “ranking” as to who is the better, more spiritual and faithful follower of the CEO. Just my random opinion and experience.


Leanne said...

aw, man! I was so counting on winning the faith ranking thing.

Mark said...

love the title, and i'm really looking forward to this "series". could you talk some about missionaries that I've heard about that:

1. go to a people group and are not supported until they have established a church on their mission field that chooses to support them, and

2. a part time blue-collar worker who lives with other part time blue-collar workers all of which consider themselves missionaries (i.e. Jesus People USA)

Agent B said...

Leanne - here on the agent b files, you are always a winner. Congrats.

Mark - I have no experience with #'s 1 & 2 you mention. Please share about these if you can.

My overall point in this series is to ask: is it a good or bad thing for a person to be a missionary and be financially supported by people? I have opinions, but no right or wrong answers. I hope to hear everyone else's perspectives.

I figure, if people control the purse strings of a missionary, then that missionary has to dance to the tune of the funder.

Or...kiss the funder's ass in order to put food on the table.

But if the CEO is sole financial reliance, then one only needs to be concerned with the CEO and no person's whims.

Of course, this means you won't be rich...

miller said...

"I figure, if people control the purse strings of a missionary, then that missionary has to dance to the tune of the funder.

Or...kiss the funder's ass in order to put food on the table.

interesting perspective. if those are the only two choices for missionaries who accept funds, which one do you think i am? the puppet or the ass kisser?

which was Jesus (who apparently accepted support from many) and which one was Paul?

just curious :)

Agent B said...

Miller -

I receive (very, VERY) occasional missionary support. It is random, sparse, and sometimes anonymous.

I would bet that Jesus' support was similar. Not that I am like Jesus. But that I don't think he twisted those women's arms in order to fund his basic needs.

I think Jesus asked the father. And sometimes the father provided through these women and such.

As for you...I don't know.

Do you bend your mission a little in order to receive funds?

Do you pull manipulative sales pitches in order to receive funds?

Or worse, when you give to people (missionaries or not) do you expect something in return, even if it is a simple behavior change or action change in the receiver?

Only you know the answer to these questions. I don't.

But I know and have experienced, your heart. So...I don't think you have any manipulation or ass-kissing either way.

miller said...

"Only you know the answer to these questions. I don't."

i'm sorry, i wasn't very clear. i wasn't really asking so that you could enlighten me on this point... i know my heart and my motivations as well as anyone i think :)

my point is that you offer too few options. you give an "either or situation" with no possibility for righteous support structures.

and then offer a totally subjective "faith scale" effectively placing anyone who doesn't do it your way low on the scale... that sounds suspiciously like the people you pound on for the very same thing.

just as you know me, i know and have experienced your heart. and i don't think you really believe some of the things you have written here... and maybe i've taken things too seriously when you're just flexing your weird sense of humor :)

wouldn't be the first time!


Agent B said...

The faith scale was sort of a weird sense of humor. I probably should have left that off...

Especially in light of me, having received a check from a church for almost 3 years. And knowing that on any given week that payroll might not have been met due to low sunday offerings (this is exaggeration). It takes great faith to work for a church, write support letters, or what not.

But seriously, the pay check route is a little more "stable" than the non check route. So...maybe the faith scale is accurate. I don't know.

Agent B said...

And oh yeah...

I really think these three missionary support models are the only options. Of course, there are combinations of the 3.

But if there really is a 4th, 5th, and so on...please share. I would bet whatever you come up with, it could be viewed as #1-3.

Leanne said...

I'm processing. Be warned :P
I raised support
in 2005 and ended up giving the money back when I realized the ministry I was attached to was less than............uh, what I needed it to be.

Talk about fun letters to write! *grimace*

I've also had money just appear. Sometimes exact amounts to the dollar of what I needed in ways that would flip you out and sometimes God had laid my situation on other people's hearts and they sent a check in the nick of time.

I'm not in formal ministry any longer. I tried for 3 years and it about killed me. I have yet to find a way to do it well although I do think it can be done.

Unfortunately, I'm not inclined to be bothered by those who don't get it. Some would say I'm arrogant, impatient, strong willed, lazy, intolerant.

They're so right.

For me, I just want to be left alone to do what it is I am called to do w/out input from anyone else. I kinda like to keep my work close to the vest. Just me and God.

Granted, that's something He'd like to refine out of me, which is why I tend to land on my ass alot too.

Like I said, I'm still trying to figure it out.

The one thing I absolutely will not do though, is surround myself w/ faith killers. If you can't see Divine Appointments and KNOW that manna awaits you then you're probably not someone I will spend time talking with for long and I certainly won't ask you to join me in my work.

How snotty is that?

Anymore, I have just decided to shut up and do my own thing. I'm probably not exibiting the grace and love I should but so help me, I just can't make what it is I am trying to do easier for anyone else to digest.

It's hard enough for me to swallow, for Pete's sake.

I will say, though, that there are some who have caught the vision. They are just waiting for me to step out 'formally'. Those people wouldn't be my supporters though. They'd be my partners.

It's a big case of motive, if you ask me. Can I look at someone and not have a thought in the back of my mind about how they could help me? Mostly not. I've got tons of 'me' left that tends to edge out the trust in God.

I don't know if it's just selfishness or self-preservation, but I like trusting in God alone and being open to the part-time stuff that comes my way.

Any other way I look at it, doesn't work. I am just WIRED to see ministry EVERYWHERE. It's like a disease. Makes it hard to climb the corporate ladder and cash in, like you said, but then, I've never been a material girl.

miller said...

o dude, i wasn't saying you didn't give enough support models...

i meant you basically said in your comment that its either puppet or ass kisser... i think there are more options than those two...

i think you're right about the support models.


Mark said...

I disagree that there are only three ways of seeking support. I came up with 2 on-the-fly in my previous comment (a community of missionaries supporting each other sounds pretty appealing to me!). I think it'd be neat to think creatively on as many ways God could send money to his people - it would help keep our eyes/minds/wallets open hoping he could toss some in just in the nick of time!

On the faith scale - I think since its your blog, you should feel fine to leave the scale; there's nothing wrong with being honest that some decisions require "more faith" than others.


Agent B said...

Mark -

Your #1 falls under my #1 category (work for a church, thus having human bosses). And your #2 falls under my (open ended) #3 category (support yourself via any means, like share resources with others, thus having no "boss").

I think the 3 I mentioned in the report are the only 3 basic models.

Miller - I don't see what your deal is. I didn't think I labeled only 2 options for receiving funds. Maybe I did. you have to kiss ass to receive regular support money? Or do you hype a sales pitch?

Just asking. Not pointing fingers. If there's another option I want to know it. This is a discussion.

miller said...


you said, and i quote "I figure, if people control the purse strings of a missionary, then that missionary has to dance to the tune of the funder.

Or...kiss the funder's ass in order to put food on the table.

dude, when you say its only one or the other you say that i have to either kiss ass or answer the whims of a puppeteer.

i take exception to that because i receive support every month and i do neither...

so you can say you're just asking all you want but as long as you only offer those two options you're pointing your finger at me.

the truth is that i do neither. i don't kiss the ass of anyone i'm receiving support from nor do they have the freedom to dictate to me the way i will conduct my mission. the only freedom they have is to either continue supporting me or not.

at least admit that there are perhaps many people who receive money to support their mission but aren't the ass kissing puppets you suggest.

that's what my deal is...

Agent B said...

Thanks Miller.

This is exactly what I was looking for with this series: people who support missionaries by adding no agenda.

The missionary does not have to kiss ass to do their work.

I didn't think this existed as it has never been my experience. I assume this example is rare and maybe short lived...?

Thanks for sharing.

miller said...

"I didn't think this existed as it has never been my experience. I assume this example is rare and maybe short lived...?"

possibly both...

but i really trust the people who have committed to walk with us through this.

thanks for letting me vent a little. i didn't mean to pop on ya like that... and i'm not really sure why i did.

sorry bro.


RCM- Steve said...

It was a giant step of faith to leave my church and job of 26 years to go independent and having to raise support as a local missionary. Took the Lord four years of "wrestling" to get me into obedience.

Our ministry is funded completely on donations. I am fortunate that several decades of building friendships and connections left me with a long list of people I can draw from. But so far, I haven't kissed ass or been pulled by puppet strings. I hope I don't fall into either position.

My salary? About half to two-thirds what I was making at my old church. But I'm doing okay (I put away some savings to help out during the transition time). After the "newness" of what I'm doing wears off, we'll see if it gets harder or easier to raise support.