Some folks have asked about my ideas regarding missions outreach.  We have a number of folks who are from non-churched and denominational church backgrounds who may not understand how non-denominational churches do missions.  So I’ll take this issue to spell out the process.  Let’s get acquainted with some basic missions jargon:

Mission:  The task of spreading the biblical message of Jesus Christ. 

Missionary:  The person who spreads that message is a missionary.  So to some degree, we’re all missionaries.

Mission Field:  The particular place or country where the missionary goes to spread the message.  Palau is Rob Watt’s mission field;  the greater Berks County area is our mission field.  So is your neighborhood…and your school…and your workplace.

Evangelizing:  Preaching the gospel and seeking to convert people to Christianity.  This is also known, pejoratively, as proselytizing.

Church-planting:  Traditionally, the main purpose of missions – convert people and teach them to put together their own congregation that keeps the mission going among their own people.

    All churches have missionaries, but if you’re from a denominational church background you might not have known much about missionaries because those denominational missionaries tend to be sent by denominational headquarters, not by the individual churches.  The denominational churches just send money to the headquarters, a percentage of which covers missionaries.  The headquarters’ missions department decides which missionaries go to which fields and with how much money.  Denominational headquarters also takes care of processing all of the visas and finances and flights and shipping and international relations.

    Independent non-denominational churches operate differently.  Each church is essentially its own denomination, and it is very difficult for one church to completely finance a missionary AND put someone on staff to handle that missionary’s finances, flights and international relations.  Instead, mission-minded people have developed mission boards that focus on particular missions.  A mission board is a parachurch ministry, i.e. an organization that works alongside of churches.  A missionary-to-be chooses a mission board that works with missionaries going to a particular field or doing a particular type of work.  The missionary goes through preparatory candidate classes to learn about the culture and language and the how-to’s of his mission field.  Once this orientation is completed, the independent missionary begins the process of deputation.  Deputation usually takes about three years of going to various churches, presenting your mission and hoping that the church will give you financial support on a monthly basis.  A church that gives support is called a supporting church;  the missionary’s home church which usually provides the largest percentage of supporters is called the sending church. 

    The average cost per month for a single missionary is $3000; a married missionary with children will be much more than that.  In order to get on the field the missionary must have commitments for at least 80% of his support, plus the funds necessary to ship him and all of his stuff to the field (that can be anywhere from $25,000 - $50,000, depending on what needs to be shipped and where).

    The missionary is an extension of his supporting churches;  he is essentially part-time staff for each of those churches.  Traditionally a missionary went to his chosen field for four years and would then come home to the United States for a one-year rest, called furlough.  Some missions have shortened the terms to two or three years with furloughs of six to eight months. While on furlough, missionaries return to their supporting churches and give reports of what is going on with their mission; many times, because of rising costs or unstable economies where they minister, they have to raise additional support during furlough.  Furlough is not vacation.

    The purpose of the missionary is to spread the gospel of Christ.  Traditionally this has been done through church-planting.  Increasingly, however, people around the world are hostile to proselytizing and now many missions focus on providing medical help or hospital care, care of the poor or orphans, education or some other non-religious humanitarian work.  Such assistance becomes the door for conversation, the forming of relationships with the native population, and the preaching of the gospel for the establishment of churches.

    Presently, MVC supports four missionaries:
Bill & Kathy Miller are planting churches in Brazil with CrossWorld Mission
1)   The Millers have been supported by MVC since before I was the pastor, and back in the 1970’s Bill was pulpit-supply for our chapel while he was a student at Lancaster Bible College.

2)   Alan & Deanna Heathcote are planting churches in South Africa under Biblical Ministries Worldwide

3)   George & Linda Hege, former assistant pastor at Colebrookdale Chapel, a sister church of MVC, started ministry under Liebenzell Mission USA ( in Ecuador taking the gospel to a mountain tribe (the Cuaiquer) that had never heard.  Once the first Cuaiquer believers were established, the Hege’s came home and are presently using their Spanish skills to plant a multiethnic church outside of Reading, PA  (Muhlenburg Area Community Church).

4)   MVC’s former youth pastor and worship leader, Rob Watt, is also serving with Liebenzell USA, pastoring an English-speaking congregation and establishing a branch campus of Pacific Islands Bible College on the island of Palau.

    Each of these missionaries has a bulletin board on the wall by our sound room.  On each board are pictures and maps, as well as literature and monthly updates regarding each missionary’s work.
Feel free to browse and take some home.

In next month’s issue I’d like to mention some particular problems that I think need to be addressed regarding missions and the missions process, and the future of missions at MVC.