We independent Baptists pride ourselves in being independent. But are we really independent? When it comes to missions, I would argue that we are not. In missions we support missionaries for 25-300 dollars a month. Is that all the money it takes to send them to the field? No, there are other churches and individuals that help them out as well. So in that sense, we are not independent, but rather have an unorganized cooperation.
We cooperate with more churches to send our missionaries to the field. We just do not know who those churches are. What we really have is multiple consortiums. Each missionary family represents one consortium of churches working together to send that missionary family.
Can we reverse our unorganized cooperation? It would be impossible to convince all us independents to revamp our whole missions system at one time, but we can start trends now that will make a difference over time. Here are a couple trends to start us off.
First, organize and know your missionaries. Sometimes missionaries are off the field and you don’t even know it! Assign small groups to a missionary or a member of your mission team to concentrate on certain missionaries. If a prayer request arises or any other needs, those in your church can be one of the first to know. They can also send encouraging notes to the missionary.
Second, instead of finding new missionaries to support, consider raising your current missionary’s support. Not to say you never support a new missionary, because new missionaries are needed, but your missionaries are probably also looking for new support from somewhere. It can either come from a new church, which means more money and time spent going somewhere else, or it can come from you, which means less spreading out on the missionary’s part.
Third, consider some type of consortium. A consortium is a group of churches that support the same missionaries. If one church is sending out a missionary, the other churches pledge to support that missionary in agreement that the sending church will support the other church’s missionaries. In the past, traditional consortiums have had varied success. Consortiums can be hard to maintain because of the imbalance in churches with sending missionaries. If church A sends out 2 missionaries and church B sends out 10 missionaries, church A may not have the capacity to support 10 missionaries, so church A gets mad because they are not fulfilling their agreement...
But what if you were creative in finding the benefits of the consortium and partnered with a couple other churches in your area to support some of the same missionaries? You might even do it already. Most pastors have pastor friends in the area; coordinate with them on supporting the same missionaries and then plan how you can take advantage of meeting with them at the same time. See if between a few area churches, you can take on a good percentage of that missionary’s support.
The key to all this is time. To make these moves all at once would be nearly impossible, but start the trends that will make the difference over time.