What if…we supported missionaries

Actions follow values, and if the actions of the ELCIC regarding missionaries was any indication of our values, we would scratch our heads.  We would be left with the realization that we have a lot to learn about global outreach.  A while back, I was very interested to find out more about our member to missionary ratio.  What I learned from a little research what very surprising.  After a few emails and a little bit of time of various denominational websites, I found the number of members in several denominations and the number of full-time missionaries supported by these faith communities.  I am not a statistician, but what I found was surprising, however you crunch the numbers.

I learned that the Christian and Missionary Alliance have 46000 members and 203 supported missionaries; that’s 1 missionary for every 226 people (226:1)

The Baptist General Conference of Canada has a ratio of 1014:1

The Pentecostals (PAOC) have 1807:1

The Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada have about 1 missionary per church (a ratio of about 300:1)

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (that’s us), we have a member to missionary ratio of 54000:1*  That’s right, fifty-four thousand to one.

Now, I concede that I am not factoring in Canadian Lutheran World Relief and the various aid agencies that each denomination supports.  But a strict look a the missionary numbers leaves us to consider that we have not been reaching out as we ought to be.  What if, in 2010, each Lutheran church was to take a group on a short-term mission trip?  What if we were to foster a longing in our communities for cross-cultural engagement?  Perhaps these experiences will inspire us to live out the Great Commission and get-out-there again.  What if we were simply not satisfied with 54000:1

For a full breakdown of my numbers, here is a PDF of my findings with footnotes, etc: Member to Missionary Ratio.  I welcome refinements to my data and the addition of data from other denominations.

*That’s not all.  As of Summer 2009, the ELCIC Long-Term missionaries will be managed by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; effectively this means that there will be no full-time missionaries in the ELCIC as of this summer. We will send any support for long-term missionaries to the ELCA. The Volunteers in Missions program (VIM) will be cut and any mission volunteers will have to work with our American counterparts in Chicago. Both staff people managing these missionary efforts have lost their jobs as a result of this restructuring. Instead of expanding missions, the ELCIC National Church Council has seen fit to cut missions.


6 Responses to What if…we supported missionaries

  1. Christina says:

    I would definitely like that to be more of a priority for the ELCIC that is striving to be “In Mission for Others”.

  2. Pastor Erik says:

    Hey Preston,
    The state of our Missions Program in the ELCIC is scary. And a big part of the ELCIC’s problem is that we over extended ourselves in the early going. We have six Bishops, two seminaries, a few other schools and many programs here and there. One synod in Minneapolis with comparable membership has One Bishop, and partially supports one seminary. The infrastructure problems of the ELCIC are coming back to catch up with us, and its easier to cut missions than to do the hard work of merging into one western synod.
    I also totally agree that our Missionaries need to be much higher on the priority list.
    However, I think the our programs like CLWR must be much more heavily factored into your equation. And you must consider organizations like World Mission Prayer League (wmpl.org, which according to their website has a ratio of 6000 members to 120 full time workers, or 50:1) WMPL and CWLR are remnants of our past when early 20th century Lutherans, especially Scandinavian Lutherans, did missions through organizations outside of the institutional church. The Norwegian Mission Society has been one of the most active mission organizations in the world over the past 100 years.
    CLWR is one of the most highly regard relief and development agencies in Canada. Part of our seminary program is to visit one of their sites. In Peru, there was one ELCIC pastor working as a missionary, who had literally created a national Lutheran church out of nothing, and CLWR was sponsoring several full time workers and dozens of programs including one school that had created a curriculum that was soon going to become the national standard.

    While I agree that the ELCIC needs more missionaries and I am sad to see our program being farmed out to the ELCA, its a product of our over extended infrastructure. And all this keeping mind that the ELCIC has done missions in very different ways than traditional church sponsored missionaries in the past 25 years since its birth.

    Pastor Erik

  3. Preston says:

    Very good thoughts. I appreciate your comments about the value of CLWR, and I agree, we do need to factor them more strongly into the equation.
    Many of these organizations were started generations ago and I wonder if we, in our generation, need to be catalysts for a new missional movement? I grew up in a denomination that placed a high value on over-seas cross-cultural ministry. Many young people aspired to be missionaries and annual short-term mission trips to Eastern Europe, Africa, and South America were all normative in my childhood congregation. Today we send some money, but fail to experience (and thus value) missions ourselves.

  4. Ty Ragan says:

    Hi Preston,
    I would like to raise the question on how we are defining missionaries? If we are to be the missional incarnate church within our communities then each pew warmer is a missionary to their own ministry in the word whether that is being a parent, a co-worker, however God has called us to live in faith in this world.

  5. Preston says:

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that every person in the pew is a missionary in their community. I also believe that ever person in the pew is a pastor (if we take the priesthood of all believers seriously). Yet we still train, hire, and pay pastors, and rightly so.

    Similarly, I think we need to train and support missionaries. I spent time at the Xingu Mission Porto de Moz base in Brazil and was inspired by what supported missionaries can do. Richie and Cristie are base leaders there, they have river boats to deliver medical aid, water filters, and the hope of Jesus up and down the Xingu River. They find money to send local leaders to Bible School for a year or two in Southern Brazil so that they can return to lead the growing church in rural areas. They provide jobs to local people who build and deliver water filters, and they’ve seen thousands of North Americans come down and contribute in meaningful ways; returning to their homes transformed. My wife, cousin, and friends are all mission-minded because of a few (supported) missionaries in Brazil. It spreads like wild-fire through the church. It’s a fire we in the ELCIC need to light up again.

    I agree that we are all pastors, but we need a Pastor to learn what that means. Likewise we are all missionaries, but we need Missionaries like Richie and Christie to blaze the trail, learn the language, and show us what it all looks like.

    ‘Missional’, for some, has become an excuse to stay in Canada and close our wallets. But that’s not missional at all, we’re called to get out there. I hope we do.

  6. Ty Ragan says:

    Hmmm…intriguing thoughts, when in Seminary I was apart of a short term missions research consortium that struggled with the question of what was mission, what did this mean to look like? Is this still a valid way of ministering travelling to other lands as the western church? Especially when we look to the South (America) and all the lawsuits that have cropped up over the frauds of Short-Term Vacation Missions.
    Now, having said all this, it is true that spiritual formation can come from missionary work in other lands, but this formation can happen by being “missional” in our own land, how many shelters, food banks, etc. can use our support and hands?
    It takes me back to something we once attempted a few years ago in Ottawa, closing the churches Easter Sunday and mobilizing to go out and make a true impact in celebration of the resurrection.
    There are many times in the year when several Mosques in Calgary close for the weekends and all members mobilize through the shelter system in service, what if churches did this?
    So my challenge when I read the word missional is actually defining what it is that we are asking of one another?

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