Just a few minutes ago, I launched a very scary website. In fact, unless your backbone is strong, your stomach is not easily unsettled, and your mind is capable of thinking in terms of the ridiculous, I wouldn’t go there. . .www.usdebtclock.org. . .The US national debt is hovering around $16 trillion; yes, that’s five groups of numbers to the left of the decimal. And, that means every US citizen (oh yeah, this does not affect non-citizens who do not contribute to the US tax system but mooch off our economy), young and old, is beholding to the Federal Government for about $51 thousand dollars. But that’s not the real picture. Total US debt, whatever that is, is almost $57 trillion and total US unfunded liabilities [programs paid for by the feds for which there is no actual money on account] are over $120 trillion. See what I mean. Somebody get out the strapping tape; my head is going to explode.
While it’s ridiculous, it’s not surprising. Many, if not most Americans, believe someone somewhere has an endless supply of dollars. Well, they sorta do–so long as you understand that when the feds print paper money, it’s no good, worthless. We are “in the hole” so far we will never get out.
I don’t know about you, but at my house we don’t live that way. We can’t. Why? We’d go to jail. Those same feds would come looking for us. If I don’t pay my phone bill, it gets cut off. If I don’t pay my utility bill, my lights go out and all the food in my fridge spoils. If I don’t show up for work and meet my obligation to the tax code. . .it’s prison for me.
Actually, that kind of strikes me as a bit funny. A local politician went to federal prison [make that, Camp Politico] a couple of years ago for taking some huge bribes. A few days ago he got out. Now, he’s trying to get his “rights” back so he can vote, carry a gun, and run again for office. Sadly, he has a pretty good chance. And if he runs for office, he’ll probably win because a lot of ignorant people will cast their vote for someone who will continue to enable them to live off the hard work of others. But I digress.
I don’t have a lot of dollars and I certainly don’t have a lot of sense, but I didn’t just fall off the tater truck either. I know what the Bible says about money. So as I try my best to follow the mandate to tithe [that’s 10% of ALL I have–before taxes] and give an offering to the work of God in my local church, God blesses me and my family in ways that to most people don’t make sense.
That brings me to the real reason for this blog. A couple of weeks ago, I was in a local business talking to the owner about the mission work I’m doing in South America. I shared with him how, in the last couple of years, my church has moved from giving a couple thousand dollars for international work to more than $50K and this year the figure will approach $100K with an eye toward $200K in the next couple of years. That just doesn’t make sense, does it? In a relatively small church with a budget about $250K, how in the world, and why in the world would we spend that much on missions, domestic and foreign?
That was his question. Why are you spending so much overseas when there are so many here in America who need the Gospel? BTW, every time I hear that excuse for not participating in and supporting missions, I know it means that individual isn’t doing squat in America nor around the world. But I guess I ought to answer the question, shouldn’t? First, we’re doing evangelism in America. Our youth pastor goes to downtown Memphis on weekend nights and feeds the homeless while telling them about Jesus. Our children’s pastor works diligently through AWANA and our bus ministry to reach kids and their parents with the Gospel. Our worship pastor leads door-to-door and referral outreach. We do weekend backpacks of food for elementary children in our community, sending home Gospel tracts and offering other helps to families. And that doesn’t include so many other ways we try to do what God has called us to do.
Don’t think for a moment we’re looking for a pat-on-the-back either. It is a privilege to reach out with the love of God in our community. But WHAT ABOUT the rest of the world? Well, let me put it this way. I think our annual budget is probably in line with most other average American churches. It costs about $1,250 per year per person to “do church” in America. I’m sure that cost rises as the size of a church increases.
Here’s the point. We can fund a church planter and his family in most South American countries for a year for less than $10,000. While it takes hours of scouring in American communities to find a family that will admit they are unchurched and show much if any interest in hearing about God, on the foreign field it’s not like that; at least not where we’re working.
I can put 100 Gospel tracts in my pocket, go to a village in southern Peru, get of the car on a dusty street, go door-to-door until the tracts are exhausted and expect at least two things to happen in the hour or so it takes to hand them out. About 95 of the 100 hands that gladly take the tract will stop what they are doing and read it right then. About half of those who read it will listen to a Gospel presentation. And at least 25% of them will respond positively to the Gospel by either accepting an invitation to church (and they will actually show up) or by accepting Christ right then and there as Lord of their life. Oh yeah, most of the ones who show up later for church get saved! That’s how we start churches, by the way.
Travel in and out of South America is admittedly expensive. But beyond that expense, everything else is not only reasonable, it is dirt-cheap. It costs about $10.00 per year per person in the villages to do church. So tell me, which makes more dollar-sense, spending more and more where people largely ignore the truth, or taking it where they will listen and respond? I know, it’s both and.