Fiscal Cliff,  Missions

The Real Fiscal Cliff

However much money we end up surrendering to Washington next year, one thing is for certain – not one cent of it will go towards the cause of global evangelization. If we topple over the cliff on the first day of 2013 we may be able to afford extra health care, but it is pretty certain that we will, as a nation, support less global mission.

My father-in-law, a veteran missionary, always used to say that the American global missions enterprise was directly connected to God’s hand of providence. Since the impulse of the Spirit is global missions, so goes the means to do it.

However, just because God supplies the means for mission, does not mean those who give are guaranteed a life of plenty. In 1941, my father-in-law, in his first post as a pastor in the US, told his congregation to first give to missions and then to the local church: “I explained to my congregation that I wanted them to give priority to their missionary giving. I asked them to give to missions and then to think about their pastor.” God provided for my father-in-law and his wife, but his admonition was at considerable cost to his own welfare. His salary amounted to whatever was placed in the “free-will offering.” The consequence for the family dinner table was that sometimes he had to shoot whatever edible critter came into his yard. Sometimes venison was served, but among the meals in the Conley house were woodchuck, rabbit and squirrel.

If we go over the fiscal cliff it does not mean we wont be able to continue to fund missions; it just might mean more personal cost – less venison and more squirrel.

Perhaps the American impulse for missions is in decline. Competing economies may, one day, hold the fore in missions. I am thinking especially of China whose church has experienced exponential growth since it has become open to international trade. God may turn the hearts of those with wealth to fund a missions movement Chinese in origin and Chinese in currency. May it be so.

As this year closes may I suggest that, even if the American impulse for missions is on the wane, we end with a strong note of support. If you are considering a last minute donation to a cause, may it be to those who serve the cause of the global fame of Christ.

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.