Excuses that African churches use for not supporting mission work

What excuses?

The various times I have had an opportunity to sit with African church leaders to discuss opportunities for missions in Africa and abroad, I have been met with a plethora of responses but for the most part, it has been an exception to get a church willing to put money into missions for purposes of reaching the world outside of the immediate church neighborhood. 

 The majority by far would give all kinds of excuses why they should not or cannot send missionaries to target the lost in other countries. I have heard various excuses that I wish to highlight here below

1. We do not have money for it

This is the most common excuse you will get. Given the economic situation in Africa, where there are many competing needs in an environment of scarce resources, you can understand where they are coming from. When you look at the Lord's instructions to his disciples in the book of Mathew 28:18, you will see that he commanded a group composed mostly of lowly fishermen to reach the entire world.

This was a very difficult task 2000 years ago when we did not have airplanes and big highways to ease transportation from one town to another.  Through our modern eyes, this was an almost impossible task for the disciples who had little if any resources to speak about. We do not see any of the disciples raising issues around the impossibility of this task anywhere in the gospel. You see the apostle  Paul, for instance,  managing to travel to all the parts of the then known world to spread the gospel.

The source of their success did not lie in how much money they had but in who was together with them. The Lord told them "behold I am with you to the end of the age". It was the Lord who made it possible for them to achieve the impossible. This same God is together with us, even as we encourage a new generation of African missionaries to rise up and go.


2. We are not qualified to do it

Eighty percent of the global church is located in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. They have mostly only received cross-cultural missionaries traditionally and not sent missionaries to their own un-reached and the rest of the world.  The USA and the Republic of South Korea are currently the largest mission-sending countries, but the task is great and more missionaries need to be mobilized.  With Europe now officially post-Christian, and the USA unable to meet the demand, there is an urgent need for mobilization of the unsent. Many churches in Africa and Asia (outside of South Korea) spend less than 1% of their annual budget on all missions (including those not targeting the unreached).

With about 130 million evangelicals, if only 0.04% of African evangelicals accepted to go, for instance, Africa would become the leading missionary source in the world. By the year 2025 Africa will have the largest number of  Christians in the world. Yes indeed, Africa can make a difference and is qualified to do missions.

3. We already have enough work  as it is

About 3 billion people representing seven thousand people groups worldwide still remain un-reached despite the efforts of the church since the start of the global missions movement. There are various reasons that explain this current status. One important reason is that many countries have closed the door to missionaries and this is the case for a vast majority of the countries in the 10-40 window. We also believe that another is that the vast majority of the Christian world is not involved in missions to a great extent. Missions work has been left to a few countries and there have been some successes, but the absence of the rest is sorely felt. There are gaps in the good work, many countries still remain un-reached because the majority of the Christian world is not engaged or is unwilling to go.

 We are living in a time in history where millions are open to the gospel like never before, but governments like those of China, Vietnam, North Korea, Myanmar, Laos, Algeria, and Libya have virtually closed the doors to western missionaries. The West alone will not be able to rise to the challenge of accomplishing the great commission without the support of the majority of Global South Christians who live together with the unreached or enjoy access to them. As John Piper puts it “It will take the gospel partnership of the whole church to take the message about Christ to the world’s final missionary frontier”.

The great commission does not only start and end in our Jerusalem. We should also go to the ends of the earth to fulfill it whilst ministering to the lost in our Jerusalem.


  4. We do not know how to begin

 Missions orientation is a fairly new thing in the African context. Churches are used to receiving missionaries rather than sending them. Another huge challenge has been the prosperity gospel.  Instead of focusing on reaching the unreached, many evangelical churches have gravitated towards the prosperity gospel in their contexts given that they still have to tackle cases of massive poverty within their congregations at the end of the day.

It is not uncommon to hear pastors preaching about God providing believers with houses, cars, and other material things, but it is rare to hear anyone preaching on the need to go and reach the nations. Congregants focus more on what they can get from the Lord than on what they can do for him, contrary to the teaching of the Lord in Mathew 6:33. This is because churches often base their sermons on the felt needs of their congregations.  Churches should focus on the mission of God, which is to reach the entire world with the gospel of Christ.

  • A good place to start is to sensitize your congregation about the need for world mission. The Joshua Project has tons of resources and information.
  • You could start by 'adopting' an unreached people group and remember them regularly in prayer. 
  • You could challenge your congregation to start giving a fraction of their monthly income towards missions.
  • If you know any active missionaries, you could ask them whether they would be willing to host some of your members for short term missions trips. This would be an opportunity for your members to get exposure as they listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 
  • You could form a small group charged with missionary care that would take care of returning missionaries by offering services like temporary accommodation. 
  • A discipleship program that prepares called members for missions could be your midterm goal.  You could partner with existing missions organizations like OM who have three to six-month discipleship training programs in South Africa and Zambia as well as other parts of the world. This could be a good source of future missionaries nurtured by your church.

 Moving your church to become missions oriented is a long journey, but you can always make the first easy step to get there. It is something that is achievable even for a small church that does not have money for missions.

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