I recently attended a bus conference at an Independent Fundamental Baptist fellowship meeting. Maybe I don’t understand things anymore (good possibility), but I distinctly got the impression that they were bashing churches who spent money (and a lot of money, mentioning an example where “the pastor” spent $50,000 on foreign missions) but this pastor didn’t have a bus program. They scolded those in attendance because this was a tragedy in their eyes. The rest of this post is to answer that question.
The Short Answer: Is Foreign Missions Biblical? Absolutely
Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Matt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Matt 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
When the Bible commands us to reach the world, specifically that is a command of God. There is no way to throw this off from the backs of Christians and churches, and any attempt to do so it totally unbiblical and fighting against God and the Holy Spirit’s moving.
Competition with Bus Ministries and Local Priorities
I am a pastor of a church in Mexico City. I have no problem as a pastor with a local church needs to “shore up” its own ministry. As a missionary also, I have had churches pull the rug out from under me (stopping support for me) because they have financial difficulties. I always have told pastors who contact me with this situation that they need to solidify their own ministry before they go overboard on giving to missionaries, and it is no problem for us if they stop our support until things are on a more economic sure footing. God will take care of us.
What doesn’t sit well with me is when pastors bash missionaries and the entire concept of foreign missions, and that is what appeared to me they were doing. The amens and “preach it brother”s were flying left and right throughout the entire thing. You can attack me (a single missionary) all you want, and maybe most of your attacks on me and my ministry as somehow justified because I am not doing it right, or I am not doing a good job. Rebuke accepted.
But you cannot attack God’s plan and command of foreign missions. This is not an “either/or” situation. You do not work your own local work, OR you support foreign missions, which foreign missions is biblical.
Repercussions of this attitude.
First of all, I want to say as a missionary having problems as it is (with finding missions-minded churches) that only discouraged me even more. I was made out as the bad guy, living “high off the hog” while everybody else in the US has to do a real job working in the ministry. Where does this trashy idea come from? Direct from the pit of hell? And this is what is being spread around. (About 50 of those present were preacher boys from a Bible school. Real good to fill their heads with this unbiblical attitude.)
Secondly, I have to put my own offense and hurt aside and answer the question. This is an attack against my Lord Jesus Christ and against his Holy Spirit working here in his stead. You cannot cancel God’s commands because you think you know things better than God does. I mean really, get real! To pit Peter against Paul for no reason is just stupid. What kind of logical reasoning do these people have anyway?
Thirdly, there is a decidedly mean and sinful undertow in this persuasive argument. They the local church welfare is more important than obeying God’s clear commands. We die if we have to in obeying God, but this goes against that. Our local church is the only real people doing the work of God is the underlying attitude. This is wrong and arrogant. Moreover, the haughtiness was horrible in these preachings I heard. People who admit they know little to nothing (“I’ve had no formal teaching, but I have 3 honorary doctorates,” come again?). Nothing beneficial can come out of being proud about ignorance.
Fourthly, there is a great error in their thinking (if you analyze it biblically). The premise in the thinking of these people is that if you have a bus ministry, then you, and you alone, are approved of God. They paraded personal testimonies of preacher boys who were bus kids as well as story after story about bus ministries. This is the first bus conference I had attended and probably my last.
Okay, let’s analyze Scripture then. Did Jesus have a bus ministry? No, he did not. Did Jesus prohibit Christian ministers and workers from witnessing to children or working with them? No, he did not. The Bible commands parents to teach their kids. Bus ministries take over that responsibility from parents who frankly stay in bed on Sunday morning until lunch. There is something wrong there. Yes, we want to reach even the children, but there is something wrong there.
Next, we look at Jesus’ evangelistic ministry. Did Jesus have a bus ministry? No, obviously buses were not invented back then. But would he today do that? Hearing these people, they rewrite Matt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and bussing all kids, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: But to get to the crux of the issue here, did Jesus specifically target the children in his evangelistic efforts, shunning groups of adults to get the kids no matter if their parents were good Christians or not? No, Jesus did not organize children’s meetings. He left that to the women believers to teach their own children. That is the idea in the New Testament.
It is erroneous to think that going after children as a priority will do the work of the Lord correctly. And the adults? You are going to wait on them to grow up, become bus workers, and then you will get the adults? Not the way things should go.
Jesus and the New Testament churches went after the men, and secondarily the women. If you win the man of the house, or the woman of the house, or both, you have the children. They will go where their parents tell them to go on Sunday mornings.
Bus Ministries produce a Wrong Motivation for Coming to Church
I oversaw an existing bus ministry for about a year that I was an assistant pastor of a church. They were already running for some 7 years before I got there, so I just let them do what that pastor wanted. But I did observe a lot of things during that time. First of all, children don’t want to come to church on Sundays, especially without their parents. I
First of all, children don’t want to come to church on Sundays, especially without their parents. I conclude this because out of a bus of 30 kids, about 5-8 of them the workers had keys to get into the house on Sunday AM, would wake the kids up, wash them, dress them, feed them and then put them on the bus. If there was a real desire in the kids, they would be ready at the door.
Secondly, bus ministries work only through bribery. Our bus ministry gave away candy, hamburgers, small gifts, even a bicycle, and other prizes as well as various promotional things like a pie in the bus captain’s face, etc. All of this is a worldly, secular way of promoting something and cheapens the work of God to become a junky Madison Avenue type of carnival. Indeed I have seen various bus ministry churches actually invite a carnival with a Ferris wheel to come one Sunday as a promotion. Can you see Jesus doing
Can you see Jesus doing a promotion for children to come to church where Jesus would get a pie in the face? I don’t think so. That Jesus is not a holy man. So why can bus workers do what Jesus would not do, and that be okay? It is not a ministry of the King of Heaven, but some kind of carnival atmosphere, worldly work.
If Christian missions and a bus ministry have a head on collision, the bus ministry is what has to go, not Christian missions. I will also add that I do not have a bus ministry in our church. One day we may have one. I do not think it is a sin to pick up people and bring them to church and take them home. It is Christian hospitality. But there should be some rules in this (as I see things).
1.) There is no bribery. If you want a free ride, that is about the extent of free things we are going to give these people. Maybe sing hymns on the bus, etc. I would even give the kids a snack in Sunday School if the church is able to do so. But all of that has to be really reduced in the promotion of the ministry given. It should be extras that are not mentioned but given.
2.) The target is families, not children. The transportation ministry should be picking up at least one adult with each child. The legal problems in our country involved in having adults and young single adults working with small children is really precarious. To add to that danger, most of the people in your church, worse in a bus ministry, are people that you barely know. They are in closed areas with small children for long periods of time in which sinful people can do wrong by them. The church cannot be fostering that situation, not from a legal standpoint, not from a “right before the Lord” standpoint. Every bus should have at least one solid adult that has kids of their own and are long-time members of that church.
Moreover, we want to push getting adults to come to church. Why doesn’t bus ministries work well with adults? Because the only adults that will go to church on buses are those who are elderly, sick, or basically not able to drive themselves. When an adult starts coming to church, he will usually drive and bring his family with him. This is the point, the bus ministry should just be a minor ministry for transportation, not a lure and promotional gimmick to get children to come to church. Every week there has to be a new gimmick.
No wonder these churches are filled with quacker doctrinal positions and interpretations. They are filled with bus kids that grew up and are wanting a gimmick every Sunday before they come to church.