A Timeline of American Missionaries Since 1945 (2nd of 2)

The Proportion of American Missionaries Under Voluntary Societies and Under Denominational Boards since 1945.

  • The number of American missionaries rose steadily from 1945 to 2002. In 1945 there were 10,700 missionaries. There were 35,500 in 1969 and 44,500 in 2002.
  • The number of mainline denomination missionaries rose between 1945 and 1969 but decreased thereafter. The percentage of mainline denominational missionaries stood at 50% in 1945 but fell to 27% in 1969 and to 7% in 2002.
  • Unaffiliated. There are 3500 Southern Baptist missionaries; these are counted in the “unaffiliated,” as they are neither members of Missio Nexus nor do I consider them a mainline denomination. Nearly all the remaining 11,500 unaffiliated missionaries are sent by Voluntary Societies.)

There are four conclusions we can suggest:

  1. Mainline denominations send missionaries to strengthen national churches in Asia, Africa and the Middle East established more than a century ago. The graves of early missionaries give testimony to their sacrifice. Few missionaries, overall, seem to want to take an assignment under a national church, though this can be very rewarding, as Jan and I know from our two years serving the Church of Christ in Thailand.
  2. But overseas churches, like churches in the United States, are not organized to establish churches among unreached peoples. This is not a criticism; the Holy Spirit establishes churches to nurture the congregation and witness to the community. The requirements to staff and operate a church, whether in the US and overseas, requires all the energy of the pastors and district superintendents. Nearly all the funds collected from the congregations or received as gifts from the United States are required to maintain the salaries and properties and program that are the mission of the church. As soon as a congregation decides to pay the pastor and staff, 70% of the income will be needed for salaries. As soon as the congregation says, “Let’s own a building,” 25% of the remaining income will be needed for its purchase, and maintenance.
  3. Mission agencies send missionaries overseas to establish new churches among unreached peoples. It is easier for mission agencies to pioneer new work in new locations, among unreached peoples. The Holy Spirit is establishing agencies to send missionaries to “the regions beyond.”
  4. Most new missionaries seem interested in pioneering new work in new places.