Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Raising and Maintaining Missionary Support (Part 1)

     For many missionaries, asking for financial support is one of the least favorite aspects of missionary work. Most missionaries probably wish they could just support themselves, without taking time away from the Lord’s work, and not have to rely on anyone else for assistance. But even if this idealistic scenario were possible, it would probably not be the best way to fund missionary work. If for no other reason, it would deny brethren an opportunity to be involved in worldwide evangelization (cf. Rom. 10:15; 12:8).1

Secure a Sponsoring Church

     Before anything else is done to raise funds, it is highly recommended that the backing of a good sponsoring congregation is acquired. A missionary ought to be answerable to a faithful eldership, and a strong congregation that feels responsible for him will add more stability and security to his work. Although having all of one’s support provided by a single congregation would considerably cut down on the time and expense of traveling, fund-raising, and reporting, more often than not funds will have to be secured from a number of congregations and individuals. The positive side is that you are helping to get more brethren involved in foreign evangelism. 

     If you have a good sponsoring congregation to oversee your work, potential supporters will be much more inclined to contribute. To avoid any possible questions or problems, it is wise that the funds be directly handled by someone other than the missionary himself. No sensible eldership will agree to take oversight of a work unless they know and have confidence in the missionary. It is a good idea to spend about six months to a year working with your sponsoring church. Among other things, this valuable time will enable the members of the congregation to get to know you better, thus encouraging them to be more personally involved in your work and helping to ensure a long-term working relationship. 

Attitudes Necessary for Fund-Raising 

     The first thing to be convinced of is that you are not asking anyone to do you a favor; you are not begging for money! It is neither a burden nor a special privilege for evangelists to receive financial support for their labors; it is a God-given right (1 Cor. 9:4-14). Sometimes brethren need to be reminded of their obligation to be involved in this divine plan.2

     When you raise support, you are giving your fellow Christians a chance to fulfill their divinely-ordained responsibility. The money is not for you; it is for the Lord’s cause. If you do not make the effort to secure the funds, consider how much of the Lord’s work will be left undone! The Great Commission has been given to all of us. If some Christians are not willing to go, then the only way they can obey the Lord’s command is to send someone else (Rom. 10:14-15). Thank God for people like you who give them this opportunity!

     Raising support is actually a good way to prepare for missionary work. If you can’t deal with the disappointments and frustrations of fund-raising, how are you going to cope on the mission field? Every time you receive a negative response, including no response at all, consider it part of your “toughening up” process. A missionary’s faith is always stronger at the end of the fund-raising trail than at the beginning. You must firmly believe that if God wants you on the mission field, he will, in time, provide the necessary means. This is not to say that you can just write a few letters and then sit back expecting the money to flow in. But if you do your part, including a lot of prayer and hard work, God will providentially ensure that the right doors are opened.

     Be enthusiastic, confident, and persistent. No one wants to misappropriate the Lord’s money on someone who easily gives up or is hesitant and unsure about what he/she is doing. If you firmly believe in your proposed plan of action, it ought to show; enthusiasm is contagious. It will increase your effectiveness in selling yourself and your plans to prospective supporters, and you will not be easily discouraged along the way. If you have the necessary zeal, commitment, and determination to do missionary work, no obstacle can stand in your way.

Determining Financial Needs3

     How much support will you need to raise? Obviously financial extremes should be avoided. On one hand, if you don’t raise sufficient funds, you could end up disillusioned, ineffective in your work, and maybe even return home prematurely. On the other hand, if your support is excessive, it could lead to a misuse of funds and leave a bad impression on those with whom you are working. Both you and your supporters must realize that economies vary throughout the world and a reliable indicator is not the cost of living at home. You may need more or you may need less than is required to live in the United States, so a lot of prayer, wisdom, common sense, and homework will be needed.

     There are at least three things to calculate: salary, work fund, and one-time expenses. The salary should compensate for normal living expenses, like housing, electricity, food, clothing, insurance, medical care, weekly contribution, et al. A missionary, like anyone else in the work force, ought to have a savings scheme, including a plan for retirement. If you have outstanding debts (e.g. student loans, car payments, etc.), you should seek counsel in trying to determine what is legitimate to include in your support-raising and what is not. Always be up-front with your supporters. In some cases it may be necessary to postpone your departure until some of these debts are paid.

     The work fund is to be used for disbursements directly related to the work, such as office supplies and equipment, postage, printing or shipping of materials, advertising, travel expenses, and so forth. Keeping good records is very important, and a separate bank account for your work fund will help. You may want to include in your work-fund budget a periodic trip to the States for reporting, maintaining support, and raising additional funds as needed. Work-related expenses are tax deductible.

     One-time costs would include things such as airfare, travel documents, a vehicle, moving and setting-up expenses (e.g. shipping personal effects, purchasing furniture and appliances, etc.), and other one-time expenditures. As a general rule it is best to raise a little more than you think you might need, because there are always hidden costs that you have not planed for, such as fluctuating currency exchange rates, customs and immigration charges, bank fees, taxes, inflation, emergencies, and so on. 

     Having an emergency fund, or at least a supporting congregation that agrees to cover unexpected expenses, will remove a lot of potential worries. It is highly recommended that you make an appointment with a Christian accountant to figure out your income tax and Social Security obligations (both home and abroad). You most certainly want to pay taxes to whom taxes are due (Rom. 13:6-7), but you don’t want to be a poor steward of the Lord’s money and end up paying a lot more than is required.

     Missionaries who are already on the field are the best source for determining financial needs. They will know first-hand how much it costs to move, settle in, and live in that particular location. If you are able to make a survey trip, you can gather much of this information yourself. The U.S. Government Information Bureau can also provide helpful data on foreign living costs.

--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Adapted from K. L. Moore, The Single Missionary (Winona, MS: Choate, 2001): 30-40.
     2 See also Matt. 10:9-13; Luke 10:3-8; Gal. 6:6; Phil. 2:25-30; 4:10-20; 1 Tim. 5:18.
     3 Some of these ideas were adapted from Glenn Owens’ chapter, “Fund-Raising” in Steps into the Mission Field: From First Concepts to First Converts by the Sâo Paulo Brazil mission team (1978), 103-13.

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Wednesday, 12 January 2022

Who was Mark?

The NT portrait of Mark is that of an Aramaic-speaking Palestinian Jewish Christian, proficient in the Greek language.1 He was related to and likely a cousin2 of Joseph Barnabas (Col. 4:10), a Levite-Jewish Christian from the island of Cyprus who appears to have been a man of some means (Acts 4:36-37).

Mark’s Early Years

Mark is first introduced in the biblical record in Acts 12:12. His Jewish name was John, the Greek form Iōánnēs of the Hebrew Yohananmeaning “Yahweh has favored,” a fairly common name among the Jews.3 He was also called Mark, the Greek form Márkos of the Latin Marcus, derived from the name “Mars” – the Roman god of war and guardian of agriculture. Having more than one name was not uncommon during this period, making it easier to function in the Jewish, Roman, and Hellenistic worlds. Only one person in the biblical record is called Mark, even though it was a very popular name among the Romans.4

His mother Mary (probably a widow) owned a house in Jerusalem large enough to host a sizeable gathering of people (Acts 12:12-13), suggestive of a reasonably affluent family.5 It is plausible that this was the same house that provided the furnished “large upper room” for Jesus and the apostles during and after their final Passover meal (Mark 14:14-16; Luke 22:10-13).6 The apostles continued to reside in “the upper room” (Acts 1:13) in “the house” (Acts 2:2), presumably the site of previous reference.7 When Peter is later imprisoned and then released, he went straight to the house of Mark’s mother (Acts 12:11-17). Peter and John first located this house by following a man carrying a pitcher of water (Mark 14:13-16; Luke 22:10). Since women rather than men typically carried water jars,8 if Mark had no sisters and his mother was busy preparing the Passover meal, he could have been the one doing this chore.9

The report of the young man in a linen cloth fleeing naked from Gethsemane occurs only in Mark’s Gospel (14:51-52) and adds nothing of substance to the storyline. If the young man was Mark himself, he could be providing his own eyewitness account of a curious young man in his bed clothes late at night following Jesus and the eleven from the house where they were residing. The term sindōn (“fine linen”) is also indicative of an upper level of prosperity (cf. 15:46).

Mark’s Initial Attempts at Missionary Work

From Jerusalem around the year 44,10 John Mark accompanied Barnabas and Saul to Syrian Antioch (Acts 12:25), then on to the mission field of Barnabas’ homeland of Cyprus as their hupērétēs, “attendant” or “helper.” When the mission team arrived on the southern coast of Asia Minor, for some unexplained reason John (Mark) returned home to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Paul did not accept the premature departure as justified and later refused to allow John Mark to join the second missionary campaign, resulting in the dissolution of the original mission team (Acts 15:36-38). Instead Mark accompanied Barnabas back to Cyprus early in the year 50 (v. 39),11 potentially having relatives there and likely to do follow-up work and further evangelism.

Mark’s Later Ministries

About twelve years later Mark was in Rome, where Paul was confined to house arrest. In two of Paul’s letters written during this time, Mark sends greetings and is counted among the apostle’s “coworkers” (Col. 4:10-11; Philem. 24). Obviously the earlier dispute was resolved, not only between Paul and Mark but Barnabas as well (1 Cor. 9:6). In Paul’s last letter before his death, he specifically requested the presence of just two of his colleagues. One was Timothy, who was like his own son,12 and the other was Mark, as Paul explains, “for he is useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).

Having, then, been summoned to Rome by Paul, Mark was in Rome when Peter’s first epistle was drafted, and Peter regarded Mark as “my son” (1 Pet. 5:13).13 Descriptive of their close relationship in the Lord, this may also indicate that Mark was among Peter’s early converts in Jerusalem.14

Mark’s Writing Ministry

Papias of Hierapolis (contemporary of the apostle John) reported that Mark was “Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord…. [he] followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in writing down single points as he remembered them” (as quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39.15). Later Jerome affirmed that Peter’s interpreter was Mark, “whose gospel was composed with Peter narrating and him writing” (Ad Hedibiam 120). Mark’s authorship of the Second Gospel is attested very early and consistently in the history of the post-apostolic church.15

Additional Information from Tradition

Recurrent tradition also places Mark in Egypt, particularly in Alexandria.16 In view of his documented itineracy, an Egyptian mission is not improbable, even if chronologically displaced. The so-called Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark claims that Mark was nicknamed kolobodáktulos (“stumpy fingers”),17 “because he had fingers that were too small for the height of the rest of his body …”18

The late 4th- or 5th-century apocryphal Acts of Mark alleges that Mark was dragged through the streets of Alexandria and died as a martyr. But this and other late traditions cannot be verified. Jerome (De Vir. Ill. 8) claimed that Mark died at Alexandria in the 8th year of Nero’s reign, ca. 62. This appears to be, however, a misdirected inference from Eusebius’ claim (anachronisms notwithstanding) that Mark simply resigned from the work in Alexandria that very year (Eccl. Hist. 2.24.21). According to the biblical record, around the years 64-65 Mark was assumed to be alive when Paul penned the words of 2 Timothy 4:11 and certainly not dead when Peter wrote 1 Peter 5:13. The date and circumstances of Mark’s death are unknown.

Lessons from Mark

1. Wealth does not have to be a hindrance to faithfulness and can be used to generously support the Lord’s work.

2. Hospitality not only benefits guests. It has a positive impact on the hosts and their families.

3. Mentoring young people in the Lord’s service develops future leaders.

4. Quitting does not make one a quitter if one keeps trying.

5. Don’t give up on those who fail. Be willing to forgive and to allow second chances.

6. Missionary work is not limited to foreign lands. Neither is it limited to our home environment. It is a both-and responsibility.

7. Let us use our God-given talents to serve Him and further His kingdom.

Thank you Mark for your life and service and for helping us know more about “the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God (Mark 1:1).

--Kevin L. Moore


     1 See Acts 12:12; 13:13; Col. 4:10-11. The author of the Second Gospel was at ease in the Greek language and possibly knew some Latin, but his “primary language seems to have been Aramaic, as indicated by the thought patterns in his Gospel” (W. Dicharry, Human Authors of the NT 51; cf. C. R. Holladay, A Critical Introduction to the NT 107-108). More Aramaic expressions occur in Mark’s Gospel than anywhere else in the Greek NT.

     2 The noun anepsiós could also mean “nephew” (LSV, YLT); “sister’s son” (KJV). 

     3 In the OT, 2 Kings 25:23; 1 Chron. 3:15, 24; 6:9-10; Ezra 8:12; Neh. 12:22-23; Jer. 40:8, 13, 15-16; 41:11, 13-16; 42:1, 8; 43:2, 4, 5; during the Intertestamental Period, Johanan the brother of Judas Maccabeus and his nephew John Hyrcanus; in the NT, John the baptizer (Mark 1:4), John the apostle (Mark 1:19), the father of Simon and Andrew (John 1:42; 21:15, variant), an associate of the high priest (Acts 4:6).

     4 Most notably Markus Tullius Cicero, Marcus Junius Brutus, Marcus Antonius (or Mark Antony), Marcus Ulpius Traianus, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, Marcus Aurelius, Marcus Licinius Crassus, Marcus Porcius Cato.

     5 Another potential indicator of affluence is the mention of Rhoda, the young lady who answered the door of the outer gateway at Mary’s house (Acts 12:13). She is referred to as paídiskē, a term used elsewhere by Luke for a maidservant or female slave (Luke 12:45; 22:56; Acts 16:16).  

     6 Even though oikodespótēs (“head of a household”) is a masculine noun (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11) and in the ancient Mediterranean world the head of a household was typically male, households without a male head were of necessity managed by women (e.g. Acts 12:12; 16:14-15; cf. Rom. 16:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:11) and by default the oldest son was regarded as head. See K. L. Moore, “Sociocultural Context of the NT (Part 5): Households,”Moore Perspective (24 July 2019), <Web>.

     7 See K. L. Moore, “The Pentecost-Day Miracle,” Moore Perspective (23 Jan. 2019), <Web>.

     8 Gen. 24:11, 15-16; Ex. 2:16; 1 Sam. 9:11; John 4:7.

     9 See W. Dicharry, Human Authors of the NT 56 n. 33; M. C. Tenney, NT Survey (Rev.) 162-63. Papias, however, claimed that Mark was not an eyewitness or personal disciple of the earthly Jesus (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3.39), also reiterated by later writers.

     10 The 12th chapter of Acts concludes with the death of Herod Agrippa I (v. 23), which we know from secular history occurred in early March 44 (Josephus, Ant. 19.8.2).

     11 Ironically, following the dispute over John Mark that ended Barnabas’ and Paul’s partnership and led to Paul joining forces with Silas (a.k.a. Silvanus) (Acts 15:36-40), years later Peter, who had also run afoul of Paul with Barnabas implicated as well (Gal. 2:11-14), was working in partnership with both Mark and Silvanus (1 Pet. 5:12-13). 

     12 1 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 2:22; 1 Tim. 1:1, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1. Timothy is mentioned by name in the openings of more of Paul’s letters than any of the other coworkers, and on the receiving end of two.

     13 “Babylon” is understood here to be a metaphoric allusion to Rome (cf. Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21); see also Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.15.2.

     14 Cp. 1 Cor. 4:15-17; 1 Thess. 2:11; Tit. 1:4. On the conceivable pre-Pentecost connection, see “Mark’s Early Years” above (cf. also Acts 1:14-15).

     15 Comparable early testimonies include Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho 106.3), the so-called Anti-Marcionite Prologue of Mark, Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.1.1-2), Tertullian (Adv. Marc. 4.5), Clement of Alexandria (Hypotyposeis; cf. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.15.2; 6.14.5-7), Origen (cf. Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6.25.5), and Eusebius himself (Eccl. Hist. 2.15.1-2). 

     16 Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 2.16.1; 2.24.1; Epiphanius, Panarion 6.10; John Chrysostom, Homily 1.7; plus ancient Coptic tradition.

     17 Also the 3rd-century Hippolytus, Philosophumena 7.30. 

     18 In the 4th–5th century Latin Monarchian prologues, as a Levitical priest Mark is said to have amputated his thumb after his conversion to Christ so he would be rendered unfit for the Jewish priesthood.

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Image credit: Matthias Stom’s The Evangelists Saint Mark and Saint Luke (1635), <>.

Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Communion Bread

Jesus instituted the sacred memorial of his atoning death in the setting of the Jewish Passover meal, where “unleavened bread” is specifically identified (Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12). Leaven is metaphorically applicable in scripture to pervasive and corrupting influences (Matt. 16:6; 1 Cor. 5:6-8) and was prohibited in all grain offerings to God (Lev. 2:11; 6:14-17) and particularly the Passover bread (Deut. 16:3). Seeing that communion bread represents the Lord’s crucified body (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22), and Jesus lived his entire earthly life without sin (Heb. 4:15; 9:28), we can appreciate the significance of no leaven.  

What is Leaven?

The English word “leaven” is translated from the Hebrew שְׂאֹ֖ר [seor] (Ex. 12:15, 19; 13:7; Lev. 2:11; Deut. 16:4) and its NT Greek equivalent ζύμη [zú] (Matt. 13:33; 16:6, 11, 12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1; 13:21; 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9). Leaven is a substance that lightens and softens dough by converting its natural sugars into carbon dioxide, producing gas bubbles causing the dough to rise. The most common leavening agent is yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), the same species that causes alcohol fermentation. Other leaving agents include sourdough, barm (unpasteurized foam that forms on top of fermenting liquid), and modern-day baking powder. While all fruits and grains contain wild yeasts that produce natural fermentation when starches are exposed to water, biblically it is the intentional adding of leavening agents to Passover (and by implication communion) bread that is prohibited.

The Historical Environment of Passover Bread

Leavened bread can be traced back to the Egyptians.1 In ancient Egypt various grain crops were produced, including barley, einkorn wheat, emmer wheat, and spelt.2 In Exodus 9:31-32 the Hebrew כֻּסֶּמֶת [kussemeth] (cf. Isa. 28:25) refers to “spelt” [triticum spelta] and is distinct from other grains (Ezek. 4:9),3 even though English renderings have included “emmer” (ESV), “emmer wheat” (NLT), and “rye” (Geneva, KJV). Egyptian bread varied in size and shape and was usually coarse and dense, made with flour from raw grain and at times with germinated cereal grain or malt.4

The Jewish Passover bread was first made in Egypt (Ex. 12:8, 12). The Hebrew מַצָּה [matstsah], “unleavened bread” or “unfermented cake(s)” (Ex. 12:8, 15-20, 39; 23:15; etc.), is otherwise a generic term that does not specify particular ingredients or type of grain. In the Ancient Near East, including Israel, barley and wheat were cultivated (Deut. 8:8; Ruth 2:23; 2 Sam. 17:28; 2 Chron. 2:10, 15; 27:5), along with other grains such as spelt (Isa. 28:25) and millet (Ezek. 27:17). While Israelite bread was typically made from barley or wheat flour, mixed grains and other ingredients were also used (Ezek. 4:9). The only occasion a particular grain is legislated in the Mosaic Law is for the sacrificial bread in the priesthood consecration ceremony (Ex. 29:2).

The Making of Communion Bread

The Bible emphasizes what is to be left out of the bread but does not detail specific ingredients for making the bread. We can read about flour and oil (Lev. 2:4, 5; 6:21; 24:5; 1 Kings 17:8-16), the kneading and baking of the dough (1 Sam. 28:24; 2 Sam. 13:8), and even salt was used in sacrificial offerings (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24). The bottom line is, whatever ingredients are necessary to make bread, as long as it is void of leavening agents, biblical guidelines are observed.

For those who are gluten intolerant, the presence of wheat or any other gluten-enriched grain is not mandated in scripture. As noted above, the Bible does not legislate the specific ingredients for making the bread, only what is to be left out of it. Low gluten grains like spelt (Isa. 28:25) or gluten free grains like millet (Ezek. 27:17) can be used for breadmaking. Nowadays there are companies that produce gluten free communion wafers. 


Commitment to the Lord and his revealed will means avoiding the extremes of binding what the word of God does not enjoin and dismissing what it clearly teaches. We have not been granted the liberty of making unauthorized additions or changes, including substituting ingredients for the stipulated elements of the Lord’s Supper. For the divinely prescribed symbol that represents Christ’s crucified body, if it is “bread” and is “unleavened,” it meets biblical criteria.

--Kevin L. Moore 


     1 Britannica, the Editors, rev. Kara Rogers, "bread," Encyclopedia Britannica (19 Nov. 2021), <Link>. This does not mean, however, that the Egyptians were the first leavened bread-makers of antiquity. See Andreas G. Heiss, "Bread," Archaeology of Food: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, eds. K. B. Metheny and M. C. Beaudry (New York; London: Rowan & Littlefield, 2015): 71, <Link>.

     2 Jules Janick, “Ancient Egyptian Agriculture and the Origins of Horticulture,” Acta Horticulturae 583 (June 2002): 23-39. 

     3 Francis Brown, The New Brown–Driver–Briggs–Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (LaFayette, IN: Associated Publishers and Authors, 1980): 493.

     4 Delwen Samuel, “Investigation of Ancient Egyptian Baking and Brewing Methods by Correlative Microscopy,” Science 273:5274 (26 July 1996): 488-490.

*Thanks to Amber Roberts for bringing the gluten issue to my attention.

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