Type to search

Opinion Uncategorized

EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Matt Chandler, Focus on the Family, and the Cost of Missionaries

Editor’s Note:  Most Saturdays we will feature this “Editor’s Notebook” column. MinistryWatch President Warren Smith will comment on one or more stories in the week’s news, adding an additional perspective or, sometimes, a behind-the-scenes look at how the story came to be. 

Welcome Back, Matt Chandler.  Dallas-area megachurch pastor Matt Chandler returned to the pulpit Sunday, Dec. 4, after a leave of absence. It was an event that even made The New York Times, highlighting the need for churches to handle these matters wisely.  The Village Church’s board of elders reinstated him following disciplinary actions for Chandler’s “inappropriate” social media relationship with a woman who is not his wife.

The elders told the church congregation Chandler had been “diligently working through the development plan” they gave him, including “time spent in study and prayer, personal reflection, and multiple intensives with trusted outside experts.”

Chandler’s return coincided with the 20th anniversary of his being hired as lead pastor of The Village Church in 2002.

On August 28, the church elder board suspended Chandler after an investigation by an outside law firm found he had violated the church’s social media policy by having an online relationship with a woman other than his wife.

While the messages between Chandler and the woman were not romantic in nature, Chandler admitted the communications were “unguarded and unwise” and were characterized by a “frequency and familiarity” that he said was wrong.

The board of elders statement about the messages acknowledged that friendship between brothers and sisters in Christ is encouraged, but that “there are boundaries around what’s appropriate in these kinds of friendships.”

Access to MinistryWatch content is free.  However, we hope you will support our work with your prayers and financial gifts.  To make a donation, click here.

Open Hostility Toward Christian Ministries.  We reported on two stories this week that provide examples of the current cultural environment in which Christian ministries operate.

First up:  Pro-abortion activists disrupted Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center’s fundraising banquet Dec. 1, shouting obscenities outside the Washington D.C. venue.  But they did not remain outdoors for long.  Some of the pro-abortion activists came into the venue and disrupted the event – ironically, at the very moment the center’s executive director was talking about heightened security concerns.

We’ve been reporting on vandalism at pregnancy resource centers here at MinistryWatch for several months.  (You can find six stories we’ve done this year alone here.)  Vandalism occurred before the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson case, which eventually led to the high court overturning Roe v. Wade. But it has accelerated since the decision.  At least 100 PRCs have been hit by vandalism this year.

We’ve seen a similar story unfold in Colorado.  This time it’s pro-LGBTQ vandals who defaced the sign of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.

Vandals sprayed graffiti on a sign at Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs last week insinuating the Christian ministry was complicit in a recent shooting at a LGBTQ+ nightclub.

“Their blood is on your hands. Five lives taken,” the graffiti said.

The statement referred to an incident that took place Nov. 19 at Club Q, where a gunman opened fire, killing five people and injuring 18 before he was subdued by two patrons.

Colorado Peoples Press, which describes itself as “local news by the people for the people,” published in its Twitter feed a photo of the vandalism and what it said was a press release from the group responsible, Members of the Front Range Queer Community.

Immediately following the shooting, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly told a Denver CBS television affiliate he mourned the tragedy and that his organization wanted to make it clear it stands against hate.

The attack on Focus and, by implication, the criticisms of the Front Range Queer Community are both unfair and ignore certain key facts.  First, the alleged perpetrator, Anderson Lee Aldrich, identifies as non-binary.  Secondly, the man who confronted and stopped the shooter was a straight white man with military training.

But in the culture wars, as in real wars (or so the old saying goes), truth is the first casualty.

What Does A Missionary Cost?  How much does it cost to send a missionary overseas? How much revenue do missions-oriented nonprofits raise to this end?

These are the questions MinistryWatch sought to answer when we asked our reporter Shannon Cuthrell to look into more than 60 of the largest missions, Bible translation, and fellowship evangelism organizations how many full-time missionaries they have in the field.

Overall, the average revenue-per-missionary was $91,739, while the median was $64,536.  However, some organizations were far more efficient than others, as the range was wide: $29,842 to over $250,000.

It is important to note that some organizations do things other than send missionaries, so simply dividing the number of staff into the total revenue doesn’t tell the whole story, but we do think revenue per employee is a fair metric to look at.  It’s a common metric among for-profit organizations.

What was perhaps most interesting to me is that 26 of the 60 ministries we tried to talk with did not respond.  There’s a general lack of transparency in the Bible translation and missions space, and our efforts to get information from the key players in the industry have revealed that they are not used to being questioned by media and donors.  That’s a problem since the Bible translation industry alone takes in more than $500-million per year.  There needs to be much more scrutiny and oversight of this vital ministry category.

New models for funding missionaries are emerging, and we’ve written about them here at MinistryWatch.  I particularly comment to you this interview with Jared Nelms, the CEO of The Timothy Initiative, for some new ways we can be obedient to the Bible’s admonitions to “go” and to “send.”

Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.