Catholic Lay Missions and Muslim Evangelism
by Abu Daoud (4 Jan. 2010)
I have often complained about the lack of a culture of lay missions in the Catholic Church. And then you find something like FMC. In one way, this is very encouraging. But the main problem that I see with this is that the missionaries are sent out with the permission of the local bishop. Now how many Catholic bishops in the Middle East are going to tell some lay missionaries they can come over and evangelize Muslims? The answer is close to zero. The Catholic Church has physical resources scattered throughout the region, from hospitals to schools to monasteries to historical sites. In all honesty, and I'm not saying this to be a jerk, the upkeep and well-being of those physical resources will almost always trump Muslim evangelism. And the bishops, in a way, are right. When you get into the business of Muslim evangelism you really are putting everything on the line. Calling Muslims to embrace Christianity stirs up Islamic anger like few other things. Might there be a bishop here or there who is willing to do this? Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it.
But that doesn't mean groups like FMC and Kerygma Teams (both Catholic) can't have a successful ministry to Muslims. I am thinking that bishops in places like southern Spain and some of the French ports would be happy to have lay missionaries explicitly (if quietly) working to evangelize Muslims. Ah but then you run into the funding problem. Catholic parishes do not have a tradition of supporting lay missions like Protestant churches do. Depending on where you are in the Middle East I would say a family can get by on between $70,000 to $100,000 a year in donations. That might seem like a lot, but from the top of that take of 10-15% which goes to administration of the missionary agency, then account for travel, communications, health insurance, and so on, and you're left with a man making about $40,000 gross in self-employment income. Work out the taxes and SEI and you end up with a man who has a net income of $15k to $30k.
But Europe is a different story. I would say Europe is about twice as expensive as the Middle East. So unless your independently wealthy (and I don't really know any missionaries who are) you have to raise funds from local churches. Figure in the fact that Catholics rarely tithe to their churches, and when they do it is at about 50% the rate of Protestants.
In sum, while I applaud this groups like FMC, I don't see how they can make a substantial contribution to the Church's mission to Islam.