There has been a little discussion regarding the funding of indigenous missionaries with western support off the blog via email so I thought it may be a good topic to bring to the forum here on the blog. Let me suggest two books that can help in this area. These books are a must read in regards to this issue, and they balance one another out quite well. They are: When Charity Destroys Dignity: Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement by Glenn Schwartz; AuthorHouse 2007; and To Give or Not to Give: Rethinking Dependency, Restoring Generosity, & Redefining Sustainability by John Rowell; Authentic Books 2006
We as westerners are so blessed financially that that we desire to be a blessing in areas where funding is lacking. But this causes concern as discussed in both of the above mentioned books. The first problem is when we give without considering the repercussion it can develop an unhealthy dependency upon the more prosperous portions of the Body of Christ which leads to a “colonial” type of relationship. What I mean by this is that we give generously and then put restrictions on the recipients and force them to be subject to our goals and standards. This can get even more complicated as time goes on. Second problem or “other side of the coin” (pardon the pun) is that if we do not consider the blessings in which the Lord has given us and use these funds to spread the gospel through our brethren’s efforts in other parts of the world we tend to become stingy.
Jeff Gilbertson shared in an email a quote from the Acumen Found CEO/Founder Jacqueline Novogratz;
“Dignity is more important to the human spirit than wealth.”
Jeff also refers to Schwartz when he states;
“The healthiest parts of the Christian movement are those where local believers know the joy that comes from supporting the work to which God has called them, governing their own ministry and caring for their own outreach. They can then justifiably feel ownership of the calling they have before the Lord.”
To illustrate the conundrum, I recall John Rowell sharing at the recent UPG Consultation in Dallas the story of when he was meeting with some national leaders in an eastern European nation and some western church leaders. The western church leaders were wanting to inform the eastern European brethren that it was now time for them to grow up and take care of their works with their own resources. The illustration that was given was that the western brothers had taken care of them as a father cares for his children and it was now time for them to step up to maturity. The eastern European brothers replied they were not their children, they have only one father and we eat from the same table. All they ask is that the brothers from the west “pass the potatoes.”
As you can see this is not an easy subject. I certainly cannot cover both sides of the issue here, and I would recommend that anyone planning on funding indigenous workers and projects take careful steps so that when that funding ends (or begins) that the Kingdom of God is advanced. There is no reason that these two opposing sides of the issue should be at odds, but that the issues they raise will cause us to act with wisdom and generosity.
The Lord has a solution for every one of the issues that funding indigenous workers may create. We must rely on His wisdom as we venture into other cultures and assist them in reaching the ethnic groups around them. That is why we must keep a open ear to the Lord through prayer and study of His Word. It would be foolish to depend on” doing what we always do” when we do missions in other cultures and economies. There is no pat answer for all situations, but there is the promise of wisdom when we ask for it, for we will surely need it when we partner with brethren from other cultures to preach the gospel of the Kingdom.
Any thoughts? Wisdom? Ideas?