This is an article from the July-August 2014 issue: Lifestyle of Prayer

Could Inspiring More “We Did It” Stories Help Break the Dependency Mindset?

Raising Local Resources

Could Inspiring More “We Did It” Stories Help Break the Dependency Mindset?

During my 10 years in Haiti I was involved in numerous construction projects. On one occasion, I arrived a few days in advance of a larger team to finalize the foundation for a church school which was being 100% financed with US dollars. 

Although the local church had participated in the demolition of the old earthquake damaged building, they had yet to contribute even a small amount of money. Thinking I would further inspire local participation, I suggested the pastor take an offering from the church to help offset some of the costs of serving lunch to the workers. Although an offering was taken, no one from the church congregation gave any money. 

When I asked the pastor, “Why?” I was told, “It’s because the people see you are an American missionary. They know you always have enough money to pay for everything. Therefore, they don’t give.” Besides feeling hurt and disappointed, I remember asking myself, “What would this congregation have done if we Americans had never contributed to their school?”

This past February, a Haitian friend of mine helped answer my hypothetical question while we were co-conducting a symposium in Haiti centered around the theme, “What is the current state of the Haitian National Church?” Valery Vital-Herne, a 3rd generation pastor and the Country Director for Micah Challenge said: 

The Haitian Church is a dependent church and a church full of initiative. How can a church be dependent and at
the same time full of initiative? The Haitian Church is a poor church and a rich church at the same time. 

We’ve been receiving missionaries for years—Missionaries investing in education, investing in orphanages, investing in building churches, investing in everything. The result in part is having dependent churches, dependent church leaders who said, “To build the next school we need to have a blan.” (foreigner) “We need a blan! We need someone from the United States.” 

But at the same time, when those churches receive a “No No!” from a blan, or have struggled to find a white missionary, when they don’t find that white missionary, guess what? Years later you find a big building. And those pastors will tell you proudly, “We did it! We searched for international help. We didn’t find it. So, we told the church, ‘We serve a big God. Let’s put our hands together and let’s build that.’” 

And you feel a sense of pride and a sense of ownership. That’s why I said, at the same time, the Haitian church is a dependent church. That dependency mindset is still there. But when they don’t find it, they work together and start schools and start churches. Some of the big buildings you see downtown or in Delmas are debt free, paid for only by Haitians.1

Why is being able to say, “We did it,” really important? As Valery shared about Haitian churches saying, “We did it” and “the sense of pride and sense of ownership” that pastors and their congregations experience through trusting in a big God, I was reminded of a couple of important principles. 

The first is local dependence on God. In Revelation chapters 2 & 3, we learn that the Lord is watching each local church to see how well it utilizes the gifts and resources he has entrusted to it directly. Zambian missionary Dwight Kopp says, “If this were not so, Jesus would not have written seven separate letters to the churches in Revelation. Instead one letter could have been sufficient—blaming them all for the sin in the church of Sardis.”

Secondly, he multiplies “few” resources into “many” resources based on faithfulness (Mat 25:21) and according to the power of the Holy Spirit at work within a community of believers. (Eph 3:20) 

With these in mind, could it be that when we as Westerners give towards church building projects in a foreign land, that along with creating dependency on us, we are actually hindering that local congregation’s intimate trusting relationship with God? How often do we unintentionally bypass God’s process of maturing faith and steal the real blessings of “satisfaction” and “sense of ownership” God wants to instill in every local church? Instead of writing more checks to building projects, I’d like to suggest we look for ways to inspire more “We did it!” stories. 

  1. Vital-Herne, Valery, 2013, audio transcription from presentation, “Ten Characteristics of the Haitian National Church”,

  2. Awake Africa!!!, Dwight Kopp, Feb 19, 2006. Copyright (c) 2005 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS)


Dan, I recognize why you view dependency in the way you do, but there is a deeper cause than merely that God has given Americans 99 times more financial resources than the Haitians. The dependency lies in the system of church we have exported to the Haitians. We have exported a system of church that for Americans, forces them to consume 86% of their “giving” to fund a special building and at least one hired Bible lecture every week. When you take this system and transfer it from the wealthiest culture in the history of mankind to one of the poorest, they will no doubt consume 100% of their giving to pay a preacher in a very meager way, probably far sub par even by local standards of living. The preacher you spoke of could not tell you this because he assumes his weekly Bible lecture is the focal point of church life. Is there Biblical instruction for a form of church life where both Americans and Haitians devote 100% of their giving to serve the poor and reach all nations rather than fund professionalized ministry to themselves? There is but you have to unravel all the bogus exegesis involved in nullifying all of Paul’s very clear instruction on “refusing the right” to pay, ministering “free of charge” (1 Cor. 9) and not being a “burden” (2 Thes.3; 2Cor 11&12;) on God’s people; and meeting your own needs to help the weak (Acts 20). The reasons given for getting paid (he gives at least 10 in 1 Cor 9)  are no match for all the reasons for refusing it in all these texts. “Double honor”  and “those who labor in the word and teaching” in no way means never work a job and dominate all the teaching in the worship hour. You also have to unravel that “preach the Word” does not mean “lecture the word with zero questions, zero participation from anyone else, and worst of all zero reproduction to other gathered priests. Col. 3:16; Eph 4:15; 2 Tim 2:1,2 and many more.

Once Haitians learn that 100% of their giving goes beyond themselves and 100% of Americans giving goes beyond themselves, they will realize it’s all both the work of Christ and not any of their glory to rejoice about “we did it”. The money always comes from Christ. Instead of using resources to buy special property and build special buildings for crowd oriented church life, renovate strong believers homes to have a larger room for 6 or 7 families to gather and do the “new and living way” paid for by Christ and laid out in Hebrews 10:1 - 25. And “all the more as the day is approaching”. This dynamic is locally reproducible both spiritually and financially. Pulpit and pews is not either financially or spiritually.

It took me 20 years to unravel these “traditions of men that nullify the commands of God” but you and others who read may be transformed much faster than that. I used to consume most of my own giving trafficking in the best Bible lecturers around, but no more. Just think what could be done in reaching all nations with God’s people getting a fix in this area of church life!

Hi Tim. Thanks for taking the time to consider the question I posed in my article, “How can we inspire more ‘We Did It‘ stories?” I appreciate your contribution and your heart attitude which comes through as one who wants to consider how he can spur us all on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

While I agree with you that many of the problems in majority world countries like Haiti come from exported methods and expensive infrastructure arriving with the missionaries, I don’t think it is as simple as suggesting that changing church models and lowering the cost of doing church would change the situation on the ground. In fact, the pastors at the church I mentioned in the article were “tent makers.” They earned a living as teachers at the American funded church school so they could preach every Sunday “free of charge” in the Haitian church. Therefore, weekly expenses to conduct church were practically non existent. And yet, not one person in the congregation contributed even a few pennies to purchase a simple lunch for a small number of foreign workers who were coming to rebuild a school for them at a cost of more than $15,000. All of this, including the simple lunch the church refused to provide, was 100% funded by Believers from the US. Now…once again, please contrast this to what happened in the other Haitian church when the pastor received a revelation that God could receive the seemingly little they had in their hands and multiply it into more than they could ever imagine! (John 6:5-11) Therefore, the pastor and his congregation were able to say, “We Did It” which really means “We Did It” through trusting in God’s unlimited supernatural provision. (Proverbs 3:5,6, Philippians 4:13)

As you can see, the congregation’s refusal to participate had nothing to do with the way they were doing church or the pastors receiving salaries, rather the Haitian people in this congregation had grown accustomed to someone from the west doing everything for them. Contrast this unwilling heart attitude with Paul exhorting the materially poor people of Corinth to grow in generosity through giving testimony of how the even more materially poor people of Macedonia had eagerly responded to giving outside of themselves.

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.”
2 Corinthians 8:1-4 (NIV)

I would love to hear how you are inspiring more “We Did It” (In Christ) stories among the materially poor you serve in America. In particular, how have you challenged them to give to other materially poor people and missions outside their fellowship? Don’t they first have to learn to contribute unselfishly towards one another’s mutual needs in their local Christian community? Once again, many thanks for your thoughtful reflections!

Dan, thank you for adding to your story. How amazing that there are pastors in Haiti who meet their own needs. Praise God that there are a few. All around them are churches that do not have ministry schools to send them a Bible lecturer every week. This dynamic is not reproducible to hundreds of other fellowships. It is an exception. Even though these pastors are paid by Americans to teach in the school, I’m wondering if they lead the saints in their church the same way American pastors lead here in the dominant form of one-way communication expression of God’s Word? It’s called “preaching” but it’s a form of preaching the NT never specifies as one-way communication. The same is true for teaching if you prefer that the pastors are lecture teaching. The God we serve is a 100% two-way communication God. This very form creates a spiritual dependency in the fellowship, not just a financial dependency. It completely eliminates the dynamic God specified for us in the “new and living way” from Hebrews 10. When you systematize out what God has instructed you have spiritual fall out in many areas, mainly in understanding what it means to “love” and “do good works”. If Americans and Haitians share the same lecture oriented gathering, their shallowness in “love and good works” will be the same immaturity. There are exceptions but not many. We cannot continue to use the exceptions to justify maintaining the same system. This is continuing to sin that grace may increase, which should never be.

You said, “I don’t think it is as simple as suggesting that changing church models and lowering the cost of doing church would change the situation on the ground.” I strongly disagree.
1. We are not to do church by one model or another but by the revelation of God’s Word. God’s Word is clear and one look at church around shows the majority form has reversed God’s revelation. God has not given us a revelation of a collection of models for us to choose from like a buffet.
2. Obeying God’s word always changes everything “on the ground”. In regards to finances. Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. You cannot expect your giving to go to mostly yourself and expect your heart to go beyond yourself. When Haitians pool their giving to buy bigger buildings for bigger crowds to hear Bible lectures are they not giving to themselves and in direct contradiction to God’s call to “spur one another on to love and good works” and “encourage one another” which is the “habit of meeting” they are “not to forsake”? Along with the high cost of pulpits and pews is the high dependency of God’s people on experts speaking the truth. God’s people are to practice being “royal priests” who “proclaim the glories of him who called them from darkness into light”.

“Some of the big buildings you see downtown or in Delmas are debt free, paid for only by Haitians.1”
If I listen to the youtube recording referenced here will he tell me how the Haitians are doing church just like in the US with platform driven function or will he tell me how Haitians gather fully dependent on their direct connection to God and his enablement to directly “spur” and “encourage” their fellow believers in “one another” dynamic?

Here are two examples how I am seeking to inspire giving beyond ourselves and all being directly used by God to “speak the truth in love so we can grow up into Him who is the head…” I’m involved in a new church plant where the “teaching elder” is currently ministering for free but wants to get paid from the offering plate. I am “provoking him” with God’s word from Paul on “ministry free of charge”. I am modeling to the saints how to come prepared every week with a spiritual offering of truth to share and build up. I have partners in this effort who are 6, 8, 9, 10, and 12 years old. Any age believer who can speak can do this.  This fellowship amazingly has a time in the gathering where anyone can share. (A very rare reality sadly among churches.) As a business owner one of my employees asked me to disciple him in the Lord so we are meeting before work going through the Story of Hope put out by Good Soil, which is very reproducible in both evangelism and discipleship.

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