This issue of MF is your opportunity to learn from others the dangers of foreign funds in missions. In the West we often think that money can solve all problems, but in reality no amount of money can replace the hard work, ingenuity and innovation of people. Foreign money not only does not speed up the spread of the gospel, it actually hinders it as it discourages the people being reached from taking personal ownership of the process of making disciples and planting churches. A question for us as Jesus followers is, “How do you motivate and encourage people to make disciples and plant churches?” Some think money is the answer, but as you will read in this issue of MF, money is often a disincentive to what we want to see in ministry.See all the articles
You would think that after thousands of years of human history, people would have achieved a greater understanding of human nature and would be able to avoid the inevitable pitfalls that come with that human nature. But like the driver who hits the same pothole every day on his way to work, we keep making the same mistakes with money in missions, apparently learning nothing from the bad experiences of others.
The Dominican Republic The cattle truck turned off the highway onto a dirt road that wound through acres and acres of sugarcane. Two more cattle trucks followed, each one loaded with one to two dozen eager Americans. I was one of them. We were headed to yet another remote Dominican village. After getting our bearings, we began our visit in the village by following the same routine of all the other mission trips I had taken. We broke off into teams and set out to meet needs, pray, and share the gospel with precious people who needed Jesus.
While visiting churches in an outlying part of another country, Mike and Rebecca’s charitable instincts kicked in. “We must find a way to help these churches,” they declared. Before they returned to the USA, they decided to give $100 to each of the three churches in the area to use for their most pressing need. Mike and Rebecca interpreted the recipients’ enthusiastic appreciation as an indication that the money was of great help. They made sure the churches knew that they were keen to partner with them.
In the book, Celtic Daily Prayer: Farther Up and Farther In, the authors who are part of Northumbria Community share about the very human side of monastic life in the following manner: Monastic diseases are coping mechanisms—attitudes and actions that can bring dis-ease to ourselves and others around us. All of us have the potential to catch any and all of these diseases—the main problem lies in denial or wrong diagnosis, or no diagnosis at all, i.e. being unaware of them. Let us use this thinking as a window to peek in at our own attitudes and actions that create the diseases of unhealthy dependency. Missional diseases are coping mechanisms—attitudes and actions that can bring disease manifested as unhealthy codependency to ourselves and others around us. All of us have the potential to catch any and all of these diseases—the main problem lies in denial, wrong diagnosis or no diagnosis at all.
During my 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.
One of the most difficult problems facing the Christian movement at the beginning of the 21st century is the dependency on outside funding that has developed in many mission-established churches. Church and mission leaders have several different reactions to this problem. First, sometimes both mission leaders and church leaders are embarrassed about the dependency syndrome and would like to see the situation change. Not all of them fully understand what caused the problem or what to do about it, but they know that the situation is not healthy for the church or mission. Dependency among mission- established churches is not necessary; and where it exists, it can be eliminated.
The Three-Self Formula is much better known in mission circles than it is practiced. It has been around for over 150 years and it states that a newly planted church is mature or indigenous when it is self-governing, self-propagating and self-supporting. It was first popularized and implemented by a pair of mission executives who headed the largest mission agencies of their day.
The English intellect C.P. Snow asked the now-famous question, “Can we do ‘good’ when the foreseeable consequences are evil?” No, but what if the evil consequences are not easily “foreseeable?” During and after the Korean war, American agencies raised money for Korean “orphans.” This was a major opportunity for Americans to support cute looking orphans for $20 a month. Genuine concern in the form of powerful maternal and paternal instincts also supported this kind of cause. Those orphans were so well treated that many Korean families decided to “orphan” one or more of their own children in order to assure them of enough food and clothing and relieve the financial burden of another hungry mouth. In such cases, American money was not helping orphans so much as splitting families—not the donors’ intentions! This was not immediately apparent. “Direct” help continued to seem reasonable. Years later, a superb improvement took place and “childcare”—not starving orphans—was now the cry, which helped the destitute family care for its own children. Later still, the larger concept of “relief and development” emerged whereby plans for helping the family earn a living began to replace simple relief.
Ralph Winter called it the Gutzlaff Syndrome. Named after one of the earliest fiascos in Protestant mission history, the Gutzlaff Syndrome is a form of mission co-dependency where the patrons and clients of a mission- field endeavor become mutually dependent on pseudo-results in a field-based con. You may be wondering, “Does this really happen?” It does, and more often than you might think.
This edition of Mission Frontiers is addressing questions about “dependency.” Raising this in MF is fitting, as our focus on movements will naturally take us to the conversation about how movements to Jesus resource themselves, and how they avoid dependency, and with it the flip side of dependency which is “control,” as exercised through the golden rule: the one with the gold makes the rules.
MF: Why did you write Your Part in God’s Story? Steve: For years I’ve been fascinated by the stories of when Jesus rose from the dead and faced a band of disciples who were defeated and disillusioned. Just like us! Luke tells us that it took Jesus just forty days to restore them and prepare them for a worldwide mission. How did He do that?
What is the most strategic role you can imagine for a Jesus follower in the Western world who wants to see all peoples reached with the gospel as soon as possible?
She refused to give up. Pressing on through pain, weariness, discouragement, not to mention her sense of unworthiness, she pressed on. When her first groups started well, but soon fell apart, she didn’t quit. Oh, she felt like it alright. The burning passion to reach the lost of her city compelled her to keep trying. Again, she began new groups. She cast vision to her pastor, to new friends, and they continued taking unsteady but determined steps forward. Then, almost unexpectedly, they hit the tipping point. Things began to grow rapidly. Within a year, 52 groups were started. They were beginning to multiply. She was a woman of dogged determination and great faith. The kind of faith that refused to give up.
Everyone who desires to do good and/or share truth is a creator of dependency and is dependent themselves.1 This is especially true for Westerners, or those with more resources than those they are working among. It doesn’t matter if we raise personal support, start a company or work for an employer. The question we should be asking ourselves is: how aware are we of the kinds of dependency which we create and in which we live?
Unreached of the Day May-June 2021
During my 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...