Resources for the Task: Where are all the people and funds we hear about?
Where are they? We hear about it everywhere we turn, but how often do we really see the impact on the work of the Kingdom?
The economy in the U.S. is breaking records and economic theories. But how much of that is flowing into missions, or general church budgets?
Of course, money is that thing we don't really talk about too much in church or missions. It seems like pastors or missionaries either don't want to mention it or they talk about it all the time. But how often do we ask serious questions as to where all this wealth in our nation is going and how effectively it is being used? Are people at least tithing on their increased wealth, or have they convinced themselves that it really isn't increased till they sell?
Closely linked with that–and perhaps even more crucial–are the people resources. We hear that there are supposted to be more and more people available to volunteer for the causes dearest to them. But how often are those causes related to mission? Certainly there are other important causes, but you would expect that a percentage of these would be flowing into God's mission work–through the church or mission? Are they?
I've wondered if people who have "made it" in business or investments may also be so sure of themselves that they are convinced they are also experts in missions as well. They are "doing mission" on their own, just like they started their own business or have succeded in investments by their own skill. Sometimes that's great! We've all seen the great contribution that people with effective business experience can make to various aspects of mission. Connecting with business people in the receiving culture, sharing principles from their experience, relating well to the struggle people have in getting something started or keeping it going. This is especially true with those who have long-term relationships in the country. These are not skills or experience most missionaries have.
Sometimes, however, the story is different.
One church sent out a missionary couple more than ten years ago to work with Hindus in a European setting through a respected mission agency. A few years ago, they changed their mission policy deciding they had professionals in their church who had done evangelism and mentoring in the home church and culture. They informed the couple–the wife having grown-up in the church–that they would be phasing out their support and other long-term workers. The church felt they could do a better job by sending out people from their membership for two weeks at a time to do seminars with the national leadership there on how they do discipleship in their church.
I don't question they may indeed have a great deal to contribute in certain situations around the world where the church exists. But it is not likely they will establish a church where there isn't one already nearby within the culture in two weeks–especially in the Hindu or Muslim world. Some roles require longer term, on-site commitments.
Another friend of mine works in his homeland near NE India and Nepal. He knows the poor, "barefoot" pastors in that area. He is a resource to them in part because he understands them. Every so often–when he is not out meeting with them on-site–he calls them together for a few days or a week of training in a hut near his home.
Last year, just before he was having another of his training meetings, he heard that a group from the U.S. was coming over to do something similar. He didn't mind that they were going to have a session like his, he just wished they would have scheduled it when he wasn't having one. "I can't compete with their program, bringing books and resources from the believers in a rich country."
So he canceled his training and figured he would have it later. He would be there inbetween the groups or money sent from the U.S., U.K. or Korea. Of course, he acutally understands what they really need, but he didn't complain about that to me. I did ask him a question which he was polite enough NOT to anwer. The question: "What would a group from a church in a totally different culture have to contribute to the real needs of these pastors and church planters especially compared to you?" There are many things that sound helpful and good, but end up being counter productive.
On the other hand, I also know of missions that stay too long where they have worked. They have what seems like an unwillingness to hand things over and allow leadership to thrive. All too often, existing leadership wouldn't thrive–in part–because it is far too dependant on the outside missionaries and their funds. Younger missionaries see that and wonder if their lives might be worth more somewhere else?
Are you seeing resources flow to valid ministries globally? Send your examples to the e-mail address below.
Greg Parsons is the Executive Director of the U.S. Center for World Mission. He also serves on the boards of the IFMA, EFMA, the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse and a sending agency. [email protected]