Strategic Giving: “An Urgent call for fiscal responsibility in the mission fields of the 10/40 Window”.
I have wanted for some time to write about the tragic consequences of “uninformed giving” to missions, especially in the poorest countries on earth located in the 10/40 Window. In our generosity and compassion, we can inadvertently cause unimaginable chaos and pain.
How’s that you ask? Consider the following quotes:
“Westerners who do the funding have the best of intentions. But reliance on foreign funding does not empower an indigenous leader. Rather, it makes him an object of suspicion. You may not like that perception. But you’ll get nowhere if you try to ignore it.” John Haggai
“Missions thus is increasingly driven by a response to poverty rather than by an understanding of lostness.The American response, inbred by a pragmatic heritage, is to naively cast small doses of money to new converts to help and encourage: local preachers are quickly put on American salaries, service ministries created which can be maintained only by Western economic help, and Western-style training institutions developed. Money then becomes the tool by which Western control is superimposed over missions churches.” Gailyn Van Rheenen
I have no desire in this article to be sensational or to seek a confrontation with mission agencies but I seek rather to prepare the church, especially the global house church movement to “give strategically” to poor countries. I am convinced that soon the house church movement will awaken from her “giving phobia”, and will have untold millions at her disposal: free of building projects, paying salaries and utilities, the house church movement will be able to lead the way on the subject of giving and generosity.
We desperately need to “think and pray” long and hard on how to be involved financially in “preaching the gospel to all nations’.
The Death of a Young Tajik Believer
Our family lived through a tragic incident in the early 2000’s in Tajikistan. The backdrop to this situation is common in many “undeveloped nations”:
e.g. Western Christians enter the nation to preach the Gospel and need a “valid reason” for living in that country. Many times missionaries will focus on the obvious physical needs of the country – clean water, health care, disaster relief, development, etc. In and of themselves, these are all valid reasons but they bring one “problem” with them. The need for an infrastructure built from Western capital.
In Tajikistan it was no different.
One mission agency in Tajikistan developed a program to provide young boys, many of them orphans, skills for learning a job. To make things run they needed outside capital included machinery, tools, office space and housing. In the course of providing these needs a very large sum of money was sent over to Tajikistan and kept in the office safe. Word got out about this money (either through the boys or the local office staff) and it was stolen.
Regrettably, on the night it was stolen a young Tajik believer from another city just happened to need a ‘bed for the night’. He was due to leave for his home in the morning. Tragically, he was awoken in the night by the thieves and killed. He was sleeping in the office where the safe was located. The thieves themselves were later caught and executed.
When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough
There is a helpful axiom that says
“If you only have a hammer in your toolbox, then every problem you encounter is a nail.”
In the Western world we only have a checkbook in our toolbox, so all the problems we encounter require money. However, we desperately need rock solid, Biblical principles, put together by proven ministries over the course of many years.
For example, a principle provided for us by Glenn Penner from his excellent paper Dependency: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough is:
“When aid is needed, resources should be sought in as close of geographical proximity as possible.”
We in the global house church movement are sitting on a powder keg of finances that will be available to release into the kingdom of God to penetrate into the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist worlds.
The question is will be ready for the task? Let’s think BEFORE we act so as not to make the same old mistakes our “forefathers” did.
How Shall We Then Give?
The main principle that Maria and I hold to is this: the best giving is done by those living closest to the need.
We see this as the heartbeat of Jesus’ ministry with His disciples: “They do not need to go away: you give them something to eat!” (Mtt 14) The disciples could only come up with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Not too impressive with 5000 hungry mouths! But here is where we err, hoping to provide through our strength (financial might and sheer numbers) and not in the miracle working power of Jesus.
In actual fact, the disciples were quite slow to get the message of Jesus’ miraculous provision, as just a few days or weeks later they where faced with the task of feeding of the 4000: “Where will anyone be able to find enough to satisfy these men with bread here in a desolate place?”
They had forgotten WHO is the real provider! Could it be that because we don’t bring the miraculous to the mission field we end up bring the money?
Can I say it again: “those closest to the problem are best suited to find the answer”. That is a Starfish principle if I ever read one!!
Is there a need to support national workers/ministries? Yes! And the best people to give to this need are the local people themselves. Not some “rich” Westerner living 1000’s of mile away. (BTW, the poorest person in America is extremely rich in the eyes of most people living in the 10/40 Window).
Are there huge developmental needs? Yes! And, once again, the best people to give to this need are the local people themselves.
Consider this quote from well-known Christian researcher David Barrett: “If African Christians gave just 2% of their income, the church could pay all its bills.”
“Western money continues to make the national church dependent on the West. It creates a sense of rivalry, greed and competition. It often robs the national church of its natural potential. When the easy money from the West is available, very few want to explore indigenous ways of fund raising.”
Of course, there are times when the physical situation is so catastrophic that giving from far away is not only the right thing to do but also the best. (Think back to the Tsunami of 2004) In the NT we see that the churches Paul planted gave money to meet needs of the “mother church” in Jerusalem because of the famine. But this was a one-time deal it appears and not a steady practice.
Yours for the least in the kingdom,
P.S. What do I recommend?
My first thoughts are that one of the best things we can do is find out ‘local problems’ and help solve them. ‘Loving your neighbor’ type things like we see with the Good Samaritan parable. In the Rich Man and Lazarus parable the poor man lay at his gate!! He was not being judged for not helping 1000’s of miles away.
Secondly, when there is more to give, we should give as the Holy Spirit leads! I suggest to give to people/ministries who are taking the ‘mustard seed’ approach: Little changes that have a ripple effect. I am attaching a picture that shows what homegrown, piecemeal, ripple effect change can look like. It does not take lots and lots of money. Here is the link: http://other90.cooperhewitt.org/Design/pot-in-pot-cooler