Self-supporting churches: Are we there yet?

The concept of creating dependency in missions is a hot issue among missiologists. I want to bring to your attention a series of posts about the three-selves formula.

Check out these posts:

Missions Issues:

The discussion began on the blog for VOMCanada

Here, Glen Penner refers to an article by Robert Reese, found here and to a book by Glenn Schwarz entitled When Charity Destroys Dignitywhich can be purchased through VOM here.

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Arnau van Wyngaard at missions issues gives a two post evaluation of Schwarz’s book

  • Part 1–Negative interaction
  • Part 2–Postive interaction

followed by a comparison/contrastwith a work by John Rowell, To Give or Not to Give, found on Amazon here.

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No doubt, countless other missionaries and missionary organizations have thought through and are thinking through these issues. However, each of us, and our churches, have to decide how we are going to let our consciences be affected by our giving or withdrawal of giving. I believe that financial dependency can be created and that this can hinder the growth of the church. I also believe that failure to provide for our brothers and sisters in need can also hinder the growth of the church. But I think one thing that needs to be considered by all parties involved is giving with NO STRINGS ATTACHED. This is what my friend Arnau is saying on his blog. I think ministries like Voice of the Martyrs would benefit from this approach. Very importantly, it gives freedom to both the giver and the receiver. And, ultimately, it honors Jesus who said, “Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing!”

Giving is not an investment that we should expect a return on. If so, I think we have received our reward in full. Rather, giving is to be done fully and cheerfully without any expectation of return. Jesus said to lend without expecting anything in return. In the west, we have become so portfolio driven that unless we have some sort of tangible results or unless we can force someone to give us an accounting for the fruitfulness of our investment, then we should put our money where the return is greater. Note, I am not saying that financially accountability is wrong. I am saying that judging the effectiveness of a financial gift by the number of ministries started or the number of converts won is trying to fulfill a selfish longing for visible results. Our fruit is in heaven, not on earth. Let it be! If God led to you to give, let him take care of the fruit. We in the West claim, “well, its just common sense to put our money where there is the most in return.” Who is in charge in that paradigm? The giver, or God?  Let us let go of our money. Give it wholeheartedly as if God is the one leading us to give. And let it go! Cut the strings. Where then will dependency be?

You say, but in the past, we created rice Christians, and had corrupt peddlers of the gospel. True. But who was in the drivers seat? The Western missionary. What if the local church was in the drivers seat? Then we might have a more biblical type of accountability. Perhaps I am being a little idealistic here, but I believe that one of the problems facing missions today is the sense of superiority that missionaries carry with them subconsciously. A sense that we must repent of and consciously try to discern the deep roots of it in our hearts. Though scripture says, “Money is the root of all evil,” is does not say that money in and of itself is evil. Otherwise, return your paychecks. No longer be fully supported. Work with your own hands–Those who do not work, do not eat! If you can take a full paycheck with a clear conscience, then you might reconsider what you call creating dependency. Cut the strings!!! Denominations, Cut the Strings! Missionaries, let them loose! Churches, work together! May the unity of Christ’s body be seen once more!

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5 Comments

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  1. Was it Mark Twain who once said that one can live for two weeks on a compliment? Thanks for the positive remarks you made about my posts on the topic. I will be writing something in the future about the issue of giving with no strings attached. I think what most churches lack when it comes to supporting missions, is an earnest desire to seek the will of God about where and how much to give. On meetings that I have been part of, a decision about giving or not giving is very often taken only on the grounds of someone’s emotional argument, for or against. What would happen if the chairperson would tell all those people to return home and to come back in a week’s time after they had searched for the will of God? The fact is that the people who get the most money for missions are often (not always!) the best manipulators. If a decision could be taken based on an earnest wish to do the will of God, it may become easier to give (or not to give).

  2. Arnau,

    Thanks for your interest in the subject and your well-thought posts. I look forward to reading what you have gleaned from your years of experience and education.

    I agree with you about the nature of many calls for giving. Emotions are important, but they can be played/manipulated. The danger is that people think that by giving they have absolved their responsibilities when they may have only qualmed their welled-up emotions. I still remember what my missions professor said in my first missions class. Missions cannot be done by proxy. It takes involvement. And this involvement should flow out of a decision based on prayer and and commitment to obedience. Pleas for funds sometimes fall short of this basic premise. (Many times pleas for the missionary call are also based on emotion as well, but this is another subject for another set of posts.)

  3. We need to trust that God will take care of what is put into His work. Now obviously this doesn’t mean putting our money into anything with the label Christian, because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt. 6.21), so we should be prayerfully and measuredly giving where God has put our hearts.

    However, we have to let the Lord do with our money what He will. If we see the fruits, let us thank God, but giving requires cheerful faith (2 Cor. 9.6-15).

  4. Epeuthutebetes, thank you! and Amen!

    You said

    However, we haveto let the Lord do with our money what He will. If we see the fruits, let us thank God, but giving requires cheerful faith(2 Cor. 9.6-15)

    Amen!

    Check out a recent post by my friend Arnau on the subject of giving and letting God work through it, HERE.

  5. Dear,pastor praise the Lord

    I am a church Evangelist I am looking for some supportes who willingly support our cause to carry on our visin among North Indians . I am a Hindu Convert who accepted Christ as saviour in the year 1995 and I am working among Punjabi Hindus. I have a vision to start a new ministry registered with the Government rules. I am looking for someone to help me to carry it in and pls pray for me,and help me.who will help me
    Pls, give me help some money for starting a new church in the non-christan people.
    I am short of money these days. Kindly keep this in mind and send us your reply as guided by the Holy Spirit
    With much regards and blessings to you all
    Bible,says.(2corinthians-9:9)-(james-4:17)
    I shall be thankful to you
    With much love .
    your’s in christ
    Darpen masih

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