Dependency. It is a word often associated with addiction. Sadly, dependency is also used as a label for a problem bedeviling world evangelism efforts. That problem develops when well- meaning attempts to aid a congregation or a leader in another country create an unquenchable thirst for foreign funding. Such financial dependency winds up sapping vitality, stifling initiative and slowing down Great Commission fulfillment.
That's a tragic irony, isn't it? The "have" Christians of the world desire to share in Kingdom work in "have not" places. So, they shower money on projects and people in far-away places. However, raining down money on people and projects is often akin to trying to help baby birds get out of eggshells or butterflies out of cocoons. The "help" turns counterproductive and winds up hurting rather than helping.
Here are ten reasons why financial dependency is so unhealthy in global missionary ministry:
For these and other reasons, using a pipeline of foreign money to finance local ministries often winds up stalemating things rather than sustaining or even increasing momentum, stunting initiative rather than stimulating it, and crippling churches rather than galvanizing them to further action.
So, is giving financial help always bad? No. But it must be done wisely and with great discernment. No one sets out to create dependency. It is, tragically, an unintended consequence. Among other things, foreign money must not be used to pay for everyday local expenses such as pastors' salaries, living expenses, building rent or utilities. In terms of an analogy from pioneer days in the American West, foreign money must only be used to prime the pump rather to subsidize on-going operations.
Believers are called to give. Believers are called to help the less fortunate. However, we must do it judiciously and strategically so that we help rather than hurt.
-- Howard Culbertson
This 500-word mini-essay on a key issue in world missions outreach is one of 12 articles in the "Mission briefing" series published in Engage magazine.
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