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 a thirst for foreign funding and the view that more foreign money will enable a church to fulfill God's plan for it. Sadly, such financial dependency on foreign aid often has the effect of sapping spiritual vitality, stifling local initiative and actually slowing down Great Commission fulfillment rather than speeding it up.
That's a tragic irony, isn't it? The "have" Christians of the world want 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 can be akin to trying to help baby birds get out of their eggshells or butterflies out of their cocoons. That "help" is not good for the birds or the butterflies. What was meant to be a helping hand becomes counterproductive and winds up hurting rather than helping.
Here are ten reasons why allowing financial dependency to develop is unhealthy in global missionary ministry:
For these and other reasons, depending on a pipeline to foreign money to finance local ministries often winds up stalemating things rather than sustaining or increasing momentum, It stunts initiative rather than stimulating it. It cripples churches rather than galvanizing them to increased action.
So, is giving financial help always bad? No. But it must be done wisely and with great discernment. No one sets out to purposefully create dependency. It is, tragically, an unintended consequence. To avoid dependency, 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 than to subsidize on-going operations.
All Christ followers 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 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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