In Wolfgang Simson's "Houses That Change the World" he says...
I believe we have moved from a colonial era of mission into what I call 'national mission', where each nation is called to develop its own models of church. Often enough this will have to happen through people in every nation praying for themselves, shedding their own tears, incarnating the living Christ afresh within their own time and culture. If the West could then come and, in the spirit of 'crucified colonialism'--the opposite of imperialism and denominationalism--carefully pour some oil on this process, it would be wonderful.How, exactly, is one to "carefully pour some oil on this process?"
There is little doubt that countries like the USA and other developed Western nations have indeed been blessed by God. If we are truly One Body in Christ, shouldn't those parts of the Body who have more be willing to share liberally with those who have far less?
The first Wednesday we were back in the States for our last furlough, the church who was hosting us had its monthly business meeting. With no discussion and in just a few minutes more than $75,000 was voted on to 1) replace the windows in the West Wing, 2) repairs to the elevator, 3) an additional room added on to one of the church properties. I realize we were probably the only people present that went into shock that evening over what was to us totally unnecessary expenditures. I couldn't help but think, in less than 15-minutes, more was spent on building maintenance than the entire yearly ministry budget for the combined IMB missionary force in the country where we serve!
But before we are too quick to judge and criticize what was done that evening, would it have been a good thing if the church had voted to designate that same amount to the work in Ecuador? Would we have used it any wiser? Would that amount of money been detrimental to the work by causing dependency? Of course we would like to think we could put the funds to much better use. But, this gets us back to the real question I'd like to struggle with a bit...
How might the West carefully pour some oil on the missions process so that it results in blessing and genuine Kingdom expansion?
1) Giving to the needs of the saints. In Acts and the Epistles we see this kind of sacrificial, liberal giving for fellow brethren going through hard times. The USA, and particularly the Church, has always been at the top of the list to help during a crisis both at home and around the world. I recently sent out a "Prayer SOS" with the intent of illiciting prayer support for some of our fellow believers going through difficult trials. Many people responded by praying and God has been at work in each of these situations. A few actually sent us love offerings to help these saints going through difficult moments. While this was certainly not our intent in sharing these needs, some felt led of the Lord to give and we helped channel these gifts for them. These offerings have been a tremendous blessing to the saints who were recipients. Being one-time gifts they do not create dependency; rather they have been the cause of much thanksgiving to the Father.
2) Matching what can be raised locally for various and sundry evangelistic and outreach projects. It is a terrible thing leading to dependency to simply provide the financial assistance to nationals and pay for everything. They will certainly let you do it, but it takes the blessing away from them of having to give from their own resources. An example of this is something we are currently dealing with. There is a particular discipleship course of study that we would like to use with the new believers. The price per book is $6. Few can afford this amount and if we charge $6/book very few will receive the benefit of this wonderful material. $3 is something that most could pay out over several weeks. They would cherish "their" book that they had bought. But someone has to pick up the remaining $3. This to me, is where a "bit of oil" from the outside might quietly be used to subsidize the cost of making disciples.
3) Independent, self-supporting ministries. Just as in the USA there are many charities and ministries that seek donors, overseas ministries likewise are in desperate need of financial support. I personally do not see the difference between a USA-based ministry asking for contributions and an international ministry doing so. Why is it OK to give to Focus on the Family (a great worthy ministry) but not Teleamigo (see below) or Camino de Salida, Dorcas, Clemencia, or any one of dozens of other struggling national ministries making a tremendous impact on the lives of tens of thousands of people and doing so on a shoe-string budget?
The Teleamigo ministry highlighed in the video below this post is a good example. If you watched this video and saw all the praying going on, you might be surprised to learn that this past month they didn't have the money to pay their office rent, lights were cut off due to not being able to pay the light bill, and the telephone lines were cut off for the same reason. Some might say if they were in God's will He would take care of these needs and provide. Just look at all the millionaire ministries Stateside, isn't the fact that they are so blessed proof they are in God's will? Another way to look at this though is to understand that ministries like Teleamigo are indeed part of God's will, but God's people are often led (seduced?) to donate to ministries and causes that benefit them personally (eg. mega-church buildings, family life centers, favorite Christian television networks, etc.) Having lots of money does not equate God's blessing.
God's blessing has been on Teleamigo through the years, but this does not mean we have not suffered tremendously on the financial end of things. Might this be one of those situations where a bit of western oil poured on the process be beneficial? Teleamigo is only one of many ministries doing a wonderful job. All of them, without exception, are crying out daily to God for financial help to get through one more day. Why can't a bit of the abundance elsewhere be poured out to assist these wonderful ministries?
Any other ideas as to how oil might be poured upon international missions in such a way that it doesn't cause harm, but results in Kingdom growth and blessing to thousands?