Tuesday, October 3

Pouring oil on the process

DISCLAIMER: Since I am going to talk about money in this post, I'd like to say upfront that it is not my intention to use this post as a cloak to secretly petition funds for our work and ministry (as much as I would like to! :-). If anyone should write me back privately saying they would like to give to our work or any ministry illustrated below, I will write back instructions on how to make a donation to the IMB, or how to give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Southern Baptist annual offering taken up for international missions. As IMB missionaries we encourage individuals to give through their local churches to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

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?


antonio said...

Very interesting thoughts. Coming from a ministry with limited money, though God has provided for our basic needs, like food on my plate for one, I too look at things different than some when it comes to foreign money. Many are totally anti give money of any type. I agree, we do not want to create dependencies but there is cause to give, places to give, and times to give. It is the same within the IMB. People think because a person is a full funded missionary that all the needs are taken care of. People are uniformed of the other details.

I think that one of the problems is that people do not understand the needs. Using me for example, some think because I am still here that I have everything I need. Well, that is not basically so, but in the same instance many do not understand the need and for that I cannot fault them.

In international missions, many people do not understand the needs. We have a lot of people come in country and want to give for this and that but do not understand that their urge to provide is blinded by emotion. One area in particular is a border city. People are always bringing toys and clothes for instance. When you go to the dump area, where these toys go to, what do you see: A landfill of junk where people live within.

What is sad is that this area in particular is polluted with ministries reaching out to this area for everything but the true spiritual needs, but this is something we have been taught. So, now here's the flip. Does this mean that we should not provide anything of monetary value to this area? Some would say so and some actually get a little agitated over certain facts. I think of it like you said about how do we say no to something but we do the same thing. One of the churches wants a church building and their own land. Several think you do not need to do this and advise them against it. My question is how you can tell someone to not do something we would do? If they want a church building and they want to build it themselves, then by all means if God is in it, I say go for it.

With your book situation, you are right. Most people cannot afford it but could at a discounted rate. Someone has to pick up the tab and it should not have to be you. Where is the danger in allowing them to purchase a study at a discounted rate? No where. They have still worked for but can also have the feeling of self-worth and pride in it. I think of it like my Bible. I love my Bible. It was an expensive Bible that I paid for. Now if someone had given it to me, would I be as picky about it and worried about messing it up? (It took me a long time to convince myself it was okay to mark in it.) Probably not. Where is the danger of Western going here? No where.

But, why do people not give to help out foreign ministries? I think partly because of fear. They see some of these great scandalous ministries on television and associate it with anything non-SBC. Some are content and think that their tithes and offerings at church are enough. Hey, I give my tithe, my Lottie Moon, my state offering, etc and that is all. I think at times we have created a problem within our churches by not teaching people to think outside of tradition. Sadly, some think that SBC giving is the only giving. Sorry, I do not have any definites or solutions.

David Rogers said...

Probably my favorite quote from Wolfgang is, upon being asked what is the best thing we, as Western missionaries, can do to further CPMs: "find a national believer who is on fire for God, and pour gasoline on his fire."

I have taken this mainly in terms of personal encouragement and relational support, by way of mentoring. However, I do believe there is a place for financial "gasoline or oil pouring" as well. The trick is doing it in such a way as to not create unhealthy dependency. I think you give some great suggestions here.

antonio said...

You are definitely right. If we can get 1000 that will be something.

Donald said...

Hmmm... This is a tough topic to discuss because inevitably you are going to step on someone's toes. My personal bent is to extremely limit outside resources from influencing the work. It is hard to go stateside and see how much money is spent on "churches". What is more difficult is trying to explain to these churches why just pouring $10,000 on a problem in Latin America will not solve the problem.

I get the feeling that $10k for some churches is just a drop in the bucket and they see their money as a catalyst that might further the work along greatly. Unfortunatley, this is USUALLY not the case. I am not talking about specificially targeting funding some key training event or activity where no one even needs to know where the funding comes from. I am talking about droping $50k on a church that is averaging 40 people in worship because they could never afford to do XYZ without help.

I believe that strategic use of catalytic funding is very helpful. I believe that bulk of the funds flowing overseas are neither catalytic nor strategic.

You ask how we could use "oil" to pour upon international missions? I believe practical training can be one method.

Guy Muse said...

ANTONIO--Thanks for your observations. I guess what all of us can agree on is that money is a touchy issue in missions--especially when you begin handing out money. What must be avoided is to create dependency. I am currently submerged in a huge problem that was created years ago by a dependency issue. The big bucks can certainly do some wonderful things, but unless these can be sustained through local financing they are doomed to eventual collapse and failure.

DAVID--The Wolfgang quote about pouring gasoline on national believers is certainly applicable to this discussion as well. I spent the morning with one of our church planters who has a huge heart for doing church planting full time. The only thing holding him back is the financial aspect. I did my best to encourage him in all his dreams and plans for the work, but sadly most of what he dreams of doing for the Lord requires funding that neither he nor us has. Thankfully most of those we work with do not look to the missionary as a source of ready financial support. Most truly seek the Lord for help directly. We spent considerable time coming up with ideas to make some money. His business is a small hardware store that nets him $3-$5 profit/day. I am providing him with several training manuals, Bibles and songbooks which he can sell to help make up the difference for the cost of his next missions trip.

DONALD--Was wondering where you had disappeared to and now I know from your blog! I agree that catalytic funding is very helpful. I always struggle with the best way to "pour on the gasoline/oil" in these situations. You mention training as a legit place to "pour oil". The easiest thing would be to simply pull out my bill fold and hand the person $40, which would suffice in covering their basic transportation needs and some food to go out and train/evangelize/plant a church, but what about the next time...and the next time?

Bryan Riley said...

Guy, it is amazing when you see the dollars poured into things that aren't really needed in the States. Million dollar buildings. My family are support-based missionaries. We are wholly dependent on gifts from others. And we support missionaries as well. But because we are support dependent it does make it difficult to talk about God's principles surrounding money without people thinking we are only out for their wallet.

One example of how far the dollar can go is that we recently gave $250 to a missionary who is going to Africa for two months to work with shelters to the AIDS afflicted populations there. That $250 will pay for an entire month of his venture. I know that I used to believe that I could always drop $100. That was the lifestyle I enjoyed. $100 never hurt and I never had to think about writing a check for $100. Now, I am grieved by how far $100 can go overseas and how little of those $100 drops I made went to anything other than nice meals for my family or a new pair of shoes.

Anyway, our culture is afflicted with the worship of Mammon. We should pray against it. We must remember that it is a spiritual war we fight.

guy muse said...

BRYAN--I've enjoyed following your own missionary venture of faith to Hawaii. One of the interesting things I have concluded from reading the NT is that the early church used their gifts and offerings for 1) helping the saints through difficult times, 2) supporting apostolic workers and missions ventures, 3) care of widows (orphans?) If this was the NT pattern, how is it that we have gotten away from this simplicity and now think that "God's money" should be used for all kinds of unnecesary things? My hat is off to you for your step of faith into this adventure with the Lord. May He continue to provide for your every need.

Darrell said...

My heart was grieved as I read this post and the comments. The way things are in North America are just INSANE! When God began to open my eyes to CPMs one of the things He showed me is how much money is wasted by traditional church methods. I can remember talking to an elder of the church asking him how our church could justify spending 11,000 dollars on itself every WEEK. How can those in leadership continue to fund a paradigm that is failing miserably? 88% of children who grow up in the traditional church are leaving, not one county in America has a greater percentage of Christians then it did 10 years ago, I could go on. Yet the beat goes on, and trillions are pored into a system that no good business man would support. Don’t get me wrong I love my brothers and sisters in the traditional approach to church. Many are sincerely attempting to make a difference for the kingdom of God. However, I hate the system because it is hindering the expansion of what the world needs most…the kingdom of God. It is high time to wake up and go to war with the kingdom of darkness with all the resources of God’s kingdom being strategically maximized. Brothers and sisters like you all should not lack money for the things money would be good for when there are trillions being spent on things that hinder the kingdom here in North America.

I pray that God will have mercy on America and allow her to experience the kind of CPMs you all are seeing so that God’s kingdom all over the world can be blessed.