Monday, June 21, 2010

Reflections in Kenya #3

I’m not an “either/or” type of guy. I do have my biases and indeed do lean toward what I think is a better way, but there are exceptions to every rule. Therefore, my comments below as it relates to national support, are tempered by a few exceptions.

I do believe in financial funding for special projects and certainly as it relates to on-going education, training and discipleship. However, I shy away from Western funding, and especially ministries, which are built and driven by aiding developing countries. Evangelizing the nations is not the same as feeding the poor, though somehow we have made taking the Great Commission a human rights issue and, like the blue helmeted UN soldiers, we have come to believe that everything done in the Name of Jesus is the Gospel. Why am I so hard on “open-ended” funding from the haves to the have-nots?

DIGNITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH – I go back to the case study a Kenyan missionary going to Sudan. He launched out on his own with little to no support. He was driven by a call to reach those who have never heard the Gospel. A local church in Kenya decided to help him, but the support was meager, at best. Some American group, which only supports national pastors, heard about the missionary and wanted to take on his full support. The local church backed off supporting him for two reasons. One, if a rich group from the West will do the funding, why should they? Second, The local church can’t meet their own needs, including paying their pastor, so it is easier to back away from supporting a missionary and concentrate on their own church.

While some believe that Western funding is really advancing the Kingdom, I would argue that our generosity is in reality hurting the national church. Giving is a grace and it a universal disciple that plagues all congregations be they from rich nations or the desperately poor (read 2 Corinthians 8). We sap the dignity of the local church when we tell them that we will carry their financial responsibilities.

POOR MISSIOLOGY - I am torn and wrestle with the need for compassion for those who are poor, oppressed, homeless and hungry. I know we are admonished to help with the felt needs of those less fortunate and believe the church does have a role.

It seems to me, nevertheless, that many, certainly not all, of those who are involved in funding nationals, do not wrestle at all with these missiological tensions in at all.

To be brutally honest, many mission programs (be they social work of feeding, orphanages or funding national pastors; be they American churches or national mission organization) are driven more by their programs and their agenda and have little to no understanding of sound missiology. SOME, again, certainly not all, have the same philosophy as the current American political administration that one should always take advantage of a crisis. SOME, not all, see a tsunami, an earthquake, a drought, a civil war as an opportunity to raise funds. Helping the poor is big business, but it is not necessarily Kingdom business.

Do I support national works? Yes. Am I too cautious as it relates to funding national works, probably. But I hold to Marvin Mayers “Prior Question of Trust” (the PQT) as a good guide in such matters - “Is what I am saying or doing building or undermining trust.” Trust is not built by just writing another check. Trust is built, the Kingdom is built, is through biblical missiology.