October 20, 2011

Does Financial Support for Native Missionaries Lead to Laziness?

A few years ago, a pastor from Australia was visiting our house. We got to talking about missions. I began to tell him about what I do to support native missionaries. He began to tell me of a ministry that he knew that supported native pastors in China. He mentioned how as they increased their funding for the Chinese mission efforts, the more stagnant they became. Giving money to the Chinese missionaries didn't help them spread the Gospel more. Instead, they became satisfied and just sat on the money. They became lazy like Jabba the Hut.  I don't know all the circumstances with that particular ministry. I don't think this Australian pastor did either. However, as I look back on the discussion, I think he was using this as evidence to support his belief that it's not usually a good idea to support native missionaries. He's not alone. Many in the mission world have similar views.

If I was in the situation again, I would have told him to not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Just supporting native mission work at random and not having a set of standards can absolutely be harmful. If you just throw money at the situation, that's never going to work. I'm not surprised that the Chinese ministry slowed down. It certainly happens. However, let's not generalize an area of missions, namely supporting native missionaries, as a pass or fail. If done the wrong way and if God's not in it, it will fail. If done the right way and God is in it, it will pass with flying colors. Like I've spoken about before, if you have certain standards in place, there is a very good chance that supporting native missionaries will work.

Here are the standards you need when supporting native missionaries in third world countries: 1) make sure the missionary candidates are passionate and called by God to reach their own people 2) give them training that reflects the hardships of the mission field, so they know what to expect 3) pay them only an average income compared to the people of the area (plus necessary ministry expenses) 4) have them go self-supporting once enough churches have been planted 5) have a system of accountability in place so there is some semblance of a spiritual authority over them for guidance and counseling and to ensure they don't just go out and become lazy. If you have those standards in place, I think native missionary efforts will be very healthy and growth will increase, not decrease.

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