What is our Motivation in Giving?

I do not want to be critical of other ministries and for that reason I am not citing any particular examples and I am naming no names, but I would like to address the various methods being used to raise funds these days. We have seen everything from heart-felt pleas to down-right begging. We have seen clever programs as well as almost every gimmick conceivable. We understand as much as any ministry the role that finances play in fulfilling our ministries goals, however I truly believe that we need to be careful that we maintain proper motivation as well as communicate a proper message about our mission. First of all a need-based approach to missions sends the wrong message both to contributors and recipients of our efforts. It has long been believed that personal connection was necessary to motivate people's giving. Organizations created adopt a child, church, orphan, student, etc programs. We witnessed ministries shifting the focus of communication to raise funds or even worse opening orphanages not because they were needed but as revenue streams. All of this created a tremendously powerful motivation for people to give based upon deeply emotional pleas. However, both Christian and secular organizations are starting to question the use of these emotional pleas for a number of reasons. First of all it is now largely believed that this leads to a feeling-based giving. If I feel like giving--I give. If I do not feel like giving--I do not give. The needs we face in our mission work cannot be subject to the emotional whims of our contributors. Secondly, we have witnessed over and over that there is a limit to the ability of peoples to respond emotionally to any given scenario. People will become overwhelmed and exhausted. When this happens, giving will simply dry up. Tim Dearborn describes it this way: "The good hearted people always want to respond with compassion and kindness but we have worked ourselves into exhaustion with exhortations to give more, do more, care more, serve more, love more, if we are not careful we reduce missions to no more than a human response to human need. The Church's involvement in mission is its privileged participation in the actions of almighty God. Without this news of great hope and full confidence in God's infinite love, we will have the sense of missions as an exhausting human enterprise. We'll feel as if we have been handed the Great Commission as a great duty, and that the job is completely up to us. This inevitably leads to burnout. Missions was never intended to be an exhausting human enterprise. Misssion is our privileged participation in the life-giving action of our God." I suggest that our message needs to change but this cannot occur if our attitude does not change.

Lastly, we must be careful that we are not sending the wrong message about our understanding of the Kingdom and our role in extending it. To quote Rolland Allen, "The Ministry cannot become primarily a financial operation, and we constantly hear our missionaries lament that they cannot open new works where they are sorely needed, because they have not the necessary funds. But it ought not properly to be a financial operation, and the moment it is allowed to appear as such, that moment very false and dangerous elements are introduced into our work." I would suggest that the Kingdom is being built because God is King. I believe that he is fully capable of funding His work without our begging, our manipulating, without gimmicks and without emotional pleas. I believe that we should present God's people opportunity to participate in His endeavors as both a means of honoring Him as King and using our lives and resources to participate in His eternal purpose. I believe this should be our motivation.

What is Contextualization?

I want to talk about the importance of contextualization.  Contextualization is presenting and practicing the Christian faith in such a way that is relevant to the cultural context of the target group in terms of conceptualization, expression and application yet maintaining theological coherence, biblical integrity and theoretical consistency.  This may involve the use of stories, parables, illustrations or any such valuable and adequate compartments in other religious and philosophical systems to explain biblical truth to a specific culture so that they eventually internalize it into their own thought system.  This must involve the communication of the gospel not only in ways the people understand and are relevent, but in ways that also challenge them individually and corporately to embrace the transformational power of God. If the Gospel does not confront their condition apart from Christ it can leave the door open for Syncretism.  Syncretism is the mixing of Christian faith with secular attributes of culture that are incompatible with Christianity so that the result is not Biblical Christianity.

We have several examples of contexualization in scripture including Christ's approach to the Samaritans in John chapter four and the apostle Paul's ministry along his missionary journeys.  Paul summed up this approach to ministry when he wrote:
1 Cor 9:19-23 NLT
19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.  22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.  23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.

Paul understood that the Message of Christ was never to be limited to a particular people group or a particular time and with this understanding, he sought to communicate truth in such a way that is could be understood, conceptualized, internalized and passed along. Ultimately, our goal is to reach people.  We know that the message of Christ is powerful and life-changing so we need to make sure that we are not artificially creating barriers to people's acceptance because of the way in which we are communicating.  The Willowbank report reads, "Sometimes people resist the gospel not because they think it false but rather they perceive it as a threat to their culture, especially the fabric of their society.  Sometimes the Gospel is presented to people in alien cultural forms.  Then the missionaries are resented and their message rejected because their work is seen not as an attempt to evangelize but as an attempt to impose a foreign custom and way of life."  It should be our desire to seek the common ground, to find the bridge between people and Christ's message.  It should be our desire to become all things to all men, that at all costs and in any and every way we might save many by winning them to faith in Jesus Christ.

Redemption is our Mission

The Bible contains central truths that are absolutes and must be understood by all.  The central theme of the Bible is the story of man's creation, his fall and his redemption.  Bill Stearns said in his book 20/20 Vision "The story of the Bible has a simple unified theme: The Redeemer offers every ethnic group on Earth the blessing of joining God's family. He is putting together a people from every people group on Earth. This theme appears throughout the Bible. The presence of a mission mandate throughout scripture is settled."  There is one plan to redeem all of mankind and it is clearly and consistently revealed from Genesis to Revelation.  This plan must be central to our mission. 


The scripture states, "Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard" (Rom 3:23 and Ps 53:3, Ps 130:3, Prov 20:9, Eccl 7:20, Isa 53:6, Gal 3:22, 1 John 1:8).  Stanley A. Ellison wrote, "In that moment of decision Man thrust himself outside the stabilizing axis of God's will and began the swirling catapult into the oblivion of a godless existence."  This makes sin universal to everyone and therefore sin eternally separates all men from God (Rom 6:23).     


But, "God so loved the world" that rather than leave man in this fallen condition "he gave his one and only Son, that whoever would believe on him would not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).  Romans 5:8 says, "God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us".  Jesus Christ freed us from sin when he paid the penalty for our sins.   For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. (Rom 3:24, 25)  Jesus was handed over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Rom 4:23).  Paul writing to Timothy tells us, "There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:5-6) in order that we may not have to "pay the penalty of eternal destruction" (2 Thes. 1:9) and those who "Believe in the Lord Jesus, shall be saved," (Acts 16:31).  And this is God's desire, "God our Savior wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth of their salvation (1 Tim. 2:4)".  The sacrifice of Christ was the only way to provide salvation for man and salvation has been universally made available to all those who will receive.  This is not to imply that all man will universally accept Christ.  Sadly we know this will not be the case. 


We have to make sure our doctrine is clear; there is no other way, there is no back door, all religions do not lead to the same end, everyone is not right.  There is only One Truth, One Path that leads to eternal life and that is acknowledging your sin and believing upon Christ Jesus as your eternal savior. When we understand sin and its power to separate eternally we must conclude that everyone who exits this life without having received the redemption of sins by receiving Christ Jesus is eternally separated from God.  People have asked, "What about those around the world that have never heard--what about the Muslims, Hindus, or even the Jews"?  Let me state emphatically all we have to shape our understanding of this matter is Scripture and we cannot speculate beyond that.  I understand this is a terrible, terrible reality and for those who love deeply these peoples it can be very painful to even contemplate this, but the truth is that there is only one way and we do not have the right to invent alternate theologies in order to simply soothe our souls.  We need to embrace the truth and the responsibility to communicate this truth to a lost world.  This is our mission--Redemption.


The Dismantling of Missions' Structures

As we work around the world we are constantly bombarded by the varying degrees of dependency some of which has been created as the result of misguided missionary efforts. Where missions has existed the longest we are now seeing the dismantling of missions' structures: hospitals, schools and even churches that were never created to be self-sustaining and when the money shifted elsewhere, the organizations pulled out or the missionaries died off so ended the ministry. This is the unfortunate result of creating dependent mission structures. Ministry become obsolete for a number of reasons: Local leadership capable of carrying on the vision was never developed. The local leadership simply may not have the resources to maintain what outsiders built. It may be determined by local leadership that what was built is un-necessary for the spiritual well-being of the local community. Lastly, could it be because the missionaries have had some wrong assumptions concerning our mission? Let me quote from Roland Allan. He writes,

"Our modern practice in founding a church is to begin by securing land and buildings in the place in which we wish to propagate the Gospel. Since it is obviously impossible that the natives should supply these things, even if they are anxious to receive our instruction, it naturally follows that we must supply them. Hence the opening of new missionary endeavors has become primarily a financial operation, and we constantly hear our missionaries lament that they cannot open new works where they are sorely needed, because they have not the necessary funds to purchase and equip the barest missionary establishment. But it ought not properly to be a financial operation, and the moment it is allowed to appear as such, that moment very false and dangerous elements are introduced into our work. Nor is this all. The first glance at these missions financed from abroad naturally suggests that the religion which they represent is foreign. They are supported by foreign money, they are often foreign in appearance. Eastern people almost universally look upon Christianity as a foreign religion, and they do not want a foreign religion. They cannot supply what they think to be needful, and so they learn to accept the position of passive recipients. Native congregations have before now been held to their allegiance by threats of the withdrawal of financial support. But unity so maintained, by an external bond, is not Christian unity at all. It is simply submission to bondage for the sake of secular advantage and it will fail the moment that any other and stronger motive urges in the direction of separation."

Over time and after the expenditure of a great deal of resources what is the result? Has the Kingdom really been advanced? Are we any closer to a people turning to Christ? Has a culturally relevant pattern for the church emerged? Is that church now capable of evangelizing their peoples as well as participating in cross-cultural outreach? I am suggesting that we need to re-evaluate our long-term objectives in missions and make sure that our strategies will produce that desired end. Otherwise in a generation we may find that the works that have fallen into obsolescence are the ones we have built.

Exploring Dependency in Mission

Over the past few years we have been greatly influenced by a book written by Glenn Schwartz called, "How Charity Destroyed Dignity." You can purchase this book at a very low cost through our online store. This book addresses the issues of dependency in mission and how to avoid it. Truthfully the book does not represent itself as having all of the answers; rather I believe the purpose of the book is to get those of us that do mission work to begin asking the right questions. Too many times we simply act, just respond, to the needs that we perceive in our work among the nations without thinking about the ramifications of our actions. We do not think about the long term impact of our actions. We do not consider how our "good-hearted intrusions" may be destroying initiative, killing the very personal faith we are endeavoring to foster. We often do not recognize that actions taken from far off are in all probability discouraging a more localized and more appropriate response. Too often we assume that others are incapable of caring for themselves and we are the very one perpetuating dependency in people. If people are taught to depend upon others they will in time learn to rest entirely and passively upon others, thus the cycle of dependency is begun. It is continued when the people wait for others to act on their behalf. The longer they do so, the more incapable they become of any independent action. The cycle is further perpetuated when we as leaders begin to believe that their inactivity is due to a lack of capacity. The fatal mistake we have made is in teaching others to depend upon man or institution rather than trusting in the God who provides. Like many others it is my sincere desire to give a compassionate response where a compassionate response is needed. I understand our Lord's instruction to care for the orphan and the widow, to cloth the naked and feed the hungry. I certainly believe that in times of crisis the church should be the first to respond. I am not arguing this. What I am addressing is the manner in which our policies and practices may be having disastrous results long after the present crisis is over. What I am asking is, can't we minister in such a way as to foster complete dependence on God. Can't we work among the nations without also creating the dependency we have historically created all over the world? Can't we do this in a way that is honest and Christ-honoring? Can't we fashion a strategy that takes into consideration the complexities of our actions? I believe that Love requires that we do.


Our goal in adding a blog to our web site was to create a platform where we could share our thoughts concerning what we are learning about missions models and strategy. Education is a very important part of our calling to the body of Christ and it is our desire to have a forum to discuss our thoughts and our beliefs. Over the years we have studied missions and we have developed very specific ideas based upon our twenty years working in missions and the many missionaries and missiologists we have formed relationships with. However, we have come to believe that it is important that our missional thought be based upon more than people's experiences, man's thoughts, simple observations, traditions, etc. Our missional thought must have at its foundation a solid biblical base. We call this Biblical Missiology. We have decided that our best source for understanding the Missio Dei, or God's mission, is to turn to the scripture. We believe that the scripture provides us with more than a historical account of the development of the early church. We believe through scripture we are given the foundation principles forevermore for the establishment and expansion of the Kingdom of God. We certainly believe that our understanding of these issues is limited and our opinions are fallible. We invite you, our readers, to join us in this discussion. We eagerly expect to learn from you. We only ask that you approach the subject from the basis of scripture not opinion, tradition, or personal experience alone. There will invariably be great diversity of practices and on certain principles we may have to agree to disagree but we believe that through it we will all grow.

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"But all Christians must be missionary-minded. The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions; and the nearer we get to him, the more intensely missionary we must be become."
- Henry Martyn
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