Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dependency Mission 03

I think it would behoove all of us who give to missions to learn ways to evaluate mission approaches to see if what we're supporting is making the kind of difference we want it to make. We need to educate ourselves.

I have seen it myself. Missionaries who come to town (meaning here on "the field") with big budgets and big programs can generate quite a stir. Everyone loves them. They do grand things and give a lot to many people. They gather big crowds. Many people want to get as close as they can to them. The missionaries see all these people coming and they praise God for how the Spirit is impacting so many. They sometimes boast to others about "all that God is doing" in their ministry.

Usually what follows is jealousy and infighting among the locals regarding who is closest to the missionary. Why? Because it never was about what God was doing among the people. It was about money. Easy money. The people found the missionary to be an easy source of money, help, education, etc. In other words: a sucker. "We'll do the Christian dance for you if you give us money." And many people in poor countries view charitable foreigners as suckers.

A generation ago some missionaries came up with a term for local peoples who come to Christ in order to get some sort of financial or physical benefit: Rice Christians. "If you give me a bowl of rice, I will become a Christian." This dynamic is not dead in the least. It is very prevalent in poor countries where missionaries work. The task for the missionary, then, is to figure out ways to avoid this dynamic.

The problem is that too many missionaries ignore this syndrome and throw their money around. They feel justified because they can credit God with all the activity and excitement they are generating. Then they turn around and report this activity and the numbers of all the people at their events in their newsletters. This then helps them raise more money because people back home are so excited to give to a mission work that "God is really using."

And some of the most popular mission agencies in the States are the very ones that are dumping money (in various forms) on the field and the people they are "reaching" are actually being converted to loving wealth more than God.

Tomorrow I will tell you a couple stories...


  1. I know you've probably seen this, and I know you're not talking about PG specifically, but it frustrates me that not only are we attempting to share the gospel to a world that is openly worldly, but also must compete with heretics that claim to teach the Word of God:
    John Piper Prosperity Gospel

  2. Katdish, You are so right. And a lot of the problems we face on the field could certainly be described as "competing" with the prosperity gospel. If it is not someone deliberately or implicitly preaching it, then it is a hope within those who are poor that this is what the gospel will bring them. I will write a post soon called "The Pain of Poverty" to help us understand why so many people around the world are primed to accept a false gospel. It appeals to their situation. Nevertheless, I feel much like John Piper. It is a lie and ultimately harmful to the work of the Kingdom.