by C. Douglas McConnell
Perhaps it is time to move beyond our individual budgets and take stock of the broader financial resources God has given us for the task of world mission.
Preparing budgets reminds leaders of two basic truths. First, we must be stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us (Gen. 1:28). Second, when we look to the uncertainties of the future, we make plans with open hands (James 5:15). Perhaps it is time to move beyond our individual budgets and take stock of the broader financial resources God has given us for the task of world mission.
Tough Questions. Tom Sine’s presentation at the September, 1999, Triennial Conference of the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies, the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association, and the Evangelical Missiological Society in Virginia Beach raised a challenging question for me: "Is it even possible to openly discuss stewardship and the implications for sharing resources?" If so, we should move beyond current efforts to simply raise funds for nationals or projects. Debating the economics of continued Western missionary sending has distracted us from the more critical economic considerations to which Sine refers.
Theologically, what is the stewardship responsibility of the church worldwide? Do wealthy churches have any financial responsibilities to share with the family of God in the poorer countries? Unfortunately, local churches increasingly view themselves as economic free agents, rather than as parts of the greater worldwide Body of Christ. Therefore, they expend their resources primarily on themselves or give money to projects with little or no consideration of their long-term effects. The challenge for mission leaders is to rethink our responsibilities biblically, with careful attention to appropriate responses, in an effort to help churches.
Reflecting on the incredible shrinking Western church, Sine states, "The problem of declining numbers, of course, is that it will automatically reduce the amount of time and money available to be invested in the advancement of God’s kingdom." Sine believes that the donor pool is shrinking in numbers and facing a decline in discretionary funds. What are the implications of these economic realities?
Implications. The first is to move beyond the current ways we do fund raising and toward greater self-sustainability. We need to look at things that generate income. This is not only acceptable but strategic. Sine’s emphasis on cooperative action among agencies is good in theory; however, I wonder how this will work in the real world. It is tough enough to get departments to work together, let alone entire organizations. Perhaps a representative group could launch a series of pilot projects along these lines. Given that many of us look to the same foundations for grants, perhaps we could jointly approach them to get some new income-generating efforts off the ground rather than the more common project proposals.
Consolidation of expenses. A second implication is to consolidate our expenses to free more capital to invest in the direct work of kingdom expansion. While this is hardly a millennium-shattering concept, we need to take a fresh look in light of new realities. At least five areas of money-saving cooperation are air travel, educational expenses, health insurance, housing purchases, and technology, including software. We would have to change little in our current practices to benefit from this kind of cooperation. We could even examine the gains and losses from the agency mergers of the ’90s. Perhaps we should think about launching regional corporate management units rather than increasing our headquarters’ staffing. We fund raisers need to remember that we share many of the same constituencies.
Distribution of resources. The third implication focuses on a more just distribution of resources in our increasingly globalized missions effort. The legitimate concerns such a statement raises are extensive; however, we cannot overlook the fact that it is a logical response to the lordship of Christ as we face the future. Do we need another world congress? Do we need a series of meetings? Would a number of working groups, representative of the various participants, be acceptable? Our responses will vary, yet we must discover a forum for strategic reflection and distribution of ideas leading to the sharing of our economic resources. This time around, we should discuss not only budgets, but the nature of the church in its global and local expressions.
Copyright © 2000 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.