Discussions about Missions and Money

by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear

In this edition of Missions on the Web, we point you to some of the key documents and sites where you can catch up on discussions in an essential arena of missions—missions and money.

Missions and money.It’s a hot topic on the Web today—and for good reason. Much of the unprecedented church growth and expansion of Christ’s kingdom in the Global South (Africa, Asia and Latin America) is being financially supported by generous donors, many of whom live in the Western world. Increasingly, Christians are asking core stewardship questions about missions: Is missions worth it? Is it more effective and/or more appropriate to send money rather than people, either long-term or short-term? In this edition of Missions on the Web, we point you to some of the key documents and sites where you can catch up on discussions in this essential arena of missions. We will focus on various perspectives concerning sending people versus money: partnership, dependency, affluence, impact, etc. As you read, point your browser to the MisLinks table (www.mislinks.org/topics/money.htm)1 for links to the sites mentioned in the article. Please note that we have previously written on and created MisLinks tables on partnership (www.mislinks.org/practical/partner.htm), business as mission (www.mislinks.org/practical/bam.htm), short-term missions (www.mislinks.org/practical/shterm.htm) and fundraising (www.mislinks.org/practical/funds.htm), so we will not cover these topics extensively here.

Networks and Organizations
COSIM, the Coalition on the Support of Indigenous Ministries (www.cosim.info), is “a fellowship of evangelical organizations with a common interest in the support and development of developing-world ministries…with emphasis on partnerships between North American and developing-world missions.” They are best known for their annual conference; the 2008 conference is scheduled for June 9-11 in the Chicago area.

Many organizations encourage and facilitate sending funds to overseas nationals. Partners International (www.partnersintl.org) is “a global ministry that works to create and grow communities of Christian witness in partnership with God’s people in the least Christian regions of the world.” Christian Aid (www.christianaid.info) focuses on sending financial help to evangelistic ministries in lands of great poverty or where evangelical Christians are a persecuted minority. Gospel for Asia (www.gfa.org) trains and sends native missionaries with a primary aim “to plant churches among the unreached.” Mission ONE (www.mission1.org) “mobilizes the Church for partnership with national missionaries, focusing on unreached people groups and serving the poor and oppressed.”

There are also many who are cautious of sending money overseas. World Mission Associates (wmausa.org), under the leadership of Glenn Schwartz, focuses on “sustainability in the Christian movement with particular reference to issues of dependency and self-reliance among mission-established churches.” The Alliance for Vulnerable Mission (vulnerablemission.com), recently founded by Jim Harries, a UK-based missionary working in Africa, encourages “Western people to engage in global mission in a vulnerable way.” In particular, they advocate sending missionaries who do not provide outside funds to national workers. They are planning a series of regional conferences in the USA, UK and Germany in early 2009.

Key Books
Several books have recently added significantly to, and spurred on, discussions about money and missions. While the text of these books is not freely available online, each is generating attention on the Internet. In the newly “revised and expanded” version of Missions and Money: Affluence as a Western Missionary Problem (www.omsc.org/books.htm), Jonathan Bonk offers new reflections in the light of a changed situation, where there is an increase in the number of short-term missioners and an increase in the number of Asians, Africans and Latin Americans leaving their homelands to serve as missionaries. Contributors include Christopher J. H. Wright and Justo Gonzalez.

John Rowell’s To Give or Not To Give: Rethinking Dependency, Restoring Generosity, and Redefining Sustainability (www.authenticbooks.com/
) addresses “dependency on cross-cultural contexts with special emphasis on promoting sustainability” and “encourages maximum generosity as the path most reflective of God’s heart.” As part of its Christian Vision Project, Christianity Today published a related article by Rowell in October 2007 titled “The Dread Cancer of Stinginess” (www.christianitytoday.com
). Jim Harries has written an extensive response to Rowell’s book (www.difficultquestionsofgiving.blogspot.com) and Arnau van Wyngaard has written a shorter, more positive review (missionissues.wordpress.com/2007/09/10/to-give-or-not-to-give-john-rowell).

While Rowell starts with God’s command that we give, and therefore we should give cheerfully, Glenn Schwartz’s book When Charity Destroys Dignity: Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement (wmausa.org/page.aspx?id=239312) starts from the other side: because we do not want to create unhealthy dependency, we must be careful how we give.

Van Wyngaard’s Mission Issues blog carries two reviews of Schwartz’s book:
one negative (missionissues.wordpress.com/2007/08/23/when-charity-destroys-dignity
) and one positive (missionissues.wordpress.com/2007/08/24/

A September 1, 2007 WORLD magazine article mentions the recent books by Rowell and Schwartz (www.worldmag.com/articles/13295). In his 2005 book, Reformation in Foreign Missions (www.christianaid.info/About/Publications/
), Christian Aid’s Bob Finley “calls for the withdrawal of all missionaries from industrialized countries who are presently residing in poorer countries.” He maintains that their presence is generally counter-productive because it tends to identify the gospel of Christ with foreign governments or alien cultures, and also because the foreigners appear to be fabulously rich in comparison to the people among whom they are working. David Mays has written a detailed summary and review (www.davidmays.org/BookNotes05/FinRefo.html).

Harries posts extensive and often well-researched articles on the role of missions money and language issues (www.jim-mission.org.uk/articles/index.html). In addition to his critique of Rowell’s book (see above), other articles include “The Effectiveness of Short-term Mission to Africa: In Respect to Westernising, Christianising and Dependence Creation” (www.jim-mission.org.uk/articles
) and “The Immorality of Aid to the ‘Third World’” (www.jim-mission.org.uk/articles/the-immorality-of-aid-to-the-third-world.html). Also see the related blog, Vulnerable Missions Discussion (vulnerablemissionsdiscussion.blogspot.com).

Van Wyngaard’s Mission Issues blog (missionissues.wordpress.com) is subtitled “thinking and re-thinking missionary issues.” He covers a variety of missions and money topics and has a number of insightful postings categorized under “giving” (missionissues.wordpress.com/category/giving/). Tim Carriker’s The Church in Mission blog (missionalchurch.wordpress.com) includes posts on the pros and cons of short-term mission (missionalchurch.wordpress.com/short-term-mission). He includes an article by Dale Meador that is worth reading (missionalchurch.wordpress.com

The Integral Mission Blog (www.integral-mission.org/blog) has a number of articles on international debt, globalization, imperialism and related financial issues. Perhaps the most germane to our topic here is one proposing a move beyond partnership to “global solidarity for kingdom mission" (integral-mission.org/blog/2007/02/solidarity_for_kingdom_mission_1.html).

The Returning to Biblical Missions blog site carries an interesting discussion on “The Future of Missions and Financial Resources” (rtbm.typepad.com/rtbm_returning_to_biblica/2007/08/the-future-of-m.html). Wes, a seminarian studying applied theology, includes a post on his blog titled “Self-supporting Churches: Are We There Yet?” (missionsforum.wordpress.com
), in which he advocates a “no strings attached” approach to missions giving.

Money Missions (www.moneymissions.com) is a blog by two young missions practitioners working in Mexico. They write about their experiences and perspectives, largely focused on short-term missions. The “Ask Jack” column on the Urbana.org website includes a section on Questions about Money and Missions (www.urbana.org/ns.aj.main.cfm?Category=Money%20and%20

Lausanne Occasional Paper “Funding for Evangelism and Mission” (www.lausanne.org/documents/2004forum/LOP56_IG27.pdf), developed during the 2004 Lausanne Forum, provides a good overview of missions and money. Another paper which emerged from the 2004 Forum, “Partnership and Collaboration,” (www.lausanne.org/documents/2004forum/LOP38_IG9.pdf) provides additional insights. Also, see the 1980 paper on “Cooperating in World Evangelization,” with a section on “The Suspicion about Finances” (www.lausanne.org/pattaya-1980/lop-24.html).

Search the EMQ archives (www.emqonline.com) to find and read related articles, including: “Foreign Money and Indigenous Ministry: To Give or Not to Give,” in which Frampton Fox argues that “there is a time, place and manner to use foreign funds for the expansion of national ministries. Missionaries serving overseas need to be wise stewards as well as generous givers” (April 2007). Also see:

• “Discovering the Joy of Tithing in Zimbabwe” by Robert Reese (October 2007)

• “The Devil is in the Details: Avoiding Common Pitfalls When Funding New Partnership Endeavors” by Mary Mallon Lederleitner (April 2007)

• “Effective Use of Financial Resources in Missions Partnerships” by Kurt Nelson (April 2006)

• “Toward Independent Ministry Partnerships: Fueling Ministry without Fostering Dependency” by Glenn Fritz (April 2002)

• “Fine-Tuning Financing: Principles of Giving and Receiving in Mission Partnerships” by Daniel Rickett (January 2002)

• “Using Money in Missions: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” by Gailyn Van Rheenen (January 2002)

• “Preventing Dependency: Developmental Partnering” by Daniel Rickett (October 1998)

•“From Dependency to Dignity” by Levi Keidel (January 1997).

The Network for Strategic Missions KnowledgeBase (www.strategicnetwork.org/) includes topical directories that give online access2 to journal articles focused on missions and money. The Missions and Money website (www.missionsandmoney.eu) offers thirty-five articles dealing with topics such as missionary affluence, providing money for national workers, partnership and dependency.

The COSIM Resource Center (www.cosim.info/cosim/default4c.asp?active_page_id=91) provides access to a wealth of materials from their two most recent annual conferences. The 2007 conference papers, including documents from US churches and mission agencies, documents from Majority World indigenous ministries and case studies from the New Testament and from field mission situations are all available online (www.cosim.info/cosim/default4rc.asp?active_page_id=199). View the list of audio recordings3 from the 2007 conference (www.cosim.info/cosim/default2.asp?active_page_id= 205#) and from the 2006 conference (www.cosim.info/cosim/default4rc.asp?active_page_id=167).

The Partners International website includes valuable insights in “A Covenant of Partnership” (www.partnersintl.org/about/covenant-of-partnership.php). The site also offers three excellent articles by Daniel Rickett: “Accountability in Cross-Cultural Partnerships” (www.partnersintl.org/pdf/accountability.pdf), “Dependency in Mission Partnership” (www.partnersintl.org/pdf/dependency.pdf) and “Getting Beyond Money Problems in Missions Partnerships” (www.partnersintl.org/pdf/beyond_money.pdf).

The World Mission Associates website includes a page of links to articles available on their site (www.wmausa.org/98600.ihtml). See Schwartz’s “Some Reflections on Missions and Money” (www.wmausa.org/Page.aspx?id=108486), Reese’s “Short-Term Missions and Dependency” (www.wmausa.org/page.aspx?id=242674) and Robert McQuilkin’s “Breaking the Cycle of Missions Dependency” (www.focus-usa.org/Missions_Reader/STOP%20SENDING%20MONEY.pdf).

For many years, Mission Frontiers has provided frequent coverage of financial topics. Go to the archives (www.missionfrontiers.org/archive.htm) and search for such key words as money, finance and dependency. See the May-June 2007 article on “Saul’s Armor and David’s Sling” (www.missionfrontiers.org/2007/03/200703.htm). The September 2001 issue (www.missionfrontiers.org/2001/03/200103.htm) is focused on Strategic Giving, the September-October 1994 issue (www.missionfrontiers.org/1994/0910/mm wdcow.htm) is focused on Money and Missions and the January-February 1997 issue (www.missionfrontiers.org/1997/0102/dwdogdmhtg.htm) is focused on Dependency.

You will find additional articles by searching the archives of the International Journal of Frontier Missions (IJFM, www.ijfm.org). Van Rheenen’s Monthly Missiological Reflections (missiology.org) offer several brief articles on the topic, including “Using Money in Missions: Four Perspectives” (missiology.org/mmr/mmr15.htm), “Money and Mi$$ion$” (missiology.org/MMR/mmr2.htm) and “Money and Mi$$ion$ (Revisited)” (missiology.org/mmr/mmr13.htm), which deals with paternalism.

Elmbrook Church has a long and well respected track record of partnership with churches and ministry initiatives in the Majority World. The article “Best Practices in Global Church Partnerships” by Dick Robinson can be read at their Come To The Brook website (www.cometothebrook.org/articlePage.asp?iid=1581&articleid=15).
Short-term mission trips enjoy widespread and growing popularity within local church congregations; however, these trips are also coming under increasing scrutiny. Every year the US Church is sending millions of short-term workers at a cost of “several billion dollars a year, in all likelihood now surpassing the amount given in support of long-term missionaries.”4

Calvin College assistant professor of sociology Kurt Ver Beek and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professor of mission Robert Priest have both conducted research on the cost effectiveness of short-term mission. They conclude that short-term missions do not make a significant difference on the field, do not increase long-term giving to missions by short-term mission participants and that field partners would prefer to receive the money rather than the short-term visitors.5
On Christianity Today’s website you can read a summary of Ver Beek’s research (www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/june web-only/12.0c.html) and the discussion between Ver Beek and Priest (www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/julyweb-only/22.0.html). The details and findings of Ver Beek’s research are available on his website (www.calvin.edu/academic/sociology/staff/kurt.htm).

Major Donor Sites
Increasingly, major donor networks and organizations are dealing with issues related to giving money to indigenous ministries and organizations in the Majority World. The Gathering (www.thegathering.com) is “an international network of individuals, families and foundations who share a common interest in Christian stewardship.” They host an annual conference for people with the capacity to give $200,000 or more annually to Christian ministries. Go to their website and enter relevant key words in the search box, such as “missions.” There you will find insightful articles such as “Christian Missions & Economic Issues” by Hindustan Bible Institute founder Dr. Paul Gupta (www.thegathering.com/_pdf/OMSC%20case%20study.pdf).

Also read “Meeting the Two-Thirds World Challenge” by Dr. James F. Engel (www.thegathering.com/_pages2/content.php?interest_id=false&resource=383). See their entire list of online articles at www.thegathering.com/_pages2/content.php?archive=tbl_articles.

Generous Giving is a site for major evangelical donors sponsored by the Maclellan Foundation. Their online Research Library includes a page of links to relevant articles in their section on “Indigenous Giving and Dependency” (www.generousgiving.org/page.asp?sec=28&page=229).
Geneva Global (www.genevaglobal.com), focused on helping major donors “make life-changing philanthropic investments in the world’s hardest places,” publishes commentary on various issues related to international giving on their “Beyond Philanthropy” site (www.beyondphilanthropy.org/opinion/archive).

Mission leaders and donors can also learn valuable lessons from secular and educational sites such as The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University (www.philanthropy.iupui.edu), Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (www.arnova.org) and Global Philanthropy Forum (www.philanthropyforum.org).

We would not be surprised to see an increasing number of online articles and blogs appearing on this topic, as issues of missions and money continue to grow in prominence. We encourage you to check back with MisLinks to see what additional resources we have discovered. And, if you are aware of a site that should be included, we invite you to send us an email.

1. All links begin with http:// unless otherwise noted.

2. Some of the articles in the Network for Strategic Missions KnowledgeBase are classified as “premium content” and are available by subscription only; an annual subscription is $20/year.

3. The COSIM conference audio recordings can be purchased from www.soundword.com on CD-ROM or as MP3 downloads.

4. See “Are Short-Term Missions Good Stewardship? A Conversation between Robert Priest and Kurt Ver Beek” at www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/julyweb-only/22.0.html.

5. In contrast, STEM International studies on the subject of cost/benefit analysis of short-term missions conclude that short-term missions significantly increase participants’ spirituality, financial giving to missions, prayer for missions and likelihood of becoming career missionaries. See the 1991 study Is Short-Term Mission Really Worth the Time and Money? by Roger Peterson and Timothy Peterson (www.stemintl.org/publications/order/product/mr01) and the 1995-1999 study Can Short-Term Mission Really Create Long-Term Career Missionaries? by Daniel McDonough and Roger Peterson (www.stemintl.org/publications/order/product/mr02).


A. Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and a professor in the Intercultural Studies department at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.). His email address is A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department web address is www.wheaton.edu/intr.

Mike O’Rear is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the Two-thirds World. His email address is mike@gmi.org, and the GMI web address is www.gmi.org.

Copyright © 2008 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.

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