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07 Feb '11

When money hurts mission efforts

Posted by T.J. Addington in missions, money matters

It sounds so good! For a small amount of money you can support a pastor in the majority world where costs are low. Soon your church is supporting a dozen or so pastors and you receive wonderful reports of how God is working through them.

But, what we often do not consider are the unintended consequences. What is a pragmatic ministry decision for us is often a disaster for the church. Consider the fact that God designed the church to be the most flexible, missional and effective organization on the face of the earth and to survive and thrive in any economy or political system. The key to its success is its reproducibility and it is the reproducibility that is hurt when we pay pastors from the west.

It sounds so good – and it makes us feel good. After all we have funds and those we are helping do not. Of course it is the American way of getting results – money. Experience shows, however, that once we start paying pastors in a region of the world, new churches don’t start until someone picks up the bill for the next pastor, and the next, and the next. Our good intentions have compromised the reproducible nature of the church. Our money has become a barrier.

Furthermore, our money has robbed the congregation of the joy and responsibility of supporting their own ministry. Why give when there is money coming from somewhere else? Because we rely on money for all we do, we assume that others do as well. Sometimes it is not money that is given but chickens, eggs or other foodstuffs. Everyone can give something but when we take away the responsibility to give to their own ministry we hurt the church and those who make up the church.

I have never seen a situation where paying pastors ended up helping the church rather than hurting the church – in the long run. It is a short term pragmatic solution that actually slows down the reproduction of the church. That is why we are committed in ReachGlobal to churches that have five qualities: Healthy, reproducing, interdependent, indigenous and self-supporting. Paying pastors compromises church health, reproducibility, and even the indigenous nature of the church since the church is now indebted to those who support it. They now suffer from the disease of dependence and paternalism. Dependence and paternalism are unhealthy but we foster that in many parts of the world, taking away the dignity of local congregations to provide for the needs of the ministry and determine their destiny. We are often blind to the resources that God has actually given His people because we are so driven by budgets and finances in our own ministries.

There are many ways that we can use our financial resources to expand the church and I am a huge advocate of generous giving. How we use those monies, however is critically important. Some uses hurt the church while other uses expand the church. Paying pastors in the majority world is a pragmatic solution on our part that hurts the long term viability and reproducibility of the church. And, it creates unhealthy dependencies!