Money and Missions | Does Money Help or Hinder?

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In 2004, I wrote a 28 page term paper on the topic of missions and money.

Don’t worry, I’ll spare you all the dry details.

Today I’m just going to raise this issue, and in the future we may spend time addressing some of the possible solutions.

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Quoting from my own words:

In the fulfillment of the Great Commission, there is an unalterable relationship between missionary work and money.  As a result, issues revolving around the role of money in missions are a topic of serious discussion.  In some fields, money has the negative power to corrupt the pure gospel message by impure motives.  In other fields, the thought of missionary work cannot be imagined without the necessary resources provided by money.  Without a doubt, money and missions has a two sided ability to help or hinder genuine missionary work.

So what types of numbers are we talking about here?

The Southern Baptist Convention’s International Missions Board supports 5,510 missionaries and has a $150 million dollar annual budget (back in 2004) (Source: http://imb/org/giving/).  In 2002, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church collected $1,772,879,408 for world missions (http://adventist.org/news/data/2003/03/1066083635/index.html.en).

Note: These links were active when I did the research, but are no longer active links.

Money and Missions – Missionary Affluence: How does it impact the gospel message?

In his book Missions and Money: Affluence as a Western Missionary Problem, Jonathan Bonk reports the following problems with missionary affluence (think wealth).

  1. Affluence acts as an insulation for the missionary.  It is a nonconducting material which prevents people from hearing the gospel.
  2. Affluence leads to missionary isolation.
  3. Affluence builds an unbridgeable social gulf.
  4. Affluence leads to social disparity and presents illusions of superiority.
  5. Affluence challenges the trust necessary for genuine relationships.

After serving over four years in a third world country, all I can say is – yes, I think those concerns are valid.

But, I also agree with Paul Hiebert when he says (in Anthropological Insights for Missionaries):

There are limits to our ability to identify with another culture … we must identify as closely as we can with a culture, but not at the expense of our sanity and ministry.

Jacob Loewen (in Culture and Human Values) tells the story of when he was teaching a group of people from South America:

Every tribe and culture uses one or more of these … the important center or hub of their way of life.  It is like the axle of a wheel, which forms the center around which the wheel turns.  You say that you have known the missionaries for about twenty years.  Can you suggest the items in this list which you would consider to be the axle of the missionaries’ way of life?”  “Money!” the group of teachers from a South American Indian tribe exclaimed unanimously and unhesitantly.

WOW!

I have recently become concerned that money may be playing a more and more important role in the life of we North American folks.  Money, so it seems, is becoming the answer to every problem and ill.  But, it is not.  Money is not the answer.  When we think about the poor, we cannot think only in terms of giving them money.  They first need the transformation of the gospel.  When we are dealing with an issue in the church, we cannot just ask how much money will it take to …  Seeking the kingdom and its righteousness must become our central hub.

Any thoughts?

Comments

  1. Eric says

    So true “Money is not the answer. When we think about the poor, we cannot think only in terms of giving them money. They first need the transformation of the gospel. When we are dealing with an issue in the church, we cannot just ask how much money will it take to … Seeking the kingdom and its righteousness must become our central hub.”

    Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (NKJV)

  2. says

    You’re very right, Craig. Money can help to meet needs and fund work, but it should never become our focus as the solution to everything. Money can’t fix issues of the heart. And money just given by itself cannot help break the cycle of poverty that so many are trapped in. That’s why I like the programs that Mennonite Central Committee tries to put together in missions work. They’re designed to help the poor gain the skills, education, and resources they need to break out of poverty rather than relying on aid and gifts for the rest of their lives. Many other missions do this as well, so it’s good to see that people are catching on to the idea that just giving money isn’t going to fix everything.

    And I’ll second Erik’s comment. We must always be focused on seeking God’s kingdom above all else or we’ll completely miss the point.

  3. says

    Money is not the solution. My experience, I was forced to sponsor a child’s education though the kid was not interested in studies and had really bad scores. I took this as a learning and started contributing in other ways.

  4. Carrie says

    Thank you for having taken the time to put this website together. I am currently working on a research paper and your efforts have blessed me.

    My paper addresses the concern that because of the silence of the church on money issues, the average American Christian parent is making layering mistakes in the bringing up of the children in the way they should go – mainly that we failing our children because we are not giving them the needful tools to avoid becoming like the world. One of those tools would be a Christian worldview based education.

    Anyway, thank you much.

    • says

      Carrie,
      Thanks for taking the time to study about and write about such an important topic. I’m thankful that this information has been helpful. Let me know if you ever need any help as you continue your research.

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