Signs of Unhealthy Dependency

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The Problem

Think with me about an appreciated, respected partner church leader from a country where the C&MA has invested much over many years. This leader has networked with multiple North American partners both within and outside of the C&MA to secure a steady flow of funds. Thanks to this foreign money, he drives a car and lives in a house at a significantly higher level than the vast majority of the people in his church. Most of his personal income, along with a major portion of the salaries of his co-workers serving with him in ministry in this country, comes not from the local network of Alliance churches. Rather it comes from sources outside the country. When funds are needed for a building or a new ministry initiative, this leader tends to go to his foreign network to seek the needed funding.

Is this a healthy situation? Will this modus operandi result in strong, reproducing churches in this country? Is the motivation for local believers to give sacrificially for the support of their church and its ministries enhanced or endangered as a result of a steady flow of foreign funds?

Reflecting on these questions, there are several underlying values of Alliance missions that come into focus. Not only are these values important for the C&MA, they’re important for Christian ministries globally. Alex Araujo of Interdev, an interdenominational agency focusing on creating healthy partnerships between North American and overseas church partners, helps us with the following questions and principles related to missions and money:

  • Are local believers being prevented from learning to give sacrificially?

    A healthy indigenous church is able to exist on local resources. It is unhealthy when believers fail to give consistently to sustain the ministry of their local church because they are counting on outsiders to provide funds

  • Is the ministry failing to increase its income level from local/national sources?

    A healthy indigenous ministry will be able to raise at least a significant amount of funds in country. It is unhealthy when an indigenous ministry organization receives inadequate in-country support because national believers assume foreign groups are funding it.

  • Is the ministry losing local credibility because of foreign funding?

    It is unhealthy when locals (government, general public, or even other Christians) distrust an indigenous entity because it is perceived as controlled by outside funders.

  • Is the ministry’s goal-setting and decision-making unduly influenced by foreign funding sources?

    A healthy indigenous ministry knows what its country needs and what should be its goals and objectives. It is unhealthy when a ministry allows foreign donors to shape their goals and objectives in order to preserve the financial help.

  • Is foreign funding stunting the development of indigenous para-church structures?

    A healthy national church is one that is able to develop it own para-church organizations to meet specific ministry needs. It is unhealthy when they fail to do so because they have become accustomed to having outside para-churches meeting local needs.

  • Is the foreign funding agency assuming moral responsibility for personal care of workers, such as their medical and retirement needs?

    A healthy church looks after the needs of its own people. It is unhealthy when the indigenous church leaves it up to foreign sources to provide health and retirement care for its members and workers.

  • Does the ministry leader have exaggerated power and authority because he has access to foreign funds?

    A healthy ministry’s leaders carry no more power and authority than is appropriate to their role and responsibilities in the local context. It is unhealthy when a ministry leader wields too much power and influence because he gets lots of foreign funds.

  • Is worker support level set by outside funding sources rather than by the worker’s peers?

    A healthy indigenous ministry sets the support levels of its personnel in accordance with local standards and possibilities. It is unhealthy when outside donors set higher salaries than is appropriate by local standards.” (used with permission)

While the US C&MA wants to be gracious and generous in providing help that really helps, at the same time it wants to be wise in avoiding unhealthy dependency. This can easily develop when with good motives we unwisely give help that ultimately hinders. Alex Araujo helps us better understand the kind of help that over the long haul is damaging. May God grant us wisdom to provide help that really helps, not help that hinders by creating unhealthy dependency.

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