22 September 2010

Dependency... Question #3

Many Americans believe that it is more economical to send support to a national pastor rather than going through the work of training a missionary and funding their family to live overseas...

The challenge with this is that it takes away the nationals desire to tithe when the pastor is the most wealthy member of the church...

Okay... I loaded the deck a bit on this question...


What is the role of the western church and missionaries in teaching nationals to tithe?

Bonus Question: Is there an appropriate time to support a national African pastor as a missionary?


Preston Sprinkle said...

Good question. But before I give my 2 cents, I have to admit that I'm one of those "Americans" you mentioned in the first line. So now I'm curious: do you see more benefit in supporting an American missionary (at 100k a pop!) to do the work that could be done by a national pastor? I've often thought 'no way,' but I never thought about the problem of tithing that may result.

Jeff said...

Great question - An American should never go over to do the work that a national pastor can do... The missionaries should go to do what isn't or can't be done by a national... but never to do what a national is or can do!

One thing we don't understand as Americans is the new reality we are creating by sponsoring national pastors. By doing this we are making the pastors the richest people in the church and even the community. This creates great suspicion on the part of the nationals towards their own pastors.

And leads to questions like:

Why does the pastor need me to tithe when he has all the money?

Where is pastor getting his money from and how much does he have?

Do the Americans sending the money know that the pastor is keeping the money and not sharing with the church?

And on and on it goes... creating suspicion and taking away the local initiative to give...

Preston Sprinkle said...

Jeff, thanks for your thoughts on this. Seems like a vicious cycle! I haven't thought about this before. I'm curious, then, about the "support a GBI student" program. Is this different (I could see how it could be)? Does this create a type of unhealthy dependence?

With the original question, though, I wonder if the best way to redistribute wealth from the the American churches to the African churches would be to go through, well, someone like you who knows all the ins and outs of what's going on, who can project long-term effects of the gift (i.e. potential lack of tithing, etc.), who can then help fund whatever ministry (or person) really needs it. What do you think?

Preston Sprinkle said...

In reading the original question ("the role of the western church and missionaries in teaching nationals to tithe"), I guess my first thought is that the western church can do very little long-term good through short term mission along the lines of teaching the nationals anything (I may have overstated this!). At least in terms of NOT affecting the financial fabric of the situation, which is complicated and sensitive. It takes a long term, or longer term (1-2 years?), engagement to really see past the veneer of the culture to project what should be done for the long term good.

Jeff said...


I love that you brought up the GBI Scholarships... this is something I spent 2 years agonizing over... and learning from mistakes.

In the end I believe "Scholarships" are a vital part of "Development" work.

Here's the difference:

SUPPORT is like a blank check with no specific purpose or intention. It is simply elevating the economic status of a pastor.

SCHOLARSHIP is a check with an intended purpose - preparing for ministry, expanding knowledge of the word of God and giving a pastor the skills necessary to train others.

I am also very careful to use the term "SCHOLARSHIP." Where "Scholarship" differs from "Support" in that it is based on a criteria. In our case at GBI we base it on three criteria 1) Calling (confirmed by their pastor) 2) Character (affirmed by their church body) and 3) Academic Qualifications (it would sound so cool if that started with a "c")

I believe training pastors is vital to "DEVELOPMENT" work because in the end these pastors will be able to train others and as well go out to other unreached tribes and nations being missionaries themselves. This ends with the country moving from being a "missionary receiving" country to a "missionary sending" country.

I could go on... because I love this topic...but at this point its just you and me reading Preston :)

Jeff said...

Preston, on your third post you bring an interesting point about "what can short term missionaries teach in just two weeks?"

I think STM can teach and we invite them to at GBI. The concern is that they must be culturally sensitive. For example I heard of a group of STMers telling a group of women to stop having babies and to use condoms. The problem is that using condoms and not having babies sounded to these women like they were being told to be prostitutes.

That's why studying the culture, listening to the host and deferring on culturally sensitive topics are all important parts of the STM experience.

There are also great organizations like Training Leaders International (www.trainingleadersinternational.org) that can help prepare professors for short term work overseas.

Darren said...

Our church scaled back the giving to a national pastor in Romania for these very reasons. We were concerned the church had no incentive to give. We prayed and labored hard over the decision and cut back the support by half over a year process in hopes the church would pick up the slack over the same year. It worked. The church stepped it up for their pastor.

Preston Sprinkle said...

Great thoughts, Jeff. Very helpful.

On American STM teaching ventures. I still wonder why WE need to do the teaching. Am I wrong to say that there are 1000's of seminary trained Africans who could do the 1-2 week modules? There are loads of Seminaries and Bible Colleges in Africa (over 10 in Uganda, right?), so there must be many more educated African Christian leaders than we Americans think (Though, my father in law says that the situation in Burundi is much different). Instead of me spending 4k coming out to teach a 1 week course on OT survey, what if I funded (or sponsored) 8 African Seminary trained leaders at $500 a pop (or whatever would be legit and healthy) to teach 8 different courses. They are doing the work (affirming the dignity of work), they know the culture, this prevents the students from forming the subtle views of dependence on the West, gives the Africans a chance to teach and thus improve on their teaching.

What are some drawbacks of this? I have a few but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Jeff said...

Hey Preston

I wouldn't say there are thousands of trained Africa leaders. In Uganda, I know of one accredited school that offers at MDiv.

All of the staff at GBI were trained in Kenya. Only countries, that I know of have strong seminaries (Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and possibly Ghana).

It is not essential that "we" as Westerners teach. But I would say that it is extremely difficult to find trained professors to teach in Bible Colleges.

The other great reason to have STM come and teach is that they will 1) have a better understanding of the need for pastoral training which they can share with their churches 2) some might be encouraged to stay and help train up national professors.

Jeff said...

Darren - thanks for jumping in the thread... I love that story of the church in Romania!

It is a huge accomplishment for them and also an encouragement to them of what God can accomplish through their faithful giving.

Preston Sprinkle said...

Thanks for correcting this! Major misconception on my part. I think I "Googled" African Seminary or something a while back and was shocked by how many "schools" there were, but that doesn't mean they are legit. This helps a lot, and encourages me all the more to come teach in Africa! I want to be drawn by real needs, not just adventure, you know...

Jeff said...

This site has a list of all the accredited schools in Africa... shocking in comparison to the US!


John said...

the sponsorship program that is offered through another agency I am well aware of tells the national pastors that in order to begin you will receive so much the first year. After two years your money will be dropped to 1/2. After the third year, you are on your own.

It's a reality that you must teach the whole Bible, why did Jesus spend so much time speaking about money unless he saw the evil that it can become trying to make heaven here on earth.

Anonymous said...

Just checking in for the first time this week, Jeff. This thread is particularly helpful and encouraging!

spencer maccuish said...

Sorry my response will have a particular Shwartz flavor:

I think that support is certainly appropriate as long as it is a true partnership and not a one way cash flow (often to appease the western conscience) or a cash siphon (that crazy sucking noise you often hear from "pastor" types in developing countries).

But a true partnership includes a true exchange of ideas, thoughts, resources, gifts, talents and abilities so that all parties involved receive benefit.