Why Not Just Pay the Nationals?
The first trip I took to Myanmar was rather startling, especially given what many would consider a reformed worldview. There are, it turns out, at least eleven distinct reformed denominations in Myanmar, all but a handful of those denominations among the Chin tribes. One of the first things that my travelling companion and I noticed was the extent to which Christian missions in that country resembled nothing more than a Ponzi scheme. In fact, a group of Baptist missionaries was very quick to explain to us at breakfast one morning how little we understood about missions. "The way it is done," he explained in nearly condescending tones, "is that western Christians send money to the locals who do the actual work of missions."
Yes, indeed. That is the way Christian mission work has operated in Myanmar for the nearly 200 years since Adoniram Judson first came. However, it is not the manner in which it ought to be done. There is an excellent short article by Craig Ott in the EMQ from about 10 years ago called Let The Buyer Beware. In that article, Ott depended heavily on the Nevius method (see Blog from yesterday, Jul 30). Ott began his article with the warning, "A careful study of the history and theology of missions will, however, reveal that financial support of national pastors and evangelists is fraught with dangers. In fact, such well-intended subsidies often weaken receiving churches and undermine world evangelization in the longer term. Think twice before you start supporting nationals in your missions giving, and consider the following dangers." He then listed nine dangers or warnings that accompany the idea of just "Paying the Nationals" to do missions. In fact, in many respects the modern concept of "nationals to nationals" is a retrogression to the old missionary/colonialist approach to missions.
The article is worth the read.
“There are no closed countries if you do not expect to come back”