On 11 October 2016 I blogged on ‘The problem with western missionaries’. The edited version below is from a western mission worker in the Middle East who has witnessed first-hand the dark-side of the interface between ‘mission’ and ‘money’. He also suggests what we can do about it.
Some ministry initiatives are only surviving due to external funding – but my plea is that we ensure we remain aligned with the nature of the gospel itself when putting money into mission.
Think of it this way. Imagine a desert wadi when the spring rain arrives and the arid dust is overcome by a torrent of rushing water. This produces a double-effect; the deluge moves stones and debris becomes a lethal threat to all in its path. On the other hand vegetation blooms overnight as the desert is transformed into a verdant valley.
Mission-funding can be likened to a powerful spring deluge in a desert wadi that changes the environment and brings good while also having the potential to do harm. We all know about the good, so I’m raising three areas of concern before indicating some resources for further exploration.
The drive for results
We feel a need for mission outcomes to be commensurate with the investment in it. We want our money’s worth. But while good stewardship is important, we also have a dubious fascination with issues such as the number of churches planted; new believers; children educated and refugees housed. This can bear dubious fruit; for example numbers can be manipulated; statistics can be stretched and impacts exaggerated in order to fit criteria established by the “investors.”
A young national, who administered a media ministry, reporting to a funding agency, multiplied the number of respondents by 100. I read the report with incredulity. At first my friend denied the fabricated statistics but eventually admitted that he feared the loss of funding and inflated the numbers accordingly.
The pressure to produce quantifiable results – like the desert deluge – puts pressure on the whole mission process, which goes from ‘sending church’ to ‘field practitioner’ to ‘indigenous believer’. This is like the commercial chain of ‘supply’ and ‘demand’. This is the “commodification” of mission.
Media and Communication
The IT explosion has impacted Christian mission in the Middle East for good and ill. Images tell a story and can move emotions. But photos and film footage taken on ministry trips can end up on social-media. While this may raise awareness and can provoke people to action, what about the ethical boundaries – Would the people photographed give permission if asked? What material benefit do they get from it? Do they even know how their photo will be used?
We need to stop and reflect on our deepest assumptions and motivations and how we are operating in such circumstances.
Source: Mike Kuhn – https://imeslebanon.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/the-commodification-of-mission-in-the-muslim-world/