“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace God gave the churches in Macedonia. They have been tested by great troubles, and they are very poor. But they gave much because of their great joy. I can tell you that they gave as much as they were able and even more than they could afford. No one told them to do it. But they begged and pleaded with us to let them share in this service for God’s people.” 2 Cor. 8:1-4, NCV
Do you know what is so remarkable about this passage?
The large gift was given by the daughter church to the Jerusalem mother church! Today it is the other way around – the mother church supporting the daughter church. Also, this was a relief gift to Christians suffering great famine, not salary support. All the early churches supported their own work.
But today, wealthy Western churches supporting developing world pastor salaries and operations. This creates dependency which just weakens the church. Though well-meaning, it builds a crippling welfare pattern.
Many mission agencies have realized this and stopped. Instead they strengthen churches to be more Biblically giving, self-supporting, and self-reliant. But now, local churches are doing this directly by “partnering” with poor churches overseas, repeating the same dependency pattern. How can this be real “partnership” when all resources come from one side?
“If those to whom the Gospel is preached begin to receive material things that come with the Gospel, they may become more interested in those things than in the Gospel itself.” Glenn Schwartz, missionary authority on dependency
Jeb and Meg struggle with damage done by well-meaning Christians from Western countries. These come on short visits, and instead of winning their own converts, steal those won by the hard work of long-term tentmakers. They lure them away with salaries or scholarships to study in the US, etc. They understand neither the culture nor the tough church planting situation. Without the language, they cannot evaluate the individuals they think they are helping. As a result, their money usually undermines the church and cripples it with dependence. This has long been a problem worldwide. Money almost invariably wreaks damage!
In many countries, tentmakers are not tempted to provide salary support to local church leaders. But in other, more open countries, tentmakers can be tempted to provide support, especially with a good salary. Don’t do it! Long term, it will do more harm than good. Instead, believe in your local brothers’ and sisters’ ability to produce and problem-solve and help them become self-reliant.
Actually, tentmaking can be a powerful antidote to dependency. As self-supporting witnesses, tentmakers model (a) that leaders don’t need to be paid; (b) that work is God’s idea and good; (c) that the work is a great means for demonstrating and communicating Christ and for connecting with nonbelievers; and (d) that work enables us to give joyfully to God’s purposes. These lead to self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating church movements whose members joyfully give for the care of God’s family and for the extension of the gospel.
Copyright: Dave English, Global Opportunities, first published in GO World, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2000.
Tentmaking: Antidote to Paternalism? By David English, http://globalopps.org/paternalism.htm
Glenn Schwartz Mission Frontiers articles: https://www.missionfrontiers.org/members/12
Dependency: When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough: https://www.persecution.net/download/dependency.pdf
Good brief articles with a bibliography of more articles
Dependency: When our Giving Does More Harm than Good! Mission Frontiers magazine, January-February 1997, http://www.missionfrontiers.org/pdfs/19-1-dependency.pdf