Self-sufficiency — a new way of doing mission
‘It is really difficult for us to manage the shortage of cash we are facing … we struggle to pay basic bills like electricity, gas…’
Sounds familiar? Just a few lines from a missionary’s e-mail in my inbox on Sunday morning. Mission projects are feeling the financial crunch too. Is there an alternative to traditional mission models in our globalised, consumerised and indebted world?
The obstacles are many … the self-centredness of the ‘me’ generation is on the increase, fuelled by marketing and a humanistic emphasis on ‘freedom’ and ‘rights’. Hedonism and indebtedness rise unabated (often unrecognised and unchallenged), while sacrificial giving is on the wane.
The lifestyle of the cross is distinctly out of fashion. When love for others grows cold and the cross fades as our hallmark, the decline of the Western church is all but assured, and raising money for mission has the distinct feel of too many snouts striving to feed in a rapidly emptying trough.
Challenges abound: a lack of interest in mission; churches struggling to survive or simply growing older … debt keeps many, even short-term, budding missionaries at home looking for a summer job, while failure to find sufficient funds causes existing missionaries to return home or get a ‘normal’ job to pay the bills.
So is there a future for mission? Undoubtedly so, but we probably need to change our paradigms if we are to continue on the mission field.
By ‘self-sufficiency’ in mission, we do not mean being self-sufficient from God and his sovereignty and provision. Nor do we mean being independent of other people. Neither is this an attempt to dismantle the centuries-old, healthy mission model of churches and individuals sacrificially supporting mission endeavours.
Mission begins at home and in no way is restricted to full-time missionaries abroad. However, in this article we have in mind mission efforts ‘to the ends of the earth’. Our desire is to carry global mission into the future, even in the face of deteriorating global trends.
In addition to the shrinking capacity of Western churches to fund the mission movement, the rapid globalisation and increase of prices in developing countries means that the number of ‘cheap’ countries to send missionaries to is diminishing.
Mission costs a lot more than it used to. In 1993, a Polish missionary couple needed about £200 per month to live in Kazakhstan. Now it’s more like £2000 per month. A British or American family needs more than that to pay for their travel, insurances, rent, utilities, visas, children’s education, etc.
How many young families can raise such money? In such a climate, foreign mission is increasingly reduced to young, debt-free singles (a dying breed) or older ’empty nesters’ with sufficient funds of their own.
Is there an alternative? We are trying to model in Central Eurasian Partners, across Eastern Europe, the concept of integrated ministry. We’re attempting to create work platforms across the region, to penetrate societies with the gospel in deed and word; to integrate work and ministry.
We create schools of various kinds, small businesses, associations, charities, training and counselling organisations. These provide jobs and income for indigenous and foreign labourers with professional talents and qualifications, and relevant, holistic, kingdom-oriented ministry contexts, through which people naturally flow.
As secularised peoples gradually become more insensitised or even hostile to traditional Christian church, forms and evangelistic methods, these platforms can serve as beacons of light in our dysfunctional societies.
Providing income for labourers through these platforms helps to stem the haemorrhaging of Eastern European Christians to the West and provides an alternative to searching for 100 per cent external donations to fund mission activities.
Our initiatives are at present overall 85 per cent self-funded. We provide employment and ministry platforms for hundreds across the region — all these in ‘full time ministry’ by providing income-generating services!
The challenge to create both spiritually fruitful and simultaneously financially viable enterprises is a big one though. We need not only an underlying passion for, and unshakeable commitment to and trust in God, but also a good understanding of the market niches we are filling; and we need bold entrepreneurship. At last, a place for men in mission!
We need both courageous faith and professionally qualified, experienced and spiritually attuned labourers. We need excellent financial management and creativity. And also we need capital in the form of investment, loans or donations.
We need expert assistance and diverse talents of local and foreign partners. We need long and short term help, for example, native English speakers for our schools, teachers and helpers for our summer camps.
We need partners advocating us and inviting us into local churches, financial business consultants, prayer warriors, people whose vision is broader than the growth of their local church or group.
The needs in our dysfunctional societies are varied and immense. They provide windows of opportunity. Would you join our inter-denominational open network?
If you are interested in getting involved, please e-mail: [email protected] or visit www.cepartners.org.uk . We look forward to hearing from you.
Central Eurasian Partners