Thursday, July 12, 2007

faces on the fridge

While I was overseas I was stunned to hear more than one person tell me that when it comes to missionaries raising their financial support, New Zealand is gaining a reputation for being very slow - the slowest of them all.

I wonder if this is true. Are we becoming stingy? Are we growing less committed to the financial support of missionaries in cross-cultural settings? I offer a few comments on which you can chew...

One For about a generation now we have been told that there is nothing special about missionaries. They are not super-spiritual. 'Pull them down off that pedestal.' There is truth in this. However maybe the pendulum needs to swing back a bit. The reality is that the missionaries which I have just met are special. They are making sacrifices that very few of us are willing to make. They should be prized. And part of that 'prizing' should be making it very easy for them to raise their support because we are all so generous.

Two While it is hardly the best incentive maybe the easing of tax laws regarding rebates on charitable giving can be used of God to build a fresh wave of generosity?

Three I am less and less convinced that the practise of tithing is meant for the New Testament era. [Please correct me before I fall into heresy - there is still time!] This is because, in practise, tithing simply becomes a mandate to keep 90% for myself. And yet the bottom line is that all we own comes under the Lordship of Jesus. 100% is his - not 10%. Followers of Jesus living way above something like the minimum wage should be considering giving way above 10%. And those who do will one day have honour heaped upon them by God ... and in the meantime more missionaries (among other people and projects) will experience quicker and fuller support.

Four There is generosity in NZ. Look at the growth in Child Sponsorship through the likes of Tear Fund and World Vision. It is staggering. In NZ homes photos on the fridge are almost as common as the fridge itself. It is a phenomenon - and it is good! But it is just a starting point, not an ending point, for our giving. Our fridges need to be populated with other faces - the faces of missionaries. I reckon that for every sponsored child on our fridges we should aim at having at least one missionary face as well!

nice chatting

Paul

13 comments:

Andrew Butcher said...

There's a bigger issue here than just whose face you have on your fridge. If there's a theology that doesn't have a global view, that doesn't see salvation in broader terms than just my personal relationship with God, and that doesn't see mission as being core of the God whom we worship, then why would give to those who are missionaries? There's also a sense I think of out of sight and out of mind. We give money to things with which we are attached and have some sort of ownership: if we don't see the need to give to missionaries, not until we share their same desire to share the good news of Jesus Christ, then will we willingly have their photos on our fridge.

Lisa said...

I would go even further. I would say about 'where do the faces on your fridge origanate from?' Yes we should be sending missionaries but I am firmly of the belief that there need to be much less western Christian's going to places like places in the 10/40 window in Grass roots mission instead I think it would be AWESOME if we had the face of a native missionary on the fridge.

Smiths in Manila said...

I would have to say that until we moved here (the Philippines) I didn't realise that NZers on average were so stingy. But now that I have experienced the generosity of other cultures (including poor Filipinos), I am embarrased in comparison.

I also agree with the comment "out of sight, out of mind". For two reasons. 1) If you saw the way people live in the slums here, you would give more. For every large starbucks coffee you drink, you could feed a child here for a week.
2) Some people don't give in NZ, because they think the 'overheads' are too high. But it does cost a lot of money for the organisations to publicise the need - to PUT the poor in people's sights. And even if only 60% of the money gets through to the poor - it's much better than nothing at all. And those organisations are much better at actually doing something than any governmental initiative in these poor countries.

Our church here recently challenged us to "up" our giving by 5% each year. He held up some 'giving warrirors' that are up to about 90%. Fabulous!

Heather and Martin said...

As to missionaries being on pedestals - it's not that they are people just like us - it's that we should be people just like them. Not necessarily that we should be overseas, but that we, too, should be taking God's call seriously. Wherever He leads us.

Patrick Dunford said...

Some of the local ministries in my part of the world are struggling bigtime; Scripture Union and the biggest foodbank in NZ come to mind as examples. And they find that the biggest churches are closed to them.

Seems in church these days you hardly even hear the work of Radio Rhema promoted nowadays.

Paul Windsor said...

What an intriguing series of responses to this post(while I've been away with the family celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary!).

Each one prompts a comment:

Andrew: One way forward to this crucial 'out of sight' dilemma is the fuller use of technology during gathered church experiences like Sunday morning. The internet should be used more often to 'skype' and video-conference with people overseas. We might be surprised how many can access this technology with a bit of planning and foresight.

Lisa: I couldn't agree more. This will be increasingly common. There is a case to be made for a more sensible stewardship associated with sending money to support indigenous mission rather than sending people. That is one of the reasons why I am on the Board of Leadership Development International (NZ) - www.ldi.co.nz - because they do this. You've prompted me to act on something we've been planning to do: sponsor a theological student in Myanmar through their training in their home country.

However - and I sense you agree - I will still leave a space in my heart and wallet to affirm people who know God's call to work cross-culturally by standing with them with prayers and support.

Smiths in Manila: As someone who grew up in India, we people in the wealthier West just have not lived until we have experienced both the generosity of the poor and the far-more-frequent-than-you-would-expect joy of the poor. Money never quite has the same attraction again after such an experience.

Heather and Martin: yes, obedience to the call of God on our lives - wherever that might take us - is always the first principle of following Jesus. In the meantime we open up our hearts and lives to be willing to go anywhere for that Jesus. No 'no-go' zones!

Patrick Dunford: Again such a perceptive response. This is huge issue in NZ. The money is here in the Christian community in NZ - but organisation after organisation has deep struggles with finances. This should not be the case! I do confess that having seen some extraordinary generosity in recent years I am now a bit more muted in my alarm with this one. Nevertheless you are correct to raise this one.

Lisa said...

Thank you Paul, for taking the time to respond its much appreciated! I love the conversation I get here it really expands the mind!

Anonymous said...

Aid and development = Mission.

Paul Windsor said...

Not sure I agree fully with you 'anonymous'...

Aid and development is part of mission. It is not equal to mission, or synonymous with mission - if that is what you are suggesting.

Plenty of people are giving their lives to 'aid and development' with all kinds of organisations - but they are not doing mission necessarily, are they?

I wonder if what makes it distinctively "mission" has to do with the place where people start, the motivation which drives them, the direction in which they go, and the destination at which they aim - all of which need to have plenty of Jesus and the gospel associated with them...

Anonymous said...

Is the good news not for the poor and oppressed? Does the gospel not offer life in all its fullness? Did Christ not desire for God's Kingdom to come on Earth 'today' as it is in heaven 'tomorrow'? What is the gospel if it is not these things?

Perhaps the World Vision and Tearfund logos deserve a spot on the Mission notice board so they are not separated from their fridge side neigbours.

Paul Windsor said...

Ahh... :)

"Aid + development = mission" was a bit cryptic, don't you think?!

Thanks for expanding a little more. That helps me out. I sense you are concerned that I am not affirming the work of WV and Tear Fund as "mission" work enough. Is that correct?

Three responses come to mind...

I think that both of these organisations fit easily into that paragraph of mine about 'place, motivation, direction, destination.' WV and TearFund ARE mission organisations. But not everyone into 'aid and development' is into mission.

In terms of the 'faces on the fridge' image, if you reread the original post I was not trying to take photos off the fridge but add photos to the fridge. I was affirming child sponsorhip - but also saying that that is not enough. There is more, far more, that we need to be financially supporting as followers of Jesus committed to mission.

I am concerned that there is a generation developing who think that Aid and Development is all there is to mission. It isn't. If we do not include speaking the words of the gospel to people at some point in our understanding of mission - then our understanding of mission is something less than the understanding we find in the New Testament. Some people are content with being in that place. I am not. It is not just about hands and feet and heart - it is about mouth too. Some of the biggest advocates of holistic mission leave the biggest holes in it.

So the gospel is ALL that you affirm in this later paragraph - but it is still more than that too!

It is always good to ask what it was that made Jesus grieve so deeply over Jerusalem towards the end of his ministry. I'll leave you to think about that.

thanks again

Anonymous said...

"If we do not include speaking the words of the gospel" What are these words?

Can they be said without action?

Can they be heard without voice?

Paul Windsor said...

More good questions! Maybe we should sit down and have a coffee! :)

Let me try to respond to those last two questions first. If we are trying to conform our approach to the teaching of the New Testament - as best we can (and I am assuming you and I are) - then I think a gospel (and a mission) that finds expression in both WORD and ACTION is where we end up. In a given time and space one may be more prominent than the other - but in that SAME time and space we will find ourselves praying and reflecting and planning creatively for opportunities to give expression to the other.

In terms of your first question Jacques Ellul once wrote a book titled 'the humiliation of the word'. He is right. We live at a time when 'word' has been humiliated (by image and by event and by feeling ... ...) and it needs to be rehabilitated so that it can recover the emphasis it has in the ministry of Jesus and in the Word (and Ways) of God. It is this massive blindspot today. We need a 'theology of word' ...

For example, God speaks and the universe comes into being (Genesis 1). The pre-existent Jesus is spoken of as the 'Word' (John 1). Time and again the essence of biblical spirituality is seen to be listening to a speaking God and obeying what we here. I'd urge you to 'take up and read' one of the gospels or the book of Acts or one of the letters and just train your eyes to see how the gospel, or the good news, is linked directly to words that are spoken.

enuf for now