The International Bulletin of Missionary Research recently reported several eye-opening statistics about trends in missions among third-world countries. The part that caught my attention was that "an estimated five percent of third-world church leaders have become small time ecclesiastical crooks because accountability for huge sums of U.S. money has not been strictly enforced." Others are of the opinion that this "estimated five percent" is a bit on the low side and that a much larger percentage of third-world church leaders receiving American support could be classified as "crooks." India, one of the poorest of poor countries, could be pointed to as an example of this atrocity.
Our American Brotherhood has sent hundreds of our fine preachers, capable men with good intentions, to India to do three weeks to a month of "village work" Imagine these men marching into a poor, illiterate Indian village with more money in their hip pockets than most of the villagers would see in a lifetime. Ever so thoughtlessly the almighty dollar is flashed in these poor people's faces almost as if to buy their conversion. Our preachers never planned nor intended for this to happen. But in too many cases Indian men have been promised a full salary for preaching even before they were baptized. When a villager sees a white-skinned missionary he thinks of food, clothing and maybe a new well for his village. Jesus is already one of his deities, so when the white man asks him to be baptized for Jesus and promises all kinds of fringe benefits,...he gladly accepts. Besides, he would have gone to the river for a holy washing that evening anyhow!
A report about such a missionary "faux pas" would not be so tragic if it was a thing of the past, but it is still going on. Church of Christ missionaries from the U.S. and Canada are in their fourth decade of doing this kind of short-term work in India. And, by all indications, they intend to continue doing so. Our Brotherhood papers still contain ads for those volunteering to join one of these three to four week expeditions to India. Organizers regularly send appeal letters and brochures to local preachers with the promise of baptizing so many for every dollar spent. They guarantee hundreds and maybe thousands of baptisms. And how can they make such a promise? Because "Money Methodology" works if all you are after are numbers to report. However, if you truly want to plant Christianity, keep the dollar out.
Here's a better method: Let us go into these poor third-world countries and teach the gospel for long-ranged effects. Let us spend the time it takes to truly convert people to the Cause of Christ. Let us go back to the same areas each time and build on what we have already done. Let us plant churches that will exist on the national economy there and not ones that depend on the American dollar. -- P.O. Box 803, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96745.