One of the greatest indicators that a true move of God is taking place is when new believers are generous in their giving. This was true in the New Testament (see the Book of Acts for example). It is true today. In contrast, one of the greatest warning signs that a movement is headed toward major slow-down or death is when the money a movement uses is coming from outside the movement.
Its a serious dual reality: Money helps. Money hurts.
A friend and co-worker from Bangladesh told me a story which represents how fragile a new movement is in relationship to external finances and help. He had been working in a village area and had seen really great things happening. The new disciples of Jesus were really excited about their faith. They wanted to share it with others. They had a heart for their relatives and friends in neighboring villages who had yet to hear the good news. In spite of heavy monsoon rains, muddy and slippery foot paths, and other obstacles, they joyfully went regularly to these places to share the gospel. New groups of disciples were rapidly being formed as people were believing in Jesus. It was amazing!
With the harvest so ripe, the more workers he could bring, the better he thought. So, he invited a foreign team to visit the village to “help” the locals to share and train believers. The team came and served sacrificially, tromping through the rain to reach the villages where people were open. Thankfully, they had rain boots which they had brought with them from their home country! They had a good time and what seemed like fruitful ministry there. A few weeks later, with generous hearts, when they left, the team donated their boots to some of the local workers to use in the days to come.
My friend soon began to notice a change after the team left. Strangely, it seemed like the fervor for evangelism died down. Instead of showing their former passion and zeal to take the gospel to other villages, the local believers now seemed reluctant. After a bit of investigation, my friend found out that they had decided that only people with rain boots should go. The paths were now suddenly too dangerous and slippery for someone with only flip-flops to wear! The movement slowed and evangelism to other areas ground to a halt.
What was the cause? A very small gift of rain boots from a foreign team. This seemingly insignificant injection of external funds (or in this case goods) caused irreparable damage to the work. It was a case of when “helping” hurt. It’s almost hard to believe, but this is a true story!
On the other hand, when we see generous giving, sacrifice and ownership on the part of the new believers…the movement thrives and spreads quickly. Things are done in local and organic ways that work well for them. As they give, serve, and go in sacrificial ways they grow strong in their faith and the movement is theirs, not some outsider’s.
I’ve heard numerous Christian workers both foreign and national tell me that the local people they are working with are too poor to give. Or they tell me they are afraid to take offerings too soon with new believers. “You just can’t imagine how backward and poor these people are!” an Indian national worker told me just last week. Training new believers to give to God’s work, to the poor around them and to reach the lost is part of making true disciples. Jesus said we must deny ourselves, give to those who ask of us, turn the other cheek when beaten…all pretty tough requirements of discipleship. Watering down what it means to be a disciple, doesn’t lead to healthy reproducing churches or discipleship groups. Generous giving from the heart as a part of our loving worship to God must be part of the DNA of the very first generations of groups that are started.
Avoid external funding from the beginning and you will save yourself a lot of headaches! Resist the temptation and the lies that tell you that you all should give but the new disciples can not. It is simply not Biblical, nor does it lead to fruit!
Internal money from generous giving- its a forward driver of disciple making movements. External money and goods- though sometimes helpful in the short-term or special circumstances- are a major danger and something to avoid as much as possible. Even small things like rain boots matter!