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). It is true today. In contrast, one of the greatest warning signs that a movement is headed toward a major slow-down or death is when the money a movement uses is coming from outside the movement.
It’s a serious dual reality: Money helps. Money hurts.
Boots in Bangladesh – Little Things Matter
A friend and co-worker from Bangladesh told me a true story. It shows how fragile a new movement is in relationship to external finances and help.
He had been working in a village area and seen really great things happening. The new disciples of Jesus were 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, mud, slippery footpaths, and other obstacles, they joyfully went out regularly to these nearby villages to share the gospel. New groups of disciples were rapidly being formed as people believed in Jesus. It was amazing!
With the harvest so ripe, the more workers he could bring in the better. Or so he thought. With this in mind, he invited a foreign team to visit the village to “help” the locals share and to train the new believers.
The team came and served sacrificially, tromping through the rain to reach villages where people were open. Thankfully, they had rain boots that they brought with them from their home country! They had a good time and what seemed like fruitful ministry. A few weeks later when they left, with generous hearts, the team donated their boots to the local workers to use.
Changes in Motivation Surface
My friend soon began to notice a change. Strangely, it seemed like the fervor for evangelism had died down. Instead of 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 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. (See the excellent book – When Helping Hurts for more input on this topic.) It’s almost hard to believe, but this is a true story!
On the other hand, when there is generous giving, sacrifice, and ownership on the part of the new believers…the movement thrives. 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. The movement is theirs, not some outsider’s.
Are They Too Poor to Give?
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 say 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 once.
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 is 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 to a movement. It’s something to be avoided as much as possible. Remember, even small things like rain boots matter!
How are you training those you disciple to give generously? Has your own perspective on poverty been a barrier to seeing rapid, movement-like growth? We’d love to know your perspective on this! Comment below or on the Dmms Frontier Missions Facebook Group.
*This was first published June 10, 2017. It has been revised and is re-posted due to how essential it is for those beginning in DMMs to be aware of.
This is such a good article and illustration! Thanks, Cindy.
Well explained the important issues of almost every where. Blessings with Thanks !!
Generally, YES. However, there are areas that might need financial support: publication, Bible translation, medicine and other fields outside the range of their economy. Initial support in relief is needed, however, rehabilitation or development are as important as that. The secret is “not to do something to or for the economically poor individual or community but to seek solutions together with them” (Corbett and Fikkert 2009:144).
Agree! Yes, seeking solutions with them together is so key!
I totally agree. I have seen how foreign support, well intended, can cripple a mission. Thanks for your insights, Cindy