Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Do You Really Love the Church?

As I noted in yesterday's blog, I recently read Paul Yonggap Jeong's book, Mission from a Position of Weakness.  I didn't note that Jeong is Korean and concludes his study by evaluating the Korean church's history and present practice of missions, especially as it concerns doing mission from the perspective of weakness rather than from power.  Jeong notes a fact that I had read elsewhere that one of the most important reasons for the dynamic growth of the Presbyterian church in Korea in the 20th century was that Western missionaries, unlike some other denominations, did not give salaries to the Korean workers, nor did they pay for the construction of buildings. From the beginning, they let the Christian workers and the local churches support themselves (pages 121-122). 

This is a significant departure from present day practice of many (if not most) Western and Korean missions.  Jeong notes that Korean missionaries today seem to have forgotten the lessons from their own past, to the detriment of the health and growth of the church where they minister.  He notes that for many Korean missionaries, their relationship with national workers is more like that of an employers and employee than co-workers in Christ (page 126).  By giving out money to national workers, they tend to exercise power to control them.  He cites one highly successful pastor in the Philippines who pastors a church of 12,000 members who spoke to a group of Korean missionaries and asked them, "Do you really love the Philippines? Then do not give money to the national workers?  Do you hate the Philippines?  Then give money to them.  Remember how the Korean Church started about one hundred years ago.  Did they have money?  Even though they were poor, they sacrificed a lot and did great works" (page 125-126).

The intentions behind financially supporting the salaries of national workers are usually good.  The idea that freeing up someone to engage in full-time ministry with what we perceive to be adequate resources seems like good stewardship. Most missions that promote this kind of support mention reflect this perspective.  But are we inadvertently forgetting that God's mission to the world rarely fits what we would perceive to be wise and efficient?

Want to check out an alternative to the normal "sponsorship" program; one that helps persecuted Christians help themselves?  Check out our brand new 3.45 minute "Jars of Hope" video on www.persecution.tv.


Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
Without too much consideration, I would have to agree with your idea of not financially supporting (enabling? which seems to be what the "western" welfare system has done in our country. It enables people who really don't want to work to do just that, not work)national workers. I would also have to say that the Bible supports your idea as well. However, it would seem that if such an idea as this were adopted by all ministries, many would cease to exist. Would not such an idea, if implimented, conflict with the Pastor Support Projects that VOM is involved in?
Thank you,

Glenn Penner said...

Actually VOM Canada (which this website is a part of) is not involved in the pastor support program. This is a VOM USA project. We are separate, independent sister missions. I don't like to emphasize our differences but they do exist.