Thursday, April 09, 2009

Crusader ministries

Over the years that I have been involved in mission work, I have seen a lot of wonderful ministries with God-honouring ministry that is obviously dedicated to bringing men and women under the rule of Christ.  Kingdom building ministries, characterized by servanthood, humility, prayer, and sacrifice, marked with an obvious leading by the Holy Spirit.

I have also seen work done in the name of Christ (whether it was or not, I leave it to God to decide) which was marked by selfishness, pride, utilizing the best in planning and technology but I wondered if the Holy Spirit was even needed for their work to succeed.  They often didn't seem to give that impression.  I am tempted to call these kinds of ministries, “crusader” ministries in that they tended to be marked, like the Crusaders of old, by a corporate environment that claims that they were doing God's work but using methods and means that are all too often marked by their own agendas, strategies, and strength rather than on God's.

What are some of the marks of a crusader ministry?

1. When you discuss with crusader ministries about their work in a particular country, they tend to use terms like "our man" "our project" "our contacts", they focus on their own reports and give the impression that nothing really significant happened in the country or in the persecuted person's life until they got there.  There is rarely any acknowledgement that others are working there, perhaps before they were, and little sense that the work might be done better in partnership with one of these other groups.  No, they have to set up their own program, because they know how to do it best!

2. Crusader ministries tend to strategize about ministry in a country as to what will be popular with their supporters rather than what would be best for the believers in the religiously restricted or hostile nation. In fact, sometimes their ministries are completely inappropriate for the countries they are targeted for but they engage in them for the plain and simple reason that it is profitable to do so; their supporters like projects like this and are willing to give to them. And so these ministries pressure local believers to find ways of making such programs take place. Which brings me to the third point....

3. Crusader ministries tend to tell persecuted Christians what the project priorities will be in their country, based on their own organizational strengths, goals, and fund-raising strategies rather than spend time listening and learning.  Now, some of these programs may indeed be perfectly legitimate in other countries, or in other parts of the same country, or even at other times in the same country.  But past successes are no guarantee of present day relevance or appropriateness.  To suggest otherwise is, quite simply, hubris. I have seen ministries threaten to cut off funding to persecuted Christians if they suggest that a certain pet program or project is no longer really relevant and would like an alternative instead that would better meet their need and situation. Crusader ministries don’t like to hear that their specialties and preferences are not always appropriate. Advocacy is not always suitable in a given situation.  Relief aid is not always needed or the best response.  Bibles can be sometimes be secured or even printed clandestinely in the country itself rather than smuggled or mailed in, often at a fraction of the cost and in far greater numbers. Local communities can be empowered to care for orphans and others in need rather than institutionalizing the solution. Sadly, many persecuted church leaders soon learn that the key to receiving aid is to simply acquiesce to their Western patron’s agenda.

4. Crusader ministries tend to focus on quick fixes and handouts that are easier to manage rather than on developing well-considered longer-term solutions to the needs of the persecuted and enhancing their ability to stand on their own rather than increasingly becoming dependent on Western financial assistance and adoptive of Western methodology and mentalities.

Sadly, we in the West tend to be attracted to creating and supporting crusader ministries. I know the temptation. I don’t pretend to be blameless here. As a mission leader, I feel the pull to put together attractive programs that appeal to our desire to ride in to the rescue of poor besieged Jerusalem with dollar bills in one hand and a digital camera in the other. Like the crusaders of old, we may believe that we are fulfilling a sacred duty when we may, unless we work hard to do otherwise, inadvertently and tragically end up doing the local Christians harm in the long run, just as the Crusades ultimately contributed greatly to the demise of Christianity in the Middle East. 

This is my passion here in Canada at The Voice of the Martyrs. To make sure that we serve the persecuted in such a way that I can stand unashamed before them and before the Lord and can say that we were a Kingdom-building ministry, characterized by servanthood, humility, prayer, and sacrifice, marked with an obvious leading by the Holy Spirit, committed to values such as:

  • Practicing an Uncompromising Faithfulness to God
  • Being Evangelical and Non-denominational
  • Demonstrating Integrity
  • Pursuing Excellence
  • Practicing Empowerment
  • Exhibiting Independence Within Partnerships
  • Showing Respect

    Pray for us, to glorify God by serving His Persecuted Church in a way that honours God and builds His Church worldwide.


    Anonymous said...

    Amen. Eunice

    Anonymous said...

    I have read the many valid points of your submission; however, as one who is committed to giving regularly as the Lord provides for overseas mission work, I do caution that it can be a sensitive issue. It is likely you have specific ministries in mind, but yet by not naming them could bring suspicion on them all. I have no hesitation to advise who we give to - VOM, as well as Gospel for Asia, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada Child Care Plus program, the Canadian Bible Society and to Bridges of Peace in support of Israel. I would hate to see any suspicsion cast on these ministries as I have done my best with God's help to investigate their integrity. So, again, I understand your concern, but perhaps God keeps the best records. If we bring someone, or a ministry, up to inspection and then fail to identify them, somehow it does not seem fair to me. God bless you. I am praying for you personally that you will continue to be strengthened in body and in spirit. My wife and I believe VOM is a crucial ministry in this day and will continue to support it.

    Glenn Thomas (regular supporter of VOM)

    Glenn Penner said...

    I appreciate your comments, Glenn. The issues I bring are certainly not directed to one or even a handful of ministries. I am concerned that the "crusader" mentality is far more common than many are prepared to openly admit. I do think that discussion and careful evaluation will help us all to do the work of the Kingdom more in line with God's methods, as exemplified by His Son. Years ago, I learned from Francis Schaeffer the importance of discussing issues rather than people. I think the same holds true for organizations. Let's discuss the issues and problems without getting caught up in being perceived as attacking someone or a specific ministry. Granted, no ministry is perfect, and as I mentioned in my blog, I recognize my own tendency to engage in "crusader-style" ministries. This blog is also a call to keep me and VOMC accountable to what we say.