Front Line Fraternity

Supporting Global Workers overseas is very expensive. It would be a better use of funds and energy if we only supported people from that cultural context.

This is absolutely a valid argument for why one country should not send workers to another. It’s true, but not totally. The word “missions” is loaded and rightfully so. The traditional model of wealthier nations sending workers to other parts of the world has done real harm and created real good. It’s healthy for us to talk about this – right down to fiscal responsibility.

Language learning, cultural adaptation, building friendships, developing local knowledge – all of these are a time intensive process and all are required elements of global work. If time is money, then this is a massive investment (years upon years upon years). Identifying and funding someone from within that culture would nearly eliminate this process. There’s more bang for your buck right there!

When it comes to the cost of living, sending foreigners into new places is almost always more expensive than paying for someone local. Then you factor in international travel, the costs of fundraising, health insurance, salary and government mandated benefits. It adds up quickly.

Given these measures, sending Canadians, Koreans, Australians, Americans, and Brits abroad for faith-based or development purposes clearly is wasteful, irresponsible (some might toss around the “poor stewardship” terminology), and an unwise use of funds.

You can find great thoughts on this. I suggest checking out Craig Greenfield – the founder and director of the Alongsiders. M had the chance to attend his workshop last month and his thoughts are worthwhile. Start with this post HERE.

This is a transactional view of missions in which those who have money pay for results to those who have less money. More than a funding model, modern missions is the global exchange of resources (people, information, ideas, and yes, finances) for Kingdom purposes. [full credit to The Armitage Cafe for helping shape that thought for us]

As Christians, we very much believe in a spiritual show-down. There are two spiritual kingdoms at war with one another and around the world there are specific places or circumstances where we clearly see the clash of kingdoms. These front lines may be on the other side of the world from you or they may be streaming into your home in HD clarity.

As the Canadian Church, we need to be more than an ATM. We need to aspire to more than just bankrolling missional endeavours. Sending only money sends the wrong message. It says that we are willing to stay in the comfort of our homes while paying for others to stand on the front lines. We’re okay with someone else taking the risk. We give passive ascent to someone else’s daughter or son working and living in places where we won’t send our own children. Our money says we believe in you and we’re okay with whatever toll it takes on you. Oh, and please do send us receipts and a newsletter.

Sending co-labourers has a place in this shrinking and interconnected world of ours. Yes, it comes with a price tag, but it is a marker of mutual buy-in. It delivers on the talk of being a global team, a body, a family. Being present matters. Putting your hands to something together matters. Celebrating the wins and taking the losses matters.

For too long, missions smacked of a colonial past and our thinking about funding is viewed through that lens. Missions is motivated by both material and spiritual needs. Because of this we are already seeing the shift where countries that were once receivers are now sending and countries that once exclusively sent are now on the receiving end. In our lifetime, we will see the end of this sender-receiver language as we push towards global collaboration – the beautiful global exchange for Kingdom purposes.


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