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Missions 101

Dependency and Missions – An Indian Perspective – Part 2

Jun. 29, 2016By: Vijay MeesalaAuthor Bio

Editor Note: Monday we posted an article by Craig Ott that noted his caution on supporting national leaders and missionaries. Today's article continues yesterday’s post from Vijay Meesala, who works in India for ministry that seeks support for national Indian pastors and leaders.

I once received an email that read:

Hello Vijay, 

……..As for more churches and organizations for support… I will think and pray and let you know if any come to mind. However, I would also like to ask you if you have done your best to invite local churches in your area to contribute to your ministry. Please don’t be offended by this question…. But I want you and the churches of your area to experience the blessing and testimony of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.

Here is how I responded: 

At the most fundamental level there is little comparison between the typical Indian village church and a Western church.  Below are some areas of comparison. (The following is from a Westerner who was involved in the mission work for more than 30 years and gained much wisdom from the mission):

 

Issue

Western Church

Indian Village Church

1

Cultural Hostility                     

Little or none                   

Much hostility

2

% of Believers Employed     

Above 97%    

40% full-time employed

3

Level of Education                   

Nearly 100% high school graduates       

Very low % educated

 

4

Care of Widows and Orphans           

Little/none care given        

Much care given

5

Economic Situation                   

Wealthy

Hand-to-mouth existence

6

Spiritual Development             

Reflects society more than Kingdom        

Prays, fasts, active in evangelism

 

7

Church Outreach                    

Self-contained                 

Involved in starting new fellowships

 

I'm sure there are many other areas of comparison. 

I hope you understand my heart; I am not saying these things to judge which churches are superior and inferior.  However, there is a general misunderstanding from the churches in the west that we (Indian and Asian Churches ) only and always seek help from the West.  Yet this is not accurate for all the churches.  Indeed, it is an exaggeration.

I am not denying the fact that there are many who seek Western help, including our own mission work, and receive enormous amounts of generous support from the West.  Praise the Lord!  I also want to acknowledge that there is a danger of being dependent on the West.  But that the Church in India or elsewhere is existing only with the support of the West and there is no local support is definitely not true.  In our context in Andhra Pradesh rural area, I estimate less than 25-30% of churches only receive help from outside India.

The support that we seek from the West is to enhance and further the work of God more effectively  and faster. It is also because more than 75% of the wealth is in the hands of Western Christians (according to some mission statistics).  Someone has said that if the Church in the West thinks that she is doing a favor to the churches in developing countries by giving money and other things, then that is not a biblical attitude but an attitude of worldly superiority.  The Church belongs to God and God will build His Church.  But by supporting each other I believe we are doing our part in God’s family.

For these reasons I firmly believe that the Church in India enjoys the joy of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 much like other Churches in similar contexts.  Believers in Indian villages give to the Lord out of their extreme poverty and they give it willingly as said in the Scriptures.

I hope to continue dialoguing about this, and I am willing to learn more as well.  I just wrote what is on my heart with much prayer and reflection.  These are my general feelings about the Church in the West but not against any particular individual or church.  Please let me know what you think of this.  I will be happy to hear from you.

My request is this:  Please does not generalize and make hasty decisions based on some past experiences or because someone said it was so.  Moreover, let the Western Church/Pastors/Mission leaders also examine themselves to see if they are too dependent and yet not seeing it, while they point fingers at indigenous missionaries.

One last thing, I am saying this with much caution and love: I am not sure if a Western Pastor/Mission Executive/Leader/staff of a mission of organization would continue to serve and minister in the same ministry/organization if/when he knows that the next months check/money/support is not going to come.  He would try to find another job placement because he has a wife and children.  (I am not seeking to generalize; there may be exemptions)….But I am sure that almost all the indigenous missionaries I personally know of in Asia or Africa would continue to serve the Lord no matter what may come…may it be persecution/famine/or anything.

Please do not mistake me for being harsh….  I would be happy to hear from you and learn as well.

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Dependency and Missions – An Indian Perspective – Part 1

Jun. 28, 2016By: Vijay MeesalaAuthor Bio

Editor's note: Missiologist Craig Ott warns against supporting pastors in foreign countries. The pitfalls are many. We asked Vijay Meesala, an Indian ministry leaders who solicits support for pastors his take on this issue. 

I once received an email that read:

Hello Vijay,

 ……..As for more churches and organizations for support… I will think and pray and let you know if any come to mind.  However, I would also like to ask you if you have done your best to invite local churches in your area to contribute to your ministry.  Please don’t be offended by this question…. But I want you and the churches of your area to experience the blessing and testimony of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.

Here is how I responded:

These following reflections are my general thoughts on the Issue of dependency and the Western Church. This gives me an opportunity to share my heart. Correct me if I am wrong, and we can continue to discuss this matter.  In fact your email made me prayerfully reflect on this issue of dependency.  I might state some sweeping generalizations, so please forgive me for that.  I am willing to dialogue, and likewise learn from you.  Thanks.

Surely, from your experiences you must have seen many examples where the Church in India and other parts of the world seek help from the West.  I have also seen this.  It is true in many cases that help is sought from the churches in the West, but I believe that does not mean there is practically no support given or raised from the local churches.  I think this is seriously misunderstood.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5—1We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.  3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints-- 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.

I’m sure that the Church in India is not different from churches elsewhere.  They do give do God's work.  I am 100% sure that many of the churches in India are not receiving support from the West and are not surviving only because of the help from the West.  Indian churches do raise support locally for various things in small and big measures.  It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the Church in India experiences the joy of 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 maybe even more than most of the churches in the West. 

From my experience with some of our churches in some villages, believers support the church and pastor by bringing a glass of rice, a chicken or egg or some small amount of money, which is all they have.  Secondly, I only came to the US in 2005 for the first time and I have been receiving some support from the US since October 2006.  But I can testify to the ministry of our churches around me in India that they didn't have any support from outside, yet they still existed, survived, and gave birth to new congregations with the support of local churches. They did God's work in their own capacity just like it says in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.  This happens with most of the churches in India, which is very encouraging.

Regarding our own ministry experience with Reach All Nations – my father, with support of God and local churches, could establish about 30 churches without any support from West.  His support has been less than $5 per month.  And I could give you many other examples similar to this.

Here is an example of an average believer’s financial situation (of a farming village) and the contributions to church and mission work:

Average members in the family: 6-8

Average annual income (approximately) :  36000 – 50000 ($860 - $1190)

(Exchange Rate: $1 USD to 42 INR)

The contribution to Church and Mission work per year:

1

Tithes (Most of the believers bring tithes to the Church at least in our mission context):

3600 – 5000

$86 - $119

2

Other offerings per year to support pastor’s family (in the form of Rice, Chicken, lentils, paddy, etc.) and Sunday offering:

1000– 1500

$24 - $36

3

Church Electricity bill payment for the church per year:

100

$2.38

4

Support for other local Churches and other Church mission related activities:

600 – 1000

$14.28 - $28

 

Total

5300– 7500

$126.19 - $178.57

 

This table explains that the village church believers give to the church, pastor, and mission work more than they could afford, and they give it even from great poverty. That is such a joyful thing. If the churches were bigger, the missionary or the pastor would be receiving enough to support the family in an average means, but it is still not sufficient.  If the churches were smaller, then the missionary and pastor would have a very difficult time to taking care of the needs of the family.  In spite of these insufficient income difficulties, they continue to serve the Lord.  Praise the Lord for this.

 

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Reasons Women Should Not Pursue Theological Education, According to Some African Pastors

Jun. 27, 2016By: Philemon YongAuthor Bio

Continuing on with my posts on African women in theological education, I want to look at some of the biblical basis given by pastors who argue that women should not pursue theological education. At first, it is easy to simply reject their opinions, but on closer examination, they believe what they are saying and believe that it is biblical. Note that these individuals argue assuming that any woman who goes to seminary is seeking to become a pastor or hold a significant leadership position in the church. The issue in this post is not whether women can become pastors but whether this line of reasoning is valid. If you are thinking, “Since they are so obviously wrong in their take on things, why even discuss them?” Well, without knowledge, people perish. I am finding that as I take time to explain these texts to the brothers, many come to accept that they have been wrong and with that comes change in their understanding of women in ministry. So, in asking how they can support such views biblically, they give the following reasons:

  1. Women are easily deceived and therefore cannot be taken seriously. According to Genesis 3, they argue, Eve is the one who was deceived and she in turn deceived her husband to sin. They say that Paul even sees it this way when he says, “… and Adam was not, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim. 2:14). They argue that this text shows that women are easily deceived and it would be dangerous to have them trained and leading in the church.
  2. Paul clearly teaches that a woman cannot teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). Therefore why should women pursue theological education when it is clear they cannot teach or exercise authority in the church?
  3. Women are weaker vessels (1 Peter 3:7) meaning that they lack the stamina to do the work that is required in the church.
  4. Paul clearly teaches that women are to be silent in the church (1 Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:11). In light of this text, it would be wrong to allow women to hold positions in the church that allow them to speak. A female student in a recent class, after listening to the men give these reasons, came to me after class. She said that in her church, she has no voice. She has been to seminary but cannot say a word in the church because of this passage.
  5. Women need periods of purification and therefore it hinders them from carrying out ministry without interruption. This argument came to me in a class in Romania. They argued that according to the OT, when a woman gives birth, she needs 40 days of purification before she can come back to church. It follows that a woman who pursues theological education and becomes a leader in the church will obviously be hindered by this. In the same class, there were a couple of ladies and each time they spoke, they would end by saying, “I am only a woman.”

As ridiculous as these reasons may sound to us, the reality is that they impact beliefs and lives. Pastors and church leaders who make such arguments will continue to do so unless they are shown otherwise. Women who are under the leadership of such pastors will continue to be oppressed in their desire to exercise the gifts God has given them for the good of the body.

What is the way forward? As odd as it may sound, the way to free women both to pursue theological education in greater numbers and to be part of building up the body of Christ, is by debunking the wrong interpretations that have led the men to get in their way. All of the above passages were read out of context. This is why we at TLI take seriously the training of pastors to have good skills in biblical interpretation and a greater understanding of biblical theology so that they will see and understand texts in context.

Finally, in the next post, I will explain what role I see for women in the African church.

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How Pastors Can Encourage Their Congregation in Missions

Jun. 24, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Mark Dever sits down with David Platt, Zane Pratt and Tom Elliff to discuss supporting missions through local congregations. 

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How Do You Know You Have Reconciled With Someone

Jun. 22, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict outlines the four promises of forgiveness:

  1. I will not dwell on this incident.
  2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
  3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
  4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.
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