Missiological Reflections on Funding

Why This Discussion?

Mis­sion agen­cies and many other non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions have felt the im­pact of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis. This sit­u­a­tion calls us to se­ri­ously re­visit and reeval­u­ate ex­ist­ing fund­ing sys­tems. We need, not only, a prac­ti­cally sus­tain­able (i.e. con­tex­tu­ally rel­e­vant) fund­ing sys­tem but also a bib­li­cally sound (i.e. mis­si­o­log­i­cally cor­rect) fund­ing sys­tem. With­out the lat­ter, the for­mer will be only a tem­po­rary patch­work. Whereas op­er­a­tional pur­suit of an al­ter­na­tive fund­ing sys­tem would serve as a purely re­ac­tive mea­sure, mis­si­o­log­i­cal re­flec­tions can serve as a proac­tive mea­sure to­wards the healthy fu­ture di­rec­tion of the Alliance.

The cur­rent fund­ing sit­u­a­tion is both a cri­sis and an op­por­tu­nity: “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, con­sider: God has made the one as well as the other. There­fore, a man can­not dis­cover any­thing about his fu­ture.” (Ecc. 7:14) Be­cause we can­not pre­dict the fu­ture which be­longs only to the sov­er­eign God, we must ex­er­cise flex­i­bil­ity and re­silience in such a time as this. We should ask our­selves: “Are we flex­i­ble and re­silient enough for this chal­leng­ing situation?”

What Does a Missiological Foundation for Funding Look Like?

Some Prominent Biblical Concepts

Our to­tal de­pen­dence on God in every­thing, in­clud­ing funds, is prob­a­bly the most promi­nent con­cept in Scrip­ture. The his­tor­i­cal ex­o­dus of Is­rael stands out as a cen­tral ty­pol­ogy point­ing to the sal­va­tion of the Church. It was a rad­i­cal shift (ex­o­dus) from rich and pros­per­ous Egypt, the fer­tile Nile Delta with its tan­gi­ble and se­cure re­sources—to wilder­ness and Pales­tine where they re­al­ized they were com­pletely re­liant on God’s mercy for the sun and rains. The spir­i­tual jour­ney (or strug­gle) of the Is­raelites un­folds in the con­stant pres­ence of the se­duc­tion of af­flu­ence and pros­per­ity (such as rep­re­sented by the golden calves), which in re­al­ity is a spir­i­tual adul­tery of serv­ing gen­tile gods of fer­til­ity and prosperity.

What does the Bible teach about the cur­rent sub­ject, then? We be­lieve God re­sources His mis­sion (Mis­sio Dei), and the mis­sion of God (not ours) is a solid start­ing point. God will be faith­ful to His peo­ple as they faith­fully par­tic­i­pate in His mis­sion. Every­thing is in His sov­er­eign hands, not ours. The fol­low­ing are some bib­li­cal pas­sages that are help­ful in con­sid­er­ing this:

The earth is the Lord’s (Ps 24:1, 1 Cor 10:26, Ex 9:29)

All things are from Him, through Him and to Him (Rom 11:36, Col 1:16)

We brought noth­ing, and we take nothing (1 Tim 6:7)

A worker de­serves his wages (Lk 10:7)

Three prin­ci­ples of de­pen­dence on God, from a [1]draft de­vel­oped by the Fund­ing Guid­ance Team (‘Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples and Poli­cies for In­ter­na­tional Pro­ject Fund­ing,’ 28 March 2002 Ver­sion), is worth quot­ing here:

  • It is better to trust God than in money. (Matt 6:24, Heb 13:5)
  • All activities must stand on a foundation of prayer, acknowledging His adequacy and our confidence in Him. (Neh 1:4)
  • Christians are to be content and thankful for God’s supply.(Phil 4:11 13,16,19)

Scrip­ture also en­cour­ages us to give gen­er­ously, not be­cause God is in need but to re­flect His mer­ci­ful char­ac­ter and to par­tic­i­pate in His mis­sion. All that we have is a gift from God, and giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing are ex­pected at the house of God. Every­one in the Body of Christ can give and should give (1 Cor 13:3). Giv­ing in love is a global prin­ci­ple. We are to share all we have, mo­ti­vated by the love of God (2 Cor 8:1-5). The un­der­ly­ing foun­da­tion of the Old Tes­ta­ment laws is gen­eros­ity and kind­ness, and bless­ing is re­lated to generosity.

A Few Lessons from History

It is note­wor­thy that many promi­nent mis­sion agen­cies were founded by men and women of sim­ple means. Many of them, in­clud­ing Wycliffe’s own founder Cameron Townsend, weren’t nec­es­sar­ily highly promi­nent ‘vi­sion­ar­ies’ with huge charisma. Again, we re­al­ize that God has used or­di­nary peo­ple who faith­fully obeyed His man­date, not re­ly­ing on their own strength or re­sources but on God’s sov­er­eignty. ‘Faith’ and ‘faith mis­sion’ have been de­fined and re­de­fined by faith­ful peo­ple who demon­strated hum­ble bold­ness. These in­clude Cameron Townsend, C.T. Studd, Hud­son Tay­lor, and nu­mer­ous like-minded fol­low­ers of Christ—some whose names are re­mem­bered in church-mis­sion his­tory, but most of whom are rec­og­nized only by the Com­man­der Himself.

In Acts we find the early churches—both send­ing and mis­sion churches—pro­vid­ing what their mis­sion­ar­ies needed. In Luke 10, Jesus teaches an im­por­tant fund­ing prin­ci­ple, i.e. mis­sion­ar­ies (those sent out) are sup­posed to live at the level of lo­cal peo­ple who, in turn, have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to sup­port the work­ers. Lo­cal own­er­ship and fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, then, are closely re­lated to the liv­ing stan­dards of mis­sion and mis­sion­ar­ies. Do we dare con­front this un­com­fort­able and sen­si­tive is­sue? I think we should, if we truly mean to be­come a global com­mu­nity of mis­sions practitioners.

[i]The doc­u­ment ‘Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples and Poli­cies for In­ter­na­tional Pro­ject Fund­ing’ also warns us about the his­tor­i­cal in­er­tia that could in­ad­ver­tently have a neg­a­tive im­pact on our Bible trans­la­tion efforts:

We need to be aware that his­tor­i­cal fac­tors may have in­flu­enced mod­ern mis­sion en­deav­ors. These is­sues should be con­sid­ered in the fund­ing process. Some of the his­tor­i­cal fac­tors are:

  • Colonialism: A new day could dawn over the ‘dark world’. New freedom emerged to explore, to conquer, to occupy and subdue. Western nations traveled the earth searching for new lands they could colonize.
  • Rationalism: All problems were in principle solvable therefore the probing human mind could eventually be able to explain everything.
  • Individualism: People were liberated and independent: The individual was more important than any community. There was a new faith in the abilities of humankind.
  • ‘Triumphalism’: Christians believed that finishing the missionary task could usher in the new age in. This led to a view of ‘Manifest Destiny’ – they had the means to complete God’s mission.
  • Racism and sexism: Oppression and exploitation such as racism and sexism have resulted in negative effects to which the church is not immune.

How Does a Missiological Foundation for Funding Get Implemented?

There are two cru­cial is­sues, I be­lieve, to be addressed:

1)    Rais­ing funds from the global church

2)    Re­vis­it­ing the cur­rent fund­ing needs—this is more es­sen­tial than the other in con­fig­ur­ing a sus­tain­able fund­ing sys­tem for global mis­sions movements.

I will pull out some per­ti­nent state­ments from ex­ist­ing cor­po­rate doc­u­ments (in ital­ics), and add my own com­ments and ques­tions as needed to stim­u­late fur­ther dis­cus­sions. Do keep in mind that some of the ter­mi­nol­ogy from these doc­u­ments is now outdated.

Raising Funds from the Global Church

Ex­cerpts from As­sump­tions (‘Al­ter­na­tive Fund­ing Pro­posed Policies’):

Statements

Comments & Questions

  • The vision of Bible translation is being shared with the Church of the South and East, including presenting Bible translation and Scripture use as essential elements in effective discipling and church planting.
  • SIL and Wycliffe entities seek to align Bible Translation strategy with what the Church/mission agencies are doing in the country.
  • SIL and Wycliffe entities are seeking to respond to the Church’s vision for project roles/plans.
  • This means, co-owning the vision as well as positioning (or repositioning) Bible translation in the holistic missions context are more essential than, and pre-requisite to, raising funds.
  • The development of a church engagement strategy is being facilitated at all levels (local community, urban, national/denominational), including other missions and Bible agencies. This will also include encouraging Wycliffe Organizations and Associated Partners from outside a country, in collaboration with WBTI and SIL entities, where appropriate, to be active in sharing vision with and encouraging involvement in Bible translation by the Church of the South and East.
  • Who engages whom?
  • It takes a major shift of our operational paradigm from mobilization, i.e. drawing resources from the church to us, to participation in God’s global mission.
  • We also need to create space for the global church to be involved in Bible translation on its own terms and pace.
  • Each SIL and Wycliffe entity has a strong commitment to church networking, although how that functions varies according to context.
  • Each SIL and Wycliffe entity gathers information on in-country Bible translation activities from all appropriate sources and shares as appropriate with a network of leaders of in-country missional church movements/relevant mission agencies, through which information on Bible translation needs will be distributed.
  • Building relationships with the right people is crucial for forming and motivating strategic networks.
  • It’s more about trusting interpersonal relationships than tasks. In reality, it’s people who partners together, not organizations.
  • SIL and Wycliffe entities are seeking to respond to the Church’s vision for project roles/plans.
  • SIL and Wycliffe entities seek to align Bible Translation strategy with what the church/mission agencies are doing in the country.
  • It takes a major shift on our part from mobilization to participation in God’s global mission.
  • It takes positioning Bible translation within a holistic global missions context, in financially feasible, viable, and sustainable ways.

Revisiting the Current Funding Needs

[ii]Ex­cerpts from As­sump­tions (‘Al­ter­na­tive Fund­ing Pro­posed Poli­cies’), Fund­ing and the global church (‘Guid­ing Prin­ci­ples and Poli­cies for In­ter­na­tional Pro­ject Fund­ing’), and De­vel­op­men­tal Principles(ibid.)

State­ments

Com­ments & Questions

  • The development of a sustainable Bible Translation Movement in the Church of the South and East is being facilitated to promote local ownership and decision-making.
  • The change agent should seek to build the capacity of the local community rather than creating a dependency relationship in which external funding increases over the life of the project.
  • How do we build capacity without inadvertently fostering dependency?
  • Are we aware of historical inertia (including conventional modus operandi) which tends to perpetuate unhealthy dependency?
  • What principles can we learn from the apostle Paul who ‘fathered’ many indigenous churches without patronizing?
  • Do we understand there are many ‘Global South’ churches willing and able to do Bible translation with much less?
  • Outside funding should come by invitation after careful assessment of the impact.
  • Funding for projects should be applied through local institutions with matching funds based on an agreed-upon ratio of local participation.
  • Missiological reflection is needed for all parties involved.
  • Do we raise and use outside funds with adequate missiological reflections?
  • Collaboration is needed from the beginning stage of planning, rather than later inviting others to the prescribed tasks.
  • Resourcing is not one-way traffic, but a part of the inter-relationships and growth among partners.
  • Funding strategies need to focus on partnering with the global church in providing resources for the Bible translation task. There may be hesitancy by some parts of the emerging church to embrace the ‘benefits’ of progress, technology and development.
  • Local organizations [and financial system of projects]should generally reflect the economy of their area.
  • Are we aware of the concept of ‘appropriate technology,’ which encourages the use of locally affordable and reproducible (thus sustainable) means, and are we ready to apply it to the global Bible translation movements?
  • Do we provide enough space for the global church to experiment with carrying out Bible translation in their own ways?
  • All projects should be capable of being monitored and evaluated.
  • Projects must have an approved plan, which must include a definition of management structure and authority. Any major changes to the plan must be reviewed by the funder.
  • On whose terms?
  • As a missional community of practitioners, it takes bilateral/multilateral, not unilateral, accountability and transparency. Dialogue needs to happen between the recipients of funds and those providing it, as where you start influences where you end up.
  • Mutual learning is essential. We should not aim simply at finishing a specific task, but dig deeper for holistic impact/transformation.

A com­ment from our col­league Michel Ken­mogne (Africa Area) is worth quot­ing here in view of de­vel­op­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion stream of fundrais­ing (more ad­e­quately, ‘vi­sion shar­ing’) by repo­si­tion­ing Wycliffe in the right place: “In the old par­a­digm where SIL was per­ceived as an ex­pa­tri­ate or­ga­ni­za­tion in the coun­try of ser­vice and Wycliffe as a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion, it was easy to draw the con­clu­sion that the na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion is in a bet­ter po­si­tion to pro­vide lo­cal lead­er­ship and own­er­ship of the task. But these or­ga­ni­za­tions them­selves have been seek­ing ways of achiev­ing greater sus­tain­abil­ity and im­pact, re­al­iz­ing that they could be bet­ter achieved through greater em­bed­ded­ness of the Bible trans­la­tion min­istry in the Church. Hence, the own­er­ship of the task is not with the Wycliffe or­ga­ni­za­tion but with the lo­cal church. Some Wycliffe or­ga­ni­za­tions like CAB­TAL in Cameroon have been seek­ing over the past few years to turn over the own­er­ship of lan­guage pro­grams to lo­cal churches, serv­ing more in fa­cil­i­ta­tion and re­sources link­ing. In this case, CAB­TAL has seen its role as that of work­ing with the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to cre­ate aware­ness, to bring lo­cal com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pa­tion, and to pre­pare the con­text for a fruit­ful min­istry for ex­pa­tri­ate work­ers who serve along­side lo­cal be­liev­ers that are hired by the fel­low­ship of lo­cal churches.”

Next Steps

In pur­suit of a way for­ward, I raised the fol­low­ing three ques­tions to the Global Lead­er­ship Team of the Al­liance dur­ing the re­cent strat­egy meet­ing in Tam­pere, Finland:

  • How should we move forward from here?
  • What prominent factors or concepts should we retain in on-going reflections?
  • What advice do you have in developing the fundraising stream?

Here are some is­sues that the GLT felt im­por­tant enough to fol­low up on:

  • Continue to develop thinking around the topic. Develop a community of learners, each of whom represents different perspectives that can help the whole. Intentionally bring new players from a wider community to the conversation table, seeking exposure to multiple realities and varying perspectives.
  • Expect and invest in a long-term process. It takes ongoing learning of values, desired outcomes, sustainability, creativity, and community thinking. Constantly look for common grounds to create a community.
  • Encourage missiological reflections at all levels. Keep bringing incumbent and new leaders into the reflective process. Enhance communications to help missiological perspectives trickle down.
  • Move the discussion from global to Area level. But sometimes we also need to move away from Area focus to affinity grouping as some organizations are facing similar types of situations, e.g. sensitive contexts.
  • Create a culture that encourages consistency of practice, along with a spectrum of acceptable behaviors to avoid generalizations and stereotypes.
  • Be aware of what’s driving our decisions. Dialogue with donors before receiving funds. Help resourcing partners to understand the direction toward a new global paradigm.
  • Aim at a shift of paradigm on the part of the receiving parties as well. We should understand varying contexts, and discern motivations.
  • Develop dialogue and partnerships with local churches. Participating organizations of the Alliance should be embedded in the life of national churches.
  • Identify and study good cases, especially of capacity building in the fundraising area, within and outside of the Alliance for benchmarking.

[i] Dr. John Wat­ters, then Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of SIL (now SIL Pres­i­dent) set up a num­ber of Guid­ance Teams af­ter Vi­sion 2025 was adopted. The Fund­ing Guid­ance Team was set up in 2001-02. Kirk Franklin (then Di­rec­tor of Wycliffe Aus­tralia) was the chair­man. The Com­mit­tee re­leased the doc­u­ment men­tioned. The doc­u­ment guided the In­ter­na­tional Pro­ject Fund­ing Of­fice in par­tic­u­lar, though Wycliffe USA and other fun­ders used the doc­u­ment, at least initially.

[ii] There was a sec­ond Guid­ance Team called ‘Al­ter­na­tive Fund­ing Guid­ance Team’ chaired by, then Di­rec­tor of Wycliffe UK, Ge­off Knott. It com­pleted its work in 2007 and handed a whole set of rec­om­men­da­tions to the ad­min­is­tra­tion. These were not im­ple­mented in terms of poli­cies due to all the changes tak­ing place in the two ad­min­is­tra­tions in 2007-08. How­ever their work re­sulted in help­ful re­source material.

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