We know about the concept of "rice Christians"–people who "become Christians" because they think there is financial gain in it for them. They assume that the Westerners will support them or provide for them in other ways if they join them.
I've come across some other disturbing stories recently:
A missions group sent a church in Eastern Europe several hundreds of thousands of dollars to build a church building. Several years later, the building is derelict–the local believers couldn't afford the maintenance on the building or to pay the electric bills. One of the believers there commented: "If only the US mission group had given us the hundreds of thousands of dollars, we could have fed and clothed the poor, helped the orphaned and widows, supported poor ministers and their families, and evangelized our city.”
Another person who I heard from was part of a group of Westerners that visited a foreign missions situation. Unlike the others in the group, he didn't spend his time visiting the various projects that were on the itinerary planned for them, but deliberately spent time getting to know a few local believers. What he discovered disturbed him. Every time a group of Westerners came and shared at a meeting, they arranged for several people to raise their hands and pray the sinners' prayer. It was usually the same people, time after time. The reason? The Westerners would go back and raise money for them because of the "fruit" they saw.
Within a church planting movement context, outside finances can jump-start a movement, but can also be a barrier to continued multiplication. If church planters are promised finances, then the finances beome a limitation on how many church planters there are.
I've become convinced that we need to rethink our giving to foreign missions. Not that we don't give to them, but that we are strategic in how we give.
There are many unreached people groups in the world today. How can our giving from the West be most strategic in helping to reach them?
What can we learn from all of this?