Christianity Today. It was a promotional piece urging us to send money, not missionaries, to foreign countries. The rationale was clear: "In most cases, sending just a portion of our surplus—$50-$100 each month—will provide support for one full-time national worker. The typical cost to send an American missionary family overseas is over $50,000 a year—the same cost to support 50 or more national workers. Think of what that money could do for the Kingdom of God!"
Admittedly, this rationale is appealing. Nationals have the language and the culture—and they cost so much less. More than 140 missions organizations are now built on the premise of gathering and sending money, not people. Partners International, the largest of the money-gathering agencies, currently supports 3,300 full-time workers in over 50 countries.
As sensible and appealing as this strategy may sound, however, more and more mission observers are pointing to hazards inherent in "just supporting nationals." These hazards, ironically, pose the greatest threat to the nationals themselves. Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Convention, puts it this way:
One thing inevitably occurs when North Americans subsidize the work of churches and pastors on the mission field: potential growth is stalled because of a mind-set that it can't be done unless an overseas benefactor provides the funds. … Jealousy often develops among the pastors and churches who don't receive assistance toward those who develop a pipeline of support from the United States. … In the long-term, support breeds resentment, especially if the support is not sustained indefinitely, because it creates a patronizing dependency. ...1
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