November 04, 2014
The Difference between Using and Equipping
By Brittany Tedesco
Ninety-nine percent of Christian mission effort and financial support goes to places where the church is already present.
Shocking, isn’t it? If we’re going to reach the world for Christ, we’d better start doing things a little differently.
I found this statistic on the website of the Issachar Initiative, of which Christian Aid Mission recently became a member. It’s a coalition of people and organizations formed around the goal of seeing a world with zero people groups unreached with the gospel. One of Issachar’s main objectives is to use mission resources in a more informed, strategic manner.
To do this, many have begun looking to native missionaries, who are doing 95% of effective pioneer work among unreached peoples in the world today.
When Bob Finley started Christian Aid back in the 1950s, he took a lot of flak for suggesting people support indigenous missionaries instead of sending foreign ones overseas. But as more research surfaces about native missionaries’ effectiveness, more and more organizations are using the nationals.
Sounds like a good thing, right? Well, there’s a problem with my above statement and it has to do with that word “using.”
Allow me to elaborate.
Imagine you live in the United States. Probably not hard for most of you. Say you live in a financially depressed city where many people live below the poverty line. Gang violence is rampant. There’s no church in your city. Your heart longs to share the love and hope of Jesus Christ with your community…but how?
After much prayer and research, you feel the Lord has given you a vision for a community center, which will provide a place for troubled teens to hang out, after-school activities for kids, and resources for adults like biblical counseling and vocational training.
Only problem is that you have no money. So you just start doing what you can with what you’ve got. You become a foster parent to a troubled teen, and eventually lead him to Christ. You encourage him to invite his friends to your home, and before you know it, you’re leading a Bible study for teens. Several of them accept Jesus as Savior. Their parents notice the change in their behavior, and they start attending.
You learn that many of these parents are struggling with their own issues—like addiction or being in abusive relationships. They need counseling. So you find other Christians who are willing to help you, and they begin using God’s Word to counsel these parents.
Word spreads about your work in the city. Through a series of events, a ministry in a Scandinavian country catches wind of your outreach. They offer you money! Your vision of a community center seems to be materializing!
But…there’s one catch. The money can’t go toward a community center.
This overseas ministry in Scandinavia has been doing research on the number of children in your city who aren’t living with their biological mothers and fathers. “That’s the real problem,” they tell you. “An orphanage is how you’ll win people to Christ.”
You disagree. But funding isn’t coming from any other sources. You figure an orphanage is better than nothing. So, you accept the money and build an orphanage. It has the name of the Scandinavian ministry emblazoned across the top of it.
You start receiving directives from the Scandinavian ministry about how to best operate the orphanage. Some leaders from the ministry pay you a visit to train you and your friends on how to most effectively reach your city with the gospel.
Back in Scandinavia, the ministry boasts that they’ve started a completely indigenous ministry in the United States. “Americans are running it!” they tell the churches that have helped fund the “U.S. Inner City Orphanage Project.”
“Instead of sending Scandinavians overseas, we’re using the nationals to get the job done!”
Using. Did you catch it?
“Using” implies putting other people to work to carry out our objective, our vision. “Equipping” is an entirely different ballgame.
“Equipping” involves evaluating, listening, entrusting, and assisting. That’s what Christian Aid Mission does. And that’s why I love working here. We ask questions like “What do you need to fulfill your vision?”
We don’t live where they live, so how would we know what methods are best to reach their people?
When it comes to the most important work on earth, do we really have time for guesses? Or should we be more strategic?
What if we did less using and more equipping?
We might hasten Christ’s return. And I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for Him to come back.