Leading the Way for 50 Years

by Dr. Bob Finley
Founder of Christian Aid

For half a century Christian Aid has provided financial support for indigenous missionary ministries in strategic "mission field" areas of the world. Altogether, over 1000 different works of God have been assisted. They have deployed a combined total of more than 100,000 missionaries during this period. Through their labors a witness for Christ has been effectively implemented within nearly 4000 different tribes and nations. And the believers who make up our Lord´s body on this earth have moved much closer toward the fulfillment of His eternal purpose: that He would have a witness for Himself, a people for His name, among every kindred, every tongue, every tribe and every nation.

Yes, for 50 years Christian Aid has led the way in providing for the laborers which our Saviour has been sending out into His harvest fields. But we have also been in the forefront of something else which I believe may prove to be even more significant when at the climax of history our Lord reviews the triumphs and failures of His people throughout the ages.

That other strategic contribution to the cause of Christ has been the influence which Christian Aid has had regarding the way foreign missionary work is being done by evangelical, fundamentalist and Pentecostal Christians all over the earth.

Serious flaws were evident in the way we were working at the midpoint of the 20th Century. They were contrary to basic Christian principles and in many cases causing harm to our fellow believers in different parts of the planet. More than any other major ministry, Christian Aid has dared to speak out regarding these issues, and called for a reformation in the way missionary work is done.

When Christian Aid was constituted as a distinctive ministry, we were careful to stipulate that one of our objectives was reformation in missionary methodology. Included in our bylaws was an article called Basic Missionary Principles which all officers, trustees and directors were required to affirm annually, as follows:

ARTICLE VII – Basic Missionary Principles

Section 1. To be a Christian involves faith that Christ died for my sins and rose from the dead; and a parallel experience whereby I die to sin and let Christ raise me to newness of life and thereafter live His life in and through me.

Section 2. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the days of His flesh, was God on earth in a human body. Today He lives on earth in many bodies, each being a local assembly of those who are risen with Him. A Biblical church is the body of Christ in that locality. But all local groups of true Christians are also one body in Christ in a universal sense and every one members of one another.

Section 3. Every true Christian will allow Christ´s love to flow out through him to all other believers. Those who are entrusted with the management of material wealth will have compassion on the poor saints and send help to them wherever they are. Such help will never be used to buy control over our brothers in Christ.

Section 4. Risen Christians wish to see Christ born, growing and showing forth His love and power among every tribe and nation. Wherever He is born in an infant body of believers, wise men will lay gifts at His feet to help meet His needs as a child. As that body grows, other bodies all over the world will show care and concern. If ever Christ is hungry, we will feed Him. If He is naked, we will clothe Him. Those who discern His Body as revealed in Scripture will constantly be concerned about Christ wherever He may be in this world.

Section 5. Conversely, we will never try to divide His Body. We will not go to a community where He lives and try to raise up Christ in a competing body. Such activity is of the flesh rather than the Spirit.

Section 6. Applying these principles to Christian Aid Mission, we as a corporate body hereby agree that:

The task is by no means finished, but strong statements by Christian Aid have borne fruit in bringing about the changes that are needed. In fact, some traditional colonial-type missions are now sharing (though ever so slightly) their largesse with indigenous missions. And they are even doing it without attempting to colonize the ministries they help. And hundreds of individual American missionaries are directing their personal gifts and offerings toward the support of indigenous missions.

Perhaps the greatest development of all has been an explosion of new U.S. organizations patterned after the Christian Aid model. When we began 50 years ago there was only one other mission that was even slightly similar to Christian Aid, and it was 50% colonial. I believe our testimony and influence played a major part in moving them toward being 100% non-colonial. And most of the new organizations, following the lead of Christian Aid, are also non-colonial.

In the subcontinent of India we now support nearly 200 indigenous ministries that have 20,000 missionaries on the field. Throughout Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the former USSR the story is the same. The total missionaries deployed by ministries we assist now number more than 90,000. They are reaching hundreds of tribes and natives where no believers have ever existed previously.

By God´s grace we expect to see the fulfillment of our Lord´s eternal purpose within this generation, as you join hands with us to make it possible.