MONEY: A GREAT EVIL OR A GREAT ENCOURAGE? (3)
The principle of joint co-operation and matching efforts: A second principle which will help the local church to use resources wisely to solve problems instead of causing problem is the principle of joint cooperation and matching efforts between those who give help and those who receive help. Briefly stated, the group receiving the help from outside sources must also contribute what they can to meet their own needs. Two groups can do much more than one group can do.
But those in the group receiving help must make a major effort to help themselves. The worst thing a person or a church can do is to offer help without requiring the person or group receiving the help to do anything to help themselves. It will create an endless self-defeating pattern of dependency and hopelessness. The human body provides an example of this principle. The whole body can do things which no one part of the body (such as a finger or an ear) can do alone, but each part of the body can do what it is suppose to do for the whole body to work properly. For a finger to work correctly, the brain, the nerves, the heart, the blood and the muscles must all do their parts.
Even when this other parts do what they should, the finger must still do its own part. The church is also a body - the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). When the church works together in joint co-operation and matching efforts, it can do much more than any one individual or one local church can accomplish by itself. The same thing is true in team work. A basic principle of team work is that a team can accomplish what one player cannot accomplish alone. When those who are helped are required to help themselves, they have a sense of dignity and self-worth is qualities every person in the world wants to have. The following true story illustrates this principle.
A teacher at an African bible college visited one of his graduates who was a pastor. The young pastor was very zealous for the Lord. He was interested in establishing other churches in his area of addition to the one he was pastoring. Unfortunately, the young man has no means of transportation. Because of this, the pastor took small of his small monthly income to pay for public transportation to the preaching points he had established. Some of these places were up to one hundred kilometers away from his church. But the pastor was becoming discouraged because public transportation took so much of his monthly income. He needed a motorcycle. When the teacher visited the pastor and his church, he challenged the elders of the church to provide a motor cycle to do his evangelism.
The elders were happy for the pastor’s evangelism and zeal, but they complained that they were already building a house for the pastor and his family and could not possibly do more. When the teacher returned to the school, he thought about the pastor and his good work for the Lord. He wrote a letter to the elders with this challenge: if the church would come up with half the money needed for the motorcycle for the pastor, the teacher would raise money for the other half. The elders were given only three months to make their decision and then the offer would be withdrawn. The elders rose to the challenge and collected half needed for the motorcycle within the three-month limit. The teacher also did what he promised. The pastor got his motorcycle.
This pastor has now established several new churches in the area through his evangelistic efforts. Best of all, the church has the joy of knowing that they made this possible by their own extra effort. The principle requiring those who receive help to make a significant effort to help themselves does work. It gives the person or group who is helped a sense of dignity in addition to the faith that God can help them accomplish their goals. A bishop of the Methodist church in Kenyan, Professor Zablon Nthamburi, had this to say: when people feel a sense of “ownership”……they are willingly to give themselves to the task ahead, including full support of the church’s ministries.’ Professor Nthamburi goes on to state a conviction shared by many leaders in Africa: ‘I believe that the church of Africa is endowed with the resources to support its own ministry’. Another African Christian leader, Dr Solomon Aryeetey, has this to say about the present trend in the west of supporting cross-cultural evangelists in West Africa. ‘The model is simplistic it attempts to address the problem (the need of support) but in the process it has the potential of killing the very same African initiative that it purports to bring about.
For us it, it is of the utmost importance that the enterprise be truly indigenous.’ Dr. Aryeetey notes, ‘our people are eager and zealous but we do not know how to go about it.’ Recognizing that the wise handling of money for missionary work is really a spiritual issue, Dr Aryeetey further observes that it cannot be correctly done, without taking great pains to adequately undergird that attempt with biblical, prevailing prayer, accompanied by old fashioned fasting.’ He goes on to observe, “… The western missionary enterprise in Africa had a weakness … the area concerning teaching of a balanced biblical view of money and entrepreneurship. There was really no comprehensive, long-term, deliberate strategy to so empower the churches that were planted that they would become truly and largely self-supporting”.
An indication of the present dissatisfaction with overseas financial dependence among churches in Africa was revealed in the unified response against dependency expressed by a group of 89 African church leaders at a conference in Limuru, Kenyan from 21-24 May 1996. Several speakers at the conference describe dependency at foreign funding as an addiction”. The consultation made a clear statement to the effect that requiring accountability with money was one of the most important keys in the process of achieving self reliance in the church finances.
(3) The principle of group management: A third guideline which will help to prevent corrupt people from using the Lord’s money for their own purposes is the principle that financial assistance should always be managed by a widely representative group from the church and not by one or two people. The bible says, ‘plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed’ (Prov. 15:22). The key is having several people jointly responsible and accountable for the money. There is too much temptation for many people when it comes to handling money – especially large amount of money. It is not wise to risk destroying a good work by putting one or two people in charge of handling all the money, as was clearly seen in the story at the beginning of this series. Group management by a mature group of church leaders fits the traditional African pattern of leadership in the village very well. There is wisdom from the past which can be a great help in the present when it comes to handling money and other resources which the Lord may provide.
(4) Making time for what matters most: In this discussion about money and material possessions, there is another area of conflict between western and non-western values which must be considered. This is the conflict between the need to make money and the need to maintain relationships-especially a person’s relationship to God and to his or her extended family. One great weakness of western culture is the tendency to be goal oriented at the expense of human relationships. Many westerners vigorously pursue their goals without regards to the effect this has on their relationship to the people around them.
As Africans in the urban environment increasingly adopt western value, the temptation exists to violate one of the most precious and important values of African life - the priority of people and human relationships. Living in the modern African city requires money. Unlike life in the rural village where a man can often sustain himself and his family by what he produces on his farm, the city dwellers must depend on earning money to get everything he needs. The compelling drives to make money can become a tyrant which rules every part of life. Even those relatives who still live back in the rural village expecting their city cousins to have money. There is a false image in the mind of many people that people who work in the city will have plenty of money.
The pursuit of money can become an all-consuming passion which changes the whole character of a person and his home. In many cases the wife will go to work just like the husband in order to provide enough money to live or to improve the family standard of living. Instead of raising their own children, many such couples give the care of their children over to relatives or even to hired employees at a day care centre. In the process of trying to provide for their family in the city they lose the very relationship with their family that they are trying to maintain by their work. Husband and wife become strangers to one another. Parents become strangers to their children. Even more seriously, Christians can lose their close relationship with the Lord and thereby lose the most important thing in life. Life in the city can very easily be dominated by the urgent demand to make money and to have a higher standard of living. There is an interesting story in the gospel about two sisters who faced the need of everyday life with two different priorities. Martha was a woman whose life was ruled by the urgent needs of the day.
Her Sister Mary knew about these needs, but she made a decision to put the most important things in life first. In Luke’s gospel we read the following short story about Jesus’ visit the home of these two women. “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village were a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me! ‘Martha, Martha, ‘the Lord answered, ‘you’re worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’
We must make choices about what matters most in life. We must decide whether we will allow the need of the moment to rule our lives or whether will actively seek to maintain our relationship with the Lord and with those around us in spite of the problems which such choices may bring. In the story above, Mary decided that the food and the dishes could wait. Listening to Jesus was more important. Do we realize that higher standards of living will not necessary make us or our children better people in God’s sight? Do we realize that if we neglect our time with God each day in prayer and reading the bible, the inner strength and peace of our life would be gone? Do we realize that the needs our spouse or our children for our time and our attention cannot be neglected without bringing life-long harm to the family?
The city dweller that is forced into a life schedule, time pressure and the demand to make more money to survive can easily lose the most important relationship in life. Perhaps for some family it would be better if they moved back to the village or the farm to save their marriages, their families and their own happiness. For all in urban Africa, it is a matter of making choices each day about what is really most important.
In summary, Money can be the cause of great evil or great encouragement. It can be a burden or a blessing. This will depend on whether it controls our lives or it’s used for the good of others for money to be a blessing to ourselves and others. God’s people must be willing to do what God requires them to do with it and to use it with God-given wisdom. This first principle to make money into a source of blessing is faithful tithing by the whole church, along with strict accountability for the money given. Even local church in the world with more than thirty members should be able to support its own ministry and provide help to others as well if the members are obedient in the practice of tithing.
A second principle is that a joint effort by more than one person or group can accomplish more than one person or group can accomplish alone. A third principle is that money given for ministry, aid or development should be managed by a representative group of mature leaders in the church rather than by one or two persons. Those controlling the use of money must be held strictly accountable for the use of money under their control. If these biblical principles are carefully followed, the church can be used by God to do great works of love and mercy through their efforts - even if they are poor and small in number. Christian living in an urban environment must be particularly careful to set the right priorities in their life. The demands to meet the need of everyday life in the modern city can destroy the most important relationship in life.
When biblical principles are followed, God can do amazing things to provide for his work, to help the needy and to provide for his work, to help the needy and to solve problems that seem impossible. The people of God must understand that God is ‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us’ (Eph. 3:20). This will be true when God’s people are willing to give themselves and their resources to the Lord. (Resource: Biblical Christianity in Modern Africa by Wilbur O’Donovan).
Written By Dr. Lewis Akpogena