Last Sunday was a special day at the AG Church in Kolkata. Pastor Ivan introduced a new program to his church: child sponsorship. He said that aid from Canada, the United States and some other countries had carried the cost of their outreach programs so far, but he did not think it healthy for a church to just sit back and let others carry the weight, no matter how willing they are to do it.
Foreign aid and national support
His church members do a great job supporting the operation of the church itself, but so far have not contributed much to its missions programs. His challenge was that the national church should be able to show its foreign partners that it is doing the best it can to contribute it’s own resources to the projects. He said there is dignity in giving, even if you can give only a small amount.
He received over 200 pledges that day from those who could commit on the spot. He expects to receive many more as people go home and figure out what they can do.
This is a great way to fund overseas projects. Let the national church do the best it can, and then top the fund up from abroad. This gives the nationals more respect and more ownership of the project, and it makes them true partners in mission.
Ivan says the greatest growth of churches in India comes from house churches growing naturally, as opposed to church plants. Let the locals lead and do what they can, and then do what you can to support them. A great principle.
Hindu culture and charity
When Hindus become Christians, they don’t have a culture of charitable giving to draw upon. A significant part of their discipleship is helping them see their role, financially and through service, in bringing God’s love to their neighbours. Encouraging them to give for mission projects is one part of that discipleship.
When considering a project for funding, perhaps it would be helpful to ask what the local churches are contributing, and maybe even to challenge them to test whether that is indeed the limit of their ability to give. If it is, fine. But it may be the project that challenges people to give to a Christian ministry beyond their local church for the first time.