Can our team strategy work? Can we offer development initiatives in conjunction with church planting efforts without creating a welfare mentality or an unhealthy dependency? Will people "obey the Gospel" simply to receive the development help? Good questions! We ask each other the same each week in our team meetings. There is, however, a theological principle that is our guiding light in the application of this strategy to a productive end, and that is the principle of GRACE.
"But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many."
Romans 5:15 KJV
Church planting only works like it is designed to work within the environment of grace. That is how Christ made it. Thus our team must work within "grace parameters". Not every missionary strategy works this way. For instance, institutions must develop a system of justice with rules and policies designed to give fair treatment to its employees and/or clients. This principle of justice must consider rights and law, and people within the institution need to be able to depend on their "contract".
Church planting on the other hand is free to use the principle of GRACE. We establish no system that works via justice; we simply offer "grace gifts" to be stewarded by the recipients. No one can demand their "rights" or become dependent concerning a "gift". This is the environment in which Jesus saw fit to place the church. It is where the process of sanctification takes place. Strategically, the difficulty is in refraining from creating systems of justice with either our church planting efforts or our development initiatives. After all, if we create a system that we control, we can work with greater efficiency. But church planting has no guarantees for efficiency. We plant, God gives the increase, the Spirit indwells, and Jesus rules. If we can maintain our efforts - both church planting and development - within the environment of grace, we should be able to avoid creating situations that result in dependency or the further mental impoverishment of our host community.
We do have one principle of "leverage" with grace, and that is the principle of FAITH.
"By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God."
Romans 5:2 KJV
Should our "grace gift" be unfaithfully used, we simply remove it. After all, GRACE is not un-conditional or cheap. People falling into a welfare mentality with a "grace gift" would qualify as unfaithful. The "tough love" removal of the "grace gift" for the purpose of moving someone to repentance can actually bring someone back to a Godly "stewardship of grace". So the only way that this strategy can produce dependency is if the missionaries fail to have the courage to offer GRACE on the Biblical condition of FAITH.
Praying for courage,
Brian, Sondra, Noah, & Bryson
Pictured: Bryson and his new gift (which, unfortunately, was swallowed by a snake the next day).