Partnership, not paternalism

handshakeOne final thought for now on developing a bilingual church. There is a real danger of developing a host/guest mentality, where one group feels like it is a guest in the other’s church. In many situations, the minority group is less well off financially than the majority group. The natural tendency is for those with more to want to do any- and everything for their brothers. While this is a commendable attitude, it often fosters a situation of dependence.

The same thing often happens on the mission field, where missionaries from privileged nations like ours feel uncomfortable asking their brothers to share economic and physical burdens. We have so much, you have so little — let us take care of everything.

There are several problems with this. For one thing, a welfare state anywhere, especially in the church, is harmful. People need a sense of responsibility, the ability to take pride in supporting themselves. In addition, it’s important that people be given the chance to give. When we make them feel like their gift doesn’t matter, they see no point in giving. This cheats them out of a spiritual blessing.

At the Pepperdine lectures, one Hispanic brother told of the day when they informed the elders that they wanted to pay rent on the space they were using. In order to do so, they would keep their own offering separate. The elders balked at first, but finally agreed. This marked a turning point for that Hispanic congregation, as the brothers took responsibility for the work. The Hispanic group grew and matured at a much faster rate than it had before. They eventually moved to their own rented building. (Yes, I know that isn’t the bilingual model I’ve been talking about. I’m merely using the example to talk about partnership rather than paternalism)

Our brothers shouldn’t feel like guests in their own congregation. They shouldn’t feel like welfare recipients. They should feel that they are sharing in the partnership of the gospel.

3 thoughts on “Partnership, not paternalism

  1. Mark Edge


    Typically, you have concisely captured the essence of the challenge–partnership, not paternalism.

    Well stated.

  2. Pingback: Us, them and outreach | Tim Archer's Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts

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