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This is an article from the May-June 1998 issue The Mission to the Aucas.

May 01, 1998 by Glenn Schwartz


How Missionary Attitudes Can Create
Dependency
The Sense of Urgency Regarding the Task
If the demeanor of the missionary is so important, it points to the importance of cross-cultural
training. But how do we balance the urgency of the task with the need for adequate cross-
cultural training? Or how do we balance the urgency of the task with waiting for local initiative
to develop? Let me suggest something which may help to move us in this direction.
Assume that all who are preparing for cross-cultural ministry accept that they need cross-cultural
training. (I wish that were true, but lets assume it anyway.) Good solid missionary training
might take several years of concentrated effort, if not a life-long commitment. Several weeks of
training are only immunization which convince missionary candidates that they have had enough
of that; now they can get on with ministry. Little wonder they dont have the patience to wait for
local initiative to develop.
Some of this tension might be resolved if those who are committed to the urgency of the task will
also commit themselves simultaneously to the training. Fortunately, this is more and more
becoming possible through distance learning which a number of institutions are pioneering these
days. But what about those who arent mature enough to go to any field far away from home
anyway and would benefit from serious concentrated cross-cultural studies even in a classroom?
With the help and creativity of those designing the study program, why not build active ministry
into the process in a multi-cultural inner city situation nearby? Here is the pitch: Come study
with us and begin your cross-cultural ministry now. Or better yet, Are you eager to get to the
field and begin your ministry? You can do it right now while you are studying on the side in our
training program. Remember,
for the sake of the urgency, the studying is on the side, not the ministry. That brings the urgency
issue together with the importance of training. It also gives some candidates time to mature while
they make their blunders closer to home where the expense is not so great. And so far as the
patience required for local leaders to come on board, perhaps this period of training will give the
Christian time for patience to develop.
What about Paternalism and the Missionary Demeanor?
Admittedly paternalism sometimes creeps into the heart of Western altruism and perhaps even
more often into the demeanor of missionaries. There isnt time to develop it here, so I will just
mention it in passing. We as Westerners cannot imagine how our benevolence or altruism could
possibly be at the root of the dependency syndrome. After all, we use money to solve many
problems. Furthermore, we get such a good feeling from giving that we may not even realize
when paternalism creeps in. Sometime ago we challenged someone on what was clearly to us
paternalism. His response was classic. He said, How can you accuse me of paternalism? I
treated them like my own children and they didnt appreciate it!
I am sure you will agree that there are many ramifications to the dependency syndrome. I have
barely begun to scratch the surface in this brief paper. For a longer treatment of the subject, there
is an eight-hour video series available through World Mission Associates.
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What Hope Is There for the Future?
Is there a ray of hope for this situation in the future? Is it not that todays and tomorrows
missionaries have access to training that was not available even thirty or forty years ago? If they
take advantage of it, the Christian movement will certainly be better off in the next generation
than it was in the last. Of course, the effectiveness of this depends on whether those teaching
missions are familiar with the dependency syndrome and know how to help everyone avoid it.
This represents a challenge for many of us.
There is another ray of hope. It is in the new missionary forceespecially from the non-Western
world which is not so well endowed financially that it will create and perpetuate financial
dependency as the Christian movement spreads. As Art Glasser once said about the China Inland
Mission: We barely had enough money on which to survive as missionaries ourselves. We
could not have spoiled churches with money if we wanted to. 3 When this came up in a recent
gathering of retired OMF missionaries, we heard his colleagues who had lived on modest income
agree with resounding affirmation.
Conclusion
Missionaries can speak and act with authority and urgency, and they do not need to create the
dependency syndrome in the churches which are started. But it will take a new and sometimes
radical approach for that to happen. It remains to be seen how many are prepared to pay the price
for the innovation and how many have the courage and humility it will demand. After all, taking
this approach means bucking a lot of history over the last century.