Three Mission Principles – Part one
There are at least three basic principles of any good mission and/or ministry strategy plan. We will avoid many pitfalls of mission and ministry work when we are guided by these basic principles.
In short, the three principles are N. I. R. In order to develop a highly affective mission and ministry strategy plan, we must be N. I. R. (near) sighted, so to speak. In other words, we need to filter all goals, activities, and action plans through the N. I. R. Principles.
1) The first letter of the N. I. R. principles is “N”, which stands for non-dependency.
Dependency is an important issue to consider when we evaluate the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ we do what we do in missions and ministry. Sincerity of heart toward God is not the issue here – correct methodology is. Dependency enervates, which means to deprive of force or strength, to destroy the vigor of. Some of the methods we use in missions and ministry actually create an environment that stifles growth and harms our efforts long-term. Dependency handicaps and hinders the process of spiritual maturation by creating a welfare mentality. When considering a well-balanced missions and ministry strategy plan, we must take a serious look at two non-dependency guidelines.
First, we don’t do for others what they can already do for themselves. We create an unhealthy environment when we do missions and/or ministry activities for others when they are capable of doing it for themselves. By doing for others what they can and should already be doing for themselves, we are teaching them to depend on us and not on God. This type of mentality debilitates others and creates a spiritual welfare attitude. Such misguided relationships create dependents not disciples. We must take a sober look at this fact; creating dependents not disciples. We must allow and even expect others to do for themselves what they can and should be doing.
The analogies to this guideline are endless. For example, how many of us as parents want to continue to dress our children when they should be dressing themselves? We expect a normal child to progress through the proper stages of development. At a certain age we want our children to dress themselves, to tie their own shoestrings, to brush their own teeth, etc.; to not learn those behaviors would be unnatural. The same is true in spiritual matters. We desire individuals to become mature disciples who are dependent on God. This first guideline was clearly seen by Steve Saint when a Christian short-term mission team dealt with the Waodani tribe. In relation to mission work, Saint states that, “When in the name of Christian mission we do for indigenous believers what they can do for themselves, we undermine the very church that God has sent us to plant.” (Pg. 58) He goes on to say that our methods can create the opposite result than we want. He characterizes the result this way, “The people who were very independent realize that they cannot get along without the missionaries and resent being dependent. If the missionaries quit giving any goods or services that were being offered, the people, who have begun to see the service as their right, resent what is being taken from them.” (Pg 53)
The second non-dependency guideline is to teach others to do what they currently cannot do. In other words, we need to teach other believers to do missions and ministry that they are now incapable of doing. As the old adage goes, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. We need to teach others to fish for themselves so that they do not become dependent upon us but on God.
Willow Creek Pastor Bill Hybels recently stated that their churches were not doing a good job of creating believers who could feed themselves spiritually from the scriptures. Willow Creek’s report was titled: The Reveal. In essence, he said some of their methods created believers who were dependent on church programs and others for spiritual nourishment. At least Hybels had the maturity to take a serious look at the results of their ministry efforts. (http://www.revealnow.com/story.asp?storyid=49)
Jesus stated the principle of creating disciples and not dependents this way, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
Paul’s understanding of principle of non-dependency is expressed in his letter to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
If we are to develop mature reproducing believers and future leaders, we must avoid the trappings of dependency. David understood the process of maturity and the issues of non-dependency when he wrote the following words, “Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed your precepts.” (Psalm 119:98-100)
David had matured to a point where he was not dependent on his teachers because he mediated on God’s Word. He depended upon God to be his source. His teachers had taught him to do for himself what he should and could do. Let’s avoid the pitfalls of dependency and become N.I.R. sighted.