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Financing Foreigners

Summary: This article chronicles the extent of the exploratory discussions among our leaders, as the need to help those who were not Americans moved from theory to urgent practice. Again and again, specific cases challenged our general principles. Though circumstances within our partnership are so diverse, Navigators have largely avoided the evils of dependency and paternalism. Our relational strength and habit of “growing our own” have provided protection. Especially since 9/11, arrangements have been strengthened to ensure integrity and accountability.


Finances and International Expansion
Self-Sustaining Ministries
Cross-Cultural Perspectives and Tensions
Navigator Approaches and Missiology
Efforts to Develop Indigeneity
Developments from the 1980s to 2014

Paternalism is a very bad disease; it turns adults into children.
Dominic Mswaru

Finances and International Expansion

During the 1950s, several Nav leaders were discussing what the spread of our ministries beyond the US implied. Prominent among these policymakers, as might be expected, were Roy Robertson and Waldron Scott.

As early as 1954, Roy was teaching “Basic Principles of Missions” in our training program at Glen Eyrie. He expressed our goal as “raising up national leaders so that finances, leadership, and every phase of the work continues to thrive when the missionaries leave.”1 Roy exegeted the apostle Paul’s approach to money and asserted that, “of all sources of problems, finance is the greatest.”

Roy clearly saw how important it was to study the apostle Paul’s practice and to try to avoid the undermining of our thrust into the nations that can come from unwise use of money. Indeed, he includes in his training material seven pages of extracts on this from Roland Allen’s seminal study1 in which Allen expounds on three Pauline rules: not to seek financial help for himself from those he reached, not to give financial help to those to whom he preached, and not to administer local church3 funds.

By 1960, Roy had probed more deeply.4 He wrote5 to Lorne Sanny:

I have been made increasingly aware of the fact that technically constructing a self-supporting and self-governing church by no means guarantees doctrinal purity, vitality, and evangelistic zeal or reproduction. . . . It is most significant that he crux of the whole matter lies in the training of national leaders and teaching lay members to reproduce. The self-propagating part of the indigenous theory is the most important thing. . . . Most so-called indigenous churches are not fulfilling this objective.

Lorne was well primed for the topic to be explored at our overseas policy conference in 1961. As debate began, Dan Piatt posed the fundamental question: “Should nationals be given recognition? I believe so. . . . If we decide we are in a worldwide ministry, the nationals must be trained so that they can take over the work.” The conference participants then debated6 whether “nationals,” that is non-Americans, should receive financial support from the US. Doug Sparks urged that our first priority must be indigenous support for their salaries, even more than office support, so that if we have to pull out of a country, the nationals can keep going in ministry.

Warren Myers asked what would happen if only 25 percent of their support came in. Sparks noted: “Our Europeans have really sacrificed. . . . I help them in emergencies: also little gifts at Christmas, birthdays, vacations.” In Europe, incidentally, Sparks did not distinguish between employees (as in our offices) and staff. All were working for The Navigators.

Lorne, in discussing our experience in the Orient, observed: “We are saying that it is still ours and not theirs as long as we are paying for it.” Robertson responded that we (the US Navs) are moving toward autonomous groups. Finances and control go together. American funds imply American control.

The conference discussion of when and whether to finance “nationals”7 was inconclusive, partly because there were as yet so few.

Partnering, of course, covers much more than financial transactions. We see in the New Testament many illustrations of how partnering (koinonia) in the Gospel was expressed and sustained. Missiologist George Peters writes:

Paul’s partnership relationship was one of full participation in the life of the churches and in their mobilization and enlistment in prayer, personnel and finances in evangelism. Paul discovered the resources for all his advances in evangelism and church expansion in the churches he planted. Thus the churches became involved with Paul from the very beginning in an aggressive program of evangelism and church multiplication. . . . It was a total partnership ministry from the very beginning.8

Self-Sustaining Ministries

During 1966, Sanny confirmed that our long-range plans were for the development of what he called full-orbed ministries in the countries where we work, involving not only developing men but also raising money.9 During the 1960s, our dialogue around this issue was usually long on warnings but short on facts. We had long practiced a Nav tradition, based on Galatians 6:5-6, that support should ideally come from those to whom a person has been or is ministering.10 Yet, even within the US, the mobility of our staff and other realities frequently made this ideal unattainable.

Another challenge in a few countries was that our focus on residential training within Navigator homes meant that the typical housing expenses of our staff couples tended to be larger than those of the average Christian worker.

The Brazilian Experience

Jim Petersen’s experience during our early days in Latin America offered some of our first in-depth interaction with the concept of how to finance the growing movement of non-Americans overseas.

In 1958, while Jim was still in Minneapolis, Bob Howarth, a UK Navigator ministering in Kenya, told him the story of an African evangelist who had starved to death because of his lack of finances. Why? “The national church had no concept of giving because the missionaries didn’t like to talk about money.” From then on, Jim determined to treat giving as part of discipleship. Matthew 6:21 was motivating: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That is, if we invest financially in the kingdom of God, our hearts are likely to follow.

When Jim began ministry in 1966 in Curitiba, Brazil, Osvaldo Simoes (a young believer at the time) wisely observed, “If this movement is going to take on this continent, the roots have to be ours.” Assuredly, that would have to include finances.

Therefore, both Jim and his missionary partner, Ken Lottis, began to teach giving from the Scriptures.11 However, because there were as yet no Brazilian “staff,” they encouraged the small Brazilian community to place money into a fund for special needs. This approach failed, partly because the treasurer would help himself when money was tight.

We needed to wait until we had a Latin American work with a demonstrable need. This, in 1970, was Fernando Gonzalez. At last, the need that he had in order to minister aligned with the need of the community in Brazil to experience the joy of giving. Fernando’s financial context led to another principle: Basic support should come from the surrounding ministry, but special cash needs (in his case, a car) could be met with external funds. Similarly, if The Navigators asked Fernando to travel internationally to a ministry gathering, they should be responsible for the additional cost.

This dependence upon local income for daily routine ministry worked well.12

In those years, our ministries in Brazil continued to be carefully separated from similar developments among the rest of our global team. Jim Petersen had taken this approach so that the Scriptures rather than our practices in North America would be their guide. By 1976, a thorough biblical study had led to some simple principles which were being applied in the local ministries of Brazil.

  • A trustworthy banker within the community (turma) administered the system.
  • Each staff person made out a financial budget according to his needs.
  • Each staff person was then responsible to raise his own support.
  • Income was reported to the administrator, but surpluses were not controlled.
  • Receipts were not used, both because they would convey an “organizational” flavor and because gifts were not tax-deductible.
  • Families, even if not staff, were supported according to their personal needs: One couple was maintained for more than a year while the husband was unemployed.

In general, what we see here is the outworking of local circumstances and convictions, biblically tested, determining our national financial administration and policies.13

Partnership, of course, embraces much more than the sharing of money. Dr. Peters again, speaking in 1971:

That organization is most ideal which engenders the deepest level of fellowship among the brethren, facilitates the freest flow of spiritual dynamics, enhances the speediest and most effective course of evangelism, advances the church in her attainment of maturity, selfhood and identification in the purpose and program of God, expresses most fully the unity and equality of all believers under the same Lord in the same church and in the same family of God.14

Cross-Cultural Perspectives and Tensions

Meanwhile, Waldron Scott had been carrying out field research among Navigators that led to a 1971 position paper,15 titled “Financing Nationals.” This study was designed to establish our long-range policy as regards financial support for nationals, especially non-Americans, whether they remained in their homeland or were sent to represent us elsewhere. It reflected Scott’s bias toward nationals in less-developed areas, then called the Third World. This was where our field staff could encounter the most stress.

In a draft of his paper,16 he drew attention to a major issue, namely:

. . . the general applicability of certain practices already operative in The Navigators and based on our understanding of the Scriptures. These were developed primarily in the context of a uni-culture, America. . . . The question is how to preserve what we have learned, realizing [it] may not be universally relevant, yet not adopting unscriptural methods simply because of the pressures of new circumstances, apparent ministry needs, or emotional responses.

Scott also noted that, “because we are an international team with an international mission, we should be prepared to draw on international sources to support those aspects of our work which are distinctly international . . . such as sending representatives from one country to another.”

He added:

The Nav work is, in its own way, unique. We have features in our work such as the Nav Home, a fair amount of travel, certain administrative deductions, etc., which were not characteristic of the local elders for whom Galatians 6:6 was more likely penned. Some of these features are not characteristic of the work of American pastors either. Yet we feel they are important in the context of an international team.

A Navigator representative’s ministry is fashioned in part by circumstances beyond his control, so it would seem reasonable to provide him with help, at least from the point where the expenses of his Navigator ministry exceed the expenses of a typical Christian worker in his country.17

Scott framed his paper partly from Galatians 6. First, verse 2 encourages a healthy interdependence on the part of Navigators everywhere, so that “some measure of equality is achieved, brotherhood promoted, suffering relieved, the ministry enhanced.” Secondly, from verse 5, the progress of the work in any country should not be permanently contingent upon the generosity of other countries: We desired to inculcate “a healthy sense of responsibility.”

Already, the topic was becoming emotional.18 As Scott wrote, “Some nationals feel the American Navigators are selfish or extravagant in the use of money entrusted by God, whereas some Americans feel that nationals of certain countries are lacking in faith or lazy or both.” Were we, some leaders even asked, embarking on a journey toward socialism?

Navigator Approaches and Missiology

Furthermore, we faced the usual missiological issues. Would our nationals come under the thumb of foreign imperialism? Would they become lethargic in their local recruitment of income? Would they in some cases become what the literature had long dismissively labeled “rice Christians.”19 To gain insight, the divisional directors invited influential external specialist Al Finley to spend some hours with them unwrapping the approach of his Christian Nationals Evangelism Commission.20

Al’s approach was in some respects similar to his brother Bob Finley, who founded Christian Aid in 1953. In the conclusion to Bob’s 2005 book, Reformation in Foreign Missions, he wrote:21

Present day foreign missionary operations of evangelical Christians are in dire need of reformation. We should phase out the colonial approach and stop sending missionaries from industrialized countries to lands of great poverty and deprivation. Instead, we should mobilize our vast resources to gather funds and send them to indigenous ministries of like precious faith in the poorer countries of the world. . . .

With a few notable exceptions, the presence of foreign missionaries from industrialized countries . . . in poorer countries . . . hinders the cause of Christ far more than helping it. In the eyes of local citizens, it is ‘cultural colonialism.’

. . . There is no record anywhere in the New Testament that God ever sent an apostle (missionary) where he did not know the major language of the area or would be looked upon as a foreign invader.

The Biblical pattern for spreading the gospel is to reach visitors who are away from home and send them back to reach their own people. God gave us three thousand examples of this strategy on the day of Pentecost. Other examples are Saul of Tarsus, Barnabas, Andronicus, Junius, John Mark and the treasurer of Ethiopia.

Our resistance to such perspectives was not due to insularity. In fact, there were two ways in which we differed from how other missions had typically been operating.

  • We did not recruit staff by means of money.22 No salaries were on offer.
  • Most agencies were seeking to build autonomous national churches, whereas, “We aim at an international fellowship or family, co-laboring so closely that it might better be described as an international team.”23

Furthermore, our global strategy (1972) explicitly aimed at the production of what we then called “sending countries”—that is, ministries that had the capacity to send their own people to other countries.

We faced additional issues from our habit of expecting many of our mobile staff to function within a different socio-economic context from their own and our laudable desire to build a stronger partnership by inviting at least our leaders of various nationalities to international conferences and, where we could, cross-training promising younger staff in foreign countries.

For reasons such as these, our general commitment to the standard three-self goal24 that ministry should be self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating clearly needed some adjustment. It had never been our intent for our staff in each country to be autonomous, living and working in isolation from others in our community. We had a prior commitment to be “a global team.” While missiologists generally opposed the use of foreign funds, particularly in connection with local ministries, it had to be recognized that the pure application of the three-self theory was hardly ever encountered in cross-cultural agencies.

Indeed, evangelical missiologists were not unanimous. Harvie Conn, Associate Professor of Missions at Westminster Theological Seminary, was one who published a seminal article blaming the “self-support myth” for robbing American and overseas churches of the joy of mutual giving. He suggested that “The accepted pattern of missionary support (has) made it impossible for North American churches to share in the fellowship of receiving as well as giving . . . to taste the joyful expression of Christian charity from the world body of Christ.” He pointed out that the Mission Handbook of North American Protestant Ministries Overseas still featured ninety-three agencies which defined their “primary task” in terms of the “support of nationals.”25

Emerging from Scott’s perspective, which shaped chapter 3 of his “Strategy for the 70s,” the debate among our leaders at the end of 1972 drew several straightforward conclusions.26

  • Financing nationals should be temporary and voluntary.
  • Countries should move toward financial autonomy.27
  • We can often raise up qualified people more quickly than money.
  • Financial interdependence is healthy.
  • Salaries of nationals should blend with their societies.
  • It is biblical to help the needy.

Especially during the 1970s, an unspoken question lingered in the background as to whether money can properly have a nationality. If it is all the Lord’s and we are merely stewards, should we think of money as Dutch or Brazilian or American? Theologically, no, but in practice deference should be shown to the Nav leaders of the country in which the money had been raised as well as to the purposes for which our supporters might have given it.

Contributions of Jerry Bridges, 1974

The next formative discussion of this topic occurred during our international strategy conference in October 1974. Jerry Bridges presented a perceptive paper on “Foreign Financial Support,” distinguishing five situations in which foreign funds might be used to help support Nav staff. They ranged from the generally accepted practice of a person serving in the foreign country that provided the support (example: Jean Lightfoot (Briton) serving in the Netherlands) to a person serving in his own country but with support provided by another country (example: Paul Yoo in Korea). Bridges felt that the latter kind of practice “appears to be the most controversial.” He sketched in various strands of opinion:

  • The ministry in many developing countries will not get off the ground unless we start by supplementing their finances and then inculcate a pattern of increasing responsibility.
  • US support of foreign staff will “project the image of a US corporation, resulting in the national feeling like a second-class citizen.”
  • On the other hand, the staff in the developing country have additional costs by participating in our global team . . . such as external travel, overseas cross-training, “Western” office systems, printing of materials.
  • Are we laying down a pattern of ministry that is peculiarly “Western” and not likely ever to become financially indigenous?

Bridges asked whether we had lost sight of the biblical example of support coming both from work (Acts 18:3, 20:34-35, 1 Thessalonians 2:9) and from gifts (Philippians 4:15-19, 3 John 5-8); the early history of the US Navs had reflected both approaches. Some questioned whether we were pushing so hard to speed up the ministry in other countries that we were omitting the process the US Navigators went through and, as a result, were moving those countries directly to the gift income orientation of current American staff.

Bridges added that even if a country reaches the desirable goal of fully supporting its national staff, it still may be hard pressed to provide the additional support required to send missionaries.28 Staff budgets not only are usually more expensive abroad, but missionaries become “cost centers” rather than “profit centers” in terms of fundraising back home. Consequently, although it seems reasonable to expect that some countries will produce more staff available to send than they can support, yet it is also likely that such staff may be more productive in countries at similar economic levels than staff from more affluent nations. A possible solution to this, Bridges mentioned, would be a policy that, “Foreign support may be raised up to the difference between the staff member’s budget as a missionary and his budget as staff in his home country.” He ended his paper with a summary of ten questions to be discussed.

Efforts to Develop Indigeneity

During this 1974 conference, we also worked through a brief paper from Doug Sparks on “Financing Foreigners”29 which set out arguments for and against whether it is right to support staff with regular funds from other countries, especially when planned and organized.

We then looked at our existing policies on financing national ministries, accompanied by some recommendations by our Middle East Director Bob V. on adjusting such policies.30 We also studied Scott’s paper on the “Concept of Indigeneity and Dynamic Equivalence.”

Finally, after more work by a drafting group, we composed ten assumptions.31 These were temporary, couched in the form of brief statements followed by the main implications. We agreed that it was preferable at that time not to develop a new set of financial policies regarding financing nationals that could apply worldwide, preferring to replace them with statements of principles and philosophy. Indeed, assumption 10 openly acknowledged that, “Current ministry practices around the world do not in many instances conform to the statements and philosophy expressed in this report.” We realized that it was vital to proceed cautiously.

Therefore, we urged that, “Each country leader should, in consultation with his staff, develop a plan for moving the ministry in his country toward financial indigeneity.”32

Earlier in this conference, Petersen had pointed out that we had three options: expand faster within one’s country, send sooner but operate with Western money, or go slower and depend on local money.33 Petersen’s own preference was clear: We must plant a “root system” and grow indigenously. Our assumption 3 showed that he had made his case: “It is more important for national ministries to grow indigenously and reproductively than for them to grow quickly.” Jim Chew agreed, adding that nationals are watching our missionary lifestyles which may become tempting to try to copy.

Doug Sparks added the insightful comment that our aggressive objectives globally were forcing us to minister in a Western fashion in the Third World. Sanny responded that, for healthy ministries to grow naturally, we should remove superimposed international objectives: We must not reproduce subsidized ministries. Furthermore, we should cut back on “evaluation” visits,34 to nurture freedom of form.

McGilchrist’s Field Survey of Financing Foreigners

Several years later, in 1978, Donald McGilchrist carried out a comprehensive field survey of our emerging practices as regards financing foreigners.35 This review examined flows to and from the US Navigators and another ten countries which together accounted for 93 percent of our non-American gift income. It revealed some surprises:

  • Gifts to foreigners were running at about $500,000 annually, or around 5 percent of total gift income, with 41 percent of such gifts being “American” money.
  • Five countries (Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Norway) gave more than 10 percent of their income to foreigners.
  • While Americans gave 2.5 percent of their income to foreigners, foreigners gave 4.7 percent of their income to Americans. Also, only 22 percent of American giving to foreigners actually went outside the USA.
  • Fifteen Nav staff received more than half of their expenditure budgets from foreign gift income.
  • It appeared that only about $80,000 of giving to foreigners had been directly stimulated by Nav leaders.

In considering the above, we should bear in mind that the US ministry was almost our least mixed in nationalities, yet displayed an international vision that expressed itself generously through giving to American missionaries who, in turn, were ministering to other nationalities.

What about nationals giving to the American missionaries in their countries? While this was happening to some extent especially in Europe, our leaders in Singapore (Dave Dawson) and New Zealand (Joe Simmons)36 both responded by referring approvingly to “the long-established practice that missionaries are to be supported only by their sending countries.” Yet, natural friendships and relational loyalties were gradually eroding such a stance.

The range of experiences as well as opinions was already broadening within our community.

During the late 1970s, experimental arrangements for subsidizing budgets of some staff in the Developing World were approved, mainly by Doug Sparks who was responsible for ministries in the Middle East and Africa.37 One classic example was the external support already being given to I. K. and N. J., both of whom were serving outside their own countries (both in the Middle East).

Case Study of Kenya Staff

Let’s now look at a case study of how our Kenyan staff were financed, in a context where personal fundraising went against the grain of a communitarian38 culture. This account is from American missionary Bruce van Wyk who arrived in Kenya to be our country leader in 1977.

Bruce and Marg arrived in Kenya at the point when the first generation of Kenyans were becoming qualified to be appointed staff. He recalls, “I believed from the very beginning that we wanted to trust God for full-time staff.  The question that kept me awake at night was:  How will these young emerging Kenyan leaders do what we missionary leaders did, without the resources we had?”

He was determined to help Kenyans eventually minister full-time from indigenous gift income because he believed we would not see a third or fourth generation of disciples without locally supported staff. He believed that if the missionaries were full-time our Kenyan leaders also needed to be full-time. Is the pattern of having full-time leaders really a scriptural pattern, and if so, can they be supported by resources from within the country? Surely, Bruce concluded, in God’s providence was a provision for every nation. He also recalled Lorne Sanny’s broad instruction to ensure that Kenyans would not be dependent upon foreign money for their daily needs, but to use outside funds for specific one-time projects.

Bruce had the gift of faith. As incentive for our Kenyan leaders to launch their fundraising in Kenya, funds were raised from the outside and placed in a staff training account. Each staff person would receive a 50 percent subsidy to add to what they had personally raised. Then, during the next three years, the subsidy was reduced by a fixed percent each year. At the end of the third year, the subsidy ended.

As Bruce explained, “The idea originally was to subsidize 50 percent of Stanley’s and Esther’s budgets, and later a 75 percent subsidy to Sarah was proposed.” However, as the budgets were revised, they became substantially higher. In various ways gifts flowed to these Kenyan staff from Scandinavia and the Netherlands. At the same time, our Kenyan constituency pledged significant amounts after a special Eneza Day conference. In no case did the subsidy from other countries reach the amount that was budgeted.39

The funds needed to cover the administrative costs of running an office are difficult in any culture, and Bruce knew they would need to devise another plan rather than to follow the normal US Nav plan of taxing Kenyan gift income by a fixed percent. Also, because having staff raise their own support was very foreign in the Kenyan culture, Bruce pondered how to create other income streams rather than to try to raise all the necessary funds through gift income.

When Bruce arrived in Kenya, the Navigator ministry was renting space in a building owned by the Africa Inland Mission (AIM). This rent was being covered by taxing our missionaries for a portion of the rent payment each month. But the question remained: “When all the missionaries are gone, how will the Kenyans cover the cost of running an office with funding from within the country?”

The team began to pray and ask God for specific guidance and creativity on how to solve this funding challenge. The idea God gave was to look for a property that had adequate office space, but also featured other buildings on the property that could produce rental income to cover the office’s overhead expenses as well as the staff salaries.

In 1981, Bruce received a call from a local real-estate agent in Nairobi with whom he had been working. The agent took him to a property that was destined to become the national headquarters office for the Kenya Navigators. “When I first walked on the property it looked too good to be true. The owner had built an office and there were two apartments that would be perfect to produce rental income. The biggest hindrance was that the owner had also installed a swimming pool. How would it look for a Christian organization to have a swimming pool on their headquarters property?” Counsel was sought from Dr. Tokunboh Adeyemo, the general secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar. His response was: “If God wants you to have that property, accept it as a gift from Him.”

The initial asking price was KSH 3 million or US $300,000. That was a huge sum of money for which to trust God, especially in a young ministry primarily made up of university students.  “Looking back on the experience, I believe the major factor God laid on my heart was this needs to be a project owned by all the people involved in our ministry. If it were owned primarily by the missionaries, it would not last and would not draw our hearts together in believing God for such a huge challenge.”

In October of 1981 Bruce accompanied by Nick Wanyoike, a young Kenyan Navigator staff, traveled together to the US to present this project to Bruce’s personal donors and friends. At the end of the six-week trip, they had raised $75,000. “We were encouraged by this, but we still had a long way to go to reach $300,000. Two things then happened to our advantage: We negotiated the price down to 2.5 million KSH and the dollar gained strength against the Kenya shilling, which made the final purchase price $175,000.”40

During this same time, our Kenyan Nav team committed to raise KSH 100,000 toward the project. “I remember thinking that it would take more faith for our young Kenyan team to raise the 100,000 KSH than for me to raise the $165,000 in the US. But this strategy created great enthusiasm and faith among our young base of donors. . . . It also gave a deep sense of ownership by the Kenyans that we were in this together.”

Despite tremendous blessing, we still had a long way to go to reach our goal of $175,000. Then God performed another miracle. Veteran missionary Dr. Roy Schaffer, who had lived in Kenya his entire life working as a physician with the Flying Doctors, decided to sell his personal home.  The need to sell his home dovetailed with our need for a bridge loan to give us time to raise the balance of the funds. Since Roy and Betty41 were selling their house, they needed a place to rent; one of the executive flats on the property was the perfect answer for their housing needs.

At the time when the Schaeffers were selling their home in Kenya, it was illegal to take money out of the country. So they loaned us the money from the sale of their house which kept the money in Kenya and the money we raised in the US was used to pay the bridge loan given to us by the Schaeffers, and $110,000 came from a real-estate developer in Dallas, Glenn Terrell. An additional $25,000 was raised to do some necessary improvements and additions to the office.  The total cost of the project was $200,000.

The promise that guided Bruce and his Kenyan team during this entire time was 1 Chronicles 28:20, fulfilled as described in the following chapter of 1 Chronicles.

Yes, we did take a certain risk to invest that much money in such a young ministry. But the most beautiful and encouraging factor, Bruce affirms, has been the incredible job our Kenyan leaders have done in stewarding this resource with which they were entrusted. In fact, they have been able to expand the property three times since our original purchase in 1982.

Kenyan National Director Dr. Chris Amulo has told Bruce that the rental properties are generating income of $13,000 per month. This covers all the office staff salaries and overhead expenses. In addition, it provides money for ministry projects and special needs for the more than fifty Kenyan national staff.

Pursuing a Diversity of Approaches

Financing foreigners was a topic on which no single solution could be anticipated. For example, minute 2.4 of our January 1985 international ministries leaders team contains this statement:

We need to learn how to overcome the limitations of local economies in enlarging our ministry. Government restrictions on allowing currency to leave the country are posing problems in the sending of missionaries from a number of countries. The balance of financial responsibility in a global society composed of very rich nations and very poor nations is a continuing concern.

Bob V. authored a fruitful paper in 1986 that urged us to investigate alternative solutions to gift income.42 He pointed out that our dependence on gift income was very much affected by both our Nav history and that of faith missions in general: Both were born in western contexts of wealthy Christianized nations which had, at least potentially, large donor constituencies with national histories of paid clergy as honorable or desirable professions. However, we were now beginning to minister in contexts—notably, in Arab countries—where support from donors may be dishonorable and produce a lack of respect.43

In the same year, Ray Hoo produced a paper on “Financial Interdependence.”44 He pointed out some recent developments:

Until a few years ago, the US Navs retained ownership of all houses bought overseas with US funds. Now, in Japan and Kenya, for instance, the US Navs have released those properties to the national ministries.

The US Navs are aiming to raise several thousands of dollars over the next three years for overseas needs through the Focus on the Future program. These projects were submitted in our bloc strategies and coordinated with the US by the international ministries director (Sanchez) and the international administrator (McGilchrist).

Ray reviewed the standard dangers of giving to foreigners in economically restricted countries, such as:

  • The recipients may develop a resentment because they are perceived as “controlled” or, indeed, may experience a controlling influence by the donors. There is a concern that US funds will mean US domination . . . which is also a reality in the secular realm.
  • The use of outside funds may lead a less-developed country into ministry forms or activities not suited to their culture or their stage of development. Often, projects are initiated by outsiders, with good intentions, yet are later found to be unsustainable when the foreigners depart.

Ray balanced such concerns with the instructions given to all believers to care for one another regardless of national, ethnic, social or cultural distinctions. “By love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13); “Carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:12); “Share with God’s people who are in need” (Romans 12:13); “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17). In 2 Corinthians 8, in appealing to the Christians at Corinth to provide help to the needy believers in Judea, Paul taught a principle of “equality.” By that, he meant not the equalization of communist theory, but the generous sharing of resources by those who have with those who do not have enough for their needs, so that the needs of all would be adequately met.

Ray concluded that, like individual believers, the ministries of more affluent countries have the responsibility to provide financial support to those who are more economically restricted. “Healthy financial assistance strengthens ownership, financial ability and responsibility, faith, contextual reproducible ministry and dignity. However, when financial contributions encourage dependence, create suspicions, deprive the nationals of ownership, develop improper ministry forms, it is unhealthy and inappropriate.”

It is instructive to note that, in 1987, the US board approved resolution 87-5 that, “The Navigators (US) be authorized to approve allocations for ministry projects in foreign countries which are required to establish businesses in order to provide jobs for national co-laborers to earn a living. Allocations to any such projects which have already been initiated are ratified by this resolution.”

It is common for Westerners to privilege what is tangible, such as money and missionaries, over the intangibles which form the bedrock of biblical partnering. This is understandable, given their relative wealth and generosity. However, the contributions of all are needed for the advance of the Gospel. This is why we introduced the concept of resource exchanges in the late 1980s.45

Views of Non-Navigator Leaders on Indigeneity

In 1990, Partners International President Luis Bush published a booklet titled Funding Third World Missions.46 It contains a review of the three-self formula (self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating) originally propounded through the works of Henry Venn (1796-1873) and John Nevius (1829-1893). Following them, Anglican missionary to China Roland Allen (1868-1947), set aside pragmatic considerations and gave theological reasons for his position. He believed that the presence of the gift-bearing Spirit of Christ made the local church self-sufficient from its beginning. Bush ends his essay with a few recommendations:

  1. While financial sharing should have its proper place in Christian missions, the lordship of Christ is the priority concern.
  2. Assistance should never be of a nature that negates the personal responsibility of the recipients of financial support to provide for themselves wherever possible (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).
  3. Economic sharing should be of the sort that upholds dignity and the freedom of those receiving assistance. The Christian community in every nation should learn both to give and to receive.
  4. Indigenization should be encouraged. Resources from overseas should not be used to implant a form of Christianity foreign to the culture.
  5. Economic sharing should promote a consciousness of the oneness of the worldwide body of Christ.

The debate originally launched by Roland Allen (1912) continues. Here is a paragraph47 from the article on Christian finance in the Atlas of Global Christianity (Edinburgh 2009):

How can the sacrosanct three-self principle of Allen….be sustained if irrepressibly evangelistic non-western churches are dependent on Western funds? On the one hand, those who have should share generously with those in need. On the other hand, any church convinced of its entitlement to and reliance upon Western finance will not be likely to thrive. This Gordian Knot continues to frustrate the best effort of those who have attempted to untangle it.

Developments from the 1980s to 2014

From the 1980s onward, as our global policies were discontinued, much local discretion was exercised in the extent to which foreigners were supported.48 Generally, the preference remained to finance projects rather than to contribute to salaries.

A fortunate minority of non-American staff developed strong relationships with US supporters, with some even making fundraising visits to the US. This has continued, albeit on a largely informal basis.

For several years, an Eleemosynary Fund financed by an anonymous donor to the extent of US $186,000 was used by Donald McGilchrist to fund many relatively small needs especially in the global South.49

When our International Team accepted The Core in 2002, they expressed several needs clustered around the general question of what financial health in our Worldwide Partnership would look like. Out of this emerged an international project on “Money and The Navigators” (MATN), sponsored by David Lyons. He organized four MATN focus groups to examine the financial implications of our Core.

Craig Slater led the group on managing money with integrity.50 Their output included:

  • Bible study on managing money with integrity and accountability
  • Summary of biblical principles for managing money
  • Agreement on financial standards in our Worldwide Partnership
  • Minimum requisites for Navigator leaders in our Worldwide Partnership

Meanwhile, our international leadership fund was growing as the result of a few most generous American supporters who had attended our NavWorld or NAVenture conferences and were invited to contribute to the fund, largely through cultivation by Jerry White and later by Mike Treneer.51 This fund amounted by 2014 to some US $10 million. Substantial grants from this fund were made by the IET to our regional leaders for strengthening and capitalizing the work in our regions.52

In general, there was a shift of focus from financing foreigners to the administration of grants to entities or individuals outside the US, including Americans. Compliance with US regulations required that the flow of receipted funds be traceable and that their destination be one which was congruent with the purposes of our US corporation. In practice, this meant monies flowed into a Nav account which had a budget and for which the recipient maintained adequate records. Thus, though we held to our principle of subsidiarity,53 it was tempered by greater diligence in the pursuit of Western standards of transparency and accountability.

Such arrangements, while necessary, have not seriously inhibited the flow of grants to authorized recipients within our Worldwide Partnership.

By Donald McGilchrist
8173 words

See also articles on:
Overseas Policy Conference 1961
Overseas Field Ministries 1960s
Global Planning 1966-1975
Navigator Enterprises


  1. Roy’s section on “The Indigenous Principle,” p. 9. This thread, variously expressed, can be followed until we speak of partnering countries in the early 2000s as those in which our ministry is “biblically rooted, culturally relevant to our target groups, and continuously effective in terms of The Core.”
  2. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? 1983, originally 1912.
  3. The house groups (oikos) which gathered would not have needed financial support, but the history of Christian missions in succeeding centuries is rife with the creation of ecclesiastical buildings and compounds and impressive missionary homes.
  4. He drew, for example, from Latourette’s book The Christian World Mission in Our Day, 1953.
  5. Memo of November 7, 1960. See also Chuck Farah’s memo to Lorne of April 26, 1960.
  6. OPC 1961 notes, sections 6 and 38. Quotations compressed for simplicity.
  7. Until the 1970s, our practice was to refer to those who were not Americans as nationals. This was phased out, because a national is simply a citizen of the country in which he or she lives. Those who are not nationals are foreigners.
  8. Peters, A Biblical Theology of Missions, Moody Press, 1972, p. 2-4.
  9. Notes of finance committee, August 4, 1966.
  10. However, note Paul’s approach in 2 Corinthians 8:13-15, which says, “As a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want that there may be equality.” The equalizing of money supplied in a “common pot” had early antecedents. For example, Jesus and his discipling team shared a common purse, as did the early believers in Acts 4:34-37. Somewhat later, Justin Martyr (died A.D. 165) wrote, “We used to value above all else money and possessions; now we bring together all that we have and share it with those who are in need.” See December 1972 DDC, p. 52.
  11. Petersen enlarged on his personal philosophy on financing ministries in a presentation to our 1982 COSG in Penang, paper 14.
  12. Remarkably, when Aldo Berndt and Osvaldo Simoes left their jobs to begin a mobile Nav ministry within Brazil, it took less than a week to secure their financial support from their Brazilian friends.
  13. Later, in 1981, six lay leaders in our Brazilian ministry voluntarily assumed the financial administration for the country in the spirit of Acts 6:2-3. This released our ministry leaders and greatly increased the consciousness in the grassroots of the importance of discipleship in the area of one’s finances.
  14. Peters, ed. Missions in Creative Tension, p. 196.
  15. This was critiqued, before Scott circulated it, by six Americans and nine others within our movement. Sanny himself had posed four of the five questions that the paper discussed. Scott ended his paper with thirteen proposed policy statements. The issue was no longer academic. For example, as of September 1971, our PAN division (Asia-Pacific) had thirteen non-American Representatives and twenty-four other non-American staff.
  16. Sent from Scott to PAN regional directors on December 27, 1970. See box WS4.
  17. In his response, Bob Boardman “assumed that these financial policies would be reviewed every five years and adjusted according to changing world conditions. This flexibility is still a golden factor of hope in the Navigator administration when compared with other mission organizations.”
  18. Quite a few years would pass before we seriously analyzed the prospects for financing staff through conventional rather than gift income.
  19. Glenn Schwartz, When Charity Destroys Dignity, World Mission Associates, 2007. “Rice Christians” refers to converts to Christianity for worldly benefits, such as the supply of rice in some Asian countries. The expression refers to Christianity born of gain, not faith. Waldron Scott had addressed this in chapter 7 of his December 1972 “Strategy for the 70s,” which refers to rice Christians.
  20. December 1972 DDC. Finley had worked closely with Trotman and later with Scott in the Middle East. The divisional directors were graciously receptive, but missiologically unmoved. See Double Helix, p. 589. Finley served as Director of CNEC from 1960 to 1987. In 1985, the agency changed its name to Partners International. Source: Accessed July 21, 2013.
  21. Robert Finley, Reformation in Foreign Missions, Xulon Press, 2005, p. 239-240.
  22. This practice continued to be quite common among evangelicals. When the Soviet satellite countries imploded around 1990, for example, quite a few of our leaders joined other organizations that did not hesitate to offer them salaries.
  23. “Strategy for the 70s,” chapter 3, December 1972. This aspect becomes more prominent for us as we “internationalize” in later years. See article on “Internationalizing.”
  24. Roland Allen in Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours (1912) had been very influential. However, by the 1950s, some pioneers were starting to recognize that “self-theologizing” was another necessary component. See also Transforming Mission by David Bosch, Orbis 1991, p. 451-457. Funding Third World Missions by Luis Bush (WEF 1992), who was by then leading Partners International, gives excellent biblical principles and practical examples.
  25. 11th Ed. of Handbook (1976) from Conn’s article on “The Money Barrier Between Sending and Receiving Churches.” Source: Evangelical Missions Quarterly 14, no. 4 (October, 1978): 231-239.
  26. Scott’s policies were incorporated into our international finance policies and were restated during our August 1974 CPC.
  27. Autonomy: interpretive care is required. As can be seen, our statements variously rejected or welcomed this concept. The goal was a global team that has self-sustaining members.
  28. When McGilchrist emigrated to the US in 1976, he was receiving significant monthly support from donors of six nationalities. This, however, was an extreme case flowing from his existing international role.
  29. EMA, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA) position paper VIII, prepared for August 1974 corporate planning conference.
  30. International policies 11.1 to 11.13 and proposed adjustments by Bob V. dated July 1974.
  31. Appendix E of October 1974 ISC minutes.
  32. Ten assumptions by a committee of the ISC in October 1974. Although each assumption was supported by some deductions, the tone of the assumptions had clearly become more tentative and generic.
  33. October 1974 ISC minute 10.5e.
  34. October 1974 ISC minute 10z. Joe Simmons: “One Asia country director had thirty visitors this year!”
  35. “Financing Foreigners: A Historical Review,” McGilchrist, September 22, 1978. No comparable in-depth study has been attempted since then.
  36. New Zealand had a governmental policy that granting visas should not be issued where salaries were paid to incoming internationals from local resources. Similarly, as regards the Philippines.
  37. See ILT December 1977 minute 12.
  38. Young Life therefore adopted a “common pot” approach and InterVarsity found that it could finance single graduates, but the formation of families was beyond their financial reach from resources within Kenya, so that Kenyans sadly left their staff.
  39. Van Wyk report of October 30, 1978.
  40. The exchange rate against the US dollar moved erratically during this time, thus explaining the fluctuation of numbers in the text that follows.
  41. They later became like grandparents to our younger Nav family.
  42. See article on “Navigator Enterprises.”
  43. A stellar example of creative and enduring commitment to living by conventional income was James Quist-Therson, who served as our country leader in Ghana from March 1987 until his untimely death in April 2004. See “My Economic History” attached to article on “Navigator Enterprises.”
  44. This was precipitated by our need to finance Nigerian missionaries, such as Viashima to Uganda, using US funds.
  45. Resource exchanges took place as follows: for the Middle East in May 1990, for sub-Saharan Africa in October 1990, and for Eastern Europe and Russia in December 1990.
  46. “World Evangelical Fellowship Missions Commission,” (Paternoster Press). See pages 14 and 30.
  47. Essay on “Christian Finance 1910-2010” by Jonathan Bonk, p. 294.
  48. Global policy 2.2 (September 1985) had stated “Money will not be raised outside the country of ministry without the prior written approval of the country leader of the country where the money is to be raised.” Policy 1.4 had stated that “a budget in a region that requires any planned funding from outside that region will be approved by the international administrator,” though specific exceptions were budgets for missionary associates and budgets with an annual total of less than US $2,400.
  49. Final disbursement in December 2002. No money from this fund was ever applied to needs within international headquarters.
  50. Members: Geraldo Brenner, David Lyons, Donald McGilchrist, Mutua Mahiaini, Leon Neumann, Jean Yap Tze. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 also prompted the US Navs to strengthen their controls on the transfer of receipted funds to destinations outside the US. Craig’s group presented seven recommendations to the IET and our regional directors.
  51. Dave Gresham stimulated many of these relationships.
  52. Again, larger grants went to the regions in the global South. Craig Slater, representing the IET, and Andy Weeks were involved in this process which sought to include the setting up of several international boards, so that Western notions of accountability could be sustained. An offshore charitable trust was also established.
  53. See article on “Our Enabling Global Society.”
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