This is a topic I have been thinking a lot about in recent years, which is why my MA thesis was focused on this topic. I see now the title of the thesis and think it is too long, but here it is: “WHAT CHALLENGES DO LATIN MISSION LEADERS FACE WHEN RAISING FUNDS LOCALLY AND WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO DEVELOP RESOURCE MOBILIZATION CAPACITY?” in other words, how can we help develop more capacity or strength in expressions of local generosity. I presented some reflections
The Church from all the continents must actively participate in the blessing of giving to the extension of His Kingdom and fully recognize what God is already doing in the local context. The research includes a careful analysis of responses from Latin American mission leaders on the topic of raising funds locally, funding received from the exterior and the challenges and success stories that can be analyzed and implemented as models to imitate as well as to highlight the need for other models and programs. The aim is to gather information about where the Latin Missions Movement stands in terms of competency to raise funds locally and the best ways to respond to this challenging task. The outcomes will then help understand both international partners and Latin leaders to see where the gaps remain and what programs need to be established to strengthen this area in the Church of the Latin America.
I wrote this back in 2011. How has my thinking changed or evolved since then? First of all, I am more and more convinced that this conversation needs to continue and be approached by the Church globally. I will also not make a distinction between givers and receivers because I have found that this statement furthers the incorrect participation of the Church. At this point in time all are giving, but not all realize how all are giving. Second, I continued researching the topic of Generosity and since then have studied three stories in the Old Testament where we see Israel as a nation being generous, the building of the Tabernacle (Exodus), building of the First Temple (I Kings) and Rebuilding of the Second Temple (Ezra and Nehemiah). The first story documented in the Bible is when Israel is standing in front of Mount Sinai, where God openly establishes His Covenant with Israel, a story that is foundational in understanding the greater biblical narrative in both the Old and New Testament. God takes the first step in establishing his covenant with Israel and desires to be Israel’s only God and only source of help, that is if Israel accepts his Covenant. In this story God invited Israel to give generously to the place of His earthly dwelling and we see Israel responding generously in a context of spiritual purification and revival. We sometimes only focus on the story of generosity without paying attention to the spiritual purification and spiritual preparation that Moses as the leader had. We cannot expect then the Church to be generous without looking at our own preparation.
Study on Generosity offered in Mexico and Peru
I have recently led several reflections on this study from the Old Testament with various ministries and network leaders in Peru and Mexico. One of the first questions asked in the beginning of the study is to invite the participants to explore our thoughts and experiences on Generosity. How is it practiced in that particular context? What are the threats?
Here are some responses:
- Generosity involves more than money, it is expressed in time, sharing knowledge, resources in kind.
- Generosity is expressed when we work together
- Sharing a meal with someone
- Volunteering in church or for a cause
What threats do we have in our church, ministry, community or as individuals to practice Generosity?
- When we think we have little to offer.
- When I think more about my needs.
- To think that Generosity only involves money.
- To think that I have already given much.
- We have not studied this topic in our churches.
- In an indigenous community practices that we learn from outsiders threaten our own practices.
After the Generosity study on Exodus, here is what the participants shared about they learned:
- I have learned is understanding the condition of my heart is important.
- I had not considered generosity as an aspect of God’s character, and therefore important for the believer.
- I learned that Generosity is a biblical principle. Christ gave himself generously and taught us how to do the same.
- It has helped me to see what things in my life are getting in the way of me being able to practice generosity. My relationship with God is weak.
As a conclusion, all these past years I have learned that one fundamental weakness in the Church of Latin America is that we have not spent enough time in God’s word reflecting on this important practice. What Jesus asked Peter is still the question Jesus is asking us. I will conclude with this story.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep (John 21: 15-17)