Money or Missionaries is not the Question

Ralph D. Winter

Here is one of the most persistent of all confusions in missions today.

When Dr. McQuilkin’s original article went to Christianity Today, the editors there gave it the provocative title “Stop Sending Money!”

That was helpful but also misleading. In fact, our own new title, “Should We Stop Sending Missionaries,” still seems subject to misunderstanding because the title itself leaves “money” out of the picture.

On the other hand, simply to say “send both money and missionaries” does not in itself help to explain the peculiar values and drawbacks each approach has.

The great value of McQuilkin’s presentation here is his sensitive treatment of the subtle hazards of the send-money approach.

But missionaries have problems, too. Years ago, after ten years of mission field experience, I wrote an article about the hazard of a missionary wanting to be friendly becoming a “Sugar Daddy” or a “Santa Claus” without realizing it. People in our group were so poor that buying soda pop hastened starvation of small children. So, in ten years in Guatemala our refrigerator never saw a bottle or can of sugar water. We gave our time. It is harder to corrupt that. We set up schools that cost very little. We taught accounting and small-business skills to part-time pastors. Hundreds of leaders emerged. When we got there our mission had not for 50 years ever subsidized a pastor’s salary or put foreign money into a church building. We never employed any tools, loudspeakers, vehicles beyond their reach. We tried to show the way for people to walk on their own. We taught them to drive.

Money can in some ways be used effectively, especially when the donors representatives (missionaries) live for years in the situation and really get to know the people. Sending money is not so much the issue as the tragic emphasis we hear from some that it is unwise to send missionaries at all.

Permission by Mission Frontiers