Reflections on Power and Powerlessness

Spectrum of Power

I have struggled in my own heart and mind regarding the issue of Power and Powerlessness in the Christian Life and in Ministry. I have heard so many preachers who love to talk about receiving the POWER of God (and Yes, they will emphasize the term completely out of proportion to its value, in my opinion). It does not appear to be in line with the example of Christ who served and ministered in a fairly powerless fashion (at least powerless in terms of classic human power such as economic power, military power, and political power). On the other hand, in some ways, Jesus could be describe as possessing and exhibiting great power. That leaves me challenged on both sides.

Biblical: 

  • Positively. The Bible describes us as possessing and exercising great power. Luke’s version of the Great Commission, for example, notes this, as Jesus says: I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49.
  • Negatively. The Bible also describes the weakness of the faithful, and God appears to connect more with the weak, the powerless, than with those in power. Paul in I Corinthians 1:27 states, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” The epistle, and the other epistles of Paul seem to make the point that this weakness of those who follow Christ is more than a historical fact, but a state of being. As Ellicott’s commentary notes on this passage, “It has been well remarked, “the ancient Christians were, for the greater part, slaves and persons of humble rank; the whole history of the progress of the Church is in fact a gradual triumph of the unlearned over the learned, of the lowly over the great, until the emperor himself cast his crown at the foot of Christ’s cross” (Olshausen); or, as an English writer puts it, “Christianity with the irresistible might of its weakness shook the world.”

Missiological:

  • Positively.  The gospel of Christ has spread throughout the world borne on the back of political and economic power. A lot of wonderful things, such as hospitals and schools and such, have be built by missionaries coming in and exercising power.
  • Negatively. There has been a backlash to this sort of exercising of power. The connection of missions, on occasion, with colonial imperialism is still remembered by many, even where missionaries sided with the locally oppressed over the colonial oppressors. There have been calls, including by “missionary-receiving nations” to stop sending money. In many places, missionaries have assumed a position of coercive power over locals (even as acts of charity), and can create dependency. Because of this, Vulnerable Missions is becoming popularized. Truthfully, Vulnerable means functioning from a position of powerlessness— but some people are, wrongly I think, disturbed by the term “powerless.” Additionally, power encounter and emphasis on the attainment of power has borne, among other things, the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” a horrible misreading to God and God’s Word.

Cultural:

  • Positively.  Many people classify cultures as fitting into a triangle of social motivators with the vertices of:   Guilt/Forgiveness, Shame/Honor, and Fear/Power. While no culture is at an absolute extreme, most tend to be closer to one vertex over the other two. I live in the Cordillera mountain range in the Philippines. While Shame/Honor is important, the driving motivator for most is Fear/Power. As such, “Power Encounter” is very important and effective as an outreach method. (I am not from a Fear/Power culture. I can intellectually acknowledge this motivation, but emotionally I cannot relate to this motivation). If God works in all cultures and has a message that meets the primary needs of those in all cultures (Forgiveness and Honor for those driven by Guilt and Shame, for examples) then it is reasonable to accept that God’s power revealed is an appropriate answer to the Fear of people.
  • Negatively.  Historically, the answers of the Gospel exist in a state of contradiction. Forgiveness from God exists for Christians who still live in a state of deserving to feel guilty (both before man and God). Honor is given by God to those who still live in a state of shame with respect to the surrounding culture. And the power of God exists while Christians still live culturally in a state of powerlessness. In other words, God’s gift takes away the need, not the condition. God takes away the need to feel guilt although we are not guilt-free. God takes away the reason to feel shame although we may may be still viewed as shameful. God takes away our need for fear, but not necessarily fearful things from our lives. Additionally, while God works within a culture, God also challenges the culture, counter-culturally. Guilt-focused societies may praise the morally perfect, but God points us toward a different goal– sinful but grateful. Shame-focused societies may praise those who are highly esteemed in society, but God challenges this by pointing people to the poor (or poor in spirit), the mournful, the little ones, that which is thought foolish, and the humble as the truly honored before God. Fear-focused societies may praise those who are seen as powerful, having control over situations and people. But again, I think that God challenges this and points people towards Jesus who was a suffering servant, lowly, and humble… A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.”

I think that part of the way of bringing this all together is to see power in terms of a spectrum. The spectrum at the top shows this. At one extreme, power is seen in terms of control and coercion. At the other end, it is seen in terms of ability to serve. That full range seems to be Biblical. The Greek word “dunamis” also can mean “Ability.” (Some note the connection between the word “dunamis” and “dynamite,” but the connection was in marketing. Dynamite provides no useful role in understanding the Koine Greek term “dunamis.”) In engineering, power refers to the rate of energy flow. “Energy” flow describes an essentially made up concept (that somehow manages to be useful) referring to the ability to do work. Power, then, is more tied to the ability to accomplish, than to mastery or control.

In the Luke passage, Jesus says to wait until they are clothed in power on high. One may take the “tongues of fire” on their heads as a somewhat literalistic answer to that. On the other hand, it can be seen more in terms of their sudden ability to serve God fearlessly, speaking God’s message in languages they did not know. Either interpretation seems sound, but classic human pictures of power would not be consistent with this event.

Likewise, Hebrews 11 describes doing great and mighty works through faith, yet it, equally, describes people succumbing to abuse and torture fearlessly (and in human terms, powerlessly) with those who accomplished the (“powerfully”) miraculous.

Conclusion

I am still a bit unresolved on this. The Bible says that the Jews seek a sign, while the Greeks seek wisdom. A sign often involves a visual manifestation of power. I don’t think that can be overlooked… it was a cultural need. I relate more with the Greek culture. I seek wisdom (and peace).

However, since power in and of itself is morally neutral, the exercise of power is morally ambiguous, a temptation for great evil as well as the ability to do great good.

Biblically, I believe that power is tied more to ability and servanthood than to mastery, control, and the miraculous. That is not to say that it is fully to the extreme (to the left side). But, when in doubt, Divine power is more tied to what the world sees as powerless. It seems like the church has been strongest when it has embraced its own powerlessness— fearlessly. Christian leadership is to be Servant Leadership… servant leadership not simply as a buzzword, but a lifestyle.

Because of this, the power of God as a concept should be tied to, and perhaps even be subordinate to, our call to be faithful, able, and humble servants of God.

 

Three Rocky Marriages

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Marriage of Religion and State

Karl Marx did not invent the metaphor that religion is the opiate of the people, but he did popularize it. His view seemed to be that religion was a creation of the state to ensure compliance of the populace. I have not studied Marx enough to know fully how he saw this, but one can certain imagine two aspects.

  1. Religion, dealing with, in part, eternal issues and destinies, can encourage those who are suffering and exploited to fail to rise up in opposition to oppressors. They may accept mistreatment, even seeing such abuse as part of being tested by god, God, or gods, prior to glory— or perhaps such submission to evildoers may be seen to be a virtue.
  2. Governments have often gleefully linked themselves to the popular religion. The marriage of State and Religion can be powerful. One controls the body and the now. The other controls the spirit and eternity. If the two work together– they provide a full blanket of control. Such a blanket can be both comforting and stifling.

There are still “Islamic” republics, who intentionally link their religion and government. Most other countries have recognized the stifling nature of such a marriage and have cut formal ties. Of course, informal ties may remain… and in some cases a secularized dis-organized religion (idealogy if you prefer) may be actively supported by the government…. North Korea is a classic case… but most countries utilize the tools of religion even if they claim not to support (or reject) any particular religion. Watch political rallies in the US, and you will see a crazy marriage of American folk Christianity and political symbols into a very uncomfortable, to me at least, state religion of sorts.

There is no good solution, I believe. Humans are religious beings, and they are social beings. I believe we have several millennia of recorded history to support these two points. As such, government (establish of formalized rules for large group social interaction) and religion (organized or disorganized) can never be fully divorced.

But if they are married, it should be a very unhappy marriage. In a previous post I noted that David Tracy mentioned in “Plurality and Ambiguity” that religion is not really a religion unless it challenges the status quo. That is because each religion claims to see something of Ultimate Reality, and that vision compels adherents to reject, at least in part, the flawed cultural setting they are in. When a religion supports the status quo, it is saying that it has nothing more to do than to maintain the existing power structure in society and principles that that same power structure teaches.

When religion supports the status quo (happy in its marriage to the government) rather than challenges it, Marx has a point.

Marriage of Religious and Civil Marriage.

Illustrating the challenge of church/state interaction— Many are familiar with the so-called “gay marriage” issue in the United States. Here in the Philippines we are a bit sheltered from it, although there are some who are seeking it here as well. Strangely, the Philippines appears to be more willing to tolerate homosexuality than the United States, but less willing to affirm it.

Marriage is a strange anomaly, at least at first glance. It is where even very secularized societies tend to bring together government and religion. Pretty much all cultures have marriage in one form or another. Even though people are talking that marriage is disappearing in modern (and post-modern) societies, it is probably more accurate to say that marriage is transforming. There seems to be a pretty universal recognition that sex and procreation are important enough for cultures to have a say in it. Even cultures that seem pretty libertine in many ways, often have surprisingly complex and nuanced mores and taboos. Of course, these may not be as evident, especially during transitional periods.

In the United States, despite being the, perhaps, first secular nation on earth, marriage was always seen as a joint effort between state and religion. Religion establishes the moral/ethical parameters for a culture (or sub-culture) while government establishes civil/legal parameters. In practice these overlap with each other a great deal, and are, in fact, quite dependent on each other. With regards to marriage, religion defined marriage for the state, and took care of most of the rites of marriage. The state provided legal teeth for the rite, and dealt with tracking the paperwork.

What happened in the United States in recent years is the breakdown of that generally unspoken agreement. While some argue that this breakdown is due to the secularization of the US, that is not strictly true. The United States has always been officially secular, although with strong informal ties to its Christian worldview and heritage. What happened was plurality. Multiple religions (major religions, minor religions, organized religions, informal religions, secular “religions” and idealogies) added their voices to the mix due to modernity. They were then given respect through post-modernity. When one talks about the term “marriage” there are many voices now saying what marriage should be. Should it be monogamous heterosexual, polygynous heterosexual, polyandrous heterosexual, conjoint, various versions of homosexual? What about non-sexual relationships… can these be defined under marital laws? Can an animal be viewed, legally, as a person? Can a human “marry” an animal (whether defining a sexual or non-sexual relationship)? Can, for example, dog marriages, an odd little practice of some pet owners, be seen as a marriage in the same sense as marriage between human persons? One can go on and on. If the term “marriage” is disconnected from its cultural and historical anchors, its meaning is defined by those that use it. (Note that this blogpost is, in fact, using the term “marriage” in more than one way.)

As soon as you say YES to one and NO to another, you are saying one group is authoritative and one is not. But each group wants to be authoritative. As David Tracy, again, noted. Modernity leads to plurality of perspectives, and this same plurality leads to ambiguity.

So what is going on right now in the US? I would argue that the issue of what (and who) defines a marriage is quite important. However, the over-the-top reaction of many (on both sides, frankly) comes, in part, from “buyer’s regret” or “marital strife.”

The church has “religious marriage.” The state has “civil marriage.” The church was seduced by the ability to guide the state and get legal support, equating religious marriages with civil marriages. Now the state is no longer going to the church for its definition of marriage. “Religious/Civil marriage” is no longer being guided from the religious side, but the civil side… but the church doesn’t really want to let go of this relationship (“marriage” so to speak). This is not the first time. The state (or in the case of the US… various states) years ago began redefining who can get divorced, and thus get remarried, commonly without much consideration of the church The church generally went along with it.

There are those in the church who seem quite happy to adjust their own definition of marriage to that of the state. In this case, this part of the church may be accepting a subservient role to the state (or societal norms). Is this always wrong? No, it is not always bad. Many churches refused to accept divorce, believing that morality and legality must go hand in hand even when the marital vow has already been viciously violated. The church needed a bit of adjustment in this area. Some religious groups also had issues with interracial marriage, for some odd reason… a little push from the outside was helpful.

The hyper-reaction of some within the church to the “gay marriage” issue is built from after-the-fact regrets. They linked (“married”) religious and civil marriages, and now regret it. But are they willing to divorce them? For those on the other side, is the church willing to challenge the society it is in, or simply bless the cultural mores?

Here in the Philippines we have a different problem but springing from a similar problem. The Catholic Church has considerable sway in some aspects of Philippine governance. Most notably this is true in marriage. Divorce is theoretically not permitted here. They do have something called “annulment” (which really isn’t annulment in the strictest sense, but an expensive and inconvenient divorce), but the vast majority of separations are common-law. This also means that an awful lot of the sexual relationships, even long-term committed relationship, are common-law— because of an ill-advised legal marriage to a faithless or abusive person in the, commonly distant, past. Since the government cannot affirm their relationship in marriage, can the church? Some feel they can, and some feel they cannot.

The church need to work towards having a rocky marriage with the government.

Marriage of Missions and Power

Missions can be linked to the State. Historically, it has gone hand-in-hand with colonizers or imperialists. Is that bad? Maybe. Maybe not. One cannot totally disconnect religion and state because they have overlapping domains. But, drawing from the metaphor in the first part, such a “marriage” should be an unhappy one. Missions in the colonial period was always at its best, when it sided with the local peoples and challenged the colonizers.

Today, the connection between Christian missions and state is (thankfully) much weaker. But there are other marriages with power.

Missions and Denomination. Missions is also at its best when its connection to denomination is “complicated.” Even though many missionaries and mission agencies are described as non-denominational… they commonly work within a religio-cultural structure that has many aspects of denominationalism. Denominations, or at least religious sub-cultures, have their place and form organically, whether or not they are formally organized. But missions is to be, first of all, God’s mission. As such, that takes primacy over supporting the wants and wishes of the denomination. There is a marriage between missions and church or denomination, but it should be a rocky or conflicted marriage.

Another power is money. Missions utilizes money… some forms require a fair bit of money. But missions and missionaries must follow God first, not the money. The marriage of missions and money is necessary, but it should not be a happy marriage.

Selling, Informing, and Teaching This Old Dog a New Trick.

I have had a number of things come up that have reminded me of an area of weakness that I have in ministry.

1.  Our financial support is going down considerably in 2015, and precipitously in 2016. I realized that I don’t really know how to raise support. Our 11 years here in the Philippines have been blessed with a lack of need to raise support. Now that that situation has changed, I realize that I am not really sure what to do

2.  I have put myself up for looking for some jobs… including the classic Web resource, http://www.monster.com. The most positive contacts have been from insurance and “financial management” companies as a “consultant.” I am a bit out of touch with American business (since I stepped away from engineering 11 years ago), but I am pretty sure that the consultant thing is actually Product Sales. Perhaps the fact that I am listed as being a missionary and pastor suggests that I am a people person and good at being convincing. (Or maybe insurance companies target all middle-age job-seekers.In truth, I am more of a nerdy instructor than a people person. I have little ability to persuade… and would be a bit suspicious of people who I could easily persuade.

3. Two members of our Bukal Life Care (www.bukallifecare.org) have started working on marketing of our counseling center because (paraphrasing their words) our group needs it. They recognize my basic lack of skill in this area.

I never saw myself as being bad at promotions. I maintain several websites that show the activities of ourselves, (www.bobandceliamunson.wordpress.com), two ministries we are in (Bukal Life Care, and CPSP-Philippines), and our church here in Baguio. I also do periodic newsletters and more. Since so many Serve without Informing, I felt like I was doing pretty good. But there is a problem.

THERE IS A BASIC DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INFORMING AND SELLING.(or persuading). Informing is a cognitive process while selling (or persuading) is an emotional process. I really like dealing with the cognitive side of things… I really don’t like to deal with the emotional/volitional side of things.

Yet, support-raising is essentially an emotional process. After all, there are needs everywhere, and many worthy (and unworthy) causes. The decision by a person to choose one worthy cause over another is not typically based on good information, but impassioned marketing that pulls on the heart, without ignoring the head. Perhaps it would be nice if mission support was based on performance and need. But maybe it is nice that reality is more sloppy than that, or first-time missionaries would be hard(er) pressed to get support since they have no track record.

I am not really sure what this realization ultimately will do for me. I don’;t really like salesmen (of any type). Not sure that I desire to gain the skills of a trade that I don’t think much of. However, Titus 2:10 speaks of how we are to DECORATE (or adorn) THE GOSPEL.  This suggests that the sharing of the gospel is more than challenging the mind of the hearer… it is drawing on the heart. Not all that surprising, since few people change their faith due to powerful arguments.

I guess that means that, after all, I really do need to learn a new trick or two.

Reminiscing With Mr. Bean

<I wrote this post back in 2015. At the time we were under stress from some financial changes. One can read some sadness and stress in the post, but some hope as well. I am happy to say that now in 2017 we understand better that God is good. We are surviving… and sometimes even thriving. I still enjoy the post. To quote from Philippine Independence leader Jose Rizal (1861-1896), “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination.”>

mr_bean_cartoon_teddy_cat_irma_gobb_mrs_wicket_mr_bean

I was changing channels here in Baguio City, Philippines, when I heard a very familiar tune, the theme song of Mr. Bean… the Animated Series. This is a cartoon adaptation of the Mr. Bean character portrayed by (of course) Rowan Atkinson. Unlike the live series, the animated series has a happy tune played, incongruously, in a minor key.

When I hear the song, I am filled with dread. This happens every time, but I generally let it wash over me without a lot of thought. But today is a day when it is worth reflection.

Almost 11 years, I quit my job as a mechanical engineer. We sold our house. Our home church offered to help support, but not enough to meet our needs. We arrived in the Philippines in March 2004, and stayed for 1 week in a palatial hotel room in Manila. We felt out of place in such luxury, even though a relative was paying for it. We moved up to Baguio and stayed in a two room apartment for two weeks with all five of us squeezed into one room. We lived on ramen noodles (particularly instant bulalo). After two weeks, we moved into the seminary. We lived in a tiny space, semi-divided so that our three children could be in one tiny space separated by a sheet from the “living room” where Celia and I slept. During the day that was our tiny living space. For five Americans who lived in a 2000 sqft house on a half-acre lot, this was quite a drop in living standards. So we were living in less than 10% of living space, with 75% drop in pay, without knowing really what we were doing.

Eventually we got a TV. We had no cable and could only pick up a few local channels, most of which, were not really our form of entertainment. One show that we did like to watch that we could get was the cartoon version of Mr. Bean. Our children were young and it was something we could watch as a family. I don’t remember feeling the stress from that period except in a few situations. But when I hear the tune from Mr. Bean, the feeling of stress, depression, and uncertainty returns.

I have decided to reminisce because some of the situations are coming full circle.

  • In 2004, we were massively underfunded, drawing down our savings to survive. In 2015, we will be seriously underfunded again, unless things change. In 2016, most likely, we will have to return to the US because of lack of support.
  • In 2004, we had no cable TV and we are now disconnecting cable as a cost-saving measure.
  • In 2004, we were not sure what we will be doing as missionaries. Even though we know what we now want to do (pastoral counseling center, and seminary teaching), our situation is such that we really don’t know what the future holds.

Those are the somewhat negative side of things… but there is a positive side as well.

  • In 2004, we really had to put our trust in God— a trust that bordered on foolhardiness. So many Asian missionaries dive into missions in (nearly) hopeless situations, acting on faith.  In 2015, we need to put aside our faith in finances, and put it in God.
  • In 2004, we had to be quick to say YES to opportunities to serve. In fact, God brought us into medical missions and other things. It is easy to fall into a rut. Things in 2015 will force us to to get out of our “comfort zone” as well.
  • In 2004, we were new and could probably have benefited from missionary member care support. In 2015, we now provide missionary member care support for missionaries in Southeast Asia. However, the financial situation actually helps us understand the perspective, in some way, the deep financial problems experienced by Asian (especially Filipino) missionaries.

We are doing okay. God is with us… and I guess Mr. Bean is as well.

James and the Giant NGO

James 2:1-7

     1My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?  (HCSB)

In church, one should not show favoritism. One should not give special status to those with money… those who can fill the church coffers. I was a member of one church long ago in which the top layperson was also the richest (by far) member. But, in truth, he was a godly man. I was a member of another church (also long ago) where the top layperson was also the richest member. When he did a big moral error… he was allowed to remain in his high position in the church without repercussion. But, in truth, he was a diligent worker in ministry. I was a member of yet another church long ago, where the top layperson in the church was the richest member. But later leadership changes led to his having lesser influence… and he moved to another church to have more influence.

I feel that I have seen enough of this pattern to identify it. There are people of wealth who will seek out a church and use their financial power to encourage the membership to give them special power and influence in the church. I believe doing such is a clear violation of the above passage in James… noting that doing so is based on evil motives. However, the passage arguably draws from Leviticus 19 and verse 15 makes it clear that one should not show favoritism to the poor over the rich either. Both are corrupt behaviors. We treat all classes of people as being equal before God and before the church.

This is difficult when it comes to missions. Years ago, when I was working in Virginia Beach, I had a “grunt job” in one of the largest Christian organizations in the world. One time I was helping out as a server for a gathering of the top 100 donors for this organization. These people were treated like royalty. Is this right or wrong?

When we did medical missions here in the Philippines, we would seek financial donors. Those who were donors were given special honor on the banners and reports, even though they did far less ministerially (usually) than the hosts and the team members. Is this right or wrong?

We set up our organization here, Bukal Life Care. When were were getting ready to put together the Board of Trustees, we were told that we should select rich people and people with power in the community. Actually, we did not follow that advice. We sought people of common heart but of diverse backgrounds. I think that was the right decision. But our group has always been on a “shoestring budget” (American slang for VERY little money). Actually, we would need to borrow shoestrings to be on a shoestring budget.

So what is right? Should mission agencies seek DEEP POCKETS? Should they give the rich prominent roles in their organizations? Should material prosperity be honored over a servants’ faithful attitude of service? (I don’t buy the argument that prosperous people are more godly than nonprosperous people. Both the Bible and observable reality contradict this.)

I do think that many organizations do things wrong… seeking money over godliness. Still, it seems like there is an important and godly place for fundraising. Additionally, receiving money should also mean accepting a certain amount of accountability from those who give. I don’t have the answers. I suppose, truthfully, I hope we stay small enough never to really have to face this issue. Being small, however, won’t necessarily solve this problem. As James noted, the problem comes from selfish, evil motives. All organizations can fall into that trap. Every organization, I believe, must examine its own corporate heart and motives first before addressing money (and vision) issues.

Reflection on Reflecting

For over a week, I have had no access to my wordpress.com blogs. I maintain four. This is one of them. Then we have one for our family (bobandceliamunson.wordpress.com). Then we have our main ministry (bukallife.wordpress.com). Finally we have our local (Philippine) church. (westbaguiobaptist.wordpress.com).  Some I do a better job of updating than others.

So for about 10 days I could not open these blogs, nor update. Rather frustrating. But then today, I have access again.  Great!!

So I was all ready to start putting down things in my blogs when I realized that I had nothing to say. That is odd. I normally have quite a bit to say… if not every day, at least every 3 or 4 days. It is not to say that there hasn’t been things that could inspire topics. My Missions History (master level) class is just finishing, and my Cultural Anthropology (doctoral level) class will start in a few days. I have been working slowly on a book for pastoral care in the Philippines… and have been working especially hard on pastoral assessment. But nothing jumped out at me to put in a post.

It occurs to me that I think by writing to some extent. My thoughts do not coalesce unless they go through the process of being put into written form. Additionally, however, I find it difficult to push through the process of writing down unless there is (the possibility at least) of readers or listeners. It is not the number of readers that matters, nor even the reality of readers. It is the POTENTIAL of readers that can motivate to write.

I am not so sure that this is unusual. There are relatively few Emily Dickinsons out there… writing at a high level with no plan to make the results available to the eyes of others.

So… NOW that I am in the middle of typing, it occurs to me what I really want to say (I had no idea when I started).

I don’t know about in other countries, but in the Philippines, missions teaching and missions writing are dominated by foreigners. A lot of bible schools don’t really pay much of anything for teachers… even less for missions professors. Why? One can get a foreign missionary to teach the class for free commonly (since they are externally supported). Publishing houses in the Philippines commonly publish foreign works… republishing in some cases foreign works, or new materials written by foreigners living locally. It is hard to make money writing in the Philippines so the ones that can write are often those who don’t need financial remuneration.

The result, to me, seems to be cyclical. Foreigners (in missions) write and teach, taking away the need (and incentives) for locals to write and teach missions. This creates a lack of qualified locals in missiology, resulting in a vaccuum that is filled by foreigners…. and around the circle again.

Some things can be done to improve things. Local publshing can actively seek local writers. I know of some schools that pay the same amount (either salary or honorarium) to all regardless of whether a foreign missionary or not. That removes the temptation to make teaching decisions, either way, based on cost.

Don’t get me wrong. I live as a foreign missionary here and enjoy teaching and writing. I also believe that we all learn by the “cross-pollination” knowledge… meaning that there should always foreign reflection and local missions reflection in any cultural setting. However, if it becomes to lopsided there can be problems. If either local or foreign reflection has all incentives removed… something valuable is lost.