Unlocking the Church’s Potential: Resource Mobilization

The mission of the newly-established Lausanne Resource Mobilization Working Group (RMWG) is to enable the global Church to discover, develop, and deploy God’s resources for world evangelization. Our vision is for a global culture of generosity and effective stewardship of God’s resources. With this in mind, we are working to bridge the gap between wealth and poverty and, in so doing, support world evangelization.

One of the aims of the RMWG is to identify barriers to generous giving and effective stewardship to help unlock the resources of both the rich, young ruler and the widow and her mite.

Barriers to giving include:

  • a poor understanding of the biblical commands to give,
  • a poor understanding of the needs among ministries,
  • the lack of information on opportunities to give, and
  • a suspicion that the resources are not well utilized.

Our poor understanding of the biblical commands to give is reflected by the fact that from the US$18.2 trillion earned annually by 2.2 billion Christians across the world, the current level of global giving to the Church is less than 2.5% of income—well below the basic tithing levels. Global mission income makes up only 5% of this already low level of giving to the Church, such that the sum spent on missions ($23 billion) is less than the level of ecclesiastical crime ($25 billion)!

The global credit crunch has made matters worse, with many missions complaining of reduced income. But we believe that the global Church has an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference—as individuals working as a body, united through Christ.

India’s Obscene Contrasts
Current low levels of giving are also reflected in the extremes of wealth and poverty that we observe today—something that needs transnational and transcultural cooperation. These extremes persist not only between developed and developing countries, but within them as well. 

Ebe Sunder Raj, former head of the India Missions Association and current chairman of the Christian Institute of Management, offers the following input on Christian ministries in India:

Our motherland is a land of obscene contrasts. After sixty years of democracy, the disparities have not diminished; rather, they have increased in several areas. India itself is a place of immense wealth and poverty. The highest-paid corporate executive in the U.S. is an Indian, Sanjay Jha, who takes home US$104 million a year, while one-third of his countrymen back in India live on half a dollar per day. Turn to the Indian Christian world, and you will see that it is not radically different. There are Indian Christian ministers who own a huge amount of personal assets but still appeal through powerful marketing methods for more.

Raj contrasts the above with average grassroots evangelists and pastors in India who go and work in the tribal jungles and Dalit slums and are paid only $50 a month. Some of this is due to the lack of information on opportunities to give. Often, Christian giving goes disproportionately to ministries with the means to communicate their marketing message, while other ministries (which may be more effective and in greater need of support) go unnoticed because they are not, for whatever reason, able to communicate those needs.

Indeed, the visibility of well-supported ministries may lead some to conclude that their giving is not necessary or, worse, that their gifts are not spent effectively. Still others may despair, concluding that the needs are so vast that our giving does not seem to help or may even make matters worse.

The RMWG is planning sessions for the Cape Town 2010 Congress (16-26 October 2010) that will seek to highlight, explore, and address such issues. We will share information on levels and patterns of global giving in different parts of the world. We will discuss innovative case studies of effective resource mobilization. We will talk about how we can inspire Christians in our churches to give generously as a heart response to Christ’s generosity to them.

Technology Revolution
The technology revolution, which has brought the Web, social networking, and mobile communications, provides unprecedented opportunity to eliminate the sorts of barriers we have been discussing, and promote engagement within the Body of Christ.

For example, U.S. President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign showed how thousands of donors giving smaller gifts helped mobilize hundreds of millions of dollars for his political campaign. Imagine what we could achieve by using something similar within the Body of Christ.

We believe that strategies that mobilize the many to give whatever little they can are more sustainable for the Church and world mission (and have the potential to release far more resources) than just relying on a few who give a lot. We will aim to demonstrate the use of technology to mobilize resources in this way and highlight practical examples that illustrate this. 

The challenges are not just for the wealthy. They are for all of us. Two of the major challenges we face are (1) the limits of our language and (2) a theology that implies the donor is superior to the receiver.

This second point is a fallacy that needs to be addressed urgently and we need to work hard as Christians to remove such misconceptions. If we are serious about moving the dial of giving from the current unacceptable levels of around 2%, we will need to move from the old paradigm of an ownership role to one that sees us all as stewards of God’s resources.

We need to move from a culture which tithes (and we’re clearly not all there yet) to a culture that sees everything as belonging to God. We need to move from a culture of giving just from income to one that gives from income and assets. We need to shift from a culture of tipping to build a global community of believers who work together to fulfill the vision of a global culture of generosity and effective stewardship of God’s resources to support world evangelization.

Holistic Biblical Stewardship
To make these seismic shifts in our thinking and behavior, we need to rediscover that biblical stewardship is holistic, embracing every area of life in the context of Christ’s total Lordship. I am grateful to my friends at the Stewardship Council for producing the NIV Stewardship Study Bible, which serves as a Bible study tool, a devotional aid, and a year-long course in the theology of stewardship and generosity, all wrapped up into one tremendous resource. Resources like this so vividly remind us that scripture is filled with God’s acts of mercy and grace: generous acts of a loving God. One profound implication is that financial generosity cannot be untangled from a broader understanding of generosity.

Since all of life, not just God’s grace and mercy, are acts of generosity on God’s part, issues of giving can scarcely be separated from this broader understanding of stewardship—that is, God’s ownership of all things and our effective management of that which has been entrusted to our care. Ministries will become sustainable for the long term when God’s people recapture the vision of holistic, biblical stewardship, understanding that God’s generosity touches every area of life.

Ram Gidoomal is chairman of the board of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation and chairs the Resource Mobilisation Working Group.