Working within an organization such as Kingdom Driven Ministries has posed some challenges as we walk out the commands of Jesus on the ground. He said to “Go and make disciples,” and “teach them to obey all that [Jesus] commanded.” Well, Jesus asks us to store up treasures in Heaven, not on Earth. He challenged the rich young man to sell his possessions and give to the poor. We read in Acts of the early believers selling what they had and re-distributing the resources to meet existing needs. Jesus said that man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15). Yet, as Nik Ripken aptly notes in The Insanity of Obedience,
“We [Westerners] tend to rely on the power of financial resources to accomplish the highest goals and aims of both individual believers and mission organizations.”
It is true that we, in the West, overwhelmingly think of meeting needs in terms of allocating our financial resources. But here at KDM, we have always believed as Ripken implies: an injection of money into a Kingdom mission that is designed to make disciples is actually detrimental to the health of that mission. The Scriptures are clear that many are led astray by their desire for money (1 Timothy 6:10); unfortunately (because of both colonial and missionary history), East Africa has already been corrupted by the influence of outside money and the power that is exerted with its contribution.
Our primary mission is, and always has been, to introduce the authentic Kingdom Gospel and see resulting life transformation in the form of obedience to Jesus. This should naturally result in faithful disciples who make disciples, thereby forming new fellowships of Christ-followers. But because of the color of the missionary’s skin and the association it has with money, many come just seeking assistance. So, as much as possible, we try to separate the mission (which is The Great Commission) from financial assistance.
Jesus said to “let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and they should glorify your Father in the heavens” (Matthew 5:16). The Apostle Paul also exhorts in Galatians 6:10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” We cannot proliferate a Kingdom mission without also modeling the commands the Scriptures in this regard. Yet, it does create a quandary when such assistance is contrary to disciple-making.
Now that we’ve been on the ground in Kenya for four years, we have settled on a plan of action which seems to facilitate meeting both goals: the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. First, we (Western missionaries) model the teachings of Jesus by personally helping our brothers and sisters in the church and our neighbors in the village. We bandage cuts, give medication off our shelf, and give financially when asked. However, we are careful to articulate that financial gifts are from us personally, in obedience to Jesus’ teaching to “give to those who ask”–it is NOT associated with our church fellowships or the organization of KDM. Sure, there can be some wrong assumptions about that, but we do our best to be clear and to be a good witness in that regard.
When assistance is provided through KDM, we leverage our indigenous discipleship and leaders to actually do the work and stand out front, to minimize the association between the mzungu (white person) and money. We also do not “advertise” Kingdom Driven Ministries as an organization when we do any projects or medical missions work. This is in an attempt to keep people from affiliating with our fellowships out of obligation, or in an attempt to find personal benefit. We are also very careful about the types of projects we take on and the work we commit to in the community. Some of this has been learned the hard way, by trying to assist (particularly with microloan/gifts for businesses) and seeing the negative outcomes that have resulted in pretty much every case.
We at KDM appreciate the partnership of our donors, and we hope that you appreciate that we try to be good stewards not only of your financial gifts, but also of the health and growth of the Kingdom mission here. In addition to your giving for “the least of these,” please also pray for the medical needs, for the poor, for the malnourished, for those suffering with HIV, and especially for the discipleship and emerging leadership who will soon be responsible for the next generation of believers in East Africa. We praise God for all he has done and will continue to do through our partnership with faraway brothers and sisters in Christ who care deeply about the mission here on the other side of the world.