While I was in Denver last week, I met with an outreach pastor of a large church. This church has faithfully cared for Nancy and me and has financially supported our work since the early 1990’s. The leadership wants to continue our formal relationship, but we don’t fit into their normal “missionary” categories. They have warned us for the past couple years, that their financial support might have to end unless the church’s policies and procedures change or we conform to their structure. Ironically, I actually created some of the policies that now exclude us.

As I met with the pastor, we agreed that the world is changing and that new roles are emerging for Americans who are committed to helping the people most in need. He personally understands and supports what Nancy and I are doing with Anda Leadership. Unfortunately, the church’s procedures have not stayed current with the new awareness of Americans’ role in the global community.

Traditionally, churches have sent missionaries who are relatively independent. They go to a specific place with a particular agenda. They are primarily task focused and see relationships as a means to their end. This approach is not inherently wrong or bad, but it is incomplete.

It is becoming increasingly clear that Americans can play an important role by not being so task focused and instead focus on building relationships with local indigenous leaders who are working within their communities to build Christ’s Kingdom and improve people’s quality of life. These local social and profit-minded entrepreneurs are finding creative and relevant solutions, taking initiative, and accepting risk to accomplish the same agenda as an American missionary might attempt. Often they lack something that hinders their success. Sometimes, an American can give them a hand up that enables them to succeed where they might have otherwise failed.

The outreach pastor and I committed to work together to find a way for his church and Anda Leadership to develop a new way to structure our relationship. Maybe Anda Leadership will become something like a consultant or a contractor hired by the church to help it more effectively relate to leaders in areas where the church is already invested.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out during the upcoming months. Have you or has your church dealt with this or a similar issue? Do you know people who are doing good work internationally and need financial support, but who don’t quite fit the traditional missionary model? I would like to learn more about what is happening along this line.