How Generous Should Churches Be With Unwed Mothers?

Fornication and adultery are major problems among the teens (and adults) in our village. The South African government only irritates the issue by offering grant money to poor girls with children, thus encouraging a girl to have a child with a man who acts like one. Moreover, it is widely known that South Africa has among the highest AIDS rates in the world. So while the government promotes “safe sex” to the youth, our church preaches “pure sex”.

Often girls in our neighborhood will have babies out-of-wedlock; rarely, but at times, girls in our church will too. Should we be generous with gifts for the single mom? If the answer is no–because marriage is the prerequisite for such–why not include church membership, hospitality, and consistent Bible reading?

On the other hand, our church is small enough for the congregation to know in general which mothers are wed and those who are not. Would honoring them with gifts be a tacit softening of our position on fornication? Suppose Masana, a 19-year old member of our church, falls into sin and has an illegitimate child. What should we do? Of course we love her, implore Matthew 18-repentance, counsel, and pray for her. But isn’t the bestowal of baby clothes and ribbons with smiles on our faces the universal speech for agreement, joy, and commendation? Everyone agrees that Jesus showed kindness and forgiveness to the adulterous woman at the well, but neither did he proclaim her before all as a woman to be praised. In our village, there is no longer shame for having a child out-of-wedlock. In fact, it is far more disgraceful to be a wedded woman of thirty years of age with no children than to be an unwed girl of eighteen with two babies. If everyone in the village claps for the latter, should the church as well?

This is a difficult problem. Recently, a girl who has sat under our teaching and been involved in our ministries for years had a child out-of-wedlock. My wife made a large gift bag and we presented it to her in the hospital. Here are five reasons why.

1. Because she is still performing a very difficult and noble deed in raising a child, which is more than can be said for the father and those mothers who decide to kill their children prematurely in the womb. She did not make a wise choice in conceiving the child, but she was honorable in keeping it. A 2005 survey recorded nearly 250 abortions per day in South Africa. Department of Health figures show that between August 2012 and July 2013, 85,000 South African women aborted their children. This woman was not among them, and this should be commended. Continue reading

Blitzkrieg Missions: “Are Short-Term Trips A Friend or Foe to Missionaries?”

Early on in WWII, it is said that Hitler did not make a single error in judgment. He was decisive and swift, and above all feared for his blitzkrieg wars. He played psychological games by fitting the famed, German Stuka bombers with sirens. These planes would come in at incredible speeds, make lots of noise, bomb the cities, intimidate the people, then quickly vanish.

While I am in favor of short-term missions (or, Blitzkrieg Missions), they have limitations. ST missionaries don’t see many of the difficulties of the field because they are not there long enough to experience them. If the Western church is not careful, their short-termers will look very much like those German Stuka bombers–coming in quickly, making lots of racket, and departing before the dust clears.

In general, I am in favor of STM. I took the standard high school trip to Mexico but it was the reading of Hudson Taylor’s two-volume biography while on a three month survey trip of Ghana that eventually led me to full time missions. So I’m a fan of STM. I’m also a foe. Why?

STM trips can be a colossal waste of money

It is not unusual for a trip to cost $30k in airline tickets for a single team to have a two-week experience. When Helping Hurts (which I review here), states: “The money spent on a single STM team…would be sufficient to support more than a dozen far more effective indigenous workers for an entire year. And we complain about wasteful government spending!”

Short-termers rarely have the privilege of standing back and watching the character of the pastor or ministry they want to support. We must work hard to avoid paternalism. Distinguish between relief and development. A country wiped out by a hurricane needs immediate relief. Funds should be given quickly and generously. But a building project for a poor church in Moldova does not fit into the same category. Shrewdly discern the two.

STM trips may inadvertently be stealing responsibility from the nationals

Americans are initiators, self-starters, and confrontational. Many cultures are not this way, so when visiting Americans take the lead in giving and doing, many are all too happy to stand aside and let them lead.

Laziness, greed, and unnecessary dependence on others is a temptation to everyone, and men in the ministry are no different. I have seen nationals far too many times taking advantage of generous Westerners with exaggerated and sometimes fabricated stories to pull heart strings along with purse strings. Of course we are to be generous to the poor as Jesus commands, but how to do this is the complicated issue.

A Shangaan Proverb says: “Wealth is found in the mud”, meaning: “Precious things are often found after great effort.” When we give money to national churches or pastors without any effort or responsibility on their part, we are stealing the joy that could only come through sweat and toil.

A lot more could be said, but perhaps this article will suffice in reminding churches that STM trips are much more complicated than simply raising airfare. Even Hitler could do that.