Perhaps no area of cooperation has generated as much debate and uncertainty as that of financial resource sharing. Finances are in limited supply and many cross-cultural missionaries, especially from Newer Sending Countries (NSC) continue to leave the mission field because of inadequate financial support.
Howard Brant stated, “Creating and maintaining a sustained income stream for emerging missions is probably the greatest challenge of the emerging missions movement.” In a recent survey given to house church leadership in China, 97% of 141 respondents stated that they believe foreigners can help the Chinese house church do missions. Most (73%) felt that training was the primary way to help, but 25% felt that foreigners might assist through donating money and other resources. Some expect that the West may be able to provide the mission expertise and finances while “Asian partners contribute local field knowledge, passion, and growing missionary force.” However, there are both practical and theoretical arguments against injudicious implementation of this approach.
Funds can become a stumbling block to mission efforts. Nationals in the employ of foreign missionaries may find their motivation for gospel service questioned by their Christian peers, sometimes facing outright rejection. In the past, communist China “saw subsidies to Chinese churches and workers as evidence that Christianity was not only a foreign religion, but an instrument of Western imperialism.” Conversely, sacrificial giving by native church members from the NSC for the purpose of sharing Christ with those who have not heard may speak convincingly of God’s love and underline plainly the indigenization of Christ’s work. In China, the estimated total of finances donated by the West has raised concerns that the amount “may be too high for the benefit of the China church.” Cultural differences in accounting practices (lack of transparent public accounting) may create suspicion of inappropriate use of funds. Friction can develop between foreign financial supporters and emerging mission senders over the manner of fund utilization. Subsidies may limit reproducibility if evangelistic and missionary methods that are dependent on foreign funds become the rule. Hian notes that financial dependence weakens a sense of stewardship. Development principles articulated by Bryant Myers favor the indigenization of a financial support model for emerging missionary senders.
Although rejected by contemporaries in China, the Nevius plan purportedly became the guiding principle behind the “mushrooming” Christian movement in Korea.  John Nevius observed how the employment of native evangelists tended to stop the work of volunteer evangelists who resented not being paid. Roland Allen trumpeted similar concerns.  When Chinese churches received Western aid, they experienced minimal growth and the church was feeble.  In India, when missionaries stopped paying national workers, “the number of lay workers multiplied, which resulted in mass movements to Christ in the Methodist Episcopal Church.” One author boldly states, “The majority world missions movement would be better off using its own resources to send fewer missionaries, compared with using foreign resources to send more missionaries.” Brant concurs,
The prevailing theory is that the more affluent nations need to propel this giant [missions] forward with outside funding. In our opinion, unless this paradigm is challenged and changed, at both ends [the West and emerging missions movements], no long lasting change will result. The West can and should contribute in appropriate ways. But the needed income for the emerging missions movements will only become sustainable as their leaders develop internal systems that generate core funds.
Use of indigenously generated funds for missions avoids the creation of dependency and encourages national church initiative.
A role remains, however, for the discriminating, time-limited use of funds in the encouragement of Chinese missionary sending. According to Nevius’ second principle, “Missions should only develop programs and institutions that the national church desired and can support.” The Chinese church clearly desires involvement in missionary sending, and there is reasonable expectation that it will be able to financially support missions in the near future. In fact, successful missionary sending through tentmaking models  and by means of the implementation of best practices (article forthcoming) may even encourage the church to more rapid development of financial support structures. Gailyn Van Rheenen has suggested general questions that can be asked before money is accepted or given by missionaries to national church leaders. They are remarkably relevant to the Chinese context.
- Are missions resources used to maintain local churches or to plant new ones?
- Does support create unhealthy dependence or encourage national church initiative?
- Are national church leaders ethically, morally, and spiritually responsible to other national church leaders who understand their culture?
- Do supported national leaders expect to be supported by their own people in the near future?
- Are national leaders supported on a level consistent with the local economy or on the economic level of members of the supporting church?
- Does the support of one national leader create jealousy because other equally qualified people are not supported? Who determines who is qualified or not?
- Does support unknowingly create hierarchies so that churches and institutions are controlled by the West rather than by local Christian leaders?
Western initiated plans need an exit strategy whereby the local church can take over the ministry. With an exit strategy in place, funding for Chinese mission-sending entities could reasonably come from both national and international sources at this point. In order to prevent the development of Chinese church dependency on foreign support, the principles outlined in the Nevius Plan, books by Roland Allen, and other relevant material should be considered carefully. With sound principles of financial giving in place, fears of dependency should not be allowed to hinder monetary support coming from the overseas church.
- Allen, Roland. 1962. The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. Eugene. Oregon: Eerdmans.
- Allen, Roland. 1997. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Kindle ed: Wipf and Stock.
- Brant, Howard. 2009. “Seven Essentials of Majority World Emerging Mission Movements. “In Missions from the Majority World: Progress, Challenges, and Case Studies, edited by Enoch Wan and Michael Pocock, 43. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.
- Chan, Kim-kwong, 2009. Mission Movement of the Christian Community in Mainland China: The Back to Jerusalem Movement (Draft). edinburgh2010.oikoumene.org, www.edinburgh2010.org/fileadmin/files/edinburgh2010/files/pdf/Kim-Kwong%20Chan%202009-2-28.pdf.
- Hian, Chua Wee, 1976. “Encouraging Missionary Movement in Asian Churches.” In Readings in Third World Missions, edited by Marlin L. Nelson. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.
- Hwa, Yung, 2004. “The Church in China Today.” Transformation no. 21 (2): 126-128.
- Kam, Yi Du, 2006. “Beyond ‘Back to Jerusalem’.” ChinaSource, Vol. 8, No. 1. http://www.chinasource.org/resource-library/articles/beyond-back-to-jerusalem.
- Lewis, Jonathan, 1991. “Equipping Tentmakers: An Argentine Perspective.” In Internationalizing Missionary Training, edited by William David Taylor, 158-159. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
- Myers, Bryant L. 1999. Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books.
- Nevius, John L. 1889. “The Planning and Development of Missionary Churches.” New York: Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions. archive.org/stream/plantingdevelopm00nevi/plantingdevelopm00nevi_djvu.txt
- Ott, Craig, 1993. “Let the Buyer Beware: Financially Supporting National Pastors and Missionaries May Not Always Be the Bargain It’s Cracked Up to Be.” Evangelical Missions Quarterly, No. 29 (3): 286-291.
- Ott, Craig, Stephen J. Strauss, and Timothy C. Tennent. 2010. Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues, Encountering Mission. Grand Rapics, MI: Baker Academic.
- Park, Han Soo. 2008. A Study of Missional Structures for the Korean Church for Its Postmodern Context, Department of Intercultural Studies, Fuller, Fuller Theological University.
- Tan, Kang-San. 2011. “Who is in the Driver’s Seat: A Critique of Mission Partnership Models between Western Missions and East Asian Mission Movements.” In Understanding Asian Mission Movements: Proceedings of the Asian Mission Consultations 2008-2010, edited by Jonathan Ingleby Simon Cozens, and Kang San Tan, 51-64. Gloucester, UK: Wide Margin Books, Kindle ed.
- Terry, JOhn Mark. 2000. “Indigenous Churches.” In Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
- Van Rheenen, Gailyn, 1996. Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
- Van Rheenen, Gailyn. 2001. Money and Mi$$ion$ (Revisited): Combating Paternalism. Monthly Missiological Reflection #13, Missiology.org: Providing Resources for Missions Education, http://www.missiology.org/?p=247.
- Warne, Frank W. 1917. “India’s Mass Movements in the Methodist Episcopal Church.” International Review of Missions no.6 (April): 204-205.
- Withheld, Name. 2012. Assisting Chinese House Churches to Become Great Commission Churches, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
- World Evangelical Fellowship Missions Commission. 1997. Too Valuable to Lose: Exploring the Causes and Cures of Missionary Attrition. Edited by William D. Taylor, Globalization of Missions Series. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.