Protestant Aid: Canadian, UK, and US Church Engagement in International Development

Studying Monty Lynn’s doctoral dissertation, Making a Tremendous Discovery

This dissertation is an appreciation of the charity work and overseas humanitarian aid given by North American and British churches. You can read it here.[1] The author, Monty Lynn, is professor of business management and international development at Abilene Christian University. Monty Lynn writes of this aid as coming from congregations, especially megachurches. However, churches always partner with mission agencies and aid organizations to accomplish their goals. By partnering with mission agencies and aid organizations, churches are enabled to “go around doing good” (Acts 10:38). Here is a summary of Lynn Monty’s research:

  • Thousands of churches
  • + Dozens of mission agencies
  • = Hundreds of international short-term trips international and millions of dollars in overseas humanitarian aid.

Ralph D. Winter referred to this as “the warp and the woof” of Christian mission. The one cannot say to the other, “I have no need of you.” “To make one of the two structures central and the other secondary, as the term “para-church” seems to do, is probably unwise.”[2]

Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the early 1830s. De Tocqueville admired the hundreds of voluntary societies into which Americans organized for doing good works:

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds, constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds; religious, moral, grave, futile, very general, very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fetes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools. Finally, if it is a question of bringing to light a truth or developing a sentiment with the support of a great example, they associate. Everywhere that at the head of a new undertaking, you see the government in France and a great lord in England, count on it that you will perceive an association in the United States. [3]

Above: Most Frequently Recurring Partner Organizations

Only 3% of church mission money goes to Missionary Support. (I do not know what “Missionary Raising” refers to). Monty Lynn cautions:

With half of the activities being short-term and with short-term missions being the dominant activity within that category, questions about development efficacy arise.  Is there a mutual exchange among donor and beneficiary? Is a building project for a missionary’s home, a church, or a Christian camp, development?  When is a sports program in a developing country development, and when is it not? Is teaching English, for ten days, development? How is impact assessed and measured?[7]

Blincoe: A good read, introducing the reader to the good work being done overseas by churches. Fifty percent of the entire aid work undertaken by churches is short-term mission trips. How should short-term mission trips be evaluated? Consider a megachurch such as Saddleback Church in Orange County, California. It has been Saddleback’s mission goal to send every member on a short-term overseas trip. Saddleback has sent more than 20,000 church members on short-term overseas trips. How shall that huge, but largely unexamined, aspect of the church’s mission commitment be assessed?

Don’t miss what Monty Lynn writes about partnerships between churches and mission agencies. Churches and mission agencies are the two structures of God’s redemptive mission.

[1] Monty LaFon Lynn, “Protestant Aid: Canadian, U.K., and U.S. Megachurch Engagement in International Development” (University of London, Centre for Development, Environment and Policy, School of Oriental and African Studies, 2014).

[2] Ralph D. Winter, “Protestant Mission Societies: The American Experience,” Missiology 7, no. 2 (1979). 195-196

[3] Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America / Translated, Edited, and with an Introduction by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). p. 489 (volume two, part two, chapter five)

[4] Lynn, “Protestant Engagement in International Development.” P. 14.

[5] Ibid. 14

[6] Ibid. 14-15

[7] Ibid. 40