Book Summary
by Bob Young

Bonk, Jonathan. Missions and Money.

Bonk writes from the perspective of a Canadian Mennonite who is concerned about the possible negative influence of missionary affluence. He reminds that North American missionaries, having given up so much by the standards of their culture, go to the mission field and find themselves regarded as rich. Even with limited resources by our standards, the personal resources, employment security, benefits, and available lifestyle choices are much different than the average person in the countries to which we go.

How rich are we? Bonk addresses the nature, scale, and context of missionary affluence. He is concerned that a sense of entitlement is at very core of Western missionary thinking.

Among the consequences of affluence Bonk lists (1) costs relationally, (2) costs in communication and strategies, and (3) theological, ethical, biblical considerations which focus the disconnects.

A great challenge of affluence is that it is difficult to find our way out. Yet Bonk says it is imperative to find our way out-the approach we are taking is not sustainable, either in the changing resources available stateside or in the numbers that need to be sent. Our missionaries are too dependent on the accoutrements of affluence, in distinction to those to whom they are sent. In fact, Bonk describes the average North American missionary as lavishly-supplied. He cites the religious decline in the United States and Europe as an example of what is wrong with our society and its felt need for affluence. Consumerism is a habit of the heart. He then addresses the fact that we can make good arguments-economic, health, domestic, social, and strategic-for high levels of missionary support, but that such arguments do not change the way those we desire to reach see us.

Expanding his treatment of the consequences of missionary affluence, Bonk lists missionary insulation, missionary isolation, an unbridgeable social gulf, social disparity, illusions of superiority, relationships of mistrust, relationships of dependency, mixed motives for response, and hostile relationships leading even to envy.

Concerning communication problems, Bonk expands three areas.

Bonk lists four strategic costs.

He concludes with a challenge: We should at least try to grapple with the challenge of affluence. Could we become a part of the fellowship of venturers in simple living?

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Last updated March 20, 2008