When Charity Destroys Dignity: Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement

Glenn J. Schwartz
World Mission Associates, 600-C Eden Road, Lancaster, PA 17601, 2007, 412 pages, $19.99.

Reviewed by Howard L. Foltz, professor of global evangelization, Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia.


I was recently given a book of extreme significance — When Charity Destroys Dignity: Overcoming Unhealthy Dependency in the Christian Movement, by Glenn J. Schwartz. The author writes from field experience and more than twenty years of doing seminars on “dependency.” Schwartz’s field experience was in Africa; however, his writing applies to the mission movement around the world. It was refreshing to read his personal pilgrimage in missions; he writes with a sense of personal vulnerability and humility, always reminding the reader that “everything is not discovered yet on the theme of dependency issues.”

Many missionary statespersons, including Ralph Winter, affirm the reality of the negative impact of dependency of foreign mission movements on outside resources. Schwartz includes many powerful illustrations of the negative impact of dependency. More importantly, he cites illustrations of national movements which have moved away from dependency to reliance on God’s resources working through their national structures. In reading this book, we see that the causes of dependency are deeper and broader than most missionaries think. For anyone interested in multiplying churches, this book should be read in tandem with David Garrison’s Church Planting Movements. According to Garrison, church planting movements are held back by two dominant forces: outside control and outside resources. Today, when there are still over 6,500 unreached people groups waiting to be evangelized, dependency must be averted to target resources on those who have not heard the gospel. Schwartz’s principles offer measurable help in this regard.

The author provides an illustration of a national “support box” that is contemporary wisdom for all missionaries to apply. Also, his chapter on cross-cultural adjustment is excellent. I consider this book a great text on the foundational principles for developing mission and church planting movements. Schwartz offers encouragement and advice on helping grassroots mission movements in the national context develop mission-sending structures. This book also intersects with the book Discipling Nations by Darrow Miller, who states that “ideas have consequences.” The “ideas” of reliance on God or dependency certainly have far-reaching consequences. I encourage every missionary and new missionary candidate to read this book. Everyone might not agree with all of Schwartz’s ideas and principles; however, his ideas must be considered and answered appropriately.

Check these titles:
Garrison, David. 2003. Church Planting Movements: How God Is Redeeming a Lost World. Midlothian, Va.: WIGtake Resources.

Miller, Darrow L. 1998. Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Cultures. Seattle, Wash.: YWAM Publishers.

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