September 09, 2014
It's Not About Indigenous Missions
By Brittany Tedesco
Remember how popular the slogan “Practice Random Acts of Kindness” was a few years ago? You’d find it on bumper stickers, in daily devotional books, and in those annoying email chain letters. It became a movement of sorts.
The “random acts” could include paying for the toll or the fast food lunch of the person in the car behind you, mowing someone’s lawn, picking flowers for someone, etc.
My husband and I heard about one church that sent out a group of people to rake the leaves in the yards of people living nearby. Upon seeing a group of strangers in his front yard, one man flung his door open and ordered them off of his property. That was one “random act” that wasn’t going to be happening on his premises.
I’m sure most people appreciated having their lawns raked…but was there a point behind the random kindness? Could the people, including the door-flinging man, have been reached in a more effective way?
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit; it should always be displayed in the life of a Christian. But nothing we do has to be random. We can be led by God Himself.
It requires listening. Less doing, more listening.
Remember when you were young in the faith? Did you want to “do something for God”? I sure did. I wanted to do something for Him where I could fully utilize my skills and abilities. But after many years of that not happening, I realized God didn’t need me for anything. He taught me that I needed to fit into His plan, whatever that might look like for me.
Tough lesson. Our propensity in the U.S. is to take action, to be the initiators. But what if we stopped and listened—in our personal lives and in our approach to missions?
What if God is already at work, and He’s simply asking us to join Him in His work—to fit into His plan?
If you know anything about Christian Aid Mission, you know we support indigenous missions reaching their own people inside of their own countries. But that’s not the ultimate reason we exist. We exist to see a witness for Christ planted among every people group on the earth. Indigenous missions is simply the most effective way to do this.
Approximately 90% of effective pioneer work among unreached peoples in the world today is being done by missionaries who are native to the land. That’s not random. God is at work, and we simply joined Him.
For one thing, native missionaries aren’t seen as “other,” an attribute that is crucial in this age of increasing global persecution.
We all know Christians are being severely persecuted in Iraq. But it’s happening in many countries. The recent election of India’s Prime Minister, a Hindu Nationalist, has fueled persecution of Christians in India and Nepal. A movement is now underway in every state of India to “reconvert” Christians back to Hinduism.
“Why do you want to adopt a foreign religion?” mobs of angry Hindus scream at native pastors as they kick and beat them.
Christianity is viewed as a foreign religion in many countries. Why would we want to add evidence to the charge by showing up as foreign missionaries?
A few years ago, I went to Africa to visit a ministry Christian Aid Mission was assisting. Stepping out of an air-conditioned van in a rural village, I was approached by several curious Africans. A teenaged boy who spoke some English immediately started asking me questions about “Britney Spears,” “Jay-Z,” and others in the American pop music industry. Ironically, his desperate attempt to form some sort of connection with this white-skinned foreigner made me realize just how much of an “other” I really was in Africa.
Could I have really shared Christ there without implicating Him as a foreign god? Would that teenaged boy, so enamored with American culture, “accept” Him because it’d be the cool Western thing to do?
Our South Asia Director told us the story of a foreign missionary who shared the gospel, through an interpreter, with a group of people in Bangladesh. When he gave the altar call, every single person responded. “A great harvest!” he excitedly reported back to his home church. In reality, it wasn’t a harvest at all. Bangladeshis wouldn’t dream of disrespecting a foreign visitor by NOT responding to an invitation, no matter what the invitation was for.
There are always exceptions to the rule. Christian Aid assists a few ministry leaders who started as foreigners, but completely integrated into the culture by marrying a local, eating the same food, living in the same primitive conditions. They didn’t return to their countries of origin on furlough because those weren’t their homes any longer.
The issue isn’t indigenous versus foreign. The issue is presenting the gospel in the most effective way possible. It's apparent to us that God is using native missionaries for a strategic purpose in these last days. Nothing He does is random, and nothing we do has to be either. Find out where God is at work, and join Him in that work.
PS: God is using native (local) ministries in Iraq to share material aid and the hope of Jesus Christ with the multitudes of people forced from their homes by terrorists. Many are accepting Him as Lord and Savior! You can join Him in this work by helping us spread the word. Use #HelpLocalIraq and link to www.christianaid.org/iraq.