Indigenous Missionaries are Setting the Standard for Training
Knowledge combined with a love for the brethren is how native missionaries are making such a tremendous impact in missions today.
|Today native missionaries from poor countries are the largest and most effective missionary force in the Majority World. But how has this come about? How has our Lord Jesus enabled these workers to develop such an impressive missionary force in the most challenging countries on earth?|
Yes, it’s true that native missionaries speak the language and understand the culture, but can this be the only reason they have been able to accomplish so much with so little? I believe the answer may also be in their methods of training, and particularly of discipleship.
The Example Set by Christ
In industrialized countries discipleship generally means to become a student of a learned leader or teacher who passes on knowledge to his pupils. In the Majority World discipleship also means that, but so much more. Leaders from native ministries must also pass along their Christian character to their disciples. They do this not only by teaching biblical principles, but also by getting involved in the lives of their students and co-workers. They help them with their needs, they walk together, talk together and eat together. And just as our Lord Jesus did, the leader will accompany his disciples as they go out to minister among the people.
For some of us in the industrialized world, this kind of involvement would be viewed as an abandonment of practicality. But it is exactly this form of servant-hood that has been responsible for the success of so many of the indigenous missionaries whom we support. They have taken to heart the words of Jesus in John 13:14-15 where he told his disciples: "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."
A Different Background
Another significant difference between the western approach to discipleship and the Majority World approach is that in industrialized countries people grow up with a notion of Christianity. This is not the case in many regions of the world where people grow up in a Hindu, Muslim, communist, Buddhist or animist environment. It is a totally different context. Native missionaries understand this reality and understand how best to disciple believers in their new faith because many of them come from these very same backgrounds.
Years ago I visited a few tribal groups where western missionaries had sacrificially spent over 50 years trying to evangelize in that area of the world.
Their efforts were commendable in that they were able to plant the seeds of knowledge about Christ. Unfortunately, however, the tribes’ faith was suffering from a syncretistic blending of animism with Christianity.
Eventually, a small group of native missionaries from that country opened a Tribal Bible Institute in the region. After a few years they were able to develop tribal missionaries from these groups and then sent them back to their own people. They were able to help these people caught up in their errant beliefs and give them a clear understanding of the gospel.
How were they able to dispel the animism that was inherent in their culture and religious practices? For one thing, they already knew about these peoples’ customs and beliefs since they had come from similar backgrounds. And being familiar with these ancient idols and practices, they were able to confront each one and replace it with the truth in the Bible.
Most native ministry leaders also have a good understanding of biblical principles – but this knowledge is constantly being tested in their everyday lives. They have learned by experience to depend completely on the Lord when they have very little food to share or for any of their other needs. Many of them are being persecuted daily and even their children are discriminated against. But in the midst of these trials, they continue to care deeply for their co-workers, as well as serving the very people who persecute them.
In this issue of our magazine, I hope we can assure you that indigenous missionaries not only have this solid biblical understanding, they are also mature Christians. Different kinds of schools and training methods are being employed but (and just as importantly) people in poorer countries have not lost their sense of community and they know the importance of relationships. Knowledge combined with a love for the brethren is how native missionaries are making such a tremendous impact in missions today.