October 13, 2015
The Pitfalls of the Indigenous Way of Doing Missions
Post by Brittany Tedesco
When Dr. Bob Finley started Christian Aid Mission in 1953 to support native missionaries, the idea was controversial and met with heavy criticism.
Skeptics questioned the prudence of trusting native missionaries to undertake the Great Commission inside of their own countries. Financial integrity and accountability were among the top concerns.
Were the critics right? Is it unwise to support indigenous ministries?
Once upon a time, a Spaniard we'll call Antonio* cried out to God, "If you're real, speak to me!" He was in an elevator on his way to a hotel room. Highly educated at 27 years old, he had taught chemistry and math at a Catholic school in Spain. He knew of God, but didn't know Him.
The bellhop helped him to his room where he found a Gideon Bible on his bed. When he asked why the Bible was on the bed, the bellhop told him it was for those who wanted "to hear God speak to them."
The same day Antonio accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he preached the gospel to his entire family. In one week, 35 of his family members became believers. Along with Antonio, his family began to share the Good News with others. Within the span of a few weeks, 200 people were born again.
That's not all. Antonio began preaching in the prisons of two districts in Spain, and the first year, 1,000 inmates gave their lives to Christ. He gradually expanded his outreach to all of the prisons in Spain, and today there are more than 100 "home group" churches inside of those prisons.
Revival had begun in a spiritually dead country, where many were disillusioned with the Catholic Church and had become atheists.
As a direct result of the 70+ house churches Antonio has planted in Spain, he is seeing between 10 and 15 people come to the Lord every week.
According to Antonio, in the last 10 years, the percentage of evangelical Christians in southern Spain has risen from 1% to 8%.
The revival is spilling over the border into Morocco, separated from Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar. On the north coast of Africa, sharing a western border with Morocco, is the Spanish city of Ceuta.
Every day, approximately 20,000 Moroccan women enter Ceuta to buy and sell goods in the marketplaces. The vast majority of these women are Muslim. Antonio's ministry to the Moroccans began after he and his coworkers led several of these women to the Lord in Ceuta, and encouraged them to go back and share with other women in Morocco.
Coming from southern Spain, Antonio's culture is very similar to that of the Moroccans, who have been quick to accept him as one of their own. Friendly talks lead to discussions about God—namely the evidence of Him in creation—which eventually lead to the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Through Antonio's work, more than 100 house churches exist in Morocco. . . and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Because a man who is native to the land shared the gospel with his family, and these natives went out and shared with their friends and neighbors, thousands of people have come to Jesus. This amazing movement is entirely organic.
If there is a problem with the indigenous way of doing missions, does it lie with the actual native ministries. . . or with the organizations that go about interacting and becoming involved with them?
Christian Aid Mission's method of supporting indigenous ministries is very different from the methods other, similar organizations employ.
For one thing, Christian Aid Mission does not plant churches or train believers in other countries. We support indigenous ministries that do this. We find effective ministries like that of Antonio and allow them to do their work without our involvement—other than to find out what they need and raise support for it. Ministries such as these do not need our training or input on how to plant churches. In fact, we think they could teach us a thing or two on this very subject.
Furthermore, the ministries we help remain fully independent and are not affiliates of Christian Aid Mission. There is no legal or denominational bond between the two. We're not building an empire overseas. We seek to build God's kingdom.
We understand that our role, from the beginning, has been to come alongside these independent ministries to serve them by providing them with the resources they need to accomplish their own unique visions for reaching their people with the gospel of Christ.
We do not hire local believers to do our bidding, rather we serve them by making their needs known to our supporter base for prayer and financial support.
The goal of Christian Aid Mission, from its inception, was not to grow its footprint throughout the world, but to bless and expand the outreach of indigenous ministries working in areas of great poverty and persecution. Though we require certain standards** from the ministries we support, we do not direct or instruct them in how to go about reaching their own people. We find dedicated, faithful servants of the Lord, already at work in their own nations—using their own, usually meager, resources to reach the lost—and help them do what God has called them to do.
Staying within our boundaries, and respecting the boundaries of the ministries we serve, has acted as a safeguard against our stumbling into some of the same pitfalls that other, similar organizations have.
The Great Commission wasn't just given to the United States of America, it was given to the Church—worldwide. And we are committed to helping our brothers and sisters overseas with the financial assistance they need to carry it out in their respective countries.
*Name withheld for security purposes
**Every ministry supported by Christian Aid Mission has been fully vetted by our Area Directors to ensure it meets our high standards in the areas of faith, financial integrity, and fruitfulness. Each ministry is required to have a board of directors, and provide detailed accounts of how funds sent from Christian Aid Mission were used. Our Area Directors routinely travel to their regions to visit ministries and communicate frequently with them to learn their work and needs.