A New Legacy of Traditional Missions

The exchange of missionary personnel among developing countries

During the past 30 years there has been an explosion of missionary activity by churches in Latin America. This movement began as Latin American leaders studied materials from American and Canadian missiologists translated into Spanish and Portuguese. Soon the idea of "sending missionaries" to other continents spread throughout the region.

In the late 1980s, mission conferences were being held in Brazil and almost all of the other Latin American countries. This triggered a proliferation of "sending" missionary agencies. During this time, a mission statement that became very popular among these agencies was, "We are not a missionary field any more – we are a missionary force." Unfortunately, however, this statement was not referring to Brazilian churches sending their missionaries to reach their own native tribes in the Amazon jungle – or Venezuelan evangelicals taking care of their own ethnic groups. This statement meant these poorer countries wanted to send their own armies of missionaries across the Atlantic – copying the traditional methods used by missions based in industrialized countries. Today when Latin Americans talk about missionary work, they are mainly talking about sending missionaries to the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Missionaries from poor countries are being sent to other poor countries, where they do not speak the language, nor do they understand the culture.

It´s time we stopped for a moment to take a closer look at the situation. We need to evaluate the financial costs involved in training, sending and sustaining just one missionary to a faraway land.

Today tradition dictates that we perpetuate the sending of missionaries to places where they do not speak the language or understand the culture, even though native ministries are already there doing the work. And we have exported this methodology to poorer countries.

We rejoice and give thanks to God for all the churches around the world which have a desire to enlarge the kingdom of God. But, it would be tremendously more cost effective and fruitful for them to prayerfully consider giving support to native ministries in poorer regions. The Macedonian Christians did not send missionaries to Judea, but instead sent a sacrificial offering to "the poor saints" there to help them bear witness for Christ (Romans 15:26).

As for us in industrialized countries, if sound stewardship really matters, then we need to seriously evaluate the concepts we are exporting to the rest of the world.

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Luke 14:28