One of the failures of American missions is that we have been poor stewards of the resources God has given us. We not only have a responsibility to do everything in way that brings glory to God and in a way that is completely in line with Scripture, we also have to be as effective as possible. In one word this is stewardship. Here is an idea on how we can improve missions stewardship.
I have heard many missionaries say that they have the goal of starting churches and then training nationals to carry on the ministry. Their rationale is that the nationals will be better equipped to reach their own people than an American missionary. This makes perfect sense. But let’s carry that thought process a step further. If nationals can do a better job of reaching their own people, why do American churches not support non-American missionaries/ministries?
Let’s back up one more step. What is the purpose of missions? Would you not agree that it is to spread the gospel to the ends of the world for the purpose of making disciples of all peoples? If that is the goal of missions, we have a responsibility to do that in the most effective way possible. And if nationals can do a better job of reaching their own people than American missionaries can, why not support them in addition to American missionaries?
The question is this, “What makes it possible for nationals to do a better job of reaching their own people?” Here a few reasons off the top of my head:
- They already know the language. Time and money does not have to be spent on this, again allowing us to be better stewards.
- They already know the culture. They know how to contextualize the gospel.
- They already know the city in which they live. Time does not have to be spent on learning the area.
- They already understand the spiritual climate. They were raised in it.
- They already have relationships built.
In addition to this, there is another benefit. You don’t have to worry about the all-to-common problem of the American missionary starting an Americanized church in a non-American location, thus limiting his effectiveness. The national is starting the church, which makes transitioning that ministry to another national much easier.
I understand the challenges that are associated with a concept like this. But why not put effort into finding non-American missionaries or church planters who have doctrinal and financial accountability to partner with for short periods of time?
Let me state very clearly that I am not all suggesting that God cannot use American missionaries on the foreign field or that they are wasting their time. I have many very good friends who are missionaries and who are doing a great job. There will always be the need for American missionaries to go to the foreign field. I am not suggesting that we no longer support American missionaries or that we should put all of our resources into supporting nationals.
However, I am suggesting that if we are going to improve missions, we must begin to think outside the box. We need to be open to supporting non-American, national, church planters. This will allow us to see a greater effectiveness and be better stewards with our resources.