Supporting Indigenous Laborers
Gospel For Asia Article
Learn more about why native missions is the new revolution in world missions.
Today the reality is...
that 97 percent of the world's unreached lives in the 10/40 Window, a rectangular
shaped area on our globe extending from West Africa to East Asia, from 10 degrees
north to 40 degrees north of the equator. In this part of the world, millions
live with little or no chance of ever hearing the Gospel. The Window also encompasses
the majority of the world's Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists.
The darkest of all areas within the 10/40 Window is Asia. Over 80,000 die every
day in Asian countries without knowing about the love of Jesus Christ. 500,000
villages in India alone have never heard the Gospel.
Although 97 percent of the world's unreached lives in the 10/40 Window, less
than .05 percent of our total resources as the Church in the West are being
sent to help share the Good News. Truly there is a staggering amount of work
However, with native missionaries we can reach them!
With few or no cultural barriers to overcome, native missionaries can...
readily preach the Gospel to those who, unlike their western counterparts, have
never heard. Although native missionaries do face many difficult obstacles as
they take the message from village to village, they still have an enormous advantage
over their coworkers from North America and other non-Asian lands.
Today, over 85 percent of Asian countries do not allow western missionaries
to come and freely preach the Gospel and plant churches.
In the eyes of the people, native missionaries do not represent a foreign country
or a strange religion. They already know the language or can easily learn a
A native missionary can be sent out at a fraction of the cost of a Western missionary.
In fact, the average cost is only $1,100 to $1,800 per year compared to over
$75,000 per year for a foreign missionary.
The possibility of reaching Asia's multitudes through native missionaries in
our generation is very real as thousands are being trained to plant churches
Thousands of native workers...
are being trained and sent to the mission fields of Asia every year through
Gospel for Asia. But many more are needed if the millions in these countries
are to hear the Gospel in our lifetime.
To date 54 Bible colleges have been established in India, Nepal, Bangladesh,
Myanmar, Sri Lanka and at the Bhutan border. Currently, nearly 9,000 young men
and women are currently receiving training.
The quality of GFA students is incredible. Over 98 percent of our graduates
minister in places where the Gospel has never before been preached. Frequently,
our graduates will establish a new fellowship within their first year on the
This incredible fruit from native missions work is being reproduced across Asia!
On average, our missionaries establish approximately 15 fellowships every day
in Asia among unreached villages and people groups.
But none of this has come easily. Our native missionaries are paying a high
price of suffering, hardship and intense persecution to see churches established.
The churches planted in each culture are truly indigenous in character, self-governing,
self-propagating and, as soon as possible, self-supporting.
Thousands of native brothers and sisters are waiting to be sent. They just need
Your part in winning Asia...
is just as important as that of the workers on the field. Although they are
willing and eager to go, they are limited by the resources given to provide
a small room to rent, food to eat, and Bibles and tracts to distribute.
Without support from Christians around the world, our brothers and sisters in
Asia simply would not be able to complete the task of sharing Christ with every
village and people group.
It takes only between $90 and $150 per month to support a native missionary
through Gospel for Asia. You can help support one worker with a monthly donation
of $30. As a sponsor, you are asked to pray regularly for your missionary. When
you become a sponsor, your missionary's picture and testimony will be sent to
There are numerous other ways to impact the lost world through Gospel for Asia.
Llearn more about how you can be involved in reaching the most unreached.
International Mission Board - Southern Baptist
Successful church plants in Moldova, Armenia and Georgia
P r a g u e - Three years after its founding, the European Baptist Federation's
(EBF) Indigenous Missionary Project (IMP) has noticebly expanded its efforts.
At the EBF council sessions beginning today in Prague, the Polish-born IMP-Coordinator
Daniel Trusiewicz (Wroclaw) stated: "It's easier for native Christians
to win their fellow countrymen for the Gospel of Jesus Christ than for foreign
missionaries." This programme was launched in 2003 by four missionaries
in Moldova. Forty missionaries working in an area stretching from Russia's Arctic
Circle to the Black Sea are now involved. The long-term objective is to support
200 indigenous missionaries. These efforts occur in close cooperation with national
Baptist unions and local congregations. Within five years, the church planter's
work should be developed enough to drop outside funding. After the initial two-and-a-half
years, funding is reduced by 25% every six months. Only three support recipients
have given up; all others are serving very successfully.
One of the most successful church planters according to Trusiewicz is the 29-year-old
Moldovan Igor Seremet . He not only planted a new congregation in the regional
capital of Annini Noi now numbering 50 members, this congregation also founded
two further ones during its first two years of IMP support. Trusiewicz hopes
for similar developments elsewhere. The Baptist Union of Moldova already is
one of Europe's most successful unions. When the Iron Curtain fell, the country
hosted 230 Baptist congregations with 11.000 members. Today the numbers total
521 congregations and 21.000 members. IMP is supporting eight IMP-missionaries
in this country.
Similar church planting tallies are to be found in Armenia. Since 1990, the
number of Baptists has grown from 400 in four congregations to approximately
3.000 in 100 congregations and mission stations. The IMP is supporting two missionaries
there. The Georgian Baptist Union has also experienced significant growth during
this period, expanding from 10 congregations with 2.000 members to 75 congregations
and 5.000 members. Two missionaries are being supported in this country. Trusiewicz
states that the Baptist unions of Western Europe rarely experience such growth.
Membership is stagnant in the large Baptist unions of Great Britain and Germany.
The Baptist Union of Norway has applied for support from this missions project,
but it has not yet been approved. The EBF supplies the IMP with roughly 125.000
Klaus Rösler, 23 September 2005
Missions Frontier Magazine
Let the Buyer Beware
Financially supporting national pastors and missionaries may not always be the
bargain it's cracked up to be. --Craig Ott
In the light of the skyrocketing costs of sending North American missionaries,
more and more churches and individuals are supporting national pastors and evangelists,
who generally require a fraction of the support of Western missionaries. These
native workers not only cost less but know the language and culture of their
people, and they often have access to countries closed to traditional Western
Many churches have established direct partnerships with churches in Asia, Africa,
Latin America, and Eastern Europe, which include considerable financial subsidies.
By sending dollars to support national Christians to evangelize their own people,
one proponent claims a new wave of missions has come that offers "the best and
only hope for taking the Gospel" to the world.(1)
A careful study of the history and theology of missions will, however, reveal
that financial support of national pastors and evangelists is fraught with dangers.
In fact, such well-intended subsidies often weaken receiving churches and undermine
world evangelization in the longer term. Think twice before you start supporting
nationals in your missions giving, and consider the following dangers.
The Nine Caveats
1. Western support of native workers is a model that national churches cannot
reproduce. To be effective, any missionary strategy must be reproducible. Missionaries
normally try to model ministry that national believers and churches can both
carry on after the foreigners leave and reproduce in further evangelism. In
this way the missionary multiplies his or her efforts, and the gospel's spread
does not depend on foreign presence or assistance.
Western funding of native workers is a model nationals can never reproduce themselves
because it, by definition, depends on outside funding. As a result, churches
will tend to assume that seeking support from mission agencies or partnerships
with wealthy Western churches is the normal way to support pastors and send
missionaries. Success in ministry becomes tied to Western purse strings. When
the dollars stop, so does the evangelism--a very questionable strategy indeed,
considering the precarious future of the U.S. economy.
A missionary who was working in a tribal group in Mexico had to spend days traveling
from village to village by donkey. Thinking of the travel time that could be
saved, a well-meaning friend offered to buy him a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The missionary wisely rejected the offer, explaining, "If I use such a vehicle,
the natives will say, 'We can't do evangelism unless we also have such a vehicle.'"
His ministry would cease to be reproducible. Having a good long-range strategy
often means rejecting methods promising greater short-term results.
To reproduce themselves, native churches must discover creative ways to spread
the gospel and plant churches without outside support.
2. Such a strategy is based on the assumption that the spread of the gospel
depends on money. Financial resources can help disseminate the gospel, and sacrificial
giving is an important Christian discipline demonstrating commitment, love,
and devotion to God and his purposes. But making the fulfillment of the Great
Commission dependent on the church's ability to raise money is a fallacy Western
Christians have uncritically, unconsciously accepted. It reflects our Western
materialism and commitment to a professionalized ministry. Again, this theoretically
limits God's work to the measure of the church's economic prosperity.
Encouraging nationals to seek Western support for evangelism sends developing
churches a not-so-subtle message: "In order to evangelize and send missionaries,
you must have money to support professionals. Because your resources are limited,
you must seek Western financial aid."
While we may encourage nationals to give sacrificially to support their own,
we must avoid communicating that professional pastors and missionaries are the
only, or even the best, way to reach the world for Christ. One of the greatest
missionary movements in the church's history was initiated by Count Zinzendorf
and the Moravians, who achieved a ratio of one missionary to every 12 communicant
members. Eventually they had three members on the mission field for each one
at home.(2) They did this by developing creative ways of generating partial
to full self-support; in modern jargon, they became tentmakers.(3)
Roland Allen said the apostle Paul never took financial support to the churches
he started and argued persuasively against such a practice.(4) When we make
finances a "key" to world evangelization, the danger is great that we are basing
our mission strategy on cultural, materialistic values rather than biblical
3. It can create dependency and stunt giving in national churches. Admittedly,
there is great poverty in many countries, but teaching new churches to depend
on Western resources can blind them to recognizing their own giving potential
or seeking creative ways to overcome obstacles by trusting God.
The history of missions is replete with sad stories of resentments created when
developing churches became dependent on Western funding. (5) Programs are developed
and workers are hired on the basis of outside subsidies, and national churches
come to expect and count on them. When sending churches seek to reduce the subsidies,
or when the national believers spend or hire ways disagreeable to the supporting
churches, hard feelings and misunderstandings normally result. Any giving to
mission churches or native workers must answer two questions: "Will this stimulate
or discourage local giving?" "Will it create unhealthy dependency and foreign
dominance, or help the church mature and become self-sustaining?"
The amazing growth of the church under communist oppression in China demonstrates
that churches can grow and mature even under the most severe conditions without
Western support. Indeed, when the Chinese churches received Western assistance,
they experienced minimal growth.
4. Heavy dependence on Western funds can reinforce feelings of inferiority.
Because of the extreme poverty in many countries,
nationals already feel inferior. Western support of native pastors and evangelists,
and the resulting dependency, strengthen the belief that only Western Christians
have the resources (namely, money) to evangelize and maintain their churches.
Such support can result in a new form of the old paternalism that so characterized
the colonial era. Giving in ways that advance self-sufficiency and self-worth
demonstrates love, but giving that creates dependency is dehumanizing and oppressive.
5. Western support can create a mercenary spirit among nationals. While the
motives of most national pastors and evangelists are above reproach, even motives
for Christian service can become easily mixed when a secure and steady income
is offered to those willing to become pastors or evangelists. Competition and
jealousy can arise among believers vying to secure coveted, paid positions in
a land of hunger. Westerners are rarely in a position to discern motives, and
they all too often tap leaders the nationals would not have chosen.(6) Churches
can become resentful or jealous of other churches receiving extravagant subsidies
from American partner churches due to personal connections.
Eastern European churches, which have learned to survive, and, in many cases,
carry on significant ministries under great hardship, relative poverty, and,
often, lay leadership, are now facing the challenges of new freedoms and adjustment
to Westernization and materialism. If not done with the greatest care, the outpouring
of well-intended financial gifts from Western churches could do much to further
confuse and pollute churches that have been purified by 45 years of communist
All too often native pastors and churches have become preoccupied with ministries
that attract Western dollars (such as orphan work), while neglecting more basic
pastoral care and evangelism. Even development work, if not wisely administered,
can hinder church growth.(7) A great missionary statesman of the last century,
John L. Nevius, observed how employing native evangelists in China tended to
stop the work of volunteer lay evangelists, who resented not being paid, thus
hindering the natural spread of the gospel.(8) William Kornfield describes how
churches among the Quechua Indians in Latin America that were once self-supporting
and self-propagating have, as a result of financial paternalism, become divided
and have lost the vision for reaching the lost.(9)
6. Foreign paid workers are not always more effective, and sometimes are even
less effective and credible than lay workers. When the mission stopped paying
national workers in India, the number of lay workers multiplied, which resulted
in mass movements to Christ in the Methodist Episcopal Church.(10)
National evangelists are sometimes rejected by their peers when the latter discover
that Westerners pay them. In China they are called "the white man's running
dog." Foreign nationals may judge foreign- paid evangelists as mercenaries,
or even subversives, who have become Christians and preach the gospel only for
the financial benefits. The communist Chinese saw subsidies of Chinese churches
and workers as evidence that Christianity was not only a foreign religion, but
an instrument of Western imperialism.(11) The heavy Western subsidizing of national
evangelists and pastors could reproduce these kinds of suspicions in Asia, Africa,
Latin America, and Eastern Europe today.
Nevius wrote, "While working with their hands in those several callings they
bore testimony to the truth wherever they went, and were exciting great interest
in their own neighborhoods. It was not long, however, before these men were
employed.and the interest in and about their homes ceased..I have not been able
to learn of any one of them, that his after career was a specially useful one.
I refer to these not as unusual and exceptional."(12)
When national believers fail to support their own workers, the impression is
reinforced that Christianity is in fact a foreign religion that has neither
taken root nor inspired the deep commitment of its followers. Furthermore, church
members can resent a pastor who is not accountable to them because his salary
is paid by a foreign mission or church. This danger is especially great today,
as some North American churches have started directly supporting pastors of
poorer Eastern European churches, bypassing the local congregations those pastors
On the other hand, it is a tremendous testimony of love and commitment when
national believers who have so little sacrifice greatly to support their own
pastors or send evangelists to tell others the Good News. This demonstrates
that Christianity is not a Western religion or an agent of imperialism, but
has in fact commanded the deepest commitments among the various peoples of the
7. It can rob the national church of the joy of being a truly missionary church.
When the Evangelical Free Churches of Venezuela caught a vision to send their
first missionary to tribal work, they sought assistance from the North American
mother mission. The mission leaders responded, "If you are to be a truly missionary
church, you must send them and support them yourselves." At first the Venezuelans
didn't understand, and they protested, "But you have so much and we so little!"
Soon, however, they raised the necessary support and were able to send their
first missionary. There was tremendous joy at that commissioning service, because
the Venezuelans saw how God provided and knew that they had become a truly multiplying,
missionary church. Had North American funds been provided, they would have been
robbed of that joy.
8. Employing national missionaries may not be the bargain it appears. While
not all native missionaries will need costly higher education, we have to ask
what kind of preparation they will require. Cross- cultural ministry, contextualization,
and so on are challenges faced by Western and non-Western missionaries alike.
To avoid the mistakes of the past and to increase their effectiveness, missionaries
must have careful preparation and training. Specialized ministries in particular--such
as Bible translation and medical work--demand extensive training, which normally
does not come cheap.
Larry Poston questions whether native missionaries really live as cheaply as
some claim, especially in the cities, where the cost of living can be staggering.
Given the fact that the world is rapidly urbanizing, a long-range strategy must
include reaching the urban masses.(13)
Donors should carefully ask about the training and placement of "bargain missionaries"
before assuming that they really are receiving more "bang for their missionary
9. Sending money instead of missionaries comes dangerously close to compromising
the very essence of the Great Commission. The Great Commission calls us to not
only send dollars, but ourselves. Just as the Father sent the Son to become
man and dwell among us, Jesus sends us into the world to personally identify
with those whom we would reach. This will not always be the most economical
solution, but it will be the greatest demonstration of love: We cared enough
to surrender our comfort and way of life to share God's love with others.
I do not mean to underestimate the importance of sacrificial missions giving.
Missionaries must be sent. Relief and compassion ministries must go on. There
is a place for certain types of financial assistance to developing churches.
This article, rather, is a call for discernment in how those funds are spent.
To truly promote the long-range purposes of world evangelization, subsidies
of national churches and workers must promote the planting of reproducing churches,
protect the integrity of national believers and their witness, and avoid pitfalls
described above. Pragmatism cannot be allowed to overrule spiritual principles
and blind us to the lessons of history. Short-term gains can sometimes mean
long-term disaster. As Wade Coggins writes, "If our churches give only their
money, and not their sons and daughters, our missionary vision will be dead
in a generation or less. We can't substitute money for flesh and blood."(14)
To reach our ever-changing world for Christ, new and creative strategies are
indeed called for. But we must not become bound by unbiblical methods that are
outdated or rooted in materialistic assumptions. There are no short-cuts in
the task of world evangelization. It demands total commitment. It also demands
Two whole editions of Mission Frontier Magazine have been dedicated to this
topic of the pros and cons of supporting national workers if you are interested
in reading more. All of the information can be found here
1994 and here
Monthly Missiological Reflection #15
"Using Money in Missions: Four Perspectives"
Soon after writing Monthly Missiological Reflection #2 on Money and Mi$$ion$
(February 2000), I received letters from two Christian leaders. A long-term
missionary co-worker challenged me for rejecting the self-support principles
that we had learned in our missions training and consistently employed during
the first twenty years of our mission work in Africa. At about the same time
a dedicated Abilene Christian University graduate student from Africa wrote
saying that my writings were biased in favor of the support of American missionaries
and largely excluded the possibility of American churches working directly with
national leaders in supporting and developing missions works. He felt that I
was racially prejudiced. Both emails were copied to a number of people. These
two letters, written by dedicated brothers, demonstrate the sensitivity of the
topic under discussion.
In many cases missionaries hold to perspectives of self-support while national
leaders feel that these perspectives are rooted in paternalism and prejudice.
In discussions each side indicts the motives of the other. The issues then become
so emotional and personal that effective communication is impossible.
This issue has also surfaced in the pages of Christianity Today . Robertson
McQuilkin, president emeritus of Columbia International University and past
executive director of the Evangelical Missiological Society, wrote an article
entitled, "Stop Sending Money! Breaking the cycle of missions dependency" (1999,
57-59). In the article he quotes national leaders, such as Bishop Zablon Nthamburi
of the Methodist Church of Kenya, who said, "The African Church will not grow
into maturity if it continues to be fed by Western partners. It will ever remain
an infant who has not learned to walk on his or her own feet" (1999, 58). McQuilkin
then suggests that our standards for the use of money in missions should be
measured against four biblically based principles: Does the giving (1) win the
lost? (2) Encourage true discipleship? (3) Honor the role of the local church?
(4) Nurture generous givers? (1999, 58). He concludes that the New Testament
specifically designates that the poor are to be the primary recipients of money
and that the support of preachers, construction of church buildings, and creation
of institutions emerged only when the church was able to afford them (March
1, 1999, 58-59).
McQuilkin's self-support perspectives were challenged by Bob Finley, chairman
of the Christian Aid Mission of Charlottesville, Virginia, in his article "Send
Dollars and Sense: Why giving is often better than going" (1999, 73-75). Finley
agreed with McQuilkin that "churches, by their very nature should be self-supporting"
and that "the most effective indigenous missions organizations are those independent
of foreign control and not affiliated with foreign denominations or missions
organizations" (1999, 73). He, however, stated the belief that "providing financial
support to indigenous ministries is effective if a clear distinction
is made between directly supporting individual workers . . . and . . . supporting
such workers indirectly through indigenous missions boards that give oversight
to the handling of funds" (1999, 73). He encouraged missions leaders to make
wise decisions by never supporting individual missionaries directly, holding
the local missions board accountable for decisions made, and requiring financial
accountability (1999, 74).
This Monthly Missiological Reflection builds upon the perspectives of these
articles and responds to the above-mentioned letters by giving strengths and
limitations of four models for using money in missions. Two of these models
were described historically and philosophically in January's
Monthly Missiological Reflection . This article, however, describes all
four models and depicts the results, both positive and negative, when these
models are applied to mission life on the field.
The Personal Support Model
Many of the abuses of money suggested by McQuilkin are due to the frequent use
of the personal support model . In this model foreign churches and
individual Christians, and even mission agencies, send money directly to
national preachers and evangelists without collaboration and oversight by mature
church leaders on the field. Outsiders make decisions without a mature body
of believers or agency providing on-the-field planning and accountability. Frequently
this direct support begins when rich foreigners hold a campaign in a mission
context and then begin supporting the preaching minister of the local church
who has hosted them.
The abuses that result from the use of this model arise because supporters are
unable to clearly discern the church situation from afar and across cultural
barriers. Seldom are foreign Christian leaders able to perceive the motives
of those that they support. Those supported may be articulate and communicative,
especially when visitors are present, but not minister out of a deep conviction
or God's call. They rather minister because the job provides an income that
they would otherwise not have. For example, the executive director of a major
director of a major Pentecostal group in Uganda said, "I would jump to another
religious group if they paid me more. Currently I am not making enough to live
on the level I desire. Many of the pastors under me feel the same" (Van Rheenen,
1976). Many supported leaders, however, are guided by good motives but even
they tend to cater to the theologies and methodologies of those who support
Dependency frequently becomes so great that local leaders believe that they
cannot initiate other churches without rich benefactors providing the funds.
Jealousies between those who do and do not receive support erode Christian community.
Many church leaders go through intense faith dilemmas when their support is
terminated and frequently jump to another religious group or entirely lose their
Paradoxically, this model is typically used to support pastoral rather than
apostolic ministries. In other words, money from rich nations is employed in
the support of local preaching ministers rather than support of evangelists
or "missionaries" initiating new churches. These churches, however, should all
be self-supporting! In rural areas of the world, where the cultural organization
is informally organized and there is more time for ministry, vibrant churches
should have numbers of vocational ministers and pastors serving the flock. In
urban contexts, where there is a cash economy, growing churches should support
their own preaching ministers and pastors.
The personal support model is easy for the local churches and Christians
in rich lands to implement because they have only to write a check, and if they
desire, periodically visit the national Christians that they support. When they
visit, supporters tend to get a glamorized picture of the work with little understanding
of what is actually occurring.
The personal support model thus tends to hinder rather than empower missions.
Supporters and local church leaders should seek to transition from this model
to the partnership model (described below) in order to put accountability and
decision-making into the hands of reputable Christians in the areas where the
national evangelists live.
The Indigenous Model
The indigenous model contrasts sharply with the personal support model.
In this model missionaries seek to initiate churches that are self-supporting
from their inception. For example, an American, European, or Korean church or
agency supports their missionaries to plant new churches, nurture young Christians
in these churches to grow to maturity, equip national leaders supported by their
own people and resources, and then pass the baton of leadership to these developing
A number of principles guide the self-support orientation of the indigenous
model. When missionaries, churches, and agencies with great wealth begin supporting
local preachers living in less-wealthy areas of the world, dependency occurs
which ultimately hinders the growth and maturity of the new Christian movement.
The support and governance of the mission agencies and sending churches become
like scaffolding in the construction of a new building. In some cases, however,
the scaffolding cannot be removed because, paradoxically, it has become the
structure holding the fragile building together. Likewise, many anemic mission
works are unable to stand without the support of foreign scaffolding (Henry
Venn in Beyerhaus, 1979, 16-17).
Local churches and Christian institutions should generally reflect the economy
of their areas. If churches in poor countries are built on the basis on wealthy
economies, they will never be able to stand on their own. Frequently institutions-schools,
hospitals, and agricultural ministries--are created by use of outside finances.
These institutions, created in a poor country by using finances from rich countries,
seldom become locally supported and supervised. Instead of decreasing, the amount
of support (and resulting control) tends to increase over the years, resulting
in more dependence by nationals and more control by foreign churches and agencies.
Once a preacher or church leader is supported by outside Christians or agency,
it becomes exceptionally difficulty to transition to local support. The expectation
is, "Once supported by outsiders, always supported by outsiders."
This is particularly true of rural areas of the world, where many of the people
live partially on a subsistence level. In other words, while they do not have
much cash, they do have produce from their farms, which form the foundation
of their economy. These rural churches are generally like a family, informally
and interpersonally organized. In such contexts it is advisable to develop churches
with a multiplicity of lay leaders but with no full-time preacher. The introduction
of a full-time minister, where few have specialized jobs, in most cases creates
jealously and dissension.
McQuilkin's article and the letter from my co-worker indicate that the indigenous
model of support is the only effective model. Finley's article and the letter
from the African leaders seek to refute this affirmation.
The Partnership Model
The partnership model is significantly different from both the personal
support and indigenous models . The partnership perspective recognizes
that there are certain contexts in this internationalizing world where foreign
money, if appropriately used can empower missions without creating dependency.
This money, however, rather than going directly to the recipient, should go
through a local accountability structure of mature Christian leaders. Finley
supported this perspective when he wrote that "providing financial support to
indigenous ministries is effective if a clear distinction is made
between directly supporting individual workers . . . and . . . supporting such
workers indirectly through . . . boards that give oversight to the handling
Effective partnerships require churches, agencies, or consortiums of national
leaders who have the maturity to oversee the developing work. The leaders within
the partnership mutually decide the duration of the partnership, accountability
for use of money, and methodologies for their specific mission tasks. Without
such dialogue or "mutual complementation" partnership eventually breaks down
because trust erodes and interest wanes.
In an effective partnership most decisions are made by the leaders closest to
the field but with full consultation and dialogue with outside supporters. These
partnerships should be of limited duration and focused on specific goals. For
example, a church will work with a group of leaders to plant an urban church,
who will then use their local finances to establish other churches. It must
be recognized that all international urban contexts function in cash economies,
and growing urban churches should all be able to support their own preaching
minister. A presupposition of this article is that local churches, soon
after inception, should be able to be self-supporting whatever model they employ
. Partners should cease supporting stagnant, non-growing works that through
the guise of partnership have really become dependent upon outside support for
the needs of the local church.
This partnership perspective is based on a number of practical realities. As
the world internationalizes, old dichotomies between missionary-sending and
missionary-receiving countries are breaking down. For instance, Christians of
different nationalities marry and become missionaries. Would families of mixed
nationalities with one marriage partner being of the sending nation and the
other of the recipient nation be considered foreign missionaries or local evangelists?
In this context is one partner a missionary and the other a national church
leader? In addition, areas which until recently were mission fields (for example,
Korea and Brazil), are today sending out their own missionaries so that there
are currently as many church-planting missionaries from the Southern as from
the Northern Hemisphere. For example, there are a number of Brazilian missionaries
from a charismatic heritage planting churches in Uruguay. In fact, five of the
eight full-time evangelists of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God are
An example of this internationalization can be seen in the business world. Companies
first begin internationalizing by exporting products to consuming countries
without industrial infrastructures and allowing local marketers to sell their
products in their country or economic sphere. Soon, however, these companies
set up their own marketing infrastructure to maximize profits. A new phase of
internationalization occurs when the companies research the market to determine
the needs of their audiences within this the sector of the world. Based upon
this research, the companies develop manufacturing within the once-recipient
country in order meet the expectations of local consumers. Soon the companies
invite their best executives to join them in international decision-making and
planning at their company headquarters. The companies have thus moved through
progressive stages to become internationalized simply be expanding their markets.
Mission agencies and urban churches have likewise become increasingly international.
Some mission agencies, like World Christian Broadcasting and Herald of Truth
in Churches of Christ and Operation Mobilization and Youth with A Mission in
the evangelical world, have gone through a similar process of internationalizing.
The reality is that old models of missionary finance do not neatly fit into
globalizing world contexts.
At least two pragmatic factors have led me to consider the need for international
partnership. First, it is difficult for church movements to begin from scratch
in highly specialized, time-limited, money-driven urban cultures without initial
financial help. Urban churches that are planted based upon the self-support
principle seldom survive because they do not have the resources to impact a
multi-cultural urban culture. Those established upon the basis of a purely indigenous
approach generally become isolated congregations on the periphery of the city.
Neo-charismatic churches from Brazil, on the other hand, have invaded Uruguay
and Argentina with enough initial money to pay their missionaries, rent theaters,
conduct crusades, and begin TV programs. A purely indigenous approach in a city
the size of Montevideo, Uruguay, or Buenos Aires, Argentina, would sound naive
and shortsighted to these very effective urban evangelists.
A second pragmatic reason for partnership is the need to help mature movements
within poorer areas of the world to develop the structures of continuity to
nurture all the local churches within their fellowship and to become missions-sending
movements. For example, every field researcher can recount numerous stories
of church planting movements which have disintegrated because foreign missionaries
left without collaborating with local leaders to develop what Monte Cox calls
"structures of governance, expansion, finance and theological education" (1999,
These structures should be organized on both congregational and associational
levels. On the congregational level the community of faith, guided by the Word
of God, must determine how local churches are organized and how these local
congregations relate to one another. On the associational level mature church
leaders and missionaries collaborate in developing teaching, equipping, and
encouraging structures above the level of the local church. Local churches should
bond together, as did the early churches in Jerusalem, so that they help each
other. Vocational and full-time national evangelists must also form teams to
complete the evangelization of their area and spread the Gospel into adjoining
and distant areas. Training schools on the association level almost always provide
forums for creative reflection and equipping of leaders and youth for local
churches (Van Rheenen, 2000, 43).
Partnership, like the indigenous model, has many pitfalls. For example, partnership
could become another name for paternalism if outsiders control decisions and
set agendas. Under the guise of partnership a subsidy system is introduced which,
in reality, is no more than the personal support model. Another limitation of
partnership involves the difficulty of communicating across cultures to make
authentic decisions and the fact that decisions are made differently in various
cultures. The tendency today is to idealize partnerships without considering
some of these very significant problems (For future discussion of "Problems
with Partnership" refer to Van Rheenen 1996, 198-202).
The Indigenous/Partnership Model
Finally, there should sometimes be a mix between the last two models--the indigenous
and the partnership approaches--forming what we will call the
indigenous/partnership model . During the movement's first generation,
missionaries work to establish initial beachheads of Christianity by planting
the first churches, nurturing new Christians to maturity, and training national
leaders. Because the work is self-supporting during these formative years, early
Christians come to Christ, not because of financial inducements but because
of faith commitments. In their partnership they seek to develop structures of
continuity to nurture existing fellowships and train evangelists to enable this
to become a missions-sending movement. In other words, national and missionary
leaders collaborate with sending churches and agencies to develop these structures
of continuity that will enable the national church to not only stand on its
own but cause the movement to expand.
In conclusion, I believe that the last three models (indigenous, partnership,
and indigenous/partnership), can each be effectively employed in various world
contexts. Generally, indigenous and indigenous/partnership perspectives appropriately
apply to rural, face-to-face cultures, which do not have a high degree of specialization
and do not relate extensively to the international arena. Urban situations are
frequently quite international, and models of partnership are more likely to
empower the church rather than to create dependency and control from the outside.
Too many mission-sending churches and agencies, however, operate with no model
for the use of money in missions. Their decisions about money and missions are,
therefore, likely to be inconsistent, haphazard, and paternalistic.
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