Last week, I mentioned my conversation with an indigenous Christian leader who has seen nearly 500 churches planted in a staunchly Hindu part of India over the past 20 years. I asked him what role Western Christians can play in planting churches in these areas of the world. He recommended rolling up our sleeves and coming alongside through prayer, materials, training, finance, and infrastructure. (You can read the entire post here).
Sounds good, but what if there aren’t any indigenous Christians in a particular Hindu city or Buddhist village with whom foreigners can partner? My own view is that the Bible commands us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). In such areas, I believe foreigners can serve as catalysts who get out of the way once a gospel takes root. As the Lord does this, the foreigner finds new supportive roles that can equip and empower the new believers. I saw this happen in a Muslim context in North Africa a few years’ ago. It was quite beautiful.
But there’s another issue. I can’t help thinking that God doesn’t really want one part of his body to be busy while another part kicks back, writes a check and is done with global missions. Using churches in North America only as ATM machines doesn’t seem good stewardship. Yes, financial support has a role, but isn’t there a lot more to global engagement in missions? Hasn’t the Lord given an amazing array of gifts throughout His body that He wants to get used? Leaders from the US can learn fresh insights about leadership from leaders in the Global South. Leadership is a gift. If we Westerners can humble ourselves to learn from our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas, could we not be refreshed by their faith and obedience in discipleship and evangelism? Are there under-used spiritual gifts and talents in Western churches that could complement mission efforts of our brothers overseas?
All this is a whole lot more messy than stroking a check. It’ll take the Holy Spirit and a lot of discernment and a lot of time for foreign and indigenous Christians to figure out, but it can and should be done. Don’t different parts of the body belong one to another (Romans 12:5)?
Werner Mischke has done the church a great favor with his curriculum, “The Beauty of Partnership: Equipping Followers of Jesus Christ For Healthy Cross-Cultural Partnerhips to Bring Hope to the Peoples of the World” www.beautyofpartnership.org. I encourage mission leaders to explore it.
So, when it’s time for your church mission committee to approve the line items on your church budget, don’t re-elect the policies of “Just send a check” or “Keep the money for local missions.” Instead, switch things up. Allocate funds for your leadership to take a vision trip to explore partnership with indigenous believers. Set aside funds for training materials for new indigenous believers amongst an unreached people group. Develop a blue-sky fund for church planting amongst a minority. If we’re “individually members one of another”, then let’s implement policies that reflect that in 2013.