In the third post of this series on Missionary Principles, I’ll be expanding on this:
Our missionaries ought not to be pastors of native churches
Once a local church has been established, the missionary must follow Paul’s example of setting up elders and deacons to take over the church. The missionary then goes on to new areas to start new churches.
The reasoning is simple:
1. Locals would prefer a church being run by a local Christian.
2. Locals would be forced to equip themselves to run their own church.
At the start, it might be necessary for foreign missionaries to form the church structure, programs and directions. Once that is in place, locals must be selected and groomed for leadership. Over-dependence on the missionary is lethal. Assuming the missionary has to leave the country due to various reasons, the local church would be lost and very soon could die.
It reminds me of a domesticated lion living in a zoo. It is fed food at regular intervals and doesn’t need to hunt for itself. When the lion is finally released into the wild, it starves to death as it doesn’t know how to hunt!
Similarly, the local church without local leaders to carry on the work will suffer once the missionary leaves.
Based on this principle, I have a mission strategy:
1. Once the missionary has started a local church, elders and deacons must be selected for grooming. Who to choose? Refer to 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1. This must be done sooner rather than later.
2. Once elders and deacons are established and seen trustworthy, the missionary should leave the church.
3. The missionary goes to new areas to start new churches. This does not mean the missionary cuts off all ties and contacts. Instead, he keeps in touch but does not control the leadership. He looks to new fields to harvest.
4. Once in a while, the missionary visits the church to strengthen them and see if there are any problems to be addressed. But at no point does he stay in the church to lead them.
This is much like Paul’s method. A more recent example is John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church. He rode on horseback in a circuit to visit churches established but never staying for a long time in each.