Missionary Principles Series, Part 4 of 11: Training of Native Christians

This is the fourth part, in a series on Missionary Principles. Simply stated, the principle is:

The chief work of the missionary must be the training of native Christians

I believe there is a place for traditional missionaries who settle into a different land, culture and sometimes, spend their whole lives there. This is called ‘incarnational’ work, just like Jesus, who incarnated as a human and dwelt among us. This is needed especially in a place where there are no Christians.

However, not everyone can afford to move for a long period of time. Some may have standing obligations at home whether it be work or family. But don’t let that be an excuse for you do nothing and leave it all to missionaries.

You can do this: Empower locals to spread the Gospel.

I call this the ‘Empowering Mission Trip’ or EMT where you use your short-term trip to train workers. Train a few, and the far-reaching effects spreads out.

My parents and church have been doing EMTs for years with much fervor. From what I learnt, there are several advantages of EMTs:

  • No need to stay overseas for months or years. Short-term trips are possible.
  • With a translator, you don’t need to learn a new language. But I advise you learn basic phrases to build rapport with the locals.
  • Local missionaries know the culture, language and can survive at lower costs than a foreign missionary. Supporting a local missionary is usually cheap and effective.
  • One missionary can only do so much. But if a local group of missionaries are trained, the web of contacts is dramatically increased.

Can you imagine, Jesus left the Gospel into the hands of 12 disciples to evangelise the world? And for 3 years, Jesus spent most of his time training his disciples. That can be our strategy too.

Here are two recommendations to implement EMTs:

  1. Equip the local missionaries with useful skills.

There are an endless number of things you can teach them on an empowering mission trip.

  • Bible knowledge
  • How to evangelise
  • Business generation
  • Handling money
  • Leadership
  • Public speaking
  • Hygiene practices
  • Music skills

First of all, check with the local missionaries if the topics are of interest or needed. I’m sure you or your church members are blessed with skills that can empower the locals.

Preparing lessons or a short course for EMTs takes effort and time. Are you willing to invest in the eternal kingdom of God? God blessed you so you can bless others.

2. Support a local missionary

Based on real needs, provide for them as they do the Lord’s work. Make sure you choose carefully who you support that they are really advancing the Lord’s kingdom. Some locals due to their poverty, ask for money constantly for their own wants. It pays to keep in contact to find a trustworthy person to support. If they prove unable to handle money well, cut off all giving to them. There are many other true missionaries to support.

Missionary Principles (Oswald J. Smith, The Challenge of Missions, 1959)

After visiting seventy different countries in Europe, Asia and America; after surveying and carefully studying missionary methods in various fields; after taking part in missionary conferences and conventions for years past; after conferring with leaders of many missionary societies; after extensive reading, prayer and meditation, I have come to the following definite conclusions regarding missionary work:

  1. Our Work must be Evangelical

There must be no higher criticism, no modernism in our ranks. Every worker must stand four-square for the great fundamentals of the Faith. No missionary must be engaged who doubts the Virgin birth, the deity of Christ, His vicarious death, salvation by faith, the need of regeneration, the inspiration of the Bible, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and His pre-millennial coming, etc. To support any other is nothing short of a tragedy. A house divided against itself cannot stand. We must see to it that our money is not used to help the enemies of the Gospel.

  1. Our Work must be Evangelistic

We are to evangelise the world. To Christianise the nations in this dispensation is impossible, since it is not God’s plan. Our business is to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in the taking out of “a people for His name.”

We are not to major on hospitals or give ourselves over to medical work. We are not to erect schools and colleges and spend our time educating the heathen. We are not to give ourselves, primarily, to the social, political and industrial betterment of those who have no interest in Christ. Nor are we to introduce our western civilization in an effort to change the manners and customs of the people. We can relieve simple ailments as we go about our work, in our clinics, but only to get a hearing for the Gospel. And of course we will teach both Christians and seekers to read and write so that they may be able to study the Bible. Nor will we forget the children. But we will not put these things first.

Our work is to preach the Gospel and we must not be side-tracked. Institutional work puts the cart before the horse. The Gospel must go first. Raw savages can be saved. Ignorant heathen can be transformed into saints. The by-products will all follow in due time, as needed. Let us put our money into the souls of men, and our investment will stand forever.

  1. Our missionaries ought not to be pastors of native churches

Think, if you will, of Chinese and Africans becoming our pastors. How long before we would rebel? But furthermore, how dare we localise our work! The vision of the whole field, the whole world must ever be kept in view. As soon as converts have been won and a church formed, elders should be appointed to act as overseers of the flock, and the missionary pass on, following the example of Paul, to the unevangelised fields.

  1. The chief work of the missionary must be the training of native Christians

Never can we send out a sufficient number of foreign workers to occupy every village, town and city throughout the world. But we can, with a few missionaries, train enough native workers to evangelise every nation. That was the policy of Jesus. He trained the twelve, then the seventy and sent them forth. Let us follow His example. Let every one of our missionaries choose and train his twelve and seventy. The best way is by establishing temporary training camps, or by bringing them to a centrally located Bible school for short but intensive terms of study.

  1. Native pastors and churches should not be supported by foreign funds.

The work should be self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating, and that from the first. No one can be healthy and strong while leaning on another. And the habit once started is hard to break. Churches have become weak and indolent rather than aggressive and powerful as a result of foreign support. The vision of evangelism and its responsibility has been lost, and the outcome, in many cases, has been most disastrous.

On the other hand, we must recognise “Paul’s Company”, the group of native evangelists, trained in our Bible Schools, who need help in opening up new territory. So long as they are doing pioneer work in unoccupied areas, and continually moving about, they are entitled to support, at least until the churches founded are strong enough to shoulder the burden.

  1. We should make it a rule to aim for the largest centres of population

That was Paul’s method. He seldom went to the village; he went to the city. He never sought the back street; he sought the well-known, centrally located synagogue. He struck for the marketplace where everybody congregated. Within a few days or hours at most, he had everyone talking. He planted the Gospel first of all in Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi and Rome, all great world centres. And from these large cities it was sounded out to all the region round about.

  1. We must concentrate on the unoccupied areas

If we want to bring back the King, if we want to hasten His coming, we must take the Gospel to the last tribe, the last people, the last nation. We must go to “the regions beyond” to the places where Christ has “not been named”. That too was always Paul’s method. He did not enjoy building on another man’s foundation. The place of greatest need is always God’s place of greatest opportunity. Jesus never forgot the “other towns” and the “other sheep”.

  1. In matters of finance there should be information, prayer and faith

Information results in inspiration. To withhold information regarding either the work or the needs, is to deny God’s people the spiritual blessing that would otherwise be theirs. Moreover, untold thousands will never even hear of the existence of many splendid efforts, unless large conventions and conferences are held to make the work known. Not only do missionary organisations need our help; we need the inspiration and blessing that a knowledge of their work and needs provides. To ask a new candidate to secure hundreds of dollars for transportation, equipment and support, and then forbid him to make it known, is simply absurd. We are not all called to be a George Muller.

But then, besides telling the people, we must tell God. Prayer and missions go hand in hand. The greatest of all help in missionary work is that of intercession. We must advance on our knees. God has promised to answer prayer, and if He does not, if we are forced to send short allowances, we should check up at once. Unless our policy works, it is useless. If we are going to trust God, we must really trust Him. He is able to move in the hearts of His people in answer to the prayer of faith and cause them to act on the information given, and contribute to the work.

  1. We should never go into debt

“Owe no man anything,” is His Word. TO disobey is to court disaster. We have no right to go forward until God supplies the funds. Let us get our prayers answered for the amount needed first, instead of forging ahead and then looking for the money that does not come in. If God can provide for our needs after, He can just as easily do so before. George Mueller spent only what God gave him. He prayed first for money necessary and waited for God to answer that prayer before going ahead. And that is always a safe procedure. We have no right to incur debts for others to pay. Let us get out and keep out. Debt is a disgrace. It is dishonouring to God.

  1. Allowance should be based on needs, not worth

The best plan is to share and share alike, that is if we have faith enough to keep the pot full, then there will be sufficient for all. It is dangerous to pay big salaries. Most so-called Faith Missions set aside just sufficient to meet the cost of living, and that is a wise plan. It does not put the missionary too high above the native. It does not overburden the church at home. It honours God. Too much equipment is a hindrance rather than a blessing.

  1. Our overhead must be kept low

One of the greatest criticism of missionary work today is provoked by the amount used for home expenses. I would strongly advise every contributor to find out just what portion of his dollar actually gets to the field, and how much is used for overhead. Surely fifteen percent should be sufficient to take care of the needs at home, and even that should be so designated. If money is given for the foreign field, to the foreign field it should go.


These, then, are the principles and practices that should govern missionary work. To ignore them is to court disaster. To apply them is to experience the blessing of God.

(The Challenge of Missions, Pages 121 -126)