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 Series, Part 3 of 11: Our missionaries ought not to be pastors of native churches


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.

Missionary Principles Series, Part 2 Of 11: Our Work Must Be Evangelistic

This is the second in a series of 11 posts on Missionary Principles.

In this post, I will be concentrating on keeping our mission work evangelistic. This means, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the saving of souls.

Dr. Smith highlights that though social reforms are good such as the building of schools, hospitals and other helpful institutions, they cannot be our primary focus.

Our primary focus is to preach the Gospel.

The Apostle Paul stated emphatically:

1 Corinthians 9:16b

Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Paul made it his central aim to preach the Gospel. Whatever he did had one goal – the saving of souls. That must be our goal too.

It is a trend this day to engage in social work to help the less fortunate. In fact, many non-profit secular organisations are involved and can do a much better job than the church. This is about improving people’s lives. Unfortunately, the church has followed the same mentality of doing social outreach works without sharing the Gospel.

I’m not saying that social outreach efforts are wrong. In fact, I’m thankful for them as they open a bridge from church to community. But there must come a point in time where the Gospel is preached. Secular organisations do not share that viewpoint and some forbid religious themes in the name of tolerance and respect.

If the church doesn’t preach the Gospel, who will?

If the mission team doesn’t preach the Gospel, who will?

Romans 10:14

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

For people to be saved, they must hear the Gospel preached. It is so easy to be bogged down in social work whether local or overseas and forget the real reason why we are there. Mission trips can be diluted into mere social work with little eternal impact.

We have to share the Gospel.

Knowing this, let me suggest a few steps you can take:

1. Keep the Gospel in the forefront of all you do

Social work is merely a means to an end, not an end in itself. The Gospel is the end. The problem is when we expect gamblers, drunkards and child abusers to change without giving them the Gospel first. That’s impossible! When they are saved by God’s mighty power, then they will change.

2. Organise evangelistic rallies

One of the best ways to spread the Gospel is to organise evangelistic rallies and services. Preach the Gospel and give an invitation for people to come forward to accept Jesus. This may pose a difficulty in certain restricted countries so it depends.

3. Know how to share the Gospel

I’m alarmed that many church-goers do not know how to share their faith. They leave it to the pastor to do it. This is terribly ineffective. A pastor is limited in terms of time and energy. And most of his contacts are Christians. Imagine if every church member is equipped with the skills to share the Gospel to their own circle of contacts. There would be an exponential increase in the Gospel being preached!

Do you know how to share the Gospel? If not, here are some useful resources (click on the links):


Missionary Principles Series, Part 1 Of 11: Our Work Must Be Evangelical


In this series on Missionary Principles, I will be expanding on each of them in separate posts. Let’s get started on the first one.

What is the meaning of evangelical?

Evangelical simply refers to following the teaching of the Gospel or Christianity.

This is crucial as theology will affect what is being taught to the locals. And their teaching will determine how they live their lives.

When locals become believers, you teach them based on your theology.

There lies the danger. You reproduce what you are. Your brand of theology will be passed on consciously and subconsciously to others.

Wrong theology will be passed on and the gospel loses its effectiveness and power.

My suggestions flow from Paul’s letter to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:16-17
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Therefore, I believe that:

1. Missionaries should have a basic theology training in a reputable Bible school 

Your theology must be sound, not liberal or even worse, against the basic teachings of the Bible. Especially dangerous are Bible schools that only focus on spiritual giftings such as prophecy and healing. That is imbalanced.

You must be at least grounded in systematic theology found in the Bible. Basic courses would be Old Testament and New Testament surveys, Doctrines and Pastoral theology. All other courses are icing on the cake.

2. Missionaries must be vetted by sending organisation

The theology of missionaries must be tested to make sure they adhere to the sound tenets of Christianity. It would be a shame if wrong doctrines are taught to the locals far away from the sending organisation or church. The effects rippling out would be seen only years later as the local church crumbles under shaky foundations.

3. Missionaries must teach the local believers right doctrine

After going for several mission trips, I’ve come to realise many pastors have never had a proper systematic Bible education. This is where mission teams can step in to train them. That’s the idea of equipping them for good works. It all starts with the right theology.

May this be your prayer.

2 Timothy 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

Missionary Principles Series: Introduction


In a previous post on Missionary Principles, I quoted from Dr. Oswald J. Smith’s fantastic book “The Challenge of Missions“. Read the post first if you’ve not done so.

Dr. Smith laid out 11 helpful missionary principles that any Christian, whether pastor, missionary or laymen should know. I will start a series of posts to unpack the 11 principles to help you apply them today in our current day and age.

The great thing about principles is this: They are timeless.

Methods change but principles don’t. That’s why these core principles will help guide you in forming your own personal plan in missions.

I’m excited to start. Are you?

I’ll list and link all the 11 posts here as they are completed:
1. Our work must be evangelical

2. Our work must be evangelistic

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

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

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

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

7. We must concentrate on the unoccupied areas

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

9. We should never go into debt

10. Allowance should be based on needs, not worth

11. Our overhead must be kept low

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)