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

image

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):