Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions.
Hello, this is Episode 34 of Missions On Point. We're in the middle of a series on Keys to Effectiveness as a Missionary. This episode will deal with reproducible methodology. This key to effectiveness seems like an unusual term, partly because we just have assumptions and don't think about it very often, especially when crossing cultures.
When we live in a western high technology culture, we automatically assume that most all of the things that we deal with in daily life are normal and natural for us and for those around us. The methodologies, the tools and materials, and information sources that we have, we assume everyone has.
Over the course of time, we just assume that if a washing machine is available, why would we go back to a wash board in a big sink or washing our clothes in the creek? New fads and forms and tools and resources come about over time as people adopt them, but when a missionary goes into a new culture, new to them, they have to find out what is actually accessible and accepted amongst that culture and not produce a new fad of means or methodology or resources themselves.
New methodologies are not wrong out of hand, but they may not be accepted and embraced by the prevailing culture, or the target culture. So, the missionary needs to be thoughtful and even prayerful about what kinds of methods are being used, so that it is completely acceptable, embraced, reproducible kinds of methodology. The ministry then will continue on in the local culture, in an acceptable way, that is accessible and available and cost-effective for the local people. That's really the whole point of this particular key to effectiveness; teach, preach, and model and disciple in such a way, that the target population can easily reproduce it, without having to cross barriers of finances or availability or technology, that are not familiar to them. This concept has importance not just for the means of ministry, but actually the means of life. I'll get to that in a little bit.
One of the easiest illustrations for me is real. It came from my own experience. It's the difference between using say a laptop computer with an LCD projector to project slides and information, even videos and things like that, onto a wall or a screen versus using a chalkboard. I'm talking about not a whiteboard, I mean a good old-fashioned chalkboard.
Our tribal people grew up in their elementary schools in the villages with teachers that used a regular chalkboard. The materials are fairly inexpensive. You can make a chalkboard out of almost any flat surface by painting a chalkboard paint on it and using whatever kind of cloth as an eraser and a box of chalk, which is really cheap and easily accessible to everyone.
That's the kind of tool they use for teaching and writing on the board and presenting things to people in their classroom. They're familiar with that. Whiteboard? That's different. It takes a different kinds of technology to make the whiteboard and certainly different kind of markers that are a lot more expensive and not common in their culture, much less moving further down the road to a projector using electricity in technology that they don't even have in most of their villages. Just the cost of having a laptop and an LCD projector and a generator to run it is way beyond the means of most little village churches for subsistence rice farmers. Much less, the software and the knowledge and ability to handle the software to run it. Of course, in most places in the world, they don't really have access to the internet. So many things, including software and things like that, that are today exclusively available through internet, are not available to them at all.
Making that lower technology choice means that it is appropriate and accessible and reproducible, so that the locals can use the same technology wherever they take the gospel in the teaching of the Bible.
In fact, it's kind of humorous, but if you look at it from their point-of-view, if the missionary can't teach without all the trappings that require a generator to be able to teach, then maybe the missionary can't teach. This concept affects, or should affect, how the missionary thinks about conducting their ministry and what kind of methodologies they use. It also affects their life. Using available means is key to effectiveness. You want the locals to be able to reproduce the ministry themselves. It is reproducible methodology.
It even goes down to affecting things of daily life, like using public transportation instead of driving everywhere around in your own vehicle. Not that it's bad to have a vehicle if you really need it, but maybe on a day-to-day basis, using public transportation is more reproducible and observable to the locals as being appropriate in their culture, in their economic status, in their world.
Things like using paper instead of digital means. Now, it's so ubiquitous around the world using a cell phone instead of a laptop. So, adapting things that work with cell phone technology and not requiring a laptop might be very important.
Certainly, exchange of documents would have to be something that is appropriate in their culture, in their technology. There are other aspects as well, that the missionary needs to adapt to culturally, in order to make it reproducible. So little things like in Sarah Lanier's book called Foreign To Familiar, making the distinction between a relationship orientation versus a task orientation. Westerners tend to be task oriented. Do the checklist. Check it off. Be very prompt. And most national cultures are not. They're more relationship based, and it doesn't matter exactly what time you get there. It's based on relationship.
Direct communication versus indirect communication. To make a point, that's a very subtle and important difference in many cultures. You just don't cause a person to think they are being directly corrected or criticized for something that they've done. There is an indirect means of communication that's more effective.
Individualism versus a group identity. Most cultures that we're going to in these days for unreached people groups, are going to have a group identity, and that makes a difference in how you present things and what you say, so that you are inclusive of the group. Still, there are individual decisions, but they have to weigh that against the group identity.
Inclusion versus privacy. High context versus low context cultures. There are different concepts of time and planning. Certainly there are different cultures that are more business-like and others that are more relational, in terms of how they make decisions of how they handle things.
There are certainly different cultural viewpoints regarding wealth or personal money versus family or group money. Finances tend to almost always be an area of potential conflict for the church. You need to get inside the culture and figure that out and use a reproducible methodology.
After thinking through these things, it's obvious that the missionary needs to be humble and teachable and ask a lot of questions of the people that they're ministering to, to find out what is the best approach. What would they use? How can I adopt that, so that it's reproducible methodology, instead of me creating attention or imposing a methodology on them? Even to written materials, like bringing a lot of Western style materials and just kind of translating them and expecting them to use those materials as a part of the methodology, might not be the best thing if it's not reproducible by them.
Upon reflection, this concept has some usefulness, even in our own church and individual ministries. We want the people that we're ministering to, to be able to get it and to be able to reproduce it themselves. So, if we're using a lot of high-tech stuff and the people we're ministering to don't have that available, how can they then reproduce it themselves in discipling the next generation of disciples? We need to keep it simple, make it reproducible, and it has a lot to do with life on life, keeping our priority as the message rather than the means.
As you can see, these keys do dovetail together and overlap somewhat from one to the other, but it's important for me to draw this one out as its own key to effectiveness, that is reproducible methodology as the means of ministry.
Let me just say again. It's okay to ask your missionary about those things, to make them feel perhaps a little bit uncomfortable because you are trying to help them do the most effective job for the long term. It will cause them to think, if they haven't thought about it before, or cause them to reinforce the choices that they've made, which have been helpful to keep their methodology reproducible.
Please subscribe and check in week-by-week for the next keys coming up. Here's what we have on the list. The authority of scripture over man. The practice and priority of prayer. Stamina, or durability. The priority of teaching the Bible or Biblicism. These are important keys. I hope you'll listen in with us.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, propempo.com.
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