Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I'm so glad you're listening to episode 79 of Missions on Point today. We're in the second part of a six-part series on missiology you need to know. Unfortunately, missiology is something that is often assumed to be the responsibility of the mission agency or at least the field team. This is a mistake. It's true that the mission's team or mission agency should have the benefit of experience on the field. It's also true that the mission agency should be the best at missiology in the particular types of ministry that they're involved in. However, they are human and they're human institutions and they are subject to fads and trends and pressures that push them beyond the edge of simple, biblically informed missiology. So in actual practice, there is a lot of pragmatism on the field and in agencies and a lot of flow of push of popularity, wanting to get certain kinds of results, which are often driven by a Western mentality and not strong biblical principles.

So the principles that we are bringing to the front in missiology, you need to know, seem intuitive and basic and biblical and simple and yet in practice they are not always that way. So it is up to us, the leaders of churches, pastors, missions pastors, missions leaders, people who support missions to actually be at least a little bit informed about these things so that we can keep our missionaries on track and have them be actually long-term, faithful, effective, and fruitful in the work of the gospel. We do not want to give up simple gospel and biblical truths, practical things that keep us on track so that we can produce somehow more results, which may be flash in the pan, meaning quick results apparently with no long-term staying power spiritually. This second principle we're talking about today is the missionary must reproduce himself. The principle is that the missionary must look to everything they do from the very beginning as reproducing themselves so that the work of the ministry is not dependent upon them, that it is indigenous in every way, that the local people become the leaders and servants of the ministry rather than being dependent on the missionary. Note that reproducibility and indigeneity does not happen by itself.

If the missionary does not intentionally and consciously move toward reproducing him or herself on the field, teaching and training local people in the vernacular language to become the leaders, the servants of ministry in the church, then it's just not going to happen. And the natural normal thing that happens is an over dependency on the missionary to stay and stay and stay and do and do and do all the work of the ministry to always defer to the westerner and the person who is the resource of education and funding and building and all of that. I cringe when I hear stories of missionaries or actual reports from missionaries that I know that talk about serving on the field for 10, 15, 20 years and never having any national leaders come alongside to share in the leadership or take over the leadership of the missionary in the particular church planting situation that they're in.

And the reason that, that happens is that the missionary has not planned from the very beginning to train up the Timothy's, if you will, to take their place. So when I hear those kinds of reports, I know that the missionary has not been doing their job to reproduce themselves and to develop indigeneity in the church. It should be a huge embarrassment for the missionary to have that kind of plea or report because it exposes that they just haven't been doing their job. This principle of continuous training and experiential guidance in ministry giving exposure and opportunity for the trainees to do the work of ministry is so evident in the life of Jesus Christ, our Lord. And it is apparent over and over again in the Book of Acts and forward through all the letters to the churches that this is how Paul operated. There is an incredible amount of humility in training others and letting them do the work instead of yourself in deferring to others to do it even though they don't have the same level of education or theological knowledge or experience because they have to do the work in order to get the experience themselves and they even know better how to do it in their local language and culture.

This happens from the very beginning of the missionary's ministry, whether it is a biblical, theological church planting context or even in a technical context of training others to do the things that they can do to enable the ministry to move forward. It starts with the missionary giving simple opportunities to serve in however humble way, whether that is arranging chairs or passing out notes or setting up the meeting or introducing things or just inviting people to get the local people involved in the very basics of serving and leading the ministries there. It involves developing relationship and trust on a one-to-one level so that the missionary can hand off responsibilities to the local people and thus eventually reproduce themselves in such a way that the locals can carry on the ministry without the missionary being present at all. That's the goal and it is the essence of the principle of indigeneity.

It starts very early in the ministry. The missionary develops partners in the ministry, not dependence. It means as soon as there are new believers that they begin to be given opportunity to share their testimony, to share something they've learned from the word of God that helped them in their life. It does mean that the missionary may have to lower the bar of technical proficiency in messages so that it is reproducible by the local people. In fact, the kind of response when the missionary gives his message of people that are listening and aware, especially believers should be, I could do that. So the level of academic exegesis that the missionary gives in a message should equal the level of the capability and understanding of his audience. In fact, I say the same is true even here in the United States, and that is when a pastor presents his message, he's not dragging his congregation through all of the exegesis that he did during the week.

It is exposition, which is an explanation that is understandable to the audience of the meaning of the scripture. Exegesis is not exposition. So simpler messages that are reproducible by the local listeners are more important than deep technical notes from the original languages. For the missionary to reproduce himself requires more time with individuals on a behind the scenes basis than it does having the missionary upfront all the time. If there is not one-on-one discipleship and small group discipleship taking place, then the missionary's priorities should be rearranged rather than having more public meetings in which the missionary is the star, the point is to get the missionary more and more out of the limelight and the center of attention and the dependency of people and to put the locals into the limelight more. Even though it's a little scary, and even though there may be mistakes made along the way, it is far preferable in the long term to work that way than it is to keep the missionary at the forefront.

For the missionary to think that he is the only one that can do it right or do it perfectly is the height of arrogance. In fact, besides the sin of pride in that instance, it is again evidence that the missionary is not doing their job in bringing others along to reproduce themselves. There is a parallel thought here that is often overlooked or misunderstood, and that is the goal of the missionary in the church planning effort, is to plant a local indigenous church. That means it has the look and feel and smell and taste and touch of a local church in the local language, feeling like the local culture. It is not to reproduce a church that's just like home, so the home church should not feel like if the missionary's church doesn't look just like the sending church, that is okay. That's the way it ought to be.

I know some of you listening to this are saying, that seems so intuitive. Doesn't everybody know that? Doesn't every missionary do that? And I'm here to tell you, everybody doesn't know that. Perhaps it's so intuitive, they just skip over it and they go straight to pragmatic practices that somehow continue to build and reinforce dependency on the foreign missionary instead of building up the locals to reproduce the missionary and take his or her place. Let's take a peak at second Timothy, chapter two, verses one and two. You then my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Now, it's interesting that this is Paul writing to Timothy who was sent specifically to the church at Ephesus, which is an already established church.

Timothy was Paul's reproduced replacement, if you will, for the church in Ephesus long term, and he's telling Timothy who is already the second generation of leaders, if not third generation, by that time, that he needs to continue to invest in others in such a way that the ministry is entrusted to them and that those faithful men will entrust it to others. This is the natural progression of spiritual reproduction in the lives of others. Missionaries must reproduce themselves. The missionary must constantly ask themselves this question, how am I developing relationships in such a way that the early believers are not dependent upon me, but they look to the Lord and to his word and step up to take responsibility for the ministry here? It is an incredibly humbling question to ask day to day because the missionary realizes it's not about me, it's about the Lord.

It's about the church. It's about God's word. It's about Jesus Christ being the center of their affection and attention and not me as the messenger. It's about the long-term health of the church, developing their own leaders and servants for the ministry over time so that the church can be completely independent of the missionary and indigenous in its function and ministry. It is absolutely an okay question to ask your missionary, what are you doing now that will intentionally result in the indigeneity of the local church there or the local ministry, whatever ministry they're in? What are you doing now to pass the baton of ministry responsibility to the local believers? It is not enough to just be going through the motions of evangelism, discipleship, and doing church without also having an intentional plan to raise up believers to do those things in the place of the missionary.

In the end, it is an incredibly freeing process to totally hand over the work of ministry to the local believers and have them continue on. Friends, in ministry, both here in the States and overseas and missions work, if we are not intentionally turning over responsibility for ministry and leadership to others, we're not completely doing our job. Hey, stay tuned in for the rest of the series. It may blow your mind. You won't be disappointed. 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, Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God, be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

Comments (0)

Please login to comment.

Register for an account