Audio Transcript:

Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. This is episode 83 of Missions on Point. We're in the last of a six-part series on missiology you need to know. And today's episode will deal with the topic reproducibility wins. Let me set the stage for this. By reproducibility, I'm thinking of a pioneering type of situation, whether that is evangelism, discipleship, leadership training, church planting, those kinds of things where it's a fresh start. I'm not thinking of institutional per se, although there are some elements of it that might apply to a institutionally established school or training center. It's fair to say I'm thinking of the target population being people that do not have the same level of affluence and access to media and technology as we have in the west. It's interesting that a lot of missionaries and agencies think they're doing a good job if they learn the language and the culture pretty well.

Sometimes they miss the forest for the trees. They have some individual parts right, but they don't take a macro view and say, how would these people do this ministry if they could, if they understood it. They've got to ask the question, how would these people be able to reproduce what we are doing, saying, teaching, and how we do it. Everything needs to be reproducible within the indigenous culture. So as we begin, I want to refresh your minds with what we have talked about in the previous episodes of this series. The first priority is culture and language learning. That means that it must be expressed in the local language. The missionary must have a goal of reproducing himself. And from the very beginning, instill in people leadership and service opportunities in such a way that they grow into them and could actually someday, replace that role that the missionary plays.

The third one is that the Bible rules. This is so excellent because it becomes the source book that is reproducible for these people. Not a bunch of outside curriculum and resources that may be imported from elsewhere. Fourthly, traditional definitions and methods prevail. And that is to say we don't import Western definitions and methods. We don't twist and change the definitions of some basic, basic things like given in as example in episode five of the series, contextualization and conversion. We don't twist what that means in some kind of a pragmatic way in order to up our numbers of results. Let me give you a few examples from the ridiculous to the sublime. It's amazing to me that because our educational system has been so fixed on technology in the classroom and even in our hands. It's nothing for the missionary to think that using a laptop and an LCD projector onto a wall, or a sheet, or a screen is the natural way for teaching.

It seems odd to consider it, but I really think that if the missionary cannot teach without the laptop and the projector, probably they can't teach. Most of the world, including more humble settings, even in a Western environment, are not able to afford those things. Therefore, they are not reproducible and should not be used in that way. Kick it down a notch to a classroom in which we're used to using whiteboards and markers and erasers. They're colorful, they're cool. And when they're working right and you have the right materials, it makes for a great board experience to see that happen. However, again, that requires special materials to have a whiteboard. And a lot of extra cost to have those markers, which eventually, do dry out and have to be replaced quite often, at additional costs. And most really humble settings, certainly smaller villages, smaller barrios are not able to afford that.

However, what they can afford and what they have seen in their own schools, which does make it indigenous and reproducible, are chalkboards. Good old-fashioned chalkboards. All you need is a flat piece of plywood or masonite or some kind of surface that's flat, and you paint chalkboard paint on it and use good old-fashioned chalk. It never dries out in a bad way, and it's always usable as long as you have chalk, which is fairly readily available and inexpensive to any people. Let's take a peek back at second Timothy 2:1 where Paul is writing to Timothy and he says, "What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, in trust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

Now, this principle is great in terms of passing knowledge of truth down from generation to generation. But it's not just what they have heard, but what they have seen in Paul, in his life and his character. And I submit that this includes methodologies and means how they have seen Paul operate as the way that they should operate that's accessible to them to operate that way, and to continue to pass it down the line to the next people. In other words, it must be reproducible. The kind of questions you have to ask are how would these people do it? What tools, and resources, and methods, and means would they use? What comes natural in their culture, in their environment where they're living. And it may change from one city or state or country to another. It's different for each individual's sort of subgroup of people.

And then go on and think about the question, how will they continue to do this after I'm gone? If I'm supplying a lot of resources for them, that's probably not reproducible. If they're able to acquire and do it with the same means that they will continue, then it's okay. Obviously, there will be some changes that take place naturally. For instance, many of our tribal people never owned a personal book of their own. Whatever books they may have used in school were loaned from the school. And now you want them to own a Bible and read the Bible in their language for themselves. That is a new thing, but it is hopefully, accessible and easy for them to make that transition. So if they don't have the means and not likely to have the means of sharing digital files, then you need to give them physical files. If they don't have the means for having pre-printed or photocopied paper notes, then perhaps you need to simply teach it in a way with a clear enough outline that they can take good notes themselves in their own handwriting.

If your people don't have personal vehicles, then you have to figure out what is possible for them using public transportation means and the shoe leather express, that is their own feet. I remember taking a couple of tribal disciple leaders on a trip on an airplane to another part of the Philippines. In which we wanted to expose them to and experience and learn some farming techniques that would help their tribe, as a part of our total aggregate of holistic teaching. And the teaching that we learned, the things that we learned were very reproducible. They were at that level. However, the airplane ride was not reproducible. I don't think they ever got on a plane again. It was a cool experience for them. But the point was not the airplane. The point was acquiring reproducible methodologies even in the practice of farming in the steep slopes and high altitude where they lived.

Similarly, Westerners need to rethink the concept of sending native or indigenous people off to a big city or even to another country for more formal, spiritual, and religious training. Now, there may be reasonable exceptions to that rule. However, when someone is taken out of their indigenous situation and put into a completely different environment that's very different than their own. Even if it's a big city in their own country, it produces some negative results that have to be overcome in some way or other, or they become a liability to the ministry.

Probably the worst case scenario of that kind of thing is sending a really sharp person to specialize training, or seminary, or Bible school in the States. What we have seen most often is that when that person does graduate, if they return back to their home country and their home setting, which is rare enough, it is a minority of times that that actually happens. They really don't fit in anymore. Not only has their own culture and acceptability changed because of their change of status and education, but they themselves have a wrong view of themselves in what should be expected or what they expect out of the whole situation. So if they have added training, somehow, they expect Western style results in terms of status, or standards of living, or financial remuneration. In the worst case scenario, we've heard specifically from nationals that the person that went overseas, and got training, and came back dressed differently, and thought differently about their own culture, and that they were higher than people around them. There is an inherent burden of arrogance that comes with that experience.

So we go back to this original question, is what you're doing and how you're doing it reproducible? How would they do it? How would they do it if you weren't there? How would they want it done? So what's the bottom line of this missiology you need to know. The bottom line is we're really dependent on God. It's not about us. But we need to be very sensitive to the local language and culture. We need to be sensitive to reproducing ourself on the field. We need to always hold high the standard that the Bible rules. We need to use traditional definitions and methodologies because those always went out in the long run. We need to be very careful about contextualization and perhaps going too far with that. And even our basic definitions of conversion, and church, and leadership.

Finally, this very basic idea that reproducibility wins. If we keep that in mind, we're going to use ways, and means, and methods that are reproducible by our local people as they come to Christ, as they grow in Christ, as churches are established, and then reproducing, churches are established. The other side of the coin is if the missionary doesn't really think about these things, and pray, and seek God's help, and wisdom, and discernment to do these things and the right kind of missiology, then what gets established is some form of reproduced Western church. And it becomes an island to itself and it's never really accepted in the local culture as being their church. What we've seen as God blessed our ministry in the past is keeping these things in mind has caused immense joy from the people to whom we were ministering.

They loved that the Bible was in their language. They loved that the Bible rules and not some outsider. They loved that they were being trained up to take responsibility in service to their tribe, to their church, to their people. They loved that the standard understanding of definitions applied, that that's what we were going for. And that we used methods and means that were easily reproducible among their people. Dear missionary listener, please think these things through and apply them in your ministry. Dear missionary supporter, dig beneath the surface and ask your missionary some of these questions, and find out how they're doing, what they're doing, and are they doing it well. Supporting churches, it is okay. In fact, it is incumbent upon you to find out these kinds of things from the missionaries that you support. All of us together need to consider that these things take time.

None of this happens overnight. And in particular, if you are slogging it out in the trenches of ministry, in the vernacular, in the local cultural context, steadily working to develop leaders, it's going to take time to apply these missiological principles, and see the lasting fruit that God gives. I'd love for you to stay tuned and tell others about the next upcoming series in the podcast on raising up missionaries from your local church.

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.

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