April 17, 2012

Can the Remaining Work of Missions Be Done by National Christians?

The statement that the remaining work of missions can be done by national Christians has been widely propagated by a number of well-known Christian leaders. They are well-known national figures in missions that have advocated that what really needs to be done is to send our money, our checks, and let the national workers do it.

Now obviously, I believe it’s very important to recognize the role of the national believer. So much of what I’ve said in even the summary course has sought to emphasize the importance of the national, indigenous believer. But, we have to always come back to this question of access and viability. If we are talking about people among whom there are no Christians, or there is no viable church, then we simply are irresponsible if we say, “Oh, well let the nationals do it,” because there are no nationals who can do it. They don’t have any nationals there—somebody has to cross a cultural boundary.

Now, the assumption that a near-cultural witness is more effective than a far cultural witness—so, for example if you were working with a people group in Nigeria, for example, the Hausa in northern Nigeria, and you wanted to bring the gospel to this Hausa people group. You may think, okay, lets find a place in Nigeria where there are vibrant Christians, like among the Yoruba, or the Tiv, or the Nagasawa, or the Ibo, or other groups where there may be some Christians—let's take some of these nearby Christians and let them witness to the Hausa.

Well, many times, all over the world, the near culture witness is viewed with more suspicion and has more of a history of problems than with the Christian from far away. So, we cannot make this assumption that the remaining work of missions can be done by the national Christians. We have too many places where there are either, a) no Christians who can bring that national witness, or b) where there’s massive mistrust and cultural problems with a near-culture group, even if that cultural group has a viable church.

So we have to do this: I am very, very opposed to the idea of the American church interpreting their understanding of missions as simply sitting back and writing checks. Letting somebody else’s sons and daughters die on the missions field while we sit back and write checks, that is a disgusting insult to the number of missionaries from the Western world who have given their lives for the gospel, and we need to recognize that this Great Commission cannot be fulfilled without great cost and sacrifice.