Some would argue that Western Missionaries are not needed in the world any longer.
“Let the natives believers do the work”
is their cry.
What they forget is that there are some places that still don’t have any native believers! They are unreached and unengaged.
In other places the church is still very weak, divisive, and engaged in distracting doctrinal arguments that may keep them from fulfilling the Great Commission to their own people. I have seen this in my own field of Thailand.
Some native leaders, just as many Western leaders, are corrupt and deceitful. They know how to ask for funds and show certain projects that will illicit funding from the west. Without proper relationship, financial support from the West will only add to the problem.
The cultural perspective of native leaders is highly valuable, especially when trying to make the Gospel truly “good news” to their own people. But other times it can be a major hinderance and a blind spot to moving in the right direction. I believe God raises up and sends part of his Body from other regions to give a sometimes much needed “outsiders” perspective.
Only after these cross cultural missions leaders put in the time to become one with the culture and language can they speak from a position of authority. Those who have paid this price, are highly regarded advisors to native leaders. In many cases much more than a Pastor or leader from the West who has not paid this price.
Still many other native leaders are still welcoming “on the ground” missionaries to partner with them in very specific and helpful ways that don’t create unnecessary dependence on Western funds.
These “goers” are still very needed in many places around the world.
Some places are strong enough to stand on their own. We are thankful for them.
Dependence created by paying native pastors salaries many times that they wait for more funds to move forward in outreach when they used to do outreach without the funds. Steve Saint, the famous missionary son of Nate Saint, shows this clearly in his book “The Great Omission.”
Don’t get me wrong, we need to partner with those who have a heart to reach their country for Jesus, but that doesn’t preclude us from going and sending the right people ourselves.
We need the whole Church to take the Whole Gospel to the Whole World!
We can all participate in God’s global mission by knowing, praying, giving, and/or going, but how many of us are participating in these things in regards to those with little to no ACCESS to the Gospel?
We cannot neglect the rest of the world for the sake of reaching our community.
When God has given us the resources and wisdom today in the Western Church and we consume it all on ourselves, won’t we be held accountable when their are so many multiplied millions in the world who have never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel even once?
My challenge then to the Missional/Emerging/Post Modern/Seeker Friendly churches of America is to run with the vision they have for reaching the lost in their own back yard, but also remember that
“to whom much is given, much is required.”
Support worthy native leaders and don’t completely give up on the practice of sending your best missionaries from the nations. Make sure that those you support and send from the West are or will be meeting a strategic need, whether it is felt yet or not.
Make sure they are well versed in church multiplication movement principles, discipleship, the courage to challenge the status quo when needed, to pioneer, the ability to work in humility with others, and the ability to give the native leaders tools they need to contextualize for their people rather than simply following the imported Western model.
If they have the raw talent, some preparation and a clear calling from God, they can be sent to work with mentors for a season before launching out to be catalysts and strategists in their own right. If Western missionaries are supported and sent by our churches, I believe these are the most needed, especially among the places that still have little to no access to the Gospel.
I believe every church in America should find a way to support the right kind of native leaders, especially among the unreached blocs of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Atheistic Chinese.
But as they do, they will soon find out that they also need the right people on the ground working in partnership with these leaders and groups of people.
In our efforts to support native leaders, let’s not advocate for a position that “throws the baby out with the bath water” and stops supporting any and all missionaries sent from the Western world.
We don’t have to use an argument against one to help support the other. But we may need to bring some clarity and new definition to the roles of those we send.
At the end of the day, those who advocate for the needs of the unreached can all agree with this main point:
Jesus bled and died for people from every language, tribe, and nation and yet there are still multitudes in our generation waiting to hear…just once. We are all responsible to see that the Gospel goes to them.