There’s an idea that makes the rounds in missions circles every so often. It comes up when churches get excited about doing mission in their own communities and it comes up when we look at some of the imperialistic mistakes that have been made in missions in different parts of the world. It’s a concept that’s been around a while. I’m sure you’ve heard it. I’m here today to point out its weaknesses that are not always part of the conversation. And to show how once again 4G Mission Theory helps us avoid this pitfall too.
Sometimes is called “national missionaries”. It’s the idea that since there are churches in most countries now that the time of sending foreign missionaries overseas has passed and instead western churches should now shift their giving posture and send money to support these so called “national workers”. The concept is usually supported by the notion that these workers already know ‘the language and culture’ and the significant financial saving. Sounds good on the surface I’m sure.
Here’s the thing. First, “the language and culture” is completely misleading. While it is true that there are churches in most countries this completely overlooks the multiplicity of languages and cultures within any given country. Ethnicity and country are not the same. Not by a long shot. Take India for example: India has many large, mature, evangelical churches. Some would say enough so that they can reach their own people without outside help. Maybe so, EXCEPT India has at least 2000 ethnic people groups with their own languages and cultures. These cultural differences are often minimised by Christians who belong to one of the larger ethnicities. Add a layer of past hurt and mutual prejudice and it might be harder for an Indian Christian to reach these minorities than a foreigner.
I grew up in Canada. I was shocked to find out that God sent Filipino missionaries to the Northern Cree people in Saskatchewan. But God does that because he knows it will work! And he loves them enough to spare no expense in their salvation.
Which brings me to my next point. Saving money is not a good enough reason. If GOD did not spare his own SON, but lavished his LOVE on us in ways that are more generous than anything the world has ever witnessed doesn’t it seem odd to worry about “cost-effective” missions? I thought so. I agree with good stewardship, yes, and financial accountability to avoid corruption, absolutely. But I don’t think we can tell God that we sent our money instead of following his leading because it was cheaper.
Essentially, the argument is that if everyone just does their own G2 we will get the job done. It seems logical to a point.
But, it ignores God’s calling on his church to reach outside of ourselves. Go further than he (Jesus) was able to in his earthly life. It’s also heavy on the assumption that people are more likely to listen to someone more like themselves, not always true. And it’s heavy on the assumption that our conversion to Christ saves us from our own prejudices, it usually doesn’t, we must all learn to love those who to us are Samaritans.
And lastly, this idea will NOT reach the ends of the Earth. If this was to become the only way the church did outreach nobody would get to the G4 nations, the minorities, the oral nomadic cultures out on the rim of civilisation or beyond. They would once again be left out.
So, no. There is a revolution coming in World Missions but it is not this one. (Revolution in World Missions is a book, offered free on many Christian websites, supporting the missions idea described above where the western church is now responsible only financially) I would argue that if any mission theory tries to focus all attention on one geography alone (G2 in this example) then there is probably something amiss. The real Revolution has already begun, and it will continue to be “from everywhere to everywhere” as the Global church engages themselves in ALL 4 Geographies of world mission. We will see more foreign missionaries arrive to serve amongst us here. That’s all good :) Rejoice, don’t get your back up. God knows and only he can see how it all comes together.
We must still go, and send, and support missionaries who go overseas! Whether that be in G2 service to the post-Christian lands of our ancestors, or to G3 locations where other world religions are dominant, or to G4 places who will not hear unless someone is sent. And we must do all 4 Geographies at home too! Overwhelmed? It’s OK. We can do this because we are not responsible to accomplish it all; just to obey HIS leading and seek to balance our attention and resources to all 4 Geographies.