The finest book I’ve read thus far this year, is We Are Not the Hero: A Missionary’s Guide to Sharing Christ Not a Culture of Dependency by Jean Johnson. This book, based on a combination of thorough research and personal experience as a seasoned missionary, is another that deals with the chronic issue of western-promoted dependency in missions.
Johnson updates this important topic with a clarion call to westerners (agencies, churches, individuals) to rethink how mission is commonly being done that could lead to dependency.
As a missionary in Cambodia, Johnson learned from personal mistakes about the unintended consequences of ministry unwisely done that was meant to alleviate poverty but actually deepened it. Through her copious research and hard experiences she has earned the right to speak on this topic.
(35 minutes 34 seconds 17 MB [Right click the link and Select “Download as” to save])
Erwin McManus eloquently states, “Problems, obstacles, and challenges can either become the markers of our limits and limitations, or they can become the springboard into a whole new world.”4
High profile missionaries leave defeated people behind…
High-profile missionaries leave defeated people in their trail. Low-profile missionaries humbly empower the indigenous man and woman to be God’s instruments of noble purposes. “Being in someone’s shadow” is a common English idiom that says there is no room for us to be passive. But I suggest that a missionary leader who intentionally positions himself in someone’s shadow, with the goal to empower that person, is a great leader.
Perhaps we could say that a church is indigenous when any given people group experiences Christ through its five senses—sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste—and not the foreigner’s five senses.
“We could list hundreds of helpful items to start churches, but we can count on our fingers and toes those few essentials that make the crucial difference between reproductive and sterile churches. Blessed is the Christian worker who knows the difference.” DR. GEORGE PATTERSON
In cases where the missionaries initially fill high-profile ministry roles, the local leaders have difficulty filling the shoes of those missionaries. The majority of missionaries serve in ministry roles to their fullest capacity, leaning on years of experience, plenty of resources, and ample equipment. Additionally, they often provide fringe benefits such as English lessons, jobs, medical teams, musical instruments, and equipment. When it is the local leaders’ turn to conduct ministry, they struggle to find acceptance because the church members miss the missionary’s charity, expertise, and charismatic personality. Lastly, there is the ever-present problem of failing to plant a truly indigenous church. Missionaries often conduct and model ministry based on church models from their own countries, albeit with some variation. Inevitably, the church develops a foreign personality, structure, and style.
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” PLATO
Planting churches by asking questions instead of giving answers takes discipline, creativity, and practice.
…using questions as a method to plant churches seems nonsensical— but I think it is a perfect way to plant an indigenous church.
Great quote by William Smallman:
“The incipient church can flounder and stagnate in its first generation if it has no leaders who think their own thoughts within the framework of the universally applicable Word of God.
“I summarize the experts’ definitions of the indigenous church in the following manner: An indigenous church is a community of believers under the lordship of Jesus Christ who culturally reflect the soul of the society around them and who have the desire and ability to sustain and multiply themselves in every facet of life and ministry.”
“Globalization offers amazing opportunities and unprecedented ways to efficiently connect, communicate, and influence one another. Unfortunately, globalization also allows the rubbish and icky stuff of different societies to cross boundaries at a rapid and influential pace. What does this mean to us? First, while we take advantage of the opportunities of globalization, we need to leave our icky stuff at home as much as possible. Second, we should take steps to ensure that globalization does not become another excuse for the West to practice paternalism in the disguise of advancing God’s kingdom.”
“I have created a saying that guides my cross-cultural work: ‘Day 1 affects day 100.’ In other words, what I do from the very beginning (on day 1) will either impede multiplication or enhance it within a given cultural context down the road (on day 100). In my early years serving as a cross-cultural church planter, I thought multiplication was something to be communicated when the church was more mature. I was wrong. The reality is that everything I say and do from that very first day onward will either empower indigenous believers with the spiritual authority, vision, and capability to multiply, or it will stifle them.”