Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Shouldn't we just support indigenous missionaries?

There are lots of great missions organizations out there such as Gospel for Asia and Christian Aid whose main ministry is to teach, train, and support indigenous missionaries. Many of those agencies talk about the cost of keeping an average Western missionary (about $40000/year) on the field vs. sending an indigenous missionary (about $4000) per year. If you look at the economics of it all, people and churches are asking, "why would we send this couple from our congregation when we could send 10 local people in their place?" Some of the advantages of local missionaries are that they already speak the local language, understand the worldview/culture of the people, can live on an economic level similar to the rest of the country, etc.

On the flip side, several missiologists point out the fact that there are still only 14,000 pioneer missionaries going to the unreached people groups of the world meaning that most missionaries (98% to be exact according to World Christian Trends), both Western and indigenous are going to places that are already within reach of the gospel. When we were in India last year, we heard "we'll take anyone that is willing to come, there are 1 billion lost souls and over 3000 unreached people groups in our country. The harvest in plentiful and the laborers are few, so we don't care where they come from or how much they cost." Other people point to the fact that Western money might cause indigenous churches to be dependent on the outside world and never be able to sustain their own full-time pastors and missionaries, buildings, evangelism efforts, etc.

What do you think? What is the best way to sow financially into the mission field? And more importantly, are you doing so? Some day, we'll all have to give an account of our talents.

1 comment:

  1. Supporting indigenous missionaries responsibly is, I believe, the best way to do our part in fulfilling the great commission. Equipping those in the field with finances, encouragement and prayer does just that. Not only do the nationals 'own' their ministry, they are accountable for the success or failure of it. Motivation for concientious and stable leadership comes from within the missionary population already at work for the Lord in their particular nation/people group. Do we dare tell them how to 'do ministry among their culture group? I think not!