Indigenous Missions: An Introduction

Christ and Apostle Paul practiced indigenous missions. Christ invested his life in twelve men who evangelized the world. Paul didn’t build buildings. He built men who built buildings.

indigenous missions church planting

An “Indigenous” Church is simply a self-supporting church

An indigenous church is a church that stands on its own without the help of finances from the missionary.

Help from the missionary is good but must be temporary and not excessive. The church must learn tithing and missions giving. Because they are poor does not exclude them from being obedient to God in the area of giving.

God will do more with the little bit they give than all the money the missionary can raise for them.

Those who only receive want more and have less. Those who learn to give want less and have more.

Christ Practiced Indigenous Missions

First we look at Christ. He invested his life in twelve men, one of those was a betrayer and thief. He ate, slept, traveled, and taught them. He lead them to his Father by example. If we were to judge Jesus according to today’s standards of ministry He was a failure. But we know that is not the case. We have the gospel today because of the success of His earthly ministry.

Apostle Paul Practiced Indigenous Missions

Secondly we have Paul who also trained men. In the churches he started, he trained men to pastor those churches. He sent letters to them by the hand of men he was teaching and training. He instructed and rebuked the churches by letter and in person.

The churches gave to Paul’s physical and spiritual needs, not the other way around. They had an ongoing relationship.

Apostle Paul didn’t build buildings. He built men who built buildings.

Today Paul would not be accepted by our churches as a good missionary. We today look at numbers as a judge of success. It should be a measuring stick — not the rule or final judge. We men are leaders and we are called to lead people.

The question is, to whom and to where are we leading those that are following us?

The Difference in a Missionary and a Pastor

It is important to keep in mind that a pastor and a missionary are very different. A pastor trains and stays at the job. A missionary works himself out of a job.

A missionary should always have a man that he is teach to do what he is doing - then giving him plenty of opportunities to do what he is being taught.

That means sometimes letting them do things that you know will not work just so they can learn to listen.

It is kind of like raising children. When a baby learns to walk they fall a lot at first until they learn to get their balance. As parents, we let them fall but move things that will hurt them as they learn to balance and walk without us holding their hand.

It is important for a missionary to understand his position. What happens a lot of times is the missionary finds himself spread so thin he can’t put 100% into anything because he is doing it all. It is better to do a few things well then many things poorly.

Some examples of indigenous missions

Sometimes we as missionaries think “if we build it they will come.” That is true, but they come to get instead of coming to give.

We need to show the heart of God to the people and what their responsibility to the Lord is, then help them come up with ideas of how they are to reach those goals, breaking it down so they understand it.

For example in Hatgal the church people wanted and needed their own building. To start we needed about $800 to by logs to build it.

The easy thing would have been for me to make a phone call and get the money for them. For me it would have been so little money and plenty of church would have been willing to give it.

To them it was a mountain of money and impossible to get. So we broke it down to a liter of milk, which they could understand because it was just a little bit of money. But when you take that little bit, multiply it by the day, then multiply it by the month, and then by the number of people that were there, they had enough money to buy a couple of logs. After a few months they had enough to build a church.

The $800 was just the beginning! They raised a lot more than that.

It was what God did through them, not what the missionary gave to them.

Yes, the missionary can say God provided it but the people will only see it as the missionary’s faith in God. Yes, it took longer for them to do it by faith but now next week they move into the building that God blessed them with out of their obedience to his plan for them.

When we left Hatgal in August the young church offered to give me money to help me get reestablished somewhere else instead of asking me how they would continue on.

The churches I planted in Mexico also supported us financially when we went to Mongolia because they saw that God expected them to help get the gospel to Mongolia.

Indigenous churches are built on men, not women and children

Many missionaries try to build a church on women and children. Yes, they do need reached and should never be overlooked. They are the easiest to reach but the church will only be established on men of God.

The men of the church will only follow where they are being lead. So many times we wait until the men reach a certain spiritual level before we are willing to invest in their lives or let them do anything. By the time they get all clean on the outside they have rotted on the inside.

Being spiritual is not how you look. It is who you are on the inside. The look comes in time. They will only get there if we lead them there.

This means as missionaries we must focus on the men of the church and lead them to a closer walk with Christ.

They may be fewer in number but if we get the men the women and children will follow. This is God’s design seen in the order of the Biblical home,

  1. God
  2. Husband
  3. Wife
  4. Children

Again we must think “multiply”, instead of “add”. Women and children are adding. Getting the men is multiplying. In Hatgal and Mexico I surrounded myself with the men of the church, leading and teaching them.

For example, in Hatgal I sat down every friday and talked with the men on how I felt God was leading the church. Already having in mind which way we would go, I asked the men to help me with ideas on how to accomplish those goals, always using the strategy,

“I am not Mongolian, so I don’t think as you do. Help me to understand how we can work together to see God’s will done.”

Sometimes their ideas were unbiblical so I shared how biblically we could not do that. When their ideas were not contrary to the Word of God, we would discuss them, the pros and cons, and how it would work or wouldn’t work.

It may not have been how I would have like to have done it, but it was their idea, their decision, and not against the Bible.

I learned that they know more about reaching their own people than I do.

I also realized that my traditions don’t always work for others. The men will follow your because you are leading them. Their wives will follow them because they are being lead. The children go where the family goes. Leaders are trained not born.