Foreign vs Indigenous Missions

Generally speaking, non-Christians will not pay for an evangelist to come and preach to them.

But someone has to pay the missionary’s living.There have been a number of approaches to this: 

  1. the missionary raises funds from foreign Christians
  2. the missionary takes on a job among non-Christians
  3. the worker is paid for by local Christians (if there are enough) etc.

Money has to come from somewhere.

It is not necessarily a bad thing — or necessarily a good thing — to take money from one region (such as the West) to support the missionary work of a church in another place (such as the East).

So I don’t think it’s automatically bad or good for an American church to help an Indian church do cross-cultural missionary work.

But there are some rules, to me.

First, for me, it ought to be missionary work – which means crossing languages, cultures, and planting the church where it is not. Not subsidizing (salaries) of pastors in existing churches (who ought to be supported by the local church, in my mind).

Second, I lean toward capitalizing mission work – not subsidizing workers – which means primarily getting things up and running and sometimes providing tools that make work easier (e.g. SD cards, bicycles, etc). But I recognize workers have to eat, and I struggle with how that happens. I think the best and least-dependency-oriented approach is the bivocational worker. (ActBeyond does not pay salaries for local workers, for example. And we have found in studies that subsidizing money tends to kill movements.) 

Third, at no time should the Western missionary vs the indigenous missionary be pitched as an either/or. No part of the church is excused from the “go into all the world and make disciples” commission.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it may be helpful.

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