Starting Indigenous Churches on the Mission Field

Striving for Indigenous National Leadership—Part 2

This is part two of this article. Please click here to read part one.

A common decision missionaries run into on the field is deciding if they should use their church as a hub to train nationals and send them out; or if they should turn their own work over to a national once it is self-supporting, and start over somewhere else repeatedly. I have personally done it both ways and would like to share some insights I have learned.

When a missionary is starting and leading a church, it is very difficult to turn the church over to a national. The locals (at least in my area) would rather have an American pastor. I believe there are several reason for this:

  • An American pastor typically has more education than a national would have, and carries a certain amount of prestige.
  • The American is typically on missionary support, and the mission church does not have to support him.
  • It is easier for the church members to hide things from Americans than it is to hide it from their own people.

I prefer to view our ministry as a hub to train national pastors and send them out to their own people, rather than continually starting churches myself and turning them over to someone else.

As God raises up men from the churches we have already established or gives us new contacts from villages, we work to train these men: walking with them and mentoring them as they establish a church in their own village or town. From the very beginning, the people view the national as their leader. He disciples them, answers their questions, and teaches them the Bible.

As they desire to have a church in their village, they also see the need of supporting him as their pastor. From the very first day that the church is commissioned, the national is the pastor, and there is no transition at all. When we send a man out to a new village, he is accompanied by the men trained in our church, and I as the missionary may not even enter that village for a period of six months. I then only come as an invited guest of the man who is going to become the pastor. It is imperative that they see their pastor, rather than the missionary, as their leader.

Never forget, our purpose is to establish indigenous Baptist churches pastored by national men. This is a church that is locally built, locally governed, and locally supported. Without this goal, they will never survive past the foreign support given to them, and God will never become real to them or to their churches.

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