June 25, 2011

14 Key Aspects of an Ideal Native Missionary Organization (Phase 7)

1. The missionaries are from the people group they are trying to reach, so they already know the language and culture. If true native missionaries are not available, then the missionaries should be from a similar people group.

2. Before being approved for training and mission work, the candidates should be evaluated to make sure they are sold-out for God and willing to reach out to the unreached. They should have a history of evangelizing and leading people to Christ.
3. The missionaries should receive the necessary training. Depending on the situation, the training program could last from weeks to years. A model that some mission agencies are using is to have different sets of training available--the main group of missionaries will receive a few years of traing in a Bible college setting that mixes in field experience, and a secondary group will receive informal training or perhaps training through the mail, the internet or radio (Theological Training by Extension). The second group can become very helpful when churches are being planted faster than missionaries/pastors are able to be trained.
4. Most of the pioneer mission countries are economically poor, so the majority of the financial support should come from wealthier Christians around the world.
5. The missionaries should be equipped with the appropriate tools for making disciples and planting churches. Some common tools would be a Study Bible and pastoral resources, a bicycle, Gospel tracts, New Testaments, a lantern, a bullhorn, and a way for the Jesus Film to make the rounds in the missionary's area.

6. The missionaries should only be given enough money to put them on a relatively same economic level as the people they are reaching. Any less, it will become hard for them to function. Any more, it becomes a dangerously tempting situation, which can cause stagnation. Living at the same economic level as those you are reaching expresses equality and can help missionaries be accepted. However, in order for the missionaries to be most effective, it will likely be necessary to allocate additional funds for each missionary for ministry purposes. These funds will pay for items in #5, but could also be used for things like traveling expenses, items for church, such as musical instruments, some types of aid and development for the community, and money set aside to pay for medical bills when the missionaries get beat up badly.
7. Strict financial record keeping policies should be followed at all times. People need to sign off when they give or recieve money. Whenever large sums of money are collected or distributed, at least two people should be present to count it and sign off on it. Keep all receipts, etc.
8. There needs to be a network of accountability within the ministry on the mission field. Individual missionaries/pastors should have a level of autonomy, but they need to have elders and colleagues to check with them on a regular basis, give them guidance, and hold them accountable.
9. Avoid supporting lone individuals on the mission field. Without a network of accountability, it becomes too easy and too tempting for individuals to collect the big bucks from Westerners. They will do 2 large crusades a year, take plenty of pictures, report on the 'fruit', and sit around the rest of the year. I have heard many reports of these instances. I personally have been approached by at least 2 of these individual swindlers. With the internet, it is becoming easier and easier for these guys to trick foreigners who have a good heart and want to help. I'm not saying supporting an individual can't be done, but you just have to be extremely careful.
10. This may sound harsh and rude, but a healthy practice is to visit the field unannounced. This helps to avoid some of the previously mentioned problems of accountability. If the two parties are truly ministry partners, then there won't be any bad feelings. After all, our Lord will someday do this to all of us.
11. The Westerners and the natives should be proactive in learning about one another so as to overcome barriers of culture and communication. It is important for each party to understand the role of the other. The natives should provide the best possible reporting on the ministry and the Westerners should continually ask the natives what their vision and needs are. The Westerners shouldn't wield all the power simply because they write the check. It's a partnership. Both sides serve God.
12. The missionaries should go self-supporting as soon as possible. A phased out allowance to coincide with the new believers beginning to tithe probably works best. Some native missionary agencies will put a timeline on this process, but I have my reservations about enforcing a timeline. Once the missionaries go self-supporting, that money can be used to support other new missionaries, perhaps even the disciples of the original missionary.
13. When the missionaries go self-supporting, it would be advisable for them to stay within the network of accountability and be as active in the ministry as always.
14. Think outside the box. Missions work shouldn't be confined to the foot soldiers doing traditional personal evangelism, making disciples, and planting churches. Native missionaries should get involved with radio broadcasts, internet evangelism, talking Bibles, the Jesus Film, children's ministry, women's ministry, etc. It is often very helpful to partake in social justice, aid, and development projects alongside mission efforts. These projects can open eyes and hearts to the love of Jesus Christ and His followers. Just don't make those projects the priority. The most fruitful activities will vary from place to place and ministry to ministry. All of these efforts combined in the right way will often be better than traditional mission work alone.

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