August 10, 2012

Evidence for the Significance of Native Missionaries

I just wanted to share some information about native missionaries/national missionaries that I've come across.  It comes from a few reputable sources in the missions world.  I found this in the 2007-2009 Mission Handbook.

This chart show the incredible growth of non US citizens employed by US based missions ministries.  In 1992, there were very few.  By 2005, they made up 67% of the work force on the mission field.  Today the number is higher still.

Operation World 7th Edition says on page7, "The globalization of the Great Commission movement has profoundly changed the face of mission. Since the late 1970s, there has been a surge of interest and involvement in missions from the Majority World. Mission sending has recently gained or maintained momentum in countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, Brazil, Philippines, South Korea and others. Involvement by the more traditional sending regions of North America, Europe and the Pacific has stayed level at best and often declined. The world missions force is more multicultural and multinational than ever before. It faces challenges--and solutions--distinct to the 21st Century."  The first sub-item underneath this paragraph has the title of "The Majority World Church as the dominant force in mission sending."  A few pages later, on page 19 it says, "Relationships with national Churches. Most missionary work is now done in contexts where indigenous Christians exist, gather and even minister in their own evangelistic capacity. Expatriate Christians must learn to serve in harmony with the local church where it exists, as each acts in humility and grace toward the other. Tensions and misunderstandings can occur and cultures can vary greatly, but each needs the other to see the task fulfilled."  In Appendix 3 on page 949 when describing The World's Missionary Force, it says, "Nearly every country is a missionary-sending country. What used to happen "from the West to the rest" is now an extensive and expanding global activity. Missionary vision is alive even in those countries where the Church is young, small or under persecution. When praying for those many places in the world that need more missionaries, pray with an awareness that the answer may come from east, west, north or south, from a neighbouring culture or one on the other side of the world."  Then on page 951, you'll see a list of how many missionaries a country sends.

China 100,000
US 93,500
India 82,950
South Korea 19,950
Nigeria 6,644
UK 6,405
Canada 5,200
Philippines 4,500

All these descriptions and data point to the fact that Christianity truly is a global faith now.  All aspects of Christianity, including missions is now global as well.  After all, Christians all over the world read the same Great Commission Bible verses as do Christians in the traditional mission sending countries.

This next bit of information comes form an article in the Perspectives Reader.

From the highlighted part and the graph, we see that the mission force from the non-west has surpassed the mission force from the west.  Though, this isn't a representation of 'native missionaries', since it is describing cross-cultural missionaries, many of the non-western missionaries are national missionaries.

So what does all this mean and why am I bringing it up?  It's an indication that times are changing.  It's an alert to Christians from the traditional sending countries to take notice that there is likely a missionary force within any country they are trying to reach.  Too often I still hear about mission strategies that sound like modern day colonial efforts.  I hear about plans that were created and drawn up before contact is even made with Christians in the country they are trying to reach.  We need to prevent ourselves from doing that.  If you ever get caught up in a situation like that, I encourage you to throw on the brakes, pray and reach out to the missionaries in the area or near the area you are trying to reach.

If national missionaries vastly outnumber foreign missionaries (and if non-western missionaries vastly outnumber western missionaries), we need to learn how to partner with one another.  Instead of asking the question, 'How can I/we reach the world?' we need to ask the question, 'How can the world be reached, and what part do I/we have in it?'

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