“The indigenous missionary movement, the only hope for many unreached nations, is large and growing. And it is not going unchallenged either by satan or the world. Revivals of traditional religions, the growth of secular materialism including communism, and the rise of cultural and nationalist barriers are all united in opposition to Christian mission activity.”
This quote from chapter 16 in a book by K.P. Yohannen called Revolution in World Missions. After reading the whole book, I am convicted, and convinced that part of the problem is the American Church. We seem stuck in some bygone era believing that missions means sending only white people to other countries to set up social ministries. But today, unlike 20 years ago and earlier, many countries do not even allow Western missionaries inside their borders. Some national Christians in these countries believe that until Westerners leave the country all together, they will not be as successful in spreading the Gospel.
A story is told by Sadhu Sundar Singh, a pioneer national missionary evangelist in India: “A high-caste Hindu had fainted one day from the summer heat while sitting on a train in a railway station. A train employee ran to a water faucet, filled a cup with water and brought it to the man in an attempt to revive him. But in spite of his condition, the Hindu refused it. He would rather die than accept water in the cup from another caste. Then someone noticed that the high-caste passenger had left his own cup on the seat beside him. So he grabbed it, filled it with water and returned to offer the panting heat victim who immediately accepted the water with gratitude. This is what I’ve been trying to say to missionaries from abroad. You have been offering the water of life to people in India in a foreign cup, and we have been slow to receive it. If you will offer it in our own cup—in an indigenous form—then we are much more likely to accept it.”
Dennis E Clark states, “There are times in history when however a gifted a person may be, he can no longer effectively proclaim the Gospel to those of another culture. A German could not have done so in Britain in 1941 nor could an Indian in Pakistan during the war of 1967, and it will be extremely difficult for Americans to do so in the Third World of the 1980s and 1990s.” Now we know it is even worse today.
Having said all this, I am not convinced that “the indigenous missionary movement [is] the only hope for many unreached nations.” I do believe there is still a calling and many places for the American Christian to “GO therefore…” So what are do we do?
The American Church has the funds but sends a tiny fraction of what we invest in our buildings, programs and social gospel. What if we redirect those funds to the brothers and sisters seriously and effectively spreading the Gospel, planting churches, making disciples, and doing far more than whites ever could? For the cost of flying one American to Mumbai, a national missionary already in the field can minister for years!
Again, this is NOT to say God still does not command all of His people, include American ones, to “GO, therefore, and make disciples of all peoples…”. If He calls you or me we need to respond. Perhaps it is not to Sudan or China (but perhaps it is!). Perhaps it is downtown, or around the corner to the convalescent home. Maybe it’s on a short-term trip overseas to build homes or train and strengthen the national brothers and sisters. Or it could be through sacrificial giving of money and prayer for those that can go.
I know God’s command demands a response. It demands more than I am doing, and I wonder if that is true of most American Christians. How does His command affect you?