Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Monday, October 16, 2006

Native Missionaries - A New Way of Looking at Mission

One problem with much of 20th century thinking on mission is that it revolves around things missionaries do in countries other than their own. For just about as long as I can remember I have been challenged by this rather narrow view of mission. Particularly the way in which traditionally conservative churches will support new "church" endeavours in other countries while refusing to participate in or labeling as heretical similar endeavours in their own.

It seems some things are fine for the "mission field" but certainly not for home.

Perhaps the biggest influence on my current thinking on world mission (i.e. mission beyond the backyard) comes from a guy called P.K. Yohannan. I don't know much more about this bloke than what I've read on his bio on the Gospel for Asia website but I do believe that his take on the role of what he calls "native missionaries" is revolutionary.

I first read his book Revolution in World Missions (you can order a free copy of this book here) while leading a small mission team in the central African country of Rwanda. I was right in the middle of the process of setting up a working administration structure with our Rwandan ministry and found that P.K.'s model fit nicely with the direction I was already starting to head. This lead me, over time, to further restructure my own thinking on the way our Australia/Rwanda relationship was to work. Basically it ended up with the flipping of our ministry structure upside down, allowing our Rwandan team to call the shots on how ministry finances should be handled and what projects were a priority. Meanwhile in Australia we stopped viewing Rwanda as an arm of "our" ministry and started seeing ourselves as an arm of theirs - in other words, I started working for them instead of the other way around.

This lead me to further develop my thoughts on the native missionary movement. If this model worked in India and Rwanda and elsewhere, surely it could also work here in Australia (and pretty much anywhere else in the world). At last it seemed many of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were falling into place.

In a nutshell - the local church, here in Oz or in GB or the US, is no less capable of turning out native missionaries (that is local "operatives") than churches in third world or developing nations.

So this has become one of the main foci of my ministry - encouraging our own "native missionaries"/"local operatives" to get involved in taking the gospel to the far flung corners of their own communities (yep over the back fence and down the street), while continuing to support financially and prayerfully the work of similarly minded followers of Jesus Christ in other parts of the world.

And, while we are on that topic - I am off to Rwanda again in June with another small team of West Aussies - finances are required for a number of ongoing projects so if anyone feels so led, please feel free to drop me a line! :)

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