My Struggles with Traditional Missions – part 5

This is part 5 of this topic:

  • You can read part 1 HERE.
  • You can read part 2 HERE.
  • You can read part 3 HERE.
  • You can read part 4 HERE.
  • You can hear the sermon where I talked about some of these things HERE.

For ten years some things about traditional missions have bothered me
– at least my understanding of traditional missions. I'm not sure I
have the answers, but I struggle with several things. And I'm wide open
to being corrected on these issues… (as many have responded with challenging, helpful emails)

Another question I have about missions…

5) Why don't we see Paul's model more often? (Get the Gospel, raise up a church, and get out of the way.)

It seems that the longer American missionaries are in a location, the more dependent people can become on those missionaries. If the goal is self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propogating churches, staying a long time as an American-funded missionary can make that a challenge.

It can be done, but it must be difficult. If we stay, we need to find a support role, not a leading role – it seems to me. And support roles are hard to play for most Americans. And in that support, I think we wouldn't want them dependent on American money. Or that can quickly be viewed as their hope – rather than Christ.

As a friend said to me this week – perhaps at times we hurt people doing missions just like the state hurts people doing welfare.

I don't feel strongly about this, but I feel like "long term" staying is the norm, and short term staying is rare (unless the short-term is as an assistant to long-term missionaries or because they leave the field – period). I'm wondering why we don't see the model of Paul more often.

2 comments
  1. Apparently, the secret to the growth of the church in China was kicking out Western missionaries. In 1949, the Protestant church was estimated at 500,000 (0.1% of the Chinese population). After the Communists kicked out these “Foreign Imperialists,” many predicted the death of this “Western” institution. Today, estimates range from 40 million (3.0%) to 110 million (9.7%) Protestant Christians in China.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_in_China#Contemporary_PRC

    Compare this to countries like India or Japan where western missionaries have been a constant.

    I must mention South Korea, however, as a counter-example. The church has exploded there since World War II with continual western influence. The question there might be how have western missionaries conducted themselves differently in that country?

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