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.

  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.

    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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