In the following paragraphs, we will consider a few of the most important advantages of sending and supporting indigenous or native missionaries to reach their own people
Before we do, we want to iterate that the indigenous missionary strategy does not eliminate the need for cross-cultural missionaries. This is not an either/or, but a both/and situation. We are not arguing for a moratorium on North American and Western European missionaries, but fully recognize the need for thousands more on the field! We are simply seeking to prove that the indigenous missionary strategy is an equally viable missionary method.
- Human Resources. It is a fact that, before going to war, military strategists consider the size of their population as opposed to that of their enemy. This simply means that the amount of human resources available to carry out a task is extremely important. The world is a very large place with more than six billion people. If every Christian in America was a foreign missionary, there would still not be enough missionaries to preach the Gospel to all peoples. If we continue to depend only on missionaries from the West, much of the world will never hear the Gospel.
- Financial Resources. It costs a great deal of money to send and support North American and Western European missionaries. Many missionary families require $3000 to $4000 a month to work in a foreign land where the average salary is often less than $200 a month. In contrast, the indigenous or native missionary is able to live on the same salary as his fellow countrymen. This adds up to a tremendous increase in economic power. For what it costs to support one North American missionary with a monthly support of $4000, it is possible to support 20 indigenous missionaries!
- Language and Culture. Any cross-cultural missionary will testify that language and culture are two of the greatest obstacles to the work. It often takes a cross-cultural missionary his first term (4-5 years) just to learn the language and adjust to the culture. Five years and a quarter of a million dollars are spent on the mission field to learn the language, adjust to the culture, and do a minimum of ministry. In contrast, the indigenous or native missionary has no need to learn the language or adjust to the culture that he has known since birth. From his very first day on the mission field, the indigenous missionary can concentrate on his two priorities - evangelizing the lost and planting churches.
- Identification. There is much anti-American and anti-European bias in many of the least evangelized countries of the world. In many people groups, it is virtually impossible for a western missionary to preach the Gospel because he is rejected for his nationality long before he has the opportunity to communicate his message! In contrast, the indigenous missionary has little problem with such bias because he is of the same flesh and blood as those to whom he preaches. When he is rejected, it is not for the sake of his flag, but for the sake of his Gospel. Another problem that missionaries from the West often face is their inability or unwillingness to live on the same level as those to whom they minister. Western missionaries often live in homes that seem like mansions to the native; they drive expensive cars, while the native takes a bus; and they send their children to private school, while the native sends his to public school. In contrast, the indigenous missionary’s support is adjusted according to the average salary of his own country. He lives in the same neighborhood, takes the same bus, and his children attend the same school.
- No Difficult Transitions. For the cross-cultural missionary, church planting is often not as difficult as the later transitional period when the missionary bids farewell and the church comes under national leadership. The church often suffers a great deal during this transitional period, loses members, and is greatly discouraged. Having experienced the prestige of a western missionary as pastor, the church is often no longer willing to accept one of its own. This is not a problem when the church is planted by an indigenous missionary and is under his leadership from beginning to end.
- Focus. It seems that many North American and Western European mission agencies have lost their focus. The Great Commission is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel, saving souls, discipling believers, and planting churches. Many western agencies seem to have an exorbitant number of missionaries working as administrators and “facilitators”, and few ministering as preachers and church planters.