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Let me get one thing straight first:

This article is NOT meant to tell any single person that their work in foreign missions is a mistake.  I am NOT saying that foreign missions isn’t worth the effort.  Nor am I questioning the motives of any foreign missionary.

I am only asking for a reanalysis.  Foreign missionaries, missions agencies, churches who send missionaries – we should all make sure that what we’re doing what is most effective in using the resources God has given us.  All of us want that, right?

We good, then?bridge budapest

Ok, on to the article.

So the title of this article suggests that much of what we do is “patronizing”.  Maybe a better word is “paternalism”, which is used by an organization called the Chalmers Center, in their work called When Helping Hurts.

Paternalism is when we, as Western Americans, believe that we know better, can do better, and can provide better than nationals in their own country.

It’s colonialism at its root.  And it is a slap in the face to our brothers and sisters in other countries.

They have the same Spirit we do, don’t they?  They have the same Word of God that shapes their hearts and churches, don’t they?  They have the same Savior who makes them new, don’t they?

Then why do we think that we have more to offer their country than they themselves do?

Nationals have the same #Spirit we do, don't they? Click To Tweet

In Our Preparation

Some people have heard a sermon and get really excited about foreign mission work.  In a passionate decision, they set themselves on a path to devote themselves to foreign mission work.

They prepare by doing a 2 or even 6 month training course through the mission agency of choice.

No church leader who knows them (their maturity, their abilities, their shortfalls) has encouraged them to move forward.  But they do it anyway, justifying it by a sense of “calling” which may or may not have really been the Holy Spirit in the first place.

libraryIt really is a ludicrous idea.  We have to be willing to admit that it could have just been a really emotionally moving moment, but the application could be misguided.  Maybe the mission is good, but they are meant to be a part of it in a way that is different from directly going and being the missionary on the ground.

There’s no accountability (other than an interview or short training course provided by the missions agency).  In this scenario, they cut themselves off from the people who are really able to tell them whether they should do this – their own church leaders.  Then, they often get only minimal training.

And at the essence of it all, it comes down to a feeling that we don’t need a lot of training because we know better than those primitive people in x country.

How patronizing.  How paternalistic.

I suggest a new system, where we spend time with our church leaders in a mentoring system that provides training and accountability in theological learning, character development, and ministry skills.  The Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership Development is an awesome model and can be used by your church through a relatively easy process.  See this article for more information.

Continue this article on the next page.


Also published on Medium.

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