Dr. Louis L. King
All missionary work conducted by the Christian and Missionary Alliance has a twofold objective. The first and immediate objective is the widespread preaching of the Gospel. The ultimate objective is the building up of the indigenous church. The clear statement in the Foreign Service Manual is: "The winning of adults to Christ and establishing of churches in all places where converts are won is regarded as the primary objective of all missions." In this paper we shall be dealing chiefly with the ultimate goal; namely, the development of the Church.
St. Paul, writing under divine inspiration, states that the goal of all Christian work is, "That we may present every man perfect/mature/in Christ Jesus." This is, therefore, the criterion by which all missionary endeavour must be judged. No matter how spectacular or dramatic or specialized the work, it all must be tested as to whether or not it is contributing to the planting and then to the maturing of the Church of Jesus Christ. Whatever is found to stultify growth or supplant national initiative or imperil self-reliance or weaken witnessing is to be shunned. Whatever method or procedure secures a mature church of believers ought to be followed.
We are particularly favoured in our search for the method we should follow. More than a hundred years have passed since Dr. Henry Venn, Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, stated that the purpose of missions is the development of churches which are "self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating."
Dr. Venn and all exponents of this policy since his day interpret these three
Since Dr. Venn's day, valuable books as well as many articles have been written on the subject. The national churches of Korea, Congo, Indonesia, Viet Nam, the Philippines and others are living monuments of the principle of indigenity. Their achievements are known to us. Moreover, the history of our own Society's experience in church planting and maturing - as recorded in the "finding Committee Report of the Board of Managers, 1952," together with the published Bangkok Report - is an open book to us all. In addition, by consultations, reasonings and debates; by events which have compelled us to face the problem of the church; by the action of opposing principles firmly resisted in debate - by all of this, the vagueness and incorrectness of many things have come to light.
What, then, are the weaknesses and impediments which, if permitted to survive, will enter into damaging and destructive combinations that will stultify the work of achieving the indigenous church goal?
Whenever the indigenous policy has been adopted by a mission, missionaries inevitably object: "The Christians are not ready," "They are economically unable," "You do not understand our situation," "Give us time and we will work out our own solution." When the pleas are honoured and ideas and methods contrary to the well enunciated policy have been permitted, the results have not been good for the mission and less so for the church. Not only does such action retard the attainment of the objectives but it has proven to be a source of disunity and trouble in the mission and also in the mission-church relationship. It is a chief reason for lack of success in achieving the type of church that is the Biblical goal.
That missionaries are listed as hindering the indigenization program may come as a shock. It should, however, be remembered that this is not an indictment. The missionaries really cannot be blamed. They are what they are by virtue of innate talents, ambitions, and attainments, and the fact that they were reared in a fabulously rich economy where the accepted axiom is "nothing succeeds like success" and where the test of achievement is to get things done quickly.
1. Each missionary without doubt is deeply concerned that evil not creep into the life of the church. His is a laudable ambition that the Christian standard of morals and habits of life be maintained. Immorality, drinking, smoking, chewing betel nut, and worldliness are especially to be shunned. Just here, however, may come the breakdown in the indigenous method in that the missionary, sensing - whether correctly or not - that these evil practices would be allowed if the administration were left to the nationals, carries on as director of church affairs. He imposes a code of morals and ethics which inevitably leads the national to conceive of the Gospel as a system of law. He also initiates disciplinary actions. It is this wholesome desire for a pure-living people of God and a seeming inability of the nationals in just this area that sometimes keeps the missionary from an enthusiastic espousal and implementation of the indigenous method.
2. Those who work with backward peoples can honestly speak of what is to Westerners their slowness, laziness, and lack of dependability. Whether in personal matters or church affairs, these triple dispositions reign supreme. An American missionary with his native propensity for speed and success can hardly contain himself. He reasons that the Gospel must be preached to the lost and that the Church must be properly cared for, and that now. In such situations the normal procedure has been to fall back upon:
a. Foreign money and professional evangelism.b. The notion that missionary work is an end in itself.c. The tendency to consider the mission society more important than the new church that it set out to establish.d. Making efficiency a matter of prime consideration.
3. It is generally believed that spirituality and a reasonably good education are prerequisites to church leadership. To this there can be no objection. There is danger, however, when we as missionaries go a step further and actually select men to be pastors on the basis of their education and good appearance. At the Bangkok Conference it was said:
"We all have the same Holy Spirit. He is the gift of Jesus Christ and His work is to give gifts to believers. These good gifts should be evident in believers. But when the mission rules, it may mar the operations of the Holy Spirit. For instance, we pay men to preach who are not gifted to preach. We see a man who is good looking and intelligent and we say, `He ought to be a worker.' We then proceed to dress him in American clothes, educate him, raise his standard of living and on graduation day look at him and say, `He is all ready to preach.' No, not necessarily so! He may never have been gifted by the Holy Spirit. All we saw was his intelligence, but we did not see and we haven't seen to this day that the Holy Spirit has gifted him for the place where we have placed him. A tragedy, therefore, occurs in the Church. Our men try to do God's work in the flesh, whereas these spiritual ministries can be performed only with the gifts of the Holy Spirit."
4. The indigenous method is set aside whenever and wherever the missionary draws up a constitution for acceptance by the national church. We have found that sometimes an awesome document with minute details, which for the most part parallels our American church constitutions, is imposed upon the young church. The constitution should originate with the church and thus be on a level of their comprehension and implementation.
5. To see scantily or immodestly clothed people is especially repugnant to some missionaries. To be adequately clothed according to Western standards they consider to be synonymous with true Christianity, and this because they have made no serious effort to separate the essentials of the message of the Gospel and life in Christ from the intertwinings and accretions of Western culture in Christianity. The people must be dressed; therefore, the "missionary barrel" full of castoff clothing has become part and parcel of missionary endeavour. This is done in spite of the fact that the clothing may not be suited to the people and may be a deterrent to self-support.
In one area the people were, for all practical purposes, nude. In their culture they had never made clothes. They did not know what cloth was. They had no soap and no currency to buy these things. Every one of them was in the same condition. Moreover, when the Westerner came among them wearing clothes, the smell of perspiration was most repulsive. Despite this, the mission decided to provide blankets, clothing, and soap for the preachers and their wives. These were items which were scorned by the parishioners and which in their economy they were not able to provide for themselves. What the missionary did, both to the pastors and their wives, really (1) placed them outside their own social group, (2) provided them with things they were economically unable to obtain for themselves, (3) caused them to be an offense to their fellows with the odour of perspiration, and (4) changed the true position of the minister of the Gospel from that of being a servant of the Lord among the people to being a lord over God's heritage.
6. When the Christians of our younger churches compare missionaries with Christ, they complain that they are not sufficiently Christlike. One national leader said, "I have met very few missionaries who do not feel they are superior to us."
In one culture to lose one's temper is considered offensive. Were a missionary to show an un-Christlike attitude in handling church matters, that could have a devastating effect among such a people. A wholesome relationship, therefore, with national Christians is of immense importance. Failure in Christlikeness is a major cause of our weakness in successfully bringing about the indigenous church.
7. An inadequate understanding of the true nature of the Body of Christ as a living organism infused with life and directed by Christ its Head impedes our attaining the goal. The Church is seemingly conceived of as a tinker toy to be put together and held together by the missionaries: they are able to do everything so much better and faster that the national experiences a feeling of hopeless inferiority so that in the presence of the missionary he will seldom do as well as he is capable of doing. His initiative, the very characteristic that needs development and expression, is retarded. The possibility of the Holy Spirit's directing him and the life of the church is ignored.
8. The indigenous church policy may not commend itself to a missionary because of the frustration he may experience in trying to apply it. Even in the homelands, establishing a new church with only a small company of believers with little money and in an inconspicuous place can be a discouraging and frustrating experience. On the mission field it is much more so The missionary, therefore, appeals for money and buildings and medicine and schools to defeat his frustration. When these have been obtained, it is possible to have little or no passionate concern for a program built on the indigenous policy. Where these things are not given, the frustrated missionary is tempted to blame his lack of success on the fact that subsidy and these other items have not been available. Just a little help here and a little help there, he believes, would certainly achieve results. In either case, frustration in a missionary opposes the indigenous policy.
9. Being wedded to modern conveniences or our own standard of living helps to militate against the type of church we seek. In the eyes of the nationals the missionary is a millionaire. He reasons that begging from such is only legitimate.
10. The promotional type missionary may unwittingly undermine the indigenous method. He sees the financial advantage to the mission to be gained by pleading for support of national workers and orphans and for the construction of church and school buildings. He probably is a most gifted letter writer and platform speaker when at home. It is inherently difficult, therefore, for him to sponsor enthusiastically that which curtails this ability.
11. A few missionaries oppose the plan for a more basic reason. They sincerely ask, "Are we not to obey James 2:5-17 and help the poor and needy with education, medicine, buildings, and clothes?" In reply it might be said that:
a. Free medical, educational and economic aid causes the Christians to consider themselves the beneficiaries of the mission. The ineradicable impression is that the mission is the "Mother-Father," the great provider, and that the mission's very duty is to look after the welfare of its converts. Experience furthermore reveals that whenever the mission fails to help thus, they feel they are being ill-treated.b. Sometimes there is a desire to lift the economic and social standard because the people and their way of life are considered inferior. Our goal is to establish the Church of God, not to transplant Western culture.c. It is a true scriptural position that the social and economic advantages should come through the young church rather than through the missionary.d. The church should be so built that when the scaffolding is removed, the building will not collapse. We should, therefore, sacrifice everything that does not definitely contribute to the permanent establishment of the church.e. By distributing medicine, clothing, and education, the missionary may draw upon himself the accusation which is widespread in India and which was most prominent in the Niyogi Report1 that these are used purely and simply as inducements to conversion. Although they are actually given in the name of the church, the people in general do not grasp the true motive of compassion.f. "The church should fall back on its own resources and develop its own ways of working. It should be capable of expressing concern for the needy by reason of the Spirit in its midst. Its fruits should spring from its own roots, and all efforts to impose from the outside what does not spring from its own life are foredoomed to relative failure. We should not try to hang our fruit on their trees; therefore, any message or service or aid which the missionaries have to render needs really to be done by the churches and that at the earliest possible moment. The effort should be made to establish the church as the one and only basis from which the work of God can go forward to its destined end." (selected: source unknown)
The short term of service on some fields militates against attaining or maintaining St. Paul's goal for the church. If today's missionary program exactly duplicated St. Paul's and was to a civilized, educated, gentile people well acquainted with Judaistic thought, ethics and Old Testament preaching, then the short stay in a place would suffice. The work, however, in many places is carried on among peoples untutored in civilization and who are just learning of the truth of God. Because the situation in this age is different from Paul's, it is necessary to stay a longer period.
Here is our problem: A missionary and wife with financial backing are assigned by the field conference to a certain district. They become known for good works. They distribute free medicine each day. They rescue and harbour girls who don't want to marry the husbands selected for them. This eventually calls for a primary school, supported in part or wholly by foreign funds.
Men in debt are also helped. Those in trouble with the authorities secure special consideration by the missionary's intervention. The missionary, being handy with saw and trowel and artful in appeal to the home constituency, gets around all policy statements and gets a church building started. At his furlough time another couple is assigned to the district. By contrast the nationals consider them not at all satisfactory. They have no knack for medical work and the dispensary is closed. Feeling that they should not arbitrate in marriage matters, the new couple discontinues the work of rescuing runaway girls. The man has no experience in construction; furthermore, he has a firm mind to follow the mission's policy regarding the use of foreign funds for the erection or repairing of church buildings. He believes that every church must be self-supporting from the beginning. He, therefore, does not continue in the program of his predecessor. At first this is a genuine shock to the local Christian community. The man, however, is mighty in prayer, able in declaring the whole counsel of God in a most understandable and winsome way. He itinerates slowly and takes ample time in each church centre, giving spiritual bread instead of stones to the people. His authority does not come because of his white skin or because of his superior education or because of some constitutional provision. He sways and controls and leads by spiritual qualifications, by the Word of God taught in the energy of the Holy Spirit. Soon the life of the Christian community begins to take on a new hue. Quarrels are stopped, sin is dealt with, repentance and restitution are practiced. Christians pray and witness. Believers are added to the Church. Then furlough brings the missionary's ministry to an abrupt end.
The previous missionary couple then returns to this district and reinstates the former program, or else another couple is sent with differing personalities and abilities. This pair is quite unable to do what the first and second couple had accomplished. The district suffers and the purpose of establishing a church is hindered by this method of short terms.
The Lutheran Church in Australia New Guinea has had phenomenal success with many thousands of converts. In an article appearing in the July, 1956, International Review of Missions, one reason assigned for this success is as follows:
The early history of the Lutheran mission in New Guinea is in no way different from that of other missions. In this tropical country, among men of a Stone Age civilization and cannibals, much courage, endurance, self-sacrifice and joy in suffering and dying was necessary. The beginning was difficult. It lasted from 1886 till 1899, when the first two converts were ready for baptism and then until 1906, which brought the first great movement towards Christianity. Although conditions changed later, we should consider some of the social characteristics of the early missionaries: they were sent out for life and could only go home for retirement if they were unfit for work. Not life, but service, was what mattered. In this way they could devote themselves completely to the work, and this gave great continuity.2
In most mission fields the work is carried on in close proximity to the Roman Catholics. They somehow manage to secure government assistance and forthwith establish a school program superior to anything Protestants can produce. The government in some instances seems to help the Catholics by establishing no government school system or else having an inadequate one. In such a situation, those desiring a good education are forced to attend Catholic schools. This is an intolerable situation. We sincerely believe we would lose our children and young people if we did not educate them ourselves. In addition, we argue ourselves into believing that the day of village evangelism is over and that today we need to give ourselves to school evangelism.
After Dr. Clyde Taylor's visit to Africa, he had the following to report on education in that continent:
Giving young people the education they want won't of itself hold them for the Gospel. In every land where this has been tried, experience tells us that it isn't education but deep spiritual life that holds young people for the Gospel. Moreover, once missionaries get involved in education, they seem to become immune to an honest perspective. Education holds the missionary home, enables him to have a regular life with a schedule. This is far easier than itinerant evangelism and teaching in the bush and villages. Unless he is that exceptional educator who has a burden for the spiritual life of the students to the extent that he works at discipling every one of them with personal contact, the spiritual problems dwindle to problems of discipline.
Missions don't seem to be able to control education when they get started, especially if it is subsidized. It brings in funds so they can support more missionaries so more missionaries can be absorbed into the system. In one major area we found that out of 300 missionaries, two were giving full time to evangelism. The rest were engaged in institutions of one kind or another, mostly primary education or teacher training.
If missions must operate a school system they must train teachers, but we consistently ran across this subtle danger. When young people in our schools reach secondary standing, they are sorted out, the best for full teacher training, second best for beginning primary schools. Of what's left, choose the best for native workers and send them to the Bible Institute. We saw that system in operation. In Congo there are 802 national pastors, 6,000 evangelists, but 14,000 school teachers, and 1,600 foreign missionaries. Surely such a consuming educational effort is harmful to the Church.
In addition to what Dr. Taylor has said, Dr. Daniel J. Fleming, Professor Emeritus of Missions, Union Theological Seminary, New York, has the following to say about the limitations of an intellectual approach in missions:
Westerners are apt to put too much trust in reason as a means of producing cultural change in another land. But it is possible ludicrously to overestimate what reason can accomplish. One is tempted to combat some situation, such as racial prejudice, with direct and logical argument based on facts. However, psychologists tell us that such intellectual arguments have minor effects.
The limitations of the approach through reason lie in assuming that facts and logic are the determining elements in the situation. The dynamic factors may be the traditional and emotional patterns which are more deeply imbedded in an individual than logic. In fact, in any folk society recurrent problems are met in conventionalized, spontaneous, and uncritical ways. Behaviour tends to be constant from generation to generation. The most serious opposition, therefore, to Christianity may not be from protest to its formulated thought but from its challenge to its customary ways of thinking and acting.
Tradition is not the only nonrational force at work. Modal ways of thinking and acting may, also, be emotionally instilled and, hence, not readily subject to logical argument. We are told that primitive religion is danced out rather than thought out. In particular, it is stated that the religion of the Bantu in Africa is still a matter of emotion, not of the intellect. `He is more concerned with doing what makes him feel confident and assured than with thinking about the reasons for what he does, and intellectual absurdities do not trouble him a bit. He is very sensitive to the behaviour patterns which make him feel all wrong though he could not explain why they do so; but he is not sensitive at all to the incongruity of irreconcilable ideas.'
But it is not only in Africa that emotion plays a large part in moulding ways of thinking and acting. A committee of the American Council of Education states that for us, also, emotions are the most potent and frequent factors in change of attitudes. The report continues: `The usual lag of social reforms, after obvious evidence of the need of reform is available, shows that for the mass of people attitudes are not widely readjusted on a rational basis.'
Our own experiences confirm the truth of these statements. Since the intellectual approach is so limited, it is a mistake to place undue emphasis upon it. Schools have their place but a clear understanding of that place is essential. Here is The Christian and Missionary Alliance policy for control of secular schools. It makes the best of actual situations with which missions are confronted and still maintains the indigenous policy:
1. As a general rule, it is not the responsibility of the mission but of the government or the people themselves to conduct and support schools.
2. There is justification for the mission's engaging in secular education only when the government does not operate secular schools but commits this responsibility solely to the Protestant and Roman Catholic missions whom they will subsidise.
3. Secular school work should be done only because of necessity and not by choice.
4. Mission-conducted schools are to be conducted according to the following policy:
a. To provide for primary education.
b. To erect buildings according to government standards.
c. To be self-supporting from the beginning, at no cost to the mission for all needs not met by the government.
d. To be taught by nationals.
e. To be administered by nationals when feasible.
f. To be operated on a temporary basis for eventual turnover to the national church.
5. When the time comes that the government carries on its own educational program or when the people are able, the mission should disengage itself from this type of work. Then the assets and obligations should be turned over to the national church, if they are willing. In any event, the mission must eventually terminate its participation in the school work. For when the necessity no longer exists, we must withdraw to concentrate our limited resources and personnel on ministering the Word in the most concentrated and direct means at our disposal.
6. In view of the policy regarding secular schools, it is important that the fields exert restraint and moderation so that the school program does not go beyond the requirements and overcommit the field and the Foreign Department.
7. It is the mission's primary calling to win people to Christ and that by a direct approach through the Spirit-filled ministry of the Word of God. We must never permit ourselves to be drawn away from this vital, primary objective and lessen our missionary effectiveness by overemphasis upon less direct approaches to the perishing people whom it is our responsibility to evangelize.
Another serious obstacle to the indigenous church policy is the presence on a given field of Protestant missions who are opposed to the indigenous principle and the comity agreement, and invade areas where indigenous work is being attempted. They offer to build churches, to pay the pastors' salaries, to educate on the high school and college levels all who will come. In almost every instance when missionaries feel the pinch of this competition they want to modify the indigenous position.
I list medical missions as an impediment to the indigenous church program although it has not become so with us. Before, however, it does become a problem, we should anticipate it and with our limited experience and information gathered elsewhere make some observations.
Medical missions are an impediment to the indigenous church program unless a distinction is made between a medical missionary practice and a general practice of medicine overseas. If a missionary doctor or a nurse is endeavouring to raise the health standards of an area, trying to meet its medical and surgical needs, seeking in general to help the people, spending his or her total time in practicing medicine, but leaving the spiritual ministry to others to perform, then that doctor or nurse cannot properly be called a medical missionary. What he is doing is nothing more than every reputable doctor or nurse does, whether Christian or not. He is in effect practicing medicine and incidentally having some association with Christians.
If on the other hand the doctor or nurse employs medicine as a tool - a vehicle to carry salvation to a community and is himself actively endeavouring to win people to Christ and to establish a church - then he may be truly called a medical missionary.
An eminent authority on medical missions and the indigenous method, Dr. Robert G. Cochran, M.D., writing to missionary doctors about the "Changing Functions of Medical Missions," states:
Our ultimate objectives, then, are, first, to disciple the nations so that they may evangelize the peoples, and second, not to meet need, but to demonstrate how need can be met. Our objective is not necessarily to train personnel for the mission hospitals, or to be a convenient agency to give medical relief to the Christian community, or to be just another hospital in a land that is so starved of hospital facilities that new hospitals could be put within a hundred miles of each other and still more would be required. Our primary task is to win men and women for Christ, to point the road to full development in the Christian life, so that twice-born Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, experiencing the liberty whereby Christ has made us free, can go forth and disciple the nations.
Dr. Cochran, discussing medicine, education, and missions in the Cameroons, said:
The people are too ready, governments only too anxious to encourage us to take our education, our example of service, without our Christ. We are like the disciples, watching in the Hall of Judgment, and we see Pilate, having been challenged by our King, turn and say, `I will release unto you your King.' Let us be careful that by our actions and our planning, by our misunderstanding of our King's purpose, we do not encourage the devils in the crowd to shout, `We have no king but the Caesar of higher education and the best medical standards.'"
Mission societies that do much medical work find the following dangers in
One large mission with nine medical doctors and thirty-four nurses in four
fields, after an evaluation of its long-standing medical work, came to these
In order to forestall these difficulties the Board of Managers has adopted the following as the official C&MA policy on medical work:
The historical position of our Society regarding medical work is established as follows:
We commend the many missionary agencies which are doing effective medical and hospital work - a ministry which has been honoured of God. However, The Christian and Missionary Alliance, having been definitely called and committed to a program of evangelization and the building of the Church, does not engage generally in specialized medical and hospital work. We propose to continue the observance of this policy and to prosecute diligently our program of evangelization and the building of the Church.
However, in the carrying out of our work of evangelism, it has been found necessary to supplement the ministry of the Word by rendering physical aid to suffering people who had no one to cleanse their sores and treat their sicknesses. For this reason nurses have been sent to several fields, and clinics established. In fact, in some cases missionaries without medical training have found it necessary to give medical aid, including simple surgery.
In some fields or sections of fields the lack of medical facilities for the Christian community or for special groups such as those with leprosy, makes it imperative that direct evangelism be supplemented by attention to bodily welfare. Therefore, while giving pre-eminence to our policy of evangelism and the building up of the church, we also reserve the right to employ nurses and clinics in well-rounded missionary ministry, and in a few certain cases to appoint medical doctors on a true missionary basis as members of our missionary staff. (BM 9/6-7/51, p. 217)
That we shall keep faith with the calling given our Society to minister the word in as direct and personal a way as possible in the power of the Holy Spirit, we define our objectives in medical work as follows:
1.a. That hospital and clinic work be an auxiliary and supplementary ministry to that of personal witnessing and Bible teaching on the part of those engaged therein.
b. That where special clinic facilities are required, these be moderate in construction and furnishings.
c. That clinics be limited to caring for outpatients and not be permitted to develop into small hospitals for inpatients.
2. That nationals be encouraged to receive government care wherever available because our purpose is to meet needs of a type for which there is no other provision.
3. That any expansion of medical work beyond the above receive prior clearance from the Foreign Department.
The joint committee can become a front through which the mission rules. In some instances, joint committees have been made a final court of appeal, with more importance and authority than the national church general council. To correct this the chairmanship should alternate between the national church chairman and the field chairman, or, as is done in one country, the national church chairman is always the chairman of the joint committee. The best procedure for maintaining the indigenous aspect of the church is to make the joint committee a forum for sharing views. In any matter that involves the mission alone or the church alone the recording of minutes may well be dispensed with. Since the mission conference is the sovereign body of the mission and the church general conference or general council is the supreme body of the church, a joint committee cannot legitimately originate action for the mission nor yet for the national church; and especially it should never sit as a tribunal deciding the legality of the national church's acts. It is in this area that joint committees seriously err and retard indigenous effort.
1. Self-support is of the very nature of the church. To be a Christian means that a man must give. "Freely ye have received; freely give," is the command. He has freely obtained salvation. Now out of an inner compulsion and motivation and allegiance, he gives himself, his time, his talents, and his possessions to God. Further, Jesus says, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." And the Church for its very on-going depends upon this concept of denying self and giving sacrificially.
2. Self-support is required by the Scriptures. Not to give is a denial of the Lordship of Christ in a man's life. It is outright disobedience to such scriptural injunctions as Matthew 23:23 and I Corinthians 16:1,2. It robs a man of a scripturally ordained proof of the sincerity of his love to Jesus (2 Cor. 8:8). It keeps him from receiving any honourable mention or reward by Christ who in commenting upon the widow's two mites established that praise and reward from Him is based, not upon the amount that we give but upon what we keep for ourselves (Luke 21:1-4).
3. Experience shows that unless a person gives when he is poor, he will not give more generously when he is better off. Proper giving to the church does not automatically come with a better standard of living or educational advantage. The Methodist Mission in India, which celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 1957, has a membership of half a million people. They report, however, that in one rural conference in 1954, the average giving to the church per family was 1/300th of their total annual income and that their city Christians, although economically much better off, gave proportionately but little more to the church than did those in the village.
4. The witness of the church requires self-support. The effectiveness of the national witness is tremendously decreased when it is supported from abroad. Questions like these are asked the foreign-supported worker: "How much does the mission pay you for preaching?" "Why is Christianity the only religion that has to be supported from abroad?" "Isn't there something wrong with a religion whose adherents don't care enough about it to support it?" "If Christianity is as wonderful as its people claim, cannot it provide for the support of its own ministers?"
5. The searching questions being raised by newly independent governments require of the churches that they be self-supporting. Prime Minister Nehru in a letter to the Lutheran Primate of Sweden, explaining the Indian Government's restrictions on foreign missionaries entering India, stated: "As far as possible the Indian Church should be independent. We have in India the Syrian Church which has been here for 1800 years and more. We have had various churches of the Protestant persuasion for the last 100 to 150 years. These periods are long enough to build up an indigenous church which need not rely too much upon external assistance for its existence."
6. Furthermore, the non-Christian national is saying in newspaper propaganda against the missionaries something like this: "We gladly welcome generous donations to support mission schools and hospitals, etc.; but we strongly resent foreign money to support your religion; that is, the Church. Let your Christianity prove itself. If it is truly national and the Christians are what they claim to be, they will stand on their own feet. If not, they will fall. Let us really see what will happen if the foreign props are taken out from under your religion. Let us see if it will prove itself worthy to be considered a real part of our country."
7. The psychological difficulties require that the church be self-supporting. Experience shows that when people know an evangelist is mission-paid, they tend to discount both him and his message. This can hardly help but have its effect upon the worker himself, making him aware of the barrier between him and the people he is seeking to reach.
8. The proper relationship between the ministry and the people of the church requires self-support. The subsidy system tends to create the wrong kind of relationship. At the very centre of the scriptural idea of the church is a unique relationship between the pastor and those to whom he ministers. It is called the shepherd-to-sheep relationship. Intrinsic in this relationship are two principles: (1) The shepherd cares for his sheep, even to the extent of laying down his life for them, and (2) the sheep will provide for the shepherd. If the shepherd fails to live up to his obligations, he proves himself to be a hireling, and not a true shepherd. If the sheep fail to live up to their obligations, then they prove themselves to be not true sheep of his fold.
Now let us ask ourselves what kind of a relationship is actually produced when the shepherd is not dependent upon his sheep for support, and the sheep do not provide for their shepherd. Is it not true that all too often, instead of an attitude of love, care, and self-sacrifice on the part of the ministry, there will develop the feeling, "I get my salary paid whether I serve you or not and whether you like me or not." And on the side of the congregation, "What's the use of our worrying about it? The pastor gets paid whether we provide for him or not and whether we like him or not." This is certainly not a healthy state of affairs.
Then, too, from a human point of view, it offers some serious temptations. It affords to pastors a degree of power and security independent of the demands and requirements of the laity, and it relieves the laymen of the need and responsibility of paying for the pastoral support. Is not this one of the principal reasons for our slow progress in developing local support? Much has been said about the economic weakness of the Christian community, but is it not true that the greatest obstacle to local support is not economic inability but a lack of conviction regarding its necessity on the part of the ministers themselves? To upset the comfortable status quo is never easy, especially when one is a beneficiary of the system. Spiritual apathy and wrong relationships are inevitably bred by the present system of subsidy.
9. Self-support will have a tendency to keep the missionary from transplanting to foreign soil a church order and an American-style church building, which the people neither need nor can support.
10.To accomplish the great purpose for which Christ founded the Church, self-support is required. The aim of our Society in sending out missionaries and funds has ever been to create a church that will support and govern itself and play its rightful part in the evangelization of its own country and eventually become a partner in the world-wide missionary enterprise of the Church. This without question is the aim of our Society. Unfortunately, foreign financial aid, instead of accomplishing this end, does exactly the opposite. With a guaranteed mission income for the pastors, there is little incentive for them to work for self-support and no incentive for the people to give. Such a Church, furthermore, has little concern for people outside of its immediate environment. They insist on receiving but do not give. Thus the Church becomes a cripple and then is given a permanent crutch. It doesn't have to stand on its own feet and walk with its own strength. The further tragedy is that often both missionary and national are honestly convinced that the Church cannot walk without the crutch and the grand purpose for which the Church was established is thwarted.
In the areas where subsidy is given, how and when should it cease and self-support begin? There are no exact answers here. Each field will need to decide to do it in its own way and in its own time, but the experiences of others can be studied and relied upon to advantage.
The things that primarily militate against success in any self-support program are:
The self-government of the church is based upon the scriptural doctrine that
the Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is the Head. The National Church,
therefore, is not a colonial possession of the mission, and the mission should
never endeavour to interfere in and manipulate its affairs. It is, however,
right and proper to expect that the nationals will want a family relationship
with us; not a mother-in-law relationship but that of partners in the work
of the Lord. Ideally the day must come when the mission ceases its work.
Christ must have His rightful place. The Christians must be caused to look
to Him, the Bible, His example, and the Holy Spirit for direction, and not
to the mission or to the missionaries. The doctrine of the Headship of Christ
is basic to self-government.
The following considerations require that a church be self-governing:
In these matters, special care should be taken not to denationalize the believers. Our work is to make a Christian out of a non-Christian; it is not to make him like an American. Christianity has come from God. It is, therefore, universal in its appeal and scope. It is native to every land and, therefore, should of itself make a man a better citizen.
* (1960), CBC/CTS archives.
The writer gratefully acknowledges help from "A Study of Indigenous Policies and Procedures" prepared by the C.B.F.M.S. in 1952. I have also made adaptations from paragraphs 3,4,6,7,8, and 10 on pages 20-23 of a privately circulated document entitled "A New Financial Policy for the New Century" as prepared by the American Methodist Mission, North India. This was later edited and included as a chapter in Blaise Levai's Revolution in Missions. Many other books on the subject have been read and ideas gleaned from them incorporated herein.
1. Report of the Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, 1956, Government Printing, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur.
2. Additional reasons for success were described as follows in "The Growth of the Lutheran Church in New Guinea," by George F. Vicedom, D.D., International Review of Missions, July, 1956.
"The mission was very poor and the missionaries had much difficulty in gaining a livelihood. In them, too, the natives could see men with many needs. For their very survival they had to seek the confidence and help of the natives. Thus the Gospel came to have a real meaning for the pagans, because it was practised by the missionaries under the same difficulties as the pagans had to contend with.
"Dr. Hogbin vouches for the fact that the missionaries had no racial prejudices. They did not restrict themselves to showing their affection by inviting the natives to their homes, but lived with them, visited them in their villages, sat at their fires, went hunting with them, ate with them from the same dish. Like the Lord Jesus Himself, they entered into the world of these people and regarded it as their own. In this way they learned to speak difficult languages, studied religion and customs, got to know the people and could thus proclaim the Gospel by their very presence.
"Language difficulties, and in particular the great number of languages, prevented the missionaries from following the evangelistic method which so many adopt in the belief that they must proclaim the Word of God as quickly as possible to all men, in order that the Word may work of itself. The missionaries were compelled to settle down and to concentrate on one language-group. In this way congregations grew up as life-centres, from which the surrounding country could be won. In these places, the Gospel message was shown by example and was not an echo in an empty room.
"The missionaries, although strict Lutherans, discarded their own form of Christianity and church with these primitive people. They may have doubted whether such people were capable of becoming Christians as we understand the word. By so doing they achieved a New Testament freedom of operation. The way was clear to accept such people as full Christians in their own way."