by Charles H. Troutman
I. Thou shalt not have any other objectives than the glory of God in building his church overseas.
To evangelize is the first step, discipling the next, but the work of the church as described in the New Testament is much greater and requires much more than these final steps.
I. Thou shalt not have any other objectives than the glory of God in building his church overseas.
To evangelize is the first step, discipling the next, but the work of the church as described in the New Testament is much greater and requires much more than these final steps. It has almost nothing to do with the reputation of your mission society in North America, especially among your constituency. If the Christians in your country have found it necessary to establish Bible societies, schools, colleges, camps, conferences, seminaries, publishing houses, student organizations, home missions, city missions, foreign missions, scholarly societies, magazines, youth groups, radio, television and all, do not restrict us to the early stages of missions or even to those things you are doing at present. There is much, much more for us to do. And his church is our countries includes not only your mission, but many others, even some you do not approve of. We have to live with them, even if you do not. We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of the whole earth and the whole church, not just your mission society.
II. Thou shalt not send us your rejects or withdraw your best missionaries for your home office.
If anyone cannot handle the pace in North America, if his chances of promotion are slim, if he deserves a better or second chance overseas, if you think he can do better in a different environment-you are wrong to send him to us. A foreigner in our country is faced with more major decisions per day and is under greater tensions than he would be in his own country. These decisions will be on a wider range of issues with more at stake than he will find in his own land. A second-rate family in an overseas position either produces confusion, is a disaster for all of us, or achieves nothing. On the other hand, when you promote the best missionaries to the North American staff, you are shouting to us as loudly as you can that we are second class and that the real work is not in our country. How can you establish a truly indigenous church in our country, when the center for decision making is in North America, and it is done by the best of those you have promoted from us?
III. Thou shalt not underestimate the locals.
There is not much wrong with the abilities of national Christian leaders, except that we too often have different ideas than you do. You look on us as inexperienced and immature, and we might be in North America. But in our country it is you who lack the background and maturity to deal with the problems and opportunities we have. Why do you so often feel that your ways and evaluations are best? You do this in face of facts: One church association doubled its membership within two years after the missionaries were withdrawn. How do you explain that the large size of indigenous churches is directly proportional to the fewer number of foreign missionaries at work? When you come, take your cues from us, not just from other North Americans. You can do too much damage to local believers otherwise. There is very little that we cannot do better. After all, your mission is committed to building an indigenous church in our country!
IV. Thou shalt learn the local language well.
Why do you think that with one syllable words, infinitives and the present tense you can communicate to us the eternal gospel of the infinite God? You can get away with it while learning, but this honeymoon will not last more than a few years. To acquire our language to speak to us adequately of the triune God and his work in our country will take all your life. We find the translated Bible makes more sense to us than your messages and conversation, especially when we know you cannot possibly mean what you have said. We know personally how North Americans look down on those who cannot handle English well. We feel the same way here. Language school is but the kindergarten. Do you really mean that our indigenous church must carry on its work in English?
V. Thou shalt nor impose ready-made solutions or programs on us.
Just because something works in North America is no indication it will work here. Even other Third World solutions are not always adequate. We have experienced too many projects promoted from your own country that have really bombed out. For example, so many missions have established camps and conference grounds in our country because they have been so effective in their own lives. But here, these activities have to be continually subsidized, or they will go back to the jungle. When you turn them over to us, we, cannot afford them and they do not always fit our needs. We can reach the same goals, but in our own ways. And equally important, your good ideas may be completely misunderstood here. One missionary, who proposed that the men have a separate retreat from the women, was accused of homosexuality and breaking up families. This is what separate overnight activities mean here. Such imposition does not seem to us to be the way to establish an indigenous church in our community.
VI. Thou shalt not move thy foreign personnel around too much.
Just because a foreign missionary is good in one place does not mean he can do a good job in another. This is not the best use of foreigners because it takes them so long to learn local customs and to become friends with local people. We often think that you believe that because a person is a missionary, he can do anything. We know differently. We do not believe that it helps the missionary and his family to move from place to place so often. We realize some missionaries have to move, others ought to, but the policy as we see it means you do not really take us seriously. What you are telling us is that the truly important thing is the missionary organization and its foreign members. And we understand that the local churches in our country are merely the place where you operate. Again we sense being second class. Is this the kind of action that makes indigenous churches?
VII. Thou shalt not decide for us what are the important issues and projects, nor tell us who ought to be sent to us.
Is there not something upside down that foreigners, who have lived among us for only a few years, should tell us what our needs are and what are the great spiritual issues? We feel we see things more clearly than strangers. We are grateful that you have now begun to ask our opinions, but this is still a very long way from being responsible decision makers. And then you wonder why we are often so slow to take responsibility. In the same way, why should we not have the responsibility to decide which foreigners shall work with us? What United States business would tolerate a French organization employing and sending personnel to fill your top executive and technical staffs? We want your help. In fact, we desperately need it, and we have not called for any moratorium on people or funds. But we would rather be without help, than to continue to be workers under foreign leadership in our own country. You are really telling us you do not trust us to the Holy Spirit. It is time you came as our employees in our organizations and churches, rather than that we must work for a foreign organization in order to serve the Lord in our own country.
VIII. Thou shalt not meddle.
We understand your desire to become involved in God's work overseas. It is a result of your Christian commitment, but the way you try to become involved appears to us like interference. Meddling results in a waste of local leadership talent and certainly a loss in our morale. Why should we assume responsibility when we are never sure you will not work against our decisions? Can we not learn from our mistakes, or is that only the privilege of North Americans? We also find it takes so much time to go through the mission administrative systems that you have set up and which we do not understand. We realize that many of us in the Third World are not known for speed, efficiency or promptness in the Western sense, but in the rapidly changing situations here, we become frustrated. The message we get is that you do not trust us on the big issues. You are content to let us handle the little matters and the routines you do not care for, but not the important matters. Will you ever feel we can become indigenous enough to handle our own affairs?
IX. Thou shalt not do your planning, research and discussion in English.
Put yourself in our place. English is not our native tongue and for many of us, it is not even our second language. We try our best to understand what you are thinking and saying. What would you do if all your business were handled in our language? What if everything had to be translated for you? Since you are committed to establishing an indigenous church in our country, but what logic can you carry on the decision making progress in your language? Can you really do our business in your language? One large international firm insists that all its research and planning be done on the field, by responsible nationals in the language of the country. If, for the sake of profit, this company adopts such an inconvenient rule, for the sake of Christ's church and its members, can Christian missions do any less?
X. Hear, 0 foreign missionaries, the sum of all these commandments:
Thou shalt assume that if something works in North America, it probably will not succeed in the Third World. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt assume that most local Christians can do most everything better than you can. Otherwise your profession of establishing indigenous churches is but chaff, blown around by the wind.
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