Next week I will return to this issue of discipling givers. But today I want to explore the matter of turning work over to the people among whom missionaries work. This has long been a troublesome topic. The team that worked in Kenya is but a microcosm of missions history.
Before we consider what has happened, let me share that my friend, and mentor, David Watson takes an extreme position on this matter. He counsels that you never start anything without a local partner, so you are raising up a leader to keep it going from day one. Since they are involved in leadership with you, it is never yours to turn over. Wrapping your brain around that counter-intuitive approach will “field dress” many of the Western pioneer mission strategies. We have to turn it over, because we do too much to begin with. We hold on too long because we want to make sure the local people will be able to do it our way when they are in control.
For some of us, that last word is the bottom line! C-O-N-T-R-O-L is the point of many struggles.
We wonder why so many Western boards have such struggles with local boards. We wonder why local leadership systems are stacked against foreign ownership. Maybe there are examples where we find ourselves in control battles because our controlling nature attracts local controllers!
I like David’s idea. But I have to confess it is a hard goal. It makes the front end very slow. It precludes our American efficiency model. It keeps us from rushing and making something happen by our drivenness, resources and/or ingenuity. But it may also save us from ourselves. Maybe we would not be seen as the brash, know-it-all Americans. Maybe we would be saved from witnessing the dead, empty carcasses of ministry ideas that were too foreign to work where we might attempt to force them to work. Maybe God will raise up locals who can be bridges into their communities.
You’re absolutely correct that it makes things much slower. I also have a principle not to start anything that the national brothers could not pick up and carry on at any point. That limits what one will do, the amount of money one will inject into a project or work, the scale that might be considered. It seems that missionaries look to the short-range or, at most, mid-range results. To my mind, we need to be looking at the long-term results. But not enough of us are willing to stay on the field for that.
Randy, while it is slower on the front end, it is much better and more reproducible in the long haul. The goal is to raise up people who can carry the work forward, even more than getting the project done. When we keep the project simpler, it can be recreated in more places. Our American “bigger-is-better” mindset and our need to be irreplaceable combine to cause great problems over the duration. Thanks for posting!
I like that term ‘field dress’. Well said
Here’s to smooth sailin’
What exactly do you “like” about field dressing?
“We hold on too long because we want to make sure the local people will be able to do it our way when they are in control.” So true and yet so sad that we think the Spirit won’t work through them.
Glad you found it worthwhile!
Our work, over much time spent here working with the locals, has become a collaborative effort in every sense–teaching local leaders and local leaders teaching us, making disciples together, studying together through the Scriptures and working through God’s plan “together” to reach the people here, being dependent on the Holy Spirit and not dependent on one another to see the work through. We group together, but not always the same group of people every time. The dynamic changes in this way with each community visit we make, but the message going forward is consistent. So it doesn’t matter that we might see the same village every other or fifth time, because in many ways we are all recognized as family members to those we visit and minister to. Maybe it’s even better for those we visit, because the manner in which we each share and teach varies slightly and that keeps things interesting, non stagnant. When we do return, we notice that people are indeed growing, and we notice that as well our absence has been noticed, and we are welcomed like we’ve come home to a family reunion. Everyone involved is growing, and everyone we visit is growing steadily. I’ve never seen anything like this and am very blessed to be a part of what God is doing here. My point in adding to the commentary for this blog post is that if it is never one-sided work to begin with, controlled by anyone n specific, there is always room for others to join in at any level and grow continually to meet all levels of ministry, and there is never a situation where anything needs to be handed over. In our case, the work is a cycle of seasons…A few of the original group who have made disciples, new disciples joining the group that goes to various villages to make disciples, disciples new and older generation becoming intwined and interchangeable, folks from various villages going out to other villages to share and make disciples, and so on, and so on–everyone growing together and communities and villages being connected in ways that exhibit naturally how the Lord’s church is One Body. When we organize baptism events as a group, many communities come together, meet one another and make new bonds to others in the Lord’s Family, and opening doors for future work that carries forward this naturally progressing model of ministry and making disciples. It’s a miraculous work of God, to say the least. And the most amazing part is that if any one of us dropped out of the group, it would continue to grow and multiply in this manner, not to become lost or abandoned, because those who are going out and making disciples in this manner are committed to going, no matter where or what day or with whom. Simply and truly amazing!
Claudia, I am thankful for the nature of your work being so interdependent! This is so much healthier than the traditional imperialistic strategies many have employed!