In the following, we will consider a few of the benefits of supporting indigenous or native missionaries to reach their own people. However, before we do, we want to reiterate that the indigenous missionary strategy does not eliminate or even reduce 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 Western 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 in certain contexts. Some of the benefits of sending indigenous missionaries are:
- 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 illustrates 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 seven billion people. If every Christian in America were a cross-cultural 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 $3,000 to $5,000 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.
- Language and Culture. Any cross-cultural missionary will testify that differences in language and in 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. This means that it is not abnormal for five years and over a quarter of a million dollars to be spent on the mission field while the missionary learns the language, adjusts to the culture, and does 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 is able to concentrate on his two priorities—evangelizing the lost and establishing churches.
- Identification. There is a great deal of 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 even 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 because of his flag, but because 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. Some Western missionaries 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 lives in the same neighborhood, takes the same bus, and sends his children to the same school.
- No Difficult Transitions. For the cross-cultural missionary, establishing a church 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 having a Western missionary as a 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.