Thursday, April 4, 2013

Wrestling With A Word

The word that is giving me fits these days is "indigenous."  According to the Merrium Webster Dictionary, it is an adjective meaning innate, or native to an area.  Therefore, I could say I am indigenous to Pennsylvania.

I've been slowly reading through a book, Revolution in Missions, for a while now.  I read maybe a page or two in bed each night before turning off the light and going to sleep.  Well, actually, before laying there wide awake the next two hours thinking about what I just read, and then having the most bizarre dreams for what seems like the remainder of the night.

From what I can gather so far in reading the early chapters, the book is an argument in favor of supporting indigenous missionaries.  The author, K. P. Yohannan, was born in India and is convinced that the best way to share the Christian gospel with the Indian people is for one of their own to be the message bearer. One who lives in the area will have the means of following up on any new converts and assuring that they continue to grow in their new faith.

I have been a Christian for many years, and I do have a large space in my heart for evangelism.  However, I am not one of those in-your-face and obnoxious Bible thumpers.  I myself have been preached at by several of those, and I find myself backing away from that sort of pressure, even as a believer.  I don't think Jesus himself did things that way and neither will I.

So what is the "right" way to do evangelism?

Many years ago, the husband/lover/best friend and I traveled with a group of church friends to the tiny country of Trinidad.  There, for 10 days, we shared the gospel using the tools of drama, puppetry, and story-telling.  There were many adults and children that made decisions to give their lives to Christ following our presentations.  It was an amazing trip, and I returned home a changed person.

I've thought about that trip a lot in the 24 years since we went.   Were there any long term changes in the people who we ministered to?  After mulling over that question all these years, I'm doubtful.

Was it a good thing we went?  Yes.  Most definitely, for it changed ME.

Would I do it again?  I'm not sure.  There was no follow-up with those Trinidadians after we left, and that concerns me.  We got there, we stayed 10 days, we left.

I've known numerous friends and acquaintances who over the years have traveled to a foreign country and offered Christian outreach to the people living there.  I have supported all of them with my prayers, and many of them with financial support.

Pam and Steve are in Africa for six months operating a medical clinic.  They are creating relationships with the locals and sharing the Gospel.

Gary and Karen and their four children are currently in Prague for two years.  Gary works with technology issues and Karen teaches in a school for missionaries' and local children.

Bruce, a pastor, travels regularly to Africa where he preaches the gospel and cultivates ongoing relationships.

Laura has lived and taught in Russia for many years and has made strong relationships with many people there.

Bruce, my brother, did a short term mission trip to the Appalachian Mountains of the United States.  There he was part of a construction team.

Carole has made two short-term mission trips to Guatemala, where she also was part of a building team.  She is scheduled to go to Africa later this year on her third trip.

My dentist and his assistant travel yearly to South America where they set up a medical clinic.

And the list goes on and on.

But I am still thinking about that "indigenous" issue.  What is the right or best way to reach a people group with the gospel of Christ?  For me, it comes down to a scenario like this:

Hypothetically, suppose I had $10,000 that I wanted to invest into missionary work.  Should I

1)  Use it to support the various people I know who are planning to leave on a short term mission trip.

2)  Use it to support month to month those people who plant themselves in a foreign country for a long term stay.

3)  Send it to a recognized missions organization and let them disperse the funds to missionaries elsewhere as needs require.

4)  Use the money to send myself somewhere, either on a long or short term trip.

5)  Use the money to purchase a truckload of evangelistic pamphlets and spend the rest of my life passing them out.

(Please don't select #5 or you are missing the point of my meanderings.)

I'm interested in your thoughts on this issue.  Obviously, I still have some thinking and praying to do before this issue gets settled in my mind.

In the meantime, though, "indigenous" and I will be wrestling.


  1. I think you have them listed with the most important as number one and the least as number 5 and the rest fall perfectly in place just where they are.

  2. I would pick number 1 or 2. I believe no matter what you do it will have an impact, just live your life like God wants you to and the people you come into contact with will see Him in you:)

  3. I would pick number two, as it seems to have the most long term effects.