One of the most important things I’ve learned since moving to Thailand in 2012 is that more help is needed. I’m convinced that the unreached world is direly understaffed, both by missionaries and national workers as well.
However, this statement deserves a qualifier.
The truly effective missionary empowers the national workers to reach their own people. A ministry will struggle when foreigners take this responsibility exclusively upon their own shoulders.
Or, to put it more bluntly, a Thai Christian does my job better than I can.
No foreigner can give a stronger testimony than that of their local counterpart. In our case, a Thai Christian will reach their friends, family, co-workers, and classmates infinitely better than I ever could. Even if I had flawless language skills, my ability to reach the Thai people would still be deficient.
Regardless of my intentions, everything about how I look and who I am screams “I’m a foreigner who is trying to change you and your culture.” Naturally, people get turned off by that. A Thai Christian does not have this same hurdle. They speak the same language, have similar cultural backgrounds, and come from the same tribes.
So this begs the question, where does this leave us as missionaries?
Yet, this leaves a missionary with a great deal of responsibility as a trainer, equipper, mentor, discipler, pastor, teacher, evangelist, and just about anything else. A missionary is capable of contributing to God’s work in any culture across the world, but a missionary must prioritize the development of the pre-existing church.
The indigenous churches are the backbone of Christian influence in any nation or culture, as they will be there long after the missionary retires, moves home, or just plain burns out. The church will reach their own people, and a missionary can make a world of difference in helping them do that. But when a missionary tries to do the local church’s job for them, we can’t expect any significant success, and in many cases this just leads to burnout or outright failure.
HighRise is in the business of supporting the indigenous church, and we would appreciate your prayers in doing this as well as possible.