Supporting National Workers

Posted on May 23, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Rankin Connecting

A significant trend has emerged in recent years to support “native” missionaries, working as evangelists and church planters. The rationale is that local indigenous workers are far more effective than Western missionaries and serve for only a fraction of the cost required to send and support workers from America. There have even been some large organizations emerge to raise funding for these national workers; most prominent among them are Christian Aid, Partners International and Gospel for Asia.

We would not want to disparage any program or strategy that is getting the gospel to a lost world, and have nothing but admiration for the multitude of dedicated, God-called national workers faithfully serving our Lord in remote places around the world. Many of them exist on meager support and are diligent in their witness in spite of persecution and hardship. There will never be enough “evangels” declaring God’s word to the lost, so we should be grateful for every channel of resources for fulfilling the Great Commission.

However, it would be good to examine any pre-conceived notions of one method of missionary witness being superior to another. Why should we be willing to support Western missionaries, even at a much higher cost of support? Because Jesus is still calling them out of our churches! Should they not be obedient to God’s call to go and disciple the nations, and is it not the responsibility of the church to send them? Jesus sends us to be witnesses to the ends of the earth, and we are to do whatever it takes to be obedient to that mandate. The Great Commission was not qualified to say we are to go unless we can find a more economical way.

As any missionary, I have worked with scores of national pastors, evangelists, missionaries and church planters. Some have been used effectively by God and others have not. The reality is, there are some Western missionaries who are effective and others who are not so effective. Whether or not one is effective as a missionary is not due to the fact of being indigenous to the culture or a foreigner, but whether or not one has the anointing of the Holy Spirit on their witness and ministry. Many local national workers who already know the language and culture are rejected by their own people, whereas someone from the West is often received and heard with respect.

Something that is often overlooked is how the national worker came to know Christ. It was because someone, if not directly to him but in a previous generation, brought the gospel from outside the culture and region. Missionaries are still going to plant the gospel in “the regions beyond,” as Paul identified it, where people have yet to have a Christian witness. And it has always been the strategy of missionaries to work themselves out of job by discipling and training local workers and moving on to the unevangelized.

For years IMB personnel have been reporting over 200,000 national workers being trained in Bible Schools, seminaries and decentralized training programs. These are the ones winning and baptizing the lost, planting churches and taking the gospel to their neighbors. Missionaries plant the seeds, win the first fruits and then disciple and train believers to carry on. That is the only hope for everyone in the world having access to the gospel. National workers are the cutting edge of advancing the kingdom, but some are doing it in accountability to the local body of believers, not because they are being paid by an organization from abroad.

2 Comments on “Supporting National Workers”

  1. Help That Hurts | Down Home in Mississippi

    […] blog last week on supporting national workers was not meant to be condescending toward those who are serving our Lord in Third World countries at […]

  2. Marge Worten

    I saw nothing condescending about the article. To me it seemed to be simply stated truth.

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