You only reproduce what you are.
In introducing this subject, I would like to suggest that Christianity may be one of the worst reproduced “products” on earth!
What I mean by that tantalizing line is that even McDonald’s knows enough to send their “Overseas Franchise Operators” through a rigorous and comprehensive training institute in the USA before ever opening a store in Phnom Pang. Yet, in the church, we often send workers with no other training than living in a western church for 3-5 years or so, plus a 1–5 month crash “discipleship course”, expecting then a near perfect reproduction on the other side of the earth in Bishkek, Krygystan!
Completely forgotten in this “Western Model” is the Apostolic pattern of producing church planters through the rigorous demands of on-the-job-training, either in the local church through tutoring and example, or through personal mentoring like Paul and Timothy traveling together as an apostolic band.
Paul certainly was not saved on Sunday and planting churches on Monday!
Likewise, Timothy was not sent alone and untested to Philippi to start a church movement in that major city! In both cases (and many more found in the NT) the clear apostolic principle is that the future missionary is paired either with a local church or an experienced church planter before venturing out to reproduce church someplace else.
‘The Foreigner’s Religion’
The big danger is that we will reproduce ourselves and by default our Christian culture overseas and that may be just exactly the opposite need for that tribe living in the hills of Thailand or in the cities of Tajikistan:
“The missionary from the West, trained in the tenets of a particular denomination, born and bred to regard its creed and polity as the ones most in accord with the Word of God, is very apt to feel that this should be repeated on the foreign field. But we must more clearly recognize the right of each autonomous body of Christians to determine certain things for itself… Perhaps this is one reason that Christianity is so often called by the Asian ‘the foreigner’s religion’, a saying which indicates an entire misconception of its real character.” (A.J. Brown The Foreign Missionary)
Amen and Amen!
Indeed, isn’t Jesus closer in skin color to the masses of millions in the 10/40 than He is to us “white-ies”? When Jesus “broke bread” with His disciples before a meal, He actually demonstrated an act that is still going on today and every day throughout the Muslim world!
Why is Christianity still considered such a foreign, exotic religion in so many countries of the world? Even countries that have had a Gospel witness for more than 100 years like Japan and Turkey? I put forward to you it is simply because the Western missionaries reproduced what they knew from their homes in far off Europe and North America.
I close with a most poignant offering from Roland Allen, who more than anyone, has stirred my heart for a return to Apostolic principles and practice:
“We have approached them as superior beings, moved by charity to impart of our wealth to destitute and perishing souls. We have used that argument at home to wring grudging and pitiful doles [offerings] for the propagation of our faith, and abroad we have adopted that attitude as missionaries of a superior religion… Approaching them in that spirit, we have desired to help them. We have been anxious to do something for them. And we have done much. We have done everything for them. We have taught them, baptized them, shepherded them… We have nursed them, fed them, doctored them…We have done everything for them, but little with them. We have done everything for them except give place to them. We have treated them as ‘dear children’, but not as ‘brethren’. (Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?)
Jesus said: “Follow Me and I will make you [plural] fishers of men.” Twelve men took up that challenge and followed Him everywhere for the next three years and changed history. It’s time we try it again…
Truthfully, if mission agencies around the world would follow the “Jesus Style” many problems in the field would never have surfaced.
Yours for the Least in the Kingdom,