Missiology: Indigenous Church/When to leave?

This discussion comes from questions raised in a book called “Searching for the indigenous church” by Gene Daniels. Currently I am reading “Career Defining Crisis in Missions” by Paul Keidel which has insights into the same topics, hence look forward to an updated discussion.

So the overall question raised is, can we as outsiders recognize or create a truly indigenous church?
First we need a working definition of an indigenous church. A community of believers who worship Christ according to their cultural norms. The structure and methods of the community are created through the host culture seeking God in Scripture.
To help us separate our conception of church with seats and western music and logical/academic sermons I’ll use the term Christward movement to describe what may be called an indigenous church.

According to Daniels, we will never be able to explain the indigenous church and it is not something that we as outsiders can search out or find. That was two-part, let me digress and give my thoughts. If we as outsiders come into a culture preaching Christ, we use our Western background as a framework. We need to completely reduce the gospel to it’s message and not the Western message we make it. The key message: the God who created us enabled us to have relationship with Him by the means of Christ on the cross. We often make it about progress in Christ, individualism, we are prone to works-righteousness, we use 4/4 timing and modern music. This is not the gospel. So back to Daniels’, if we actively seek out the indigenous church/christward movement, we begin by looking for what we know as a church, we may find bits and pieces,but also unfamiliar forms of worship and reasoning. So we feel the need to teach the “right way” In the end we change the movement to fit our interpretations of the host culture instead of allowing the host culture to decide. As a missionary it was Daniels’ goal to establish a Church. He began with what he knew and ended up with something his young native leaders did not know. They looked around and said this was not thier church, but his. Now that is a reality check! Daniels realized that he did not know how to create an indigenous church or what one might even look like! Which brings us back to the question at hand, can we as outsiders ever know or even describe what we desire the world to be full of, a truely indigenous christward movement within every cultural. This book, nor this blog leaves you with no answers, just more questions.

Another question raised: when is it time to go home?
Another reality check for Daniels, is the day his lay leaders told him it was time to leave, that they wanted to run their Chirstward movement. When does a missionary say “yep you’re right you don’t need me,” and when do they assert themselves and say, “I think that you still need me and I’ll stick around.” One strategy is the Pauline approach of leaving the direct involvement of the new Christward movement and starting another evangelistic outreach to another community while overseeing the other movements he started. He often went back and visited and wrote letters to instruct and encourage different communities specifically dealing with their unique situations (hence the epistles). While this is a good model, it is harder to enact. I think Paul was the greatest administrator ever. Again, since we don’t know what we are looking for in order for a Christward movement to be sustainable, our first response is to stick around. Is there a place for the missionary to serve once the fellowship has reached this ambiguous state of indigenous? Is the missionary’s job done just because they have fulfilled their “two year stint, and need to return home for furlough?” Can we honestly convince ourselves that we are no longer vital for this movement to continue? is it our place to guide, or the Holy Spirit? That one I can answer, it is the Holy Spirit’s job to guide every community of believers. The missionary has the awkward job of deciding if the people are prepared or ready to listen with out their aid. Maybe, if from the very beginning we never put ourselves in leadership, but simply the bearer of a great message, placing the gospel and scriptures in the hands of others we will be able to watch as the Holy Spirit leads a group of believers to do what He created them for, to worship and love their creator.

Not many answers, but alot more questions.

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One Response to “Missiology: Indigenous Church/When to leave?”

  1. Griff Says:

    I was wondering if you have finished reading Paul Keidel’s book Career- Defining Crises in Mission, and if so what your thought and review was on this book

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