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The Indigenous Church

By Wayde I. Goodall

Most parents want their children to be healthy, grow strong, develop their gifts, and enter life feeling somewhat independent. Oh, we love for them to call and ask for our opinion or assistance. But healthy parents understand that if their young person continues to have basic dependence needs, then that young adult will not develop the strengths necessary to succeed in a competitive world. It's a good thing for our children to grow up, enter their chosen career field, and make their own wise decisions.

Our government has struggled with its welfare system. How much assistance should it give to those in need? How long should the assistance last? Most experts agree that it is generally healthier for individuals or families to receive assistance for only a limited time rather rather than indefinitely. They should be encouraged to find employment and live with little or no government assistance. They will be happier, more fulfilled and confident, and they will be stronger because they have worked hard for the roof over their heads and the food on their tables. They become independent and self-supporting.

New Christians must grow to the point where they become mature. They must learn to develop a prayer life, to study the Word for themselves, and to share the faith just as someone shared it with them. This is healthy and natural. The new church that is mothered by a larger church, the new group of believers in a foreign land, the mission station that began with personnel and financial help from outside must become independent. It's for their own good.

As an indigenous church or mission station gradually is released to its own national leadership and independent support, it grows in maturity and confidence. Like loving parents, the organzation or persons that were involved in the inception of the work feel a maternal connection. They want to always be involved somewhat because they will always care. The will be there if a need arises. They love the indigenous church, mission station, or young leader. But they realize that it is God's will that the indigenous work becomes strong with its own leaders, in its own culture, and among its nation's people.

In December 1996, the Assemblies of God of Burkino Faso, a republic of West Africa, celebrated its 75th anniversary. As George O. Wood, Assemblies of God general secretary, preached to over 100,000 believers, he mentally said to himself, I wish I could have brought every Assemblies of God minister and layperson to see firsthand the results of missionary investment and passion that has resulted in this strong indigenous church. A few young missionaries went to this land 75 years ago with a dream to begin a church. The church grew--one believer at a time. In turn it started another church. Leadership was selected from among its national people. Now, 75 years later, this indigenous group is a sterling example of the strength of becoming independent and self-reliant rather than being continually dependent.

The church of South Korea is now sending out missionaries to unreached people groups and spiritually starved nations. The churches of Argentina, Brazil, Singapore, and numerous others are walking by their own vision and strength. If any of the indigenous churches become needy for assistance, prayer, or advice, others within the body of Christ should care for them in any way possible; however, the work should remain independent.

It is selfish for parents to want their children to always be dependent on them. Why? Because children will not develop their own independent strengths, gifts, and dependance on God if they are dependent on their parents. It is also selfish for people or organizations to want new churches or mission stations to continually depend upon them. National leaders must be developed and must assume responsibility. In turn, they must not only care for their various ministries but find ways to care for other ministries. Their foundation of maturity will grow deep and strong when they are autonomous.

"We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ" (Colossians 1:28, NIV).


Wayde I Goodall, D.Min., is executive editor of Enrichment and coordinator of the Ministerial Enrichment Office, Springfield Missouri.

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