I personally believe that the success of any missionary endeavor can be measured by the degree that nationals on any mission field are themselves fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. For this goal of indigenization to be accomplished, the character quality of unselfishness must be present in the missionary endeavor. The purpose of this weeks entry is to demonstrate the importance of unselfishness in two missionary areas: adaptation and training.
The effective missionary will display the ability to adapt to his new surroundings. To the greatest extent possible, the missionary and his family must become like the people to whom they are ministering. They must unselfishly lay aside many of their own lifestyle traditions and adopt the ways of the nationals, albeit without any biblical compromise. A plan to accomplish adaptation includes the missionary’s attitude, his coworkers, and the culture of the mission field. Concerning the missionary’s attitude, he must be a servant to those he is called to influence with the gospel. He must minister and not expect to be ministered unto.
Concerning coworkers, the missionary must unselfishly yield to the expertise of veteran missionaries on the field. The missionary must also demonstrate an attitude of meekness toward any nationals to whom he is ministering. Concerning the culture of the mission field, the missionary must humbly adopt the position of a learner with regard to local customs and beliefs. If indigenization is to be realized, every missionary will, at some point in his ministry, become involved in training nationals to effectively share the gospel. The temptation for many missionaries is to selfishly pursue their ministries in their own power and for their own purposes, giving them a false sense of accomplishment. The successful missionary will set aside the pursuit of his own personal fulfillment and give himself to others – in a sense, working himself out of a job.
Every missionary should seek to identify an individual who can be mentored for missionary activity, just as the Apostle Paul did with Timothy. This individual should be chosen based on his ability to demonstrate leadership qualities.
Education should also be a part of missionary training. This education can take the simple form of Bible study groups or can be as complicated as establishing a church-based Bible institute or seminary.
Finally, the education process should culminate in the commissioning, or public recognition, of those who have been prepared to serve the Lord. A certificate or diploma might be presented, validating their preparation for spiritual service. Jesus said to make disciples. Christian missions is incomplete until the disciple becomes a disciple.