TRAINING INDIGENES: CHANGING LIVES FOR TOMORROW’S CHURCH
One of the key elements of the Great Commission in Matthew chapter 28 verses 19-20 is training or discipling of all nations. It is obvious that the “nations” refers to ethnic nationalities rather than geographical boundaries. The writer of Revelation in Rev. 7:9ff further attests to the gathering of all tribes and nations at the feet of the LORD of all the earth.
Foundationally therefore, God has tribes, ethnic groups and indigenous entities in mind for salvation, worship and growth into his likeness. Such grace would bring change from darkness to light, ignorance to knowledge, weakness to strength and then the whole world will change from the grasp of Satan to the warm embrace of our loving Jesus Christ. This short write-up tries to stress the importance of training indigenes to bring positive change spiritually, physically, economically, socially and in every aspect of life. What do we mean by training of indigenes?
In simple terms, it means training of converts or Christians from the unreached ethnic nationalities where the NBC mission fields are. That is to prayerfully select potential leaders from among our converts and train them with the view of making them leaders of their own Christian churches after they have had sound training (2 Tim. 2:2). It is granting opportunity to disciples to be graciously mentored in Bible study, prayer, witnessing, administration, social ministries etc, so that such disciples can in turn mentor other. This training can start from short term theological training ending with receiving of lower pastoral certificates, and continue to higher training leading to award of higher degrees, all depending on amount of grace, potential and level of preparedness of both the trainers and the trained.
Having known what indigenous training is, what importance can we derive from training of indigenes from our mission fields? Joe Stacker, understanding the importance of training for church leadership writes:
“Leadership is a must for a Church. Without leadership, nothing happens. An auto is inoperative without a trained driver. A computer can’t operate without a programmer and an operator. A squad of soldiers might shoot one another without a sergeant. And a church is lacking without pastoral ministry leaders – leaders who know their role, task and possible results.”1
From the above remarks by Stacker, it will be stated that the training of indigenes or nationals by missionaries or mission lovers will provide effective leadership in the churches. Any missionary who wants positive, effective leadership must train those who would lead the churches he has planted among the indigenes.
Secondly, training of indigenes will bring about sustenance of gospel and the churches which the missionaries have started.
Similarly, training indigenes will trigger off multiplication of contextually relevant New Testament Churches. This is because; the indigenes understand the cultures of their own people. So, relevant gospel message will be preached with no barrier of language or other cultural beliefs. Also, spreading of the gospel through intra-culturally will enhance quicker spreading than when the missionaries will have to do it alone or go to all the places using interpreters and some time foreign illustrations.
Training of indigenes will also expose the indigenes to wider scopes of ministries such as medical and educational aspects of growth.
Training of indigenes or nationals is ensuring a solid preparation for the future of the missionary’s mission efforts. The missionary cannot stay on the field forever; neither will he be able to do everything by himself. Imagine J.T. Bowen staying and doing everything in Nigeria since 1850. Imagine Smith, refusing to start the “preachers” class in 1898. What is now known as the N.B.T.S Ogbomoso and the thousands of Nigerians who lead today would not have been possible. Let us teach our converts how to fish instead of supplying fish for a long time.
I guess that every reader of this paper is a product of training which he/she received either directly or indirectly from missionaries. Therefore, train or sponsor, or pray for the training of an indigene today, and you would be a Paul whose Timothy will continue the “good fight of faith,” after you are gone.
May God count all of us worthy trainers and worthy changers as we aspire to experience the glorious presence of God in the year 2011.
Director, Global Missions Board
Nigerian Baptist Convention