Should We Support National Church Planters and Missionaries?
Kevin Folger – North American Director of Spiritual Leadership Asia
The case for supporting national ministry workers on the mission field is not complex for me to make. The ministry of Spiritual Leadership Asia Conference and Spiritual Leadership Asia was started primarily to assist Independent Baptist Asian national church leaders in impacting the Asian 10/40 window with the Gospel. The first Spiritual Leadership Conference in Asia was conducted in 2015 in Singapore; the following year, it was moved to Manila and became a bi-annual conference. Because of all God was doing in these meetings, it was at the 2018 conference that God moved in my heart to speak to Dr. Chappell and Brother Niranjan Sundararaj about forming the new ministry Spiritual Leadership Asia to impact the Asian 10/40 window further. We all could see the value in assisting Asian nationals to do work only they could do. The work of planting churches in closed or restricted access nations is nearly impossible for American missionaries because of their visibility. It is difficult for most Americans to blend into Asian culture. We are Americans, and we stand out as different from Asians. Thus we draw attention to ourselves, which is especially true in countries that are closed to Gospel preaching and church-planting missionaries. It isn’t near as hard for Asian nationals to do that work. Don’t get me wrong, it is perilous and challenging work, but because they are Asian, they can work in these nations more readily than Americans. So, of course, I believe in working with and supporting national church planters and missionaries. It is what we are called to do.
Because of the nature of our ministry, I am constantly reaching out to pastors about an opportunity to present the ministry of Spiritual Leadership Asia in their church. I have spoken to some Baptist pastors who have told me that they and their church have a philosophy of not investing or considering supporting national church planters. The reasoning is somewhat varied, but it comes down to two things.
- There is a concern as to whether nationals be trusted with financial support?
I get it that there has been some abuse by some nationals that have come to America and raised support and not used it correctly. The truth is that there are probably a lot more American missionaries that have raised support and misused funds than nationals that have done so. We are not in favor of nationals coming to America to raise financial support, nor are we in favor of completely supporting nationals. These nationals have to take some initiative and raise support among their people, but we believe in helping and supplementing their support. We believe in encouraging them and assisting with supplying tracts, literature, and Bibles.
- Some think nationals should be able to raise adequate support among their people and nation. If they can’t raise the support, let them work a job to supplement their living.
The problem with that philosophy is that they have the idea that the mission field is like America, where money is readily available. Most nationals live in third-world countries where finances are very scarce. Poverty is a norm, and basic living is sometimes a challenge. We are talking about nationals living, taking care of a family, and funding a church planting effort, which is almost impossible given the living standards in many countries. Most men we work with live on a minimal amount of the equivalent American dollar. In most cases, it ranges from $350 to $1000 a month, so if we can help them with a small monthly stipend of $50, it makes a huge difference.
Let’s think about the value of what we are doing. Capable trained national church planters are working at a fraction of what it costs to send and sustain an American family; it just makes good stewardship sense to support nationals.
Every New Testament Church is autonomous and has the right to make its own decisions and have its mission philosophy. However, I find the New Testament speaks to the importance of working and co-laboring with national leaders to reach the world for Christ. Paul had a Timothy, Titus, Epaphroditus, and others he met and mentored who were not born in Israel but were reached through his outreach and mission work. The Apostle Paul valued and invested in these men, no doubt at times financially supporting their work, thus giving us a pattern to follow.
Should your church partner with and support a national church planter? That is a question you will have to answer, but from my experience, it is an excellent investment that will bring forth a great return. Please consider partnering with Spiritual Leadership Asia in this endeavor.