Gospel & Culture blog
These days, "locally sourced" and "organic" are seen as great selling points for a product. Actually, mission leaders have long recognized the value of local resources. Church growth should be locally sourced- in fact, the goal of missions is to strengthen the local church so that discipleship, leadership and education are all locally sourced, rather than dependent on the expatriates.
Church growth is also organic and natural. Programs and pre-determined "formulas" don't work. That's why Rolland Allen referred to the "spontaneous expansion of the church."
What other trends in the market also match with values within missionary work?
Free range? At one point in time, missions was not so free-range; the wisdom of the day was to move converts to a mission station where they learned a trade and how to read. But missiologists and practitioners in recent decades have seen that this artificial environment did not help new Christians learn how to live out their faith in their own villages or communities. Now evangelism, discipleship and education happen in people's natural cultural and geographic environment.
Cross-cultural workers in recent decades have begun to recognize that the communities and people where we work must benefit as much from the missions effort as the sending churches do- in that sense, there's a "fair trade" ring to missions work. If your church in the USA is getting all the kudos and joy from your short term missions projects, whereas the host community is left unheard, something's wrong.
I suppose you could even say church growth is gluten free in many parts of the world- the only bread is the Bread of Life in parts of the world where rice or taro are the food staple, not bread.
Kenneth Nehrbass, Ph.D.
Professor at Biola University, Author, Pastor