Why does TITUS focus on national Christian workers?
(The following reasons are offered in no particular order of importance and by no means imply opposition to "foreign" missionaries.)
#1—Focusing on national Christian workers was the strategy of the Apostle Paul.
A survey of the book of Acts and the Epistles of Paul reveals that he devoted his ministry to the reproduction of local workers. In the cities that he visited he habitually trained and empowered local leadership that carried on the ministry after his departure. His clear focus on this objective explains his ability to leave a work in national hands after a relatively short amount of time.
#2—Investing in national Christian workers is cost effective.
Certainly, Christian ministry should never be reduced to the bottom line. There is, after all, a value to church planting and missionary ministry that cannot be calculated in dollars and cents. Even so, it must be acknowledged that national workers are ordinarily able to minister at less financial expense than foreign missionaries. The cost of passage alone for a foreign missionary often exceeds months of living expenses for a local. This does not imply that such an investment by the western church is unnecessary. It simply highlights the fact that if foreign missionaries are our only strategy for reaching the world, we would soon run out of money. Here, we could learn a lesson from the corporate world. Successful businesses do not staff overseas operations with expatriates. They send a few to train and oversee the business, but invest the bulk of their money in a local workforce.
#3—National Christian workers are essential to fulfilling the Great Commission.
Surely, this is a universally accepted fact. The task simply cannot be completed without local help. Such a goal would be practically impossible. No country in the world has the manpower and money to spread the gospel to every human being. Further, the western world, with all of its resources, cannot complete the Great Commission. In fact, the very wording of the Lord's command demands that we make disciples in every nation. God never intended for one segment of His church to reach the rest of the world. He always envisioned a diversified workforce from every part of the earth. A mission that reaches the world requires many hands from many lands.
#4—National Christian workers speak the language.
Even if finances and workers were not a hindrance to world evangelization, communication would be a minefield. The diversity of languages in our world poses a practical predicament for the Great Commission. Investing in people from every nation, language, and people group is the only solution to the problem. Locals possess the communicative skills needed to reach their neighbors. They communicate with one another in ways that few foreigners ever master. Language is so much more than words! It is the fabric of relationships. Language creates affinity. Language identifies us as family. Natives naturally have the "ears" of their countrymen. Many people in the world will only "hear" the gospel when it comes from native lips.
#5—National Christian workers understand the culture.
The concept of culture goes even deeper in complexity than language. Many foreigners may learn to speak in another language. Some even learn to effectively communicate in another language. However, only a few are able to truly relate to those of another culture. Culture is a million subtleties and nuances that a native just somehow knows. How to greet, who to greet, when to visit, what to bring, how to eat, when to leave—these are just a few questions answered by culture. Foreigner missionaries spend years learning to navigate the treacherous road of culture. Locals just know.
#6—National Christian workers are usually more accepted by their countrymen than foreigners.
Such a statement obviously has exceptions. Some cultures are so corrupt that a few citizens have more respect for a foreigner than a native. Certainly, this is the exception not the rule. Even so, there is a kinship among locals that outsiders simply do not possess. This basic dynamic of society lays a powerful foundation for building the church of Jesus Christ. Several of the disciples of Jesus were brothers and coworkers that shared the same cultural and collective upbringing. Historically, nearly all great religious or political movements flow through the same paths of societal relationships. Friends trust friends.
#7—National Christian workers can travel where foreign missionaries sometimes cannot go.
Although this thought may conjure up images of natives cutting a path through a jungle, or navigating the uncharted waters of the Amazon, we had other circumstances in mind. There are some occasions when parts of a country (or even whole countries) are restricted to foreigners. Such was the case in the old Soviet Union. Politics and anti-western sentiment may make it either impossible, or at least inadvisable, for a foreigner to visit some places. Additionally, there are some people in nearly every nation that are not interested in dialogue with a foreigner. In these cases, national Christian workers can literally go where western missionaries cannot go.
#8—National Christian workers are "at home."
From the minute they arrive on the field, foreign missionaries face a relentless pull to "go home."In addition to the pressure of ministry abroad? illness, family, financial instability, and plain old homesickness all tug incessantly at the expatriate heart. Eventually, nearly all will of necessity return home. Although the national worker will doubtlessly face many of the same issues of life as the foreigner, they endure them in the context of their culture. One could say that they have "staying power"—they are already at home.
#9—National Christian workers possess legal status in their countries.
As citizens, nationals enjoy benefits that foreigners do not. Some of these have a direct impact on their ability to minister. A traffic accident that could be an "international incident" for a foreigner might be of lesser consequence to a local. Issues related to liability and guilt before the law can have unpleasant and unforeseen consequences for a foreigner. Citizens, in general, have protections and privileges that do not extend to visitors.
#10—In general, national Christian workers have an "edge" in church-planting ministry.
Initiating a church plant can be a challenging endeavor under the best of circumstances. Anyone that's ever attempted it can tell you that it's not "a walk in the park." Every year, numerous church plants attempted by committed Christians never get off the ground in our own country, let alone on the foreign field. The complexity of serving in a place where you have never been, in a language you recently learned, with people you barely know, certainly complicates the process. Many foreign missionaries do a marvelous job of persevering in adapting to the culture and planting an effective ministry. National missionaries face the same basic challenges in ministry as the foreign missionary, with one notable exception. Their innate understanding of their culture gives the equipped national a definite advantage in initiating and sustaining a viable church plant. Acknowledging this advantage, foreign missionaries often plan to start with national workers on their church planting team.
#11—In general, national Christian workers have an existing pool of relationships.
Relationships are the key to effective ministry in every country! Unfortunately, that key is not as readily available to foreigners as it is to locals. Foreigners, by the very nature of the definition, have limited contacts in the places to which they emigrate. Normally, but not always, national workers do have connections in the places they serve. In any case, every effective church planter must be a relationship builder. In this area, as in others, the national has a distinct edge.
#12—Nationals might not face the same health consequences as foreigners.
Illness is certainly not partial to one human over another. All are susceptible to pain, injury, and disease. There are, however, certain advantages that locals have over foreigners in regard to health. The most obvious relates to immunity. Being born in a place gives a certain degree of immunity to some bugs and germs that can seriously affect outsiders. (Case in point: A drink from the well that the locals frequent will possibly ruin the rest of your vacation.) Most foreigners understandably face the added complication of searching out western medical care purchased by western insurance. Under extreme circumstances, they may even require expensive and urgent medical evacuation. On the other hand, most nationals get along fine navigating the complexities, even deficiencies, of their health-care systems.
#13—Nation Christian workers normally do not require a furlough.
The typical foreign missionary spends about 20% of his ministry (1 year out of 5) at home. Of course, our purpose here is not to question the need of such a furlough. In our opinion, it is a practical necessity to the foreign missionary's ministry. It keeps them connected to family and friends. It allows them to report to their supporters. It is absolutely indispensible to their mental and emotional wellbeing. In fairness, it should also be acknowledged that furlough can be disruptive to the ministry on the field. There is always the problem of finding someone to "fill in" while they are gone. The typical national worker simply does not require a furlough. As a result, they are able to keep their focus and energies directed into the ministry.
#14—National Christian workers are the only way to reach the inaccessible nations of the 10/40 Window.
The 10/40 Window is the last frontier of missions for our generation. Sandwiched between the 10th and 40th parallels above the equator, this vast area stretches from North Africa through the Middle East and on to Asia. Fifty-five of these nations are the least evangelized on earth. If we really want to reach the 1.6 billion in this area that have never heard the gospel, it will require the aid of national Christian workers. Why? Because, nearly 30 of the nations are closed to foreign missionaries, leaving nationals as the only hope for the unreached!
#15—God is clearly mobilizing great numbers of national workers to carry the gospel to the world.
When we help national workers, we are cooperating with God in His work in our world! Recent years have witnessed an unprecedented rise in the surge of national Christian workers. This trend seems to suggest that nationals will be the future wave of foreign missions. Surely, such a harvest of workers for world evangelism could only originate from one source. The Lord of the harvest enlists and empowers the world-wide mission force.
#16—Cooperation between national Christian workers and "western" Christian churches is mutually beneficial.
Each of these participants in world evangelism provides a component of the mission that the other lacks. The "west" has the expertise and the financial and spiritual resources. The national Christians have an abundant on-field network of potential Christian workers. "Our" training, materials and financial assistance coupled with "their" witness presents a win/win situation for the gospel. Such a condition is hardly new. Read 2 Corinthians 8: 13-15, and you will find that Paul made a similar discovery in his day. Could that be how God works?
#17—The national Christian worker's method of ministry is often more suited to their country than western models of ministry.
Notice that we are referring solely to changing methods of ministry, not the unchangeable doctrines of faith. The message of faith is identical for foreigner or national, but the methods for sharing that faith might vary from one place to another. One of the stated aims of most every foreign missionary church planter is "indigenous ministry." What they mean by this is to leave behind a church that thrives in its environment—a ministry that is natural and effective in the culture. Yet, many discover that the words flow easier than their fulfillment. It is only natural to replicate the model of ministry that one has experienced. For the foreign missionary, that poses a problem. Sometimes, the only methods of ministry that a foreign missionary knows do not translate to another culture. National missionaries have a natural advantage here over the foreigner. (Unless, of course, the only methods of ministry they have ever witnessed are based on a western model.)
#18—Focusing on national Christian workers keeps our eyes on the goal.
The ultimate goal of every missionary endeavor is a church planting movement that impacts the nation for Christ. Missionary ministry is all about nationals! We sacrifice so they can hear the Gospel of Christ. We send our children and friends to start churches in their cities. We invest in Bible institutes and colleges to train leaders from their countrymen. The very nature of our mission is the spiritual welfare of the nationals and their nation—that is our ultimate goal. Starting with a unique focus on national workers is the best way to insure that we end up there!
#19—Many national Christian workers are already called and serving, they just need help.
When we invest in national Christian workers, many times our investment goes straight to work. There are many dedicated servants already at work in the fields of the world that simply need some aid. Some need encouragement. Others need training. It is common that most have had little theological training and hardly any materials. Some barely have Bibles. A few of these lay their lives on the line every day to stand for Christ in hostile situations. They have mined the depths of sacrifice that we only read about and never experience. Some live from day to day and meal to meal, waiting on the Lord to feed their families and meet their needs. Are they not worthy of our help—our aid? Are they not fellow-laborers in the gospel and brothers in Christ? Does the Godly rebuke of James 2: 15-16 not apply to our response to national Christian workers?
#20—It is easier to begin with national leadership than to transition to it from foreign leadership.
Many a missionary can provide proof for that declaration! There are numerous reasons why transition to national ministry is difficult for a foreign church plant, but one seems to repeatedly rise to the top. The longer a foreign missionary maintains control of a ministry, the more difficult the transition. Sadly, long periods of foreign leadership are the norm, not the exception. Accordingly, transitioning to national leadership is a widespread problem of foreign church plants. Those that start with nationals on the leadership team are far more successful at a faster and smoother transition to full national leadership.
#21—It is often easier to maintain and sustain national leadership than foreign leadership.
A basic reason might be that national leadership is usually simpler than foreign leadership. In general, national Christian workers focus on evangelism and discipleship and erect simple structures as needed. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, they tend to develop less of the programs and trappings that accompany foreign ministry. There is an undeniable focus on programs and buildings that typify "western" ministries. When foreign missionaries build on this foundation, they leave a financial and physical burden for their successor.
#22—Focusing on national ministry protects against the "colonial mentality" sometimes prevalent in foreign missions.
Unfortunately, foreign church planters wrestle with the struggle to compare everything on the mission field to their home country. If we are not careful, we can become more obsessed with preaching capitalism and "Americanism" than the gospel. We can become like the British, who exported their way of life by colonizing the nations they sought to help. If you remember your U.S. history, we didn't appreciate this development. It ultimately led to war—and the birth of The United States of America. The same mentality is not uncommon in missionary church planting. Nationals sometimes mistakenly identify missionaries as importers of American culture, not preachers of the gospel. Working with nationals is the best way to guard against this serious hindrance to ministry.
#23—Focusing on national ministry is undeniably scriptural.
It is the unmistakable pattern of ministry recorded in the New Testament. Jesus commissioned His disciples to carry the gospel to every nation and person on earth, inviting them to join the family of God and expand His mission on earth. This is a most remarkable development, as it was totally contrary to the world in which the disciples were raised. It took a vision from God in Acts 10 to get Peter to acknowledge that the foreigner was destined to become his brother! The Jerusalem council in Acts 15 addressed this fundamental change in God's dealings with humanity and underlined the churches responsibility to erase cultural and national distinctions from the family of God. A unified church represented by the peoples of every nation on earth is the very plan of God revealed in scripture. When we focus on this fact, we combat our tendencies to prejudice and keep our eyes on God's master plan.
#24—Focusing on national Christian workers creates a scriptural mindset between national and foreign missionaries.
In Philippians chapter 2, Paul reminds us that the basic attitude of the Christian should reflect the heart of the Savior. Jesus is presented in this passage as the supreme example of one who focused his life on others. The command to esteem others better than ourselves is the very essence of "Christian." When foreign missionaries (and the churches that send them) start with an appreciation for, and focus on, the national Christian worker, they display the character of Christ. This naturally promotes a more effective and loving relationship between the foreign missionary and the national Christian worker.
#25—Most effective foreign missionaries focus on helping national Christian workers.
Our primary philosophy of focusing on national workers is certainly not new to missions! Throughout the history of Christian missions, the best and most successful missionaries have dedicated their energies to the exact same focus. Nationals were the focus of men like Hudson Taylor and William Carey. Today, nationals are still the focus of numerous servants of Jesus Christ who leave their families and homelands for the sake of the gospel. Through intentional study of language and culture, they spend years in preparation. For the sake of Christ they build loving bridges of trust among the locals they serve. They pour their lives out in service to evangelize and disciple the lost in their nations. They invest their sweat, tears, and sometimes blood, in building national Christian workers—co-workers in the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ!