What an excellent article on a very important subject (What DNA Are We REALLY Reproducing?). Thanks for your writing and sharing your burden. [Check it out by clicking on the cover!]
My wife and I came to these same conclusions in Tajikistan in the early 2000's. We have been involved in YWAM since 1983 but had never lived in the Muslim world before. We realized in a few short months that "church as we knew it, the Tajiks didn't need". Church as we knew it from the USA (and Germany- my wife is German) was boring, isolated, bulky, big budgeted, weak, too professional, CEO-top down structure, program driven… I could go on but I won't.
How or why would anyone in their right mind want to reproduce this???
Especially in a very poor, poorly educated country like Tajikistan. So for about 2 years we did little about church planting and a lot of study about the church from the NT lens only. This led us to the house church model so successful in so many nations, but not here in the good ole USA. (Unfortunately, many mission agencies are also scrambling to catch up with the dynamic house church movement around the world but often times they are just "shrinking the church" – as we know it – to fit inside a living room! That is a discussion for another magazine I hope…)
I like the stat quoting your friend that 2/3 rds of all missionaries should go home. I agree and would even place it higher (ca. 80%). This is a stat that most people can simple not comprehend.
There is a big difference between evangelists and church planters. If all we are concerned about is evangelism, then we do indeed need 1000’s and 1000’s of workers. But if we are concerned about church planting movements, then all we need, like the Apostle Paul , is a small team for a few years.
We applaud all your efforts (and boldness) to raise the question of what are we (really) reproducing overseas! My wife and I often say if you take away the money aspect and the "development" side of missions, very few missionaries could really make an impact for Christ by just planting the church.
A missing point in my understanding of the NT missions model is to ask yourself one simple question:
"How many more missionaries did the Antioch church send out?"
None that we know of! Here we make a huge mistake, I feel, in not seeing the apostolic model of raising up church planters from churches planted in the harvest field!! Timothy was not "trained for the work" from Antioch. Neither were Priscilla and Aquilla, or Gaius, or Epaphras, or Luke, or Apollos, or Trophimus, or Aristarchus…
Few, if any of Paul’s co-workers ever came from the "big sending church" in Antioch. There simply was no great training church in Antioch (read USA). The workers were taken from the harvest and sent right back into it with "hands-on training" and mentoring from Paul’s apostolic band.
If the mission agencies of the world ever get a handle on this, the task of global evangelization will be finished quickly!!
As I write this, we are living in the northwestern corner of Wisconsin in an apartment full of Somalis. They are here to find work to send back money to their relatives in Somalia. Somalia is .1% Christian and 99.9% Muslim. 2000 years of Christianity and 500 years of Evangelicalism have not made even a dent in many of the nations of our world.
The time to change is now.
The time to abandon everything and anything that keeps us from seeing greater impact in the last remaining unreached people groups of the earth is now!
I close with a quote from an "old friend" Roland Allen:
"What are you doing where you are? Till you have set that on the right lines, what is the use of discovering and entering new fields to make the old mistakes?" (R. Allen).
Yours for the least in the kingdom,