Missionary-minded believers everywhere are interested in establishing indigenous churches among people who once knew nothing of the grace of God in Christ. Recent years have witnessed a great impetus toward this end. National Christian leaders in what were formerly called mission lands are increasingly and rapidly taking over responsibilities for the support, nurture, government, and extension of churches that originally were established under the blessing of God by Christians from overseas.
This change is as it should be.
What Are The Criteria?
Is an indigenous church, however, necessarily one which admits only nationals as members and deliberately excludes missionaries from other lands? Is not the racial criterion for membership too superficial and therefore an unworthy one? Surely the Lord’s standard is more than skin deep!
In considering the transition from mission enterprise to indigenous church one must remember there are different systems of church government. Each presumably is based on Scripture, and each in any adjustment of program faces certain problems. Is it desirable or right, for example, that churches relinquish an established governmental structure for a congregational system? Often this latter method has greater appeal to overseas Christians; to govern one church autonomously and independently may be simpler than submitting to the authority and corporate control of some conference, presbytery, or synod. It is true, also, that current indigenous ideas are usually tailored more closely to the independent pattern of church government than any other.
Through many generations of missionary activity around the world, missionaries have not only admitted and deplored, but have also sincerely tried to correct, ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more