Since the Tambaran meeting of the International Missionary Council, a difficult word has become popular. Wherever one moves in Africa and Asia or takes up a book on missions, the word “indigenization” crops up.

Since Tambaran there has been a growing stress that the Christian church, especially in Africa and Asia, must become indigenous, must become more fully rooted in the local soil and fit into each country’s or area’s specific cultural milieu. Somehow the Church is to reflect more fully than hitherto the human heritage of those among whom it has appeared, although basically it can be rooted only in Christ.

It was felt at the time of the council and is still felt that in most cases the Gospel was unnecessarily “foreign” not primarily because of its inherent foreignness but because it was presented in completely Western cultural garb to the peoples of Africa and Asia. Realization that the Church was often unnecessarily foreign and had too little understanding of or contact with the everyday life and heritage of specific peoples was long overdue. The Church’s liturgy, hymns and music, and sometimes even its language were strange. It was patterned after some Western mother church in Europe or the United States. The genius and the heritage of the people concerned had no opportunity for expression in the rigid form of a Church transplanted from Europe or America. Most missionary leaders agree that this state of affairs must change if the Church in Africa and Asia is to have a future. The change is especially necessary in an age when many African and Asian countries are experiencing a rising national conciousness. Too often we have failed to let these peoples share their “riches” with us; we have prescribed all the patterns in ...

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