Some ideas die hard. In missions some mistaken ideas that have prevailed for the last hundred years have finally met their end. One is that missionary outreach is the white man’s burden. A second is that the ever-present Western missionary must always be in authority over younger churches.
The younger churches have come of age and have called for the end of dominance by foreign missionaries. As a result, missionaries have been withdrawn from areas where churches have become self-governing and self-supporting. But this right idea has led to another wrong idea—that the day for the “foreign” missionary is over.
Some are now saying that there is no need for missionaries to cross geographical, linguistic, cultural, and economic barriers, that the job of evangelism can now be left to churches and Christians who will evangelize in their own localities. This is a tragic error. There are more than two billion people who have not heard of Jesus Christ. They are not located in places where the Gospel is openly, freely, and continually preached. There are no near neighbors who can reach them; they must be reached by missionaries who cross cultural, geographic, and linguistic barriers. To suppose that the existence of churches in India, for instance, means that all Indians can be reached without the crossing of barriers is nonsense. Thousands of large groups of Indian people cannot be reached unless Christians from other areas, whether they be Indian, Chinese, Latin American, American, or something else, learn new languages, move into new geographical areas, and become enmeshed in new cultures. There is no other way.
All the churches of Jesus Christ in all parts of the world are charged with the responsibility of becoming missionary communities ...1