I am in Saskatchewan and Manitoba this week with the TWR Canada fall ministry tour. If you are nearby, I would love to chat. Here on the blog, I asked my friend McDaniel Phillips, to share a story from his recent trip to the Middle East. McDaniel is coordinating the new Discipleship Essentials program, a library of teaching content available for teaching and discipleship purposes. He’s been busy meeting with leaders of church networks around the world sharing about the training we offer to help leaders get the most out of this resource to enhance ministry work they’re already doing.
This spring, I was invited to attend a meeting in Qatar with FIN’s (Filipino International Network) executive committee. (Read this post to learn why there are so many Filipino people in the Middle East.) FIN is familiar with the content in Discipleship Essentials, and I had already met with them on more than one occasion to discuss how we could train and facilitate their leaders to get the most impact from the content for multiplication. These leaders came from across the Middle East representing a network of about 100 churches.
The ideal scenario is a learning environment directed at self-discovery. We remember and apply Scripture more effectively in our own lives if we’ve learned through our own study, prayer, revelation, and discussions rather than a straight lecture style delivery. We’re better equipped to defend and explain our faith, to persevere in our faith, this way. I was invited to pitch the idea of training a small group of leaders who would then study on their own and train others; additionally, I would be available as a mentor for small group dynamics, teaching adult learners, etc. for a time. In the end, I’ll be able to leave them fully equipped to get the most out of the Discipleship Essentials material on their own. I want to enable and empower local leaders to minister to their own people.
The role of the Western missionary has changed.
Where a local church already exists, the role of the Western missionary has changed. Our role in this situation is not to pioneer new initiatives, but come alongside local leaders as full partners to support them in their strengths and lend them ours. The strength of host cultures is in relationships – they know the people and their needs; the people know them and trust them. Western missionaries are equipped with theological or seminary training and have strong administrative skills. The ideal is to equip the local church to grow, reach out to the community, and multiply on their own. This is why FIN was so interested in Discipleship Essentials, because it’s an open-source tool they’re familiar with that will enhance the work they’re already doing.
A Lesson Learned
The day before this meeting, I had been asked to model a teaching session from Discipleship Essentials and a number of local folks had been invited. These people knew nothing about Discipleship Essentials, so I had to start at the beginning. I presented the ideal scenario of self-discovered learning (asking open ended questions, prompting discussions, etc.), but fell into a classroom lecture style which was not what I had wanted to do. I persevered and talked about small group dynamics and teaching adult learners. I was happy to see that session end because I was sure the whole thing had fallen flat.
After our meeting the next day, FIN said they wanted to partner with TWR Canada for Discipleship Essentials training and facilitation. I was puzzled because I felt the sample session had gone badly, but then I realized they had caught my vision for the ideal and wanted that for themselves; wanted to bring it to their churches. They wanted to know how to present content so that recipients would embrace the gospel for themselves instead of passively listening. I’m heading back there in 2016 to follow through on that request.
Change Can Be Hard
Local churches want to reach out to their communities and be autonomous, but it’s a mistake to think Western missionaries should just pull out because we both still have roles to play. Therefore, it is imperative we seek out partnerships in regions like the Middle East because they still need us, but maybe not in the way they’ve needed us in the past.. They need to be empowered and equipped through training and mentoring to succeed so they can utilize their relationships to share the Gospel across their own countries.
That is the future of missions.