I have heard many financial appeals from well meaning individuals that say something like, “western missionaries are not needed anymore. It costs to much money. They are two high maintenance. It will take them 10 year before they are really ready and useful for the ministry in such-and-such country because they have to learn the language (or two or three) and the culture. And so on…” Now there is some massive validity in these points. We can send 20 equipped nationals out for the cost of one western missionary. But are western missionaries a thing of the past? I would argue no!
First off, God is the one who calls individuals not us. God calls the nationals from these various countries just the same as he calls the western missionaries. If God calls someone who are we to stand in the way? In fact if we stand in the way we are by definition resisting God’s call for them as the goers and for us as the senders. Which is not a place we want to be in as I am reminded of the story of Jonah.
Secondly, Jesus gave a command for the whole church to Go (Matt. 28:19-20)! As the Body of Christ we are to be engaged in going and preaching the Gospel. This is not a suggested to be thought about but it is a command from our King to be obeyed. Jesus said, “as the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Jesus was the supreme example of a cross cultural missionary. He stepped out of glory and put on flesh, He became like us (just without the sin) in order to reach us. This is a topic for another article but the point is Jesus is still calling us to follow His example and go and reach the nations.
To answer our question – should we still be sending missionaries? The answer is “yes” because it is God’s will! For the western church, it is massively healthy for us to be engaged in missions (setting aside the calling point for a minute). If we give up missions and just send checks each month our health as a church would diminish. We need to get outside of our western bubble of overabundance and gross consumption and be reminded of the realities of the world. Secondly, we have more to offer then just money. Sure the national missionary is better equipped to reach their own people and that should be the goal of ALL mission ventures but we have plenty to offer. For starters, just to name one, we are the most Biblically literate nation on the planet by far. I don’t say that to brag or to be prideful in any way. But most Christians in America have more Biblical training from Sunday School then most national pastors from other countries.
Here is the bottom line, Jesus said, “the Harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few, therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.” – Matthew 9:37. It is not a question of one or the other. Should we just send nationals or just send westerners? It is both. Yes we should be supporting nationals and sending a LOT more money then we are now but that is not enough. The Body of Christ in the West NEEDS to be more involved in going themselves.