Partnering with national church planters
Of course, our American missionaries play vital roles in these outreaches, but BIEM’s effective strategy places nationals in the forefront of the ministry, minimizing the American presence as much as possible. In this productive partnership, nationals assume leadership roles in the churches being established while American missionaries provide direction, training, accountability, and resources by serving as a link to an American support base interested in establishing indigenous churches.
God has greatly blessed these efforts with over 100 new churches established and nearly 30 building programs undertaken. Many of these new churches have reached the goal of being 100% self-supporting. In turn, these new churches reach out to needy segments of society, which has expanded BIEM’s influence into orphanages, public schools, hospitals, and military bases. A ministry center for homeless children has been developed in Kyiv, Ukraine, as well as a Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Center in the Moscow area.
What are some advantages of BIEM’s strategy?
An approach that emphasizes training nationals and helping them to establish their own churches with a minimum American presence provides a number of benefits:
- Nationals know their language and culture better than an American ever can.
- Modern politics can change quickly and radically. Even if a nation expels all American missionaries, our churches and programs can continue.
- Citizens of poorer nations often view Americans as “rich big shots.” They can be jealous of America’s prosperity. A strong American presence in new churches can create difficulties avoided by having national leadership.
- Building prices are kept to a minimum. The reality is that property owners overseas frequently jack up prices for land, buildings, and materials when selling to Americans. The Westerners have money, they think, so why not hold out for as much as possible? Letting local believers be in charge eliminates price games and stretches dollars for church-building projects.
- Churches dependent on American leadership often struggle when turned over to national leadership. BIEM’s strategy removes this transition process.
- It is cost-effective to use nationals whenever possible. Experts who study missions state that the combined costs of deputation, language classes, shipping personal belongings, acquiring housing on the foreign field, cost of living, etc., can reach as high as $250,000 to get one American onto a mission field.
- This strategy multiplies the effectiveness of Western missionaries. An American missionary can usually pastor only one church plant. However by training and equipping dedicated nationals, a missionary can establish many churches.
Okay, the strategy is effective. But is it Biblical?
Few people would doubt that the Apostle Paul was a successful church planter. How did he conduct his missionary work? Did Paul go to a new town, win souls, found a church—and then remain there for many years?
No, he didn’t. The Book of Acts recounts how Paul would travel to a spiritually needy area, witness, preach, teach, train, and then entrust the new congregation to a local man who had matured enough to accept the responsibility. Meanwhile, Paul would proceed to a new field to start this process afresh. When possible, he returned to see how the new churches were doing and reported back to sending churches. In fact, in Titus 1:5 Paul instructs Titus to operate in the same way.
Paul also engaged in administrative duties:
- He penned letters of instruction.
- He encouraged.
- He used assistants and messengers.
- He funneled offerings from believers in one land to needy believers in other lands.
Of course, this is not to say that American missionaries should not live on the foreign field. Some missionaries excel at hands-on, local work, and BIEM thanks God for sending us missions-minded Americans who live and labor overseas. Both American and national missionaries are needed. The point is, the strategy placing trained and equipped nationals in the forefront of ministry and administrating their efforts is both productive and Biblical.
How can churches in America help?
- Take an interest in learning how the Gospel is going “even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).
- Sign up to receive our free “Challenger” newsletter, which shares current projects, victories, and prayer requests.
- Consider contributing financial support (either regularly or a one-time gift) for a project, for one of our missionaries, or for BIEM’s overall program. (Note: In addition to raising funds for projects overseas, each of our U.S.-based directors must raise his own support for living and traveling expenses. BIEM is able to operate thanks to churches willing to consider them for missionary support.)
- Pray for us! No amount of human planning is a substitute for the power of prayer. We need God’s wisdom and power on a daily basis.
- Tell friends and family about our ministry. Maybe they would like to know what the Lord is doing in Russia and Eastern Europe too!
And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2