Indigenous missionary organizations are those that solicit funds to support native evangelists in foreign mission fields. A native missionary, they say, can bear more fruit than his foreign counterpart because he already knows the language and culture of the people he serves. He’s one of them, so they’re likely to accept the gospel message more readily from him than from an outsider.
Sadly, though, some Christians are reluctant to support indigenous missionaries. They’d rather support foreign missionaries. Specifically, they prefer to support people from their own homeland, sent into the mission field by their own denominational organizations. That way, they know “their” missionaries are preaching “the right doctrine.” A question these Christians commonly ask about indigenous missionaries is, “How do I know if they believe the same way I do?”
Apostle Paul’s Response
There’s a difference between faith and the way we express our faith. All Christians are united by our faith in Jesus. There is only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5), but there are many ways by which we can express that faith.
The 14th chapter of Romans gives us Paul’s teaching on judgmentalism and Christian liberty. We’re allowed great latitude in how we choose to express our faith, as long as our expression of faith doesn’t become a stumbling block to other Christians. In verse 22, Paul encourages us to follow our consciences in expressing our faith.
“Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.”
It’s clear that in this verse Paul isn’t talking about the “one faith” of Ephesians 4:5. Rather, he’s referring to how we express that faith. We can eat, or abstain from eating, as a way of expressing our faith. We can observe, or decline to observe, holy days for the same reason. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom. 14:3).
The “one faith” doesn’t consist in the manners by which we express it. We should keep this truth in mind when considering whether to support indigenous workers in the mission field.
The “One Faith” Is All That Matters
“How do I know if they believe the same way I do?” The short answer is, they probably don’t. Most native missionaries don’t know, or don’t care, about the finer points of doctrine which distinguish Baptists from Methodists, or fundamentalists from modernists.
And it doesn’t matter whether they do or not.
What matters is that they believe the simple gospel of Jesus Christ. They believe that Jesus loves us all, and that he died to save us from our sins and reconcile us to God. That’s the only Christian teaching many of them have ever heard, and they believe it fervently enough to dedicate their lives in obedience to it.
That’s all God asks of them. That should be good enough for us as well.