It is right to support all who faithfully proclaim the gospel, whether they be westerners sent to foreign countries or national converts working in their own native lands (1 Cor. 9:7-10; 3 John 7-8). In either case, those supported should be accountable and those supporting should be prudent. It is right for converts to learn to support those who teach them (Gal. 6:6-7) — a virtue sometimes best exemplified by the poorest of the poor. Having been taught the gospel, it is right for converts to financially support their teachers as they leave them to take the gospel to other places still (Rom. 15:24; Phil. 2:25; 4:15-18).
Should we who are so blessed in the West support missionaries from among ourselves who go to foreign lands, or should we support faithful national converts in those lands who are approved and taught by local spiritual leaders? The choice is surely not either/or. We may resoundingly answer “Yes” to both parts. Whom do Asians and Africans respect more highly and hear more readily — foreign missionaries from the West or their own countrymen? Both, I am told, at different times and places and under varying circumstances. Western missionaries are sometimes far more effective where local tribal rivalries prevail. Native missionaries usually have greater success in countries marked by strong nationalistic feelings or an anti-foreign spirit. Again flexibility must be the key.
Is it better to invest financial support in American or British (or New Zealander or other) missionaries who are thoroughly trained and well-equipped for the task? Sometimes the answer is “Yes.” Is it better to invest mission dollars in faithful and proven national workers who already are there, know the language and culture and identify immediately with their own people? Again the answer is sometimes “Yes.”
We all believe that the gospel is intended for every person and surely we can agree that those who have never heard it have a higher claim on our attention and prayer than those who, surrounded by a Christian witness, ignore it every day. It is clear from Scripture that we depend on God; he does not depend on us. He, not we, will make his kingdom succeed. We are privileged to work with God but we are clay pots and nothing more. Let us be open, flexible and balanced as we seek to do his will. Let us join with God where we see him at work. And let us learn always to say, when the day is done: “Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”