Once you translate the business language, what’s true for international business is true for the church:
It’s vital to get a good solid in-country management in place that understands what you’re doing as well as the local culture. We could go in with a US management team but adapting to what is a very different business culture would make for a difficult road to success.
There are two spheres of knowledge. The first concerns “what you’re doing,” that is, in spiritual terms, the gospel. We practice and proclaim the Word of salvation. That word goes from us to others. We must know and be able to communicate the truth. People must understand the Message of Christ.
The second sphere of knowledge is “the local culture,” which the national brethren are a part of. They understand its workings. As well as a foreigner may adapt, he’ll always be a foreigner.
This means training is important in two directions. The international evangelist needs to study the culture and language of the country to which he goes. Otherwise, he will be ineffective. There are no shortcuts to this knowledge and process of adaptation.
Our Christian colleges made a good start of this, but seem to be moving toward abandoning missions training. Others, such as the World Evangelism School of Missions, directed by Wayne and Janet Barrier, have picked up the slack.
The second direction of training is for what I’m going to call discipleship for national brethren. It’s broader than a school approach, limited as the latter is mostly to the transmission of information, though a school might contribute toward helping converts to understand and live out the gospel.
Discipleship entails not only instruction but also engagement. In order for others to understand “what you’re doing,” and to be able to reproduce that in culturally relevant ways — or better, to insert that gospel practice into the local culture — both the evangelist and convert, teacher and student, engage in dialogue and fellowship of life and labors.
Such engagement will benefit both evangelist and convert, as the former learns further how to be a part of the culture without compromising the truth, and the latter learns what it means to be a follower of Christ.
In such a way, the discipleship of engagement serves the kingdom of God by effective service that increases numbers and transforms lives by the practice of the Lord’s power and grace.