This one is hard to assess. In developing a strategy, the more information the better. For someone who will live in a new culture, the level of understanding of the local laws, customs, traditions, and practices is usually very low. In addition, even if a missionary has been a faithful member of a church before going to the field, he may be inexperienced in church planting or cross-cultural communication. These make developing a ministry strategy even more difficult.
I have discovered what I believe is a key in analyzing a missionary’s strategy. Focusing on the church is a key way to get at the soundness of a ministry strategy. My foundational belief is that the church should be the center of evangelism, discipleship, meeting human needs, and ultimately, any missionary task.
Here is what I mean:
Strategy #1: Humanitarian Aid
Missionary: I am going to join humanitarian organization that does water sanitation projects in Africa.
Me: How will that start or build churches?
Sound church strategy: The organization allows me access a community where I can easily meet people and develop relationships. The organization intentionally does fewer projects so that deeper relationships can be developed. We also have developed a unique follow-up system so that we continually go back to the same communities. Before launching a water sanitation project, we try to involve local church members in the projects so that those who show any interest in the gospel are connected with local churches. We hope to use this project in part to strengthen local churches. In order to clarify our motivation, the organization is called Living Water Ministries (just an example).
Unsound church strategy: We will go from village to village solving water sanitation problems. The need is so great; we have developed a unique system to spend as little time in each village as possible so that we can get to the next one. If the opportunity presents itself, I will share the gospel. I’m not sure about the local churches or how to involve them. We really don’t have time to get to know them. In order to not mix things up, we’ve decided to avoid any religious affiliation of our organization.
What should we do?
Ask missionaries seeking funding to consider either fully becoming a humanitarian aid worker with a legitimate organization or solely a missionary of the gospel. A church should fund missionaries who have a solid understanding of the church and a concrete plan to strengthen or start churches.
See summary article here posts on unsound strategy: Humanitarian Aid, Evangelism, Business as Mission, Making Disciples, and the House Church Movement.