In mission circles there have long been debates about sending short-term vs. sending long-term, and about supporting nationals vs. sending expatriates.
A lot of the time, these arguments seem to be framed as either money or security issues: where terms like ‘more efficient’ or ‘safer in the long run’ are used.
Long-distance evangelism through the Internet is likewise framed as a money or security issue: look how much we can do from far away, for less expense and less risk.
I think it is more useful to consider these things through the lens of the E-scale.
This scale suggests four levels of evangelism:
- E-0: evangelizing people who are part of Christian families and peoples, basically what happens every day in a local church or a Christian home.
- E-1: evangelizing people outside the church but inside the culture: the same-culture non-Christians around us. Our work colleagues, social colleagues, family members who aren’t Christians.
- E-2: evangelism of people of different but similar cultures: this could be related ethnic groups within a country, or related sociopolitical groups within a larger language block.
- E-3: Evangelism of people of radically different cultures.
The questions we must ask of all efforts – short vs. long, nationals vs. expatriates:
- which people/place are they primarily operating in
- which mode of evangelism is primarily being accomplished
- given this mode of evangelism and the kind of evangelism being done, how likely is the church to spread into other modes of evangelism and cross the barriers of understanding and acceptance?
It’s fine to support nationals, for example – but if the work being done by the national is confined to a particular people group and never breaks across the E-3 barrier, we might need to send workers from a different place (=whole church bringing whole gospel to whole world) to other people groups within the country.
For example, not to pick on the Chinese church, but many Han Chinese evangelists are at work among the Mandarin-speaking Han… and comparatively fewer are working amongst minority groups within China.