I’ve been working through some thoughts on Indigenous church. This may turn into a series of posts, we’ll see.
Indigenous means, “up from the soil”. The basic idea is applied directly in international church planting/missions. The aim is to not make a church in Cambodia look exactly like a church in Camden, NJ. There is something in the soil of Cambodia that is eager to give glory to God; therefore missiologists and church planters should ascertain what God is already doing in Cambodia and allow that essence to shape what the church in Cambodia looks like.
This idea of God-already-working-in-(enter geographical location here)-before-we-get-there-alas-we-are-not-taking-a-message-to-a-completely-ignorant-population goes against the grain of some common thinking. At least in the thinking that I was exposed to initially as a believer. The image is of a messenger equipped with food and water going to a place where people are completely starved and parched. Finally, after all of these years, these folks will not go another day without any idea of what they need.
The narrative of Scripture shares a different story. The story shares a God who has been continually reaching out to repair a broken creation, even when humans did not take initiative. The idea of “us taking a message to them” resembles the impulse of Christendom and colonialism, something that we should avoid at all cost.
The idea of God already working before we arrive requires a different posture. Instead of speaking first and listening second; Indigenous work requires listening first. Imagine that, God’s people listening first… could be a helpful change.