Why Empower Works with the National Church

Welcome to Asked and Answered” with Ron and Charis Pearce. I’m your host Joy Kita and as always it’s a pleasure to be here in the studio. Hi guys!

Ron and Charis-Hi!

Joy- Okay, so today we are going to jump right into it! Today’s question for both of you is, why does Empower work through the national church?

Ron- Well, the national church is a long story of development. What it is, is that many, many years ago, God started to plant these indigenous or national, as we call it, churches all around the world.; national believers who are the Bible-believing, born again believers in their own countries. He started to raise them up. And then there was a big explosion of them in numbers back around 1989 – 1992 era. It has grown rapidly ever since that time. Before that and now as well, Western missionaries were the primary way of operating around the world to take the Gospel out to the various countries, but now that has shifted. The shift has come over to national workers and there are many reasons, probably Charis and I will bounce back and forth on this. The first one I would say is that they live at a lower standard of living and are comfortable with that. I mean this to say they are not necessarily needing higher wages and higher support levels that we do here in the West. So that is one of the primary reasons. For instance, an average wage in many countries is around $50/ month for partial support of a pastor and his family to get up and running. In some countries, it might be $300, like in China, that’s an expensive one and you can go across the board in that sort of situation; $35 is very normal in Vietnam today.

We are helping them to get started in ministry in the same way as we would help our children get started in life.

Charis- One of the other reasons is they know their culture. It’s their culture, their people, their language, and so there’s not that time period of having to learn the language, learn the culture. These are their people, their family members, and their community that they are winning to the Lord.

Ron- Exactly! And another one is the fact that they don’t need a visa to get into their own country, whereas many times Westerners must go in with the permission of the government, stay for a short period of time, and then if difficult times come they are booted out. Whereas the nationals, unless they are very bad boys and bad girls, don’t get booted out. So they are there, working there. As Charis says also, language is a great big factor, and tied to that is social etiquette and cultural etiquette which sometimes Westerners never really catch on to all that much.

Joy- Do you have an example about a social etiquette situation?

Ron- Well, one of the things I had to learn when I first went over to Vietnam, is that you do not accept a gift with one hand, you always use two hands. I didn’t think it was a big thing until it was explained to me that in some parts that is very rude to accept with one hand. The idea is to use both hands out and bow your head to accept a gift. Small but important and there is a multitude of those sort of little rules which you can learn over the years but to them it comes naturally.

Charis- It’s the things that are taught growing up that are just normal.

Ron- Exactly and they do them very appropriately, at the right time. And so that is one of the big things.

Joy- You mentioned language and for a traditional missionary, they can take months, years to learn a language?

Ron- Two years to get started and then after that you have to go on and learn more and more and more. Probably you never stop learning language unless you were born there and it comes naturally, so it’s very difficult. The other thing is they don’t usually need to go home on furlough. That is what happens with many missionaries, is that they need to come back home every four years, two years, whatever their agency is. Those are expensive trips because they are not on the field, they are home raising support etcetera, and I don’t begrudge them that one little bit, but the cost that they have to live in a North American situation is a much higher standard of living, and the airplane fare to take mom, dad and kids back and forth; that’s expensive too. Whereas the national just stays at home and works. So that is another one.

Small but important and there is a multitude of those sort of little rules which you can learn over the years but to them it comes naturally.

Charis- I like your example that you use as Western missions being a success and the example of the grandfather, do you remember that?

Ron- I do remember that. This was told to me by a great pastor/​leader in Burma and his name was Meo Chit, and what he told me was this, he says, I think it was 1968 but I’d have to go check the numbers, the missionaries were expelled from Burma/​Myanmar and he says it was all of a sudden it was thrown in our lap as nationals to take the leadership roles and everything like that. He says, we learned that there are three ways that you can operate inside a culture with outsiders. You can do the father-son relationship and that is where the father tells the son what to do and the son says, Yes sir!” And that for many years was the model for the Western missionary coming in, telling the national what to do, and they just obeyed. Then you had the brother-brother one, but brothers always fight. They fight and they struggle with who’s in control and who’s not in control. He says that doesn’t really work all that well. Then you get to the grandfather-grandson illustration. This has proven to be the best way. That is where, in a Western analogy, the grandfather is sitting at the baseball field in the bleachers and Junior, little guy, is at third base and granddad had bought him a baseball bat, a glove, and a ball. They are playing baseball and the little guy looks up at his grandfather who is cheering on from the stands and says, That’s my granddad up there. He bought me this baseball glove.” He says to the shortstop with a big smile on his face, and granddad is up there looking at the other parents and grandparents and says, That’s my grandson at third base, and I bought him that glove but that’s not the big thing, that’s my grandson down there and he’s playing baseball!” This is the sort of relationship he says is very powerful today. The grandfather-grandson relationship. And that is what I find is the best way of looking at him right now.

Joy- So do you think, and this is a broad question but, could anyone have predicted that the national church would be really growing this much overseas to take the mantle so to speak, to be the grandchild.

Ron- So successful you mean? Yeah, I think it was always the dream and the hope of Western missionaries as I was trained, is that someday in all the fields of activity that the nationals would take over and I remember hearing that. Until then we were needed to go out and help and to plant seeds and start things off. In many countries, there’s not enough missionaries to go around, there’s not enough people to preach the Gospel. Now in many, many countries, there is ample numbers of people to preach the Gospel and they are doing it better as we’re saying, in their own culture. Does that mean to say that the missionaries aren’t necessary anymore in some parts of the world? Uh, yes, actually, yes. I’m trying to be very kind in saying this. In some parts of the world, absolutely we are necessary as Westerners to go out and help because there is not a strong national church, there isn’t really a base to operate from. I remember I told some people this before. I was in Kosovo one time and I was told there were a total of 240 born again believers in Kosovo following the war, and they said we’ve got 12 churches. That is 20 per church! I said, That’s it?” They said, Yeah.” And I said, Boy, do we need missionaries here to plant the seeds and help it to get going.” But when it gets going, that’s when it’s time to go home or redeploy or take on another role. Do something else but not on the front lines as we were before. I look at it this way, missionaries were never supposed to be permanent residents. We were temps. We were temporary help until the church grew to an extent where it took over its own things, its own destiny, and it took care of its own needs. I think that is where we are at today, in some countries. We are making that transition from being there as permanent residents to the temporary helpers.

Joy- And do you find that the national church is certainly up to the challenge of taking over because the success is there. Do find that it is a struggle for people in North America to accept this model?

Ron- Oh yes. We are talking control issues here. We’ve done that for 80 years and some people cannot let go. They’ve got missions organizations that have been in for 100 – 150 years, maybe even longer, and they just can’t say goodbye. And they cannot release to God and the Holy Spirit to take control and let them take care of their own country. So, therefore, they are struggling with this. Do I understand? Absolutely. Do we have to make an effort to let go and let the children take over shall we say in their own country? Absolutely!

Charis- I think at that point in time that is where the transition to the grandfather role needs to come into play.

Joy- And they can have their relationship, as the grandfather more defined, as that supportive cheerleader role.

<p>Grandfather and grandson</p>
This is the sort of relationship he says is very powerful today. The grandfather-grandson relationship. And that is what I find is the best way of looking at him right now.

Ron- That’s it. There is nothing wrong, every once in a while I get criticized, or I guess they rebuke us, for helping national churches with tools and assistance in certain ways, sort of like we are making them dependent upon us. Well, for 200 years they have been dependent on Western missionaries and now we are at a role where we believe the workforce is there already, the national church. We are just approaching it this way. We are helping them to get started in ministry in the same way as we would help our children get started in life. I remember Charis with her first car, an old car and everything like that, getting going and she had to go and get a new little car. And there is a time when you help a child with some of those things to get going in life. In her first apartment, I don’t think she had a couch or anything. I think you had a couple of boxes to sit on. Well, it was up to mom and dad to help out, just to get her going with a couch and a chair and pots and pans and everything of that nature. There is nothing wrong with that. We are not doing it so that they are dependent and we make a welfare state. It’s not that at all. It’s the fact that we love them. There is a time when they will take care of that all themselves. But in the beginning, for a pastor to get up and running in a new area he needs a kick start and the nationals there don’t have that much money to get going. So we can step in and do it for a while. But remember Joy, it’s always a defined period of time that we give assistance. Only up to two years for pastoral support. And we aren’t going to buy somebody every tool that’s out there for ministry. We aren’t going to say well, you all need laptop computers and you all need sound systems, and you all need this and we’ll buy them all. No, no, no. but every once in a while, in a certain situation, they might need a motorcycle or a bicycle or something like that to help them out to get going. That’s a great assistance.

Joy- So I imagine then, with the recent pandemic, that Empower Ministries was in a perfect position to just continue on what they had been doing and it really wasn’t affected too much with anything.

Ron- No. Many of the foreign missionaries had to come home or they were locked in their countries, they didn’t get out. But I heard numbers that 80 percent of all Western missionaries had to come home to be in their base, so to say. That’s understandable. Our operation didn’t slow down a bit because we were just transferring and buying and chipping in and everything of that nature and national churches rolling along perfectly under a pandemic situation. It didn’t affect anything.

Charis- If anything it helped because people were desperate to be financers and it gave more opportunity.

Joy- Okay well, I think you have effectively answered why Empower Ministries works with the national church, so thanks guys!

But I heard numbers that 80 percent of all Western missionaries had to come home to be in their base, so to say.

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