The L.A.M. concept of "Partnership" as a missionary strategy for its work in Latin America has evolved, I believe, through three definite stages of development.
I - Indigenous Church Principle. We have felt that the goals and principles of the Indigenous Church strategy are Scriptural. They are commonly stated as an effort to establish the local Church in such a way that it becomes (1) self-supporting, (2) self-governing, and (3) self-propagating. While these principles are sound, two observations must be made. (1) They are too frequently conceived of as being the whole of the Indigenous Method, to the neglect of the supplementary ministries of education, medicine, social welfare, publication, and general evangelism without which the local church or denomination is either impoverished or incompetent to compete with the anti-Christian forces around it. (2) In Latin America, at least, the Indigenous Method has proven itself only in specific localities and during specific stages of the Church's development. I do not think there is any case where the application of the method by a mission (in order to distinguish from the local revival movements which in Chile and elsewhere have been singularly blessed of God) can be called an unqualified success, as in Korea, for example.
II - Latinamericanization. However, it was in recognition of the worth and Scriptural basis of the Indigenous Method that our L.A.M. thinking turned toward what we called "Latinamericanization." The indigenous principles were clearly applicable to the average mission in a local church situation -- say, in Costa Rica or in Colombia. But how were they to be applied to the international ministries of a "service mission" like the L.A.M.? The Costa Rican church could not be expected to assume ultimate responsibility for the Seminary, Editorial Caribe, Nurses' Training school, international Campaign movement, etc.
Thus developed our "Latinamericanization" policy, which was (and still is) characterized by various tendencies and patterns:
III - Partnership. "Partnership" seems to me to be a still-further development of the above principles. It conceives of the Mission's role as one of joining hands with the local Indigenous Latin Church to help create an atmosphere of evangelism in which the Church can truly grow into maturity.
In other words, we recognize that while the local churches may be self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating, nevertheless they are still not strong enough to compete on satisfactory terms with the anti-Christian and anti-evangelical religions and pressures of Latin America. They are a long way from being able to support and manage their own foreign and domestic mission boards, their boards of Christian Education, their publishing houses, radio stations, hospitals, orphanages and old-folks' homes. Until they are ready to assume such dimension as to truly assault the "gates of hell," the responsibility of the foreign missionary is not fully complied with. Unless the Lord's coming, or local political conditions, etc., should force us out sooner, we have a responsibility to see the Latin Church through to a stage of development firm enough so that it can minister to its own needs and launch its own foreign missionary program elsewhere.
To accomplish this, we must become partners of the local church. We do this not just by "Latinamericanizing" and thereby serving more efficiently, but by trying to become their missionary agency as well as that of the North American church. We must, therefore, seek financial support, missionaries, and prayer-backing from the Latin American evangelical community. We must become their partners and work with them to provide the ministries and the evangelistic environment in which they can reach real maturity. We must help them to assume the responsibility for "outreach" projects, like TIFC, Monterrey, YNOL, etc. And in doing so, despite the present proportions of personnel and funds, we are truly partners.
W. Dayton Roberts
November 6, 1958