Billy Graham Center

Who's In Charge? exhibit case

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from PHOTO FILE:  Evangelistic work--Japan The transition from missionary to national authority usually involves a process of instruction and practical training, increasing oversight by indigenous Christians, and subsequent involvement of missionaries in locally developed plans and programs.

Before national evangelists were trained, Western missionaries would address groups of people themselves. In this photograph, Leonard Sweet, Far Eastern Gospel Crusade missionary, presents an evangelistic message to a Japanese crowd on a street corner, accompanied to his right, probably by an interpreter or a trainee. 1950s. The photograph is part of Collection 406, the Records of SEND International, which you can examine to explore the description of these administrative records further.

I think that general, the older missionaries tended to have more responsibility as far as the total running of the show. And they were a little more autocratic. They needed to be in the early days when the church wasn't yet born. It was a matter of people being brought into that faith and then taught and worked into positions of leadership.

Excerpt from a 1986 oral history conducted by the Archives staff with Ralph Shannon. Click here to read a longer portion from which this excerpt comes.
from PHOTO FILE: Africa Inland Mission--Inland Africa Publications Training was a critical element in transferring responsibility for any aspect of the ministry to national personnel. Electronic engineers (depicted to the right) work together at one of the Africa Inland Mission's radio stations. Ca. 1968. From Collection 81, the Records of Africa Inland Mission.)

from PHOTO FILE:  Overseas Missionary Fellowship--Bible Institute of the Philippines

At left a Chinese student of the Bible Institute of the Philippines gains experience as he addresses a crowd in Manila, observed and supervised by missionary teacher Ian Anderson, who stands to his right. 1960s? From Collection 231, papers of Ian and Helen Anderson.

from PHOTO FILE:  Africa Inland Mission--South African Committee The theoretical goal in most mission efforts is to sooner or later transfer the work to indigenous Christians. How that goal is achieved, the speed at which it is implemented, and the readiness which it produces varies widely. The photograph at left documents one important milestone in the life of the emerging Tanganyikan church. Dedication and ordination at Mwanza, Tanganyika, of the four African pastors in the Africa Inland Church. Standing in back from left to right: Tomaso Nhela, Isaka Nyalagu, Mr. Jester (a missionary), Mr. Vargughese (a local Indian Christian), and Yakobo Mhoia. The fourth pastor ordained, Yonazani Malongo, was not present for this picture. The people in the front row are all either AIM workers or local Christians. 1932. From Collection 81, the records of Africa Inland Mission.

I've never forgotten when we had the ordination service for these two men and after the service we sat down and took our place in the front with the elders and the pastors then went on and carried on the communion service for the first time. It really was a moving thing for me to realize that these folks that we had grown up with, or they had grown up with us, were now taking responsibility in the church leadership.

Excerpt from a 1979 oral history conducted by Archives staff with Rev. Paul Stough. There's more to this interview. You can read a longer portion in which this excerpt appears or the entire interview along with one other.

Transition was sometimes a struggle. In some cases, the tempo of change developed out of conflict between the mission and the indigenous church. This three-page petition to the Kenya

from Collection 81, box 12, folder 38 from Collection 81, box 12, folder 38 from Collection 81, box 12, folder 38

Field Director of the Africa Inland Mission from some of the Africa Inland Church leaders of Githumu, Kenya, criticizing the mission for what they called its over-emphasis on evangelism at the expense of education and asking the mission to leave the area. This petition was part of a larger dispute between the mission and the church and between and within tribes in the Githumu area. Eventually it was arbitrated in court, with some of the mission property in the area going to the dissident segment of the church. November 25, 1947. From Collection 81, the records of Africa Inland Mission.

from Collection 341, box 1, folder 24 At other times, the government set the transition agenda by dictating policy, as was the case in China. The depicted notes were compiled by missionary Kenneth MacGillvray, based on reports he heard about a 1950 meeting in Sian, China (now Xian), between Chou En-lai and other Communist government leaders and Chinese pastors from Peking and Tientsin. At this meeting, the Communists outlined the policy the churches would be required to follow of being independent of foreign missionaries, self-supporting, and accepting of the government's leadership. This was the beginning of what became known as the Three-Self Church. June 11, 1950. From Collection 341, the papers of Victor Plymire. To view an enlarged image of MacGillvray's notes, click on the image to the left. To read a full-text transcript of the notes, click here.

The nationals would say, "What are you going to do about this?" And I took the position, "We're not going to do anything. You decide what you want to have done." They...somebody tried to get us to start a hospital when I was there. I said, "We're not going to start a hospital. If you think you need a hospital, then you work out the details. You tell us why you need a hospital, where it ought to be, how it ought to be run. Then ask us how we can help out. But you do the work." Well, of course, they never did it. And, but little by little they began to realize that when the mission had supposedly turned over the church association to them, that this was really going to happen.

Excerpt from a 1993 interview with David M. Howard. Click here if you want to read more of this interview.

from Collection 236, folder 62, folder 17 In other cases, transition wasn't required from the outside but instead planned and then implemented by those directly involved. In the first page of this November 6, 1958, "Partnership"memo from W. Dayton Roberts, one of Latin America Mission's executives, he outlines the mission's three-stage strategy for eventually turning over control for most of its activities to indigenous church leaders:
  1. Bringing into our ministries Latin associates on an equal basis with ourselves...
  2. Providing further training opportunities to the Latin staff members in our various departments...
  3. Drawing Latin staff members closer to the center and purpose of the Mission...

The two-page memo which follows below summarizes the views of Mexican Juan Isais, also of the LAM staff, on what should be the relations between the mission and the AIBC (Asociacion de Iglesias Biblicas Costarricenes or, in English, the Association of Costa Rican Bible Churches). Ca. 1960. Both the Roberts and Isais memos are part of Collection 236, the records of the Latin America Mission.

from Collection 236, folder 62, folder 17 from Collection 236, folder 62, folder 17

from PHOTO FILE:  Africa Inland Mission--Inland Africa Publications Cooperation between missions and churches was essential not only for a smooth and effective transition, but the continuing development of the Christian faith. Shown here is the executive committee of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa and Madagascar, an association of churches, missions and other Christian organizations formed in 1966. From left to right, Dr. Terry Hulbert (vice-president), Rev. Marc Massembo (secretary), Rev. David Olatayo (president), Andrew Gichuha (treasurer), Rev. Kenneth L. Downing (secretary). 1966. From Collection 81, the records of Africa Inland Mission.

We used to discuss the influence of the American missionary and put it in terms of this. If you have a committee of ten people and one American on that committee, and the rest are Kenyans, the committee will always decide the way the American thinks. And that's a combination of how strong we as Americans are in the way we put forth our ideas, and how gracious the Kenyans are in not wanting to disagree. So the need as I see it is for some of those many many missionaries to kind of pull back out of decision-making positions and decision-making roles, and let the church call some of its own shots, even more than they do today.

Excerpt from oral history in 1985 with Kenneth Shingledecker. Click here to read more of this interview.

from PHOTO FILE:  Africa Inland Missions--Inland Africa Publications With indigenous leaders assuming responsibilities, missionaries moved on to new assignments, were given assignments by the national church, or fit in where needed. In this evangelistic service in a village in the north east section of what was then the Congo, Austin Paul, the man on the far left playing the marching French horn, contributed to the musical presentation. Paul, an Africa Inland Mission worker, taught the other brass players. Ca. 1967. From Collection 81, the records of Africa Inland Mission.

from PHOTO FILE:  Africa Inland Missions--Inland Africa Publications The relationship between a mission and the churches it helped start is not only complex but continuing. Here is one image of the continuing and evolving contact: Timothy Kamau, director of the radio department of Africa Inland Mission in Kenya, addressing a luncheon of mission supporters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was in the United States to attend the Congress on the Church's World Wide Mission in Wheaton. 1966. From Collection 81, the records of Africa Inland Mission.

The problem of transition is as old as Jesus training his disciples and was then modeled by the Apostle Paul in leaving behind leaders at the young churches in Asia. It has also been a major dynamic in mission practice and thinking in this century, particularly with the parallel transition from colonial to independent rule in Third World countries. Whether church planters from Illinois training Pakistanis or Nigerian missionaries working under the supervision of newly installed Bolivian church leaders, transferring authority to the national church meets the goal of establishing a church of the local people rather than of the foreigners. The transition process is never the same from one situation to the next, is often messy, but is an essential component of the spread of the gospel that is universal yet adaptable to every locale.

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Last Revised: 6/7/01
Expiration: indefinite

Wheaton College 2005