Elder J. W. Westphal, secretary of the Ministerial Association for South America, refers to the outlook as follows:
"Sooner or later the proclamation of the third angel's message in many of the countries of the world will have to be carried on by the natives. In view of the very apparent fact that nationalistic feelings and difficulties which tend to make the foreigner unwelcome and intolerable to governments and people, are destined to increase, the conclusion cannot be obviated; and I believe that in the training and development of native evangelists lies the secret of success in the final issue to be met in the mission fields.
"That which has to some appeared an element of danger, in the dividing of administrative work on national lines, is, to my mind, the very thing which will preserve the unity of the church. There is no nation, however powerful, wise, or influential, that can permanently unite all peoples into a single unit; but when the principle of internationalism is given its proper place in our work, and Christ is given His proper place in the message, the " called of God " in every nation, kindred, and tongue, will become united as one, and will remain as one until Jesus comes. And it may surprise us to find the many faithful men and women in the ranks of native believers whom God has called and qualified for bearing responsibilities in a most faithful and conscientious manner.
"In our organized plans, there is a tendency to make ourselves too indispensable to our people, and there is failure to roll upon them a full share of the burden of the work. In many cases, the eyes of the people in the mission fields have been directed far too much to the faithful supporters at the home base,— too much to the General Conference, and too little to the Lord.
" We may well ask, What will be the result of such procedure? It cannot be otherwise than that, in the time of crisis, there will be confusion and a weakening of progressive effort. As is apparent in a flock of wild geese when the leader is shot, consternation and fatal delay ensue. And this unfortunate situation will come at the very time when the work should go forward with increasing power.
" Now is the time to provide wisely for every possible contingency, first, by getting native young people into our schools for training; and second, by placing native workers where they will gain an experience in carrying responsibility along all lines, and become well informed as to what is expected of them in times of crisis and perplexity. The situation with reference to our work in the various countries of Europe during the World War should teach us this lesson. The future undoubtedly holds in store still more serious situations than we have yet faced; and if we now give earnest attention to training native believers in all branches of our organized work, there need not be disintegration, but rather rapid advance, when the final crisis comes upon us."
Our Only Hope
Elder E. D. Dick, Ministerial Association secretary for the African Division, writes as follows:
"The development of an indigenous ministry for this country is recognized as one of our greatest needs. This matter was under discussion by our division committee a short time ago, and it was recognized that, unless we have some very remarkable providences, we cannot expect to have our budget allowances increased to permit of any large increase of European missionaries in our fields. The natives are being brought in at the rate of thousands a year. The Zambesi Union will baptize over 1,000 this year (1928), and the Southeast African Union expects to baptize between 1,200 and 1,400 converts. There is therefore produced the problem of shepherding these new believers. They must be cared for, and if we cannot expect a large number of European missionaries for this work, our only hope lies in the development of native evangelism. By this I do not mean to infer that native evangelism would tend to decrease the efficiency of our efforts in behalf of native believers, but rather would prove of great assistance to us in carrying on our work, and be a great blessing to the natives themselves. We believe that this can be done, and have already taken steps to this end, in the following manner:
"In the Zambesi Union a number of district churches have been developed. That is, instead of having all the natives hold their membership in a large church on the mission, and not be able to attend church services except on the occasion of the camp meeting, at which time the ordinances are celebrated, they are organizing churches, known as ' district churches,' here and there in favorable centers, under the charge of native elders. Wherever possible, these district churches are supervised by a native pastor, who builds up and encourages and strengthens the native elders. This plan is developing a strong native ministry, and is proving a great blessing to the native believers.
"In the Southeast African field we have gone a little further, and have started a mission station with natives in charge. Of course we have placed at this station our best-qualified natives, and from all that I can learn they are really making a success of this mission. In that field also they are organizing district churches, which are known as ' central churches.' A central church is organized at a central school, in the center of a number of outschools. Here the natives meet for their Sabbath services, under native leadership, and an excellent church organization is maintained.
"We recognize that the pastoral work in our training schools must be strengthened in order to prepare our natives for this kind of services; but until this can be accomplished, we know that the experience of getting out and actually doing this work, under the supervision of European out-school inspectors, will develop them as nothing else can. So you can see that we are deeply interested in the development of an indigenous ministry, and that the plans and experiences thus far have proved satisfactory. We believe this is the only way whereby to care for our rapidly growing work."
It Can Be Done
This is the assurance which comes from Inter-America through Elder C. E. Wood, Ministerial Association secretary for the division, whose experience has demonstrated successful work by native leaders. Elder Wood writes:
"If we are to co-operate with the Lord in accomplishing the ' short work,' I believe that we must learn to place much responsibility upon our native leaders and lay members; and when we do this, we shall see a great forward movement in the sounding of the message. As yet we have not had much experience in this field in the training of natives to serve as superintendents of missions and conferences, and I do not know just how far we shall be able to go in that direction; but we do find many natives with remarkable ability, who are able to carry forward the departmental and evangelistic work, with proper counsel and supervision. I am sure that when we learn to depend upon our native constituency for bearing responsibilities in leadership, and see that they secure the necessary training for leadership, it will be possible to operate a mission field with fewer foreign workers, and consequently with much less financial expenditure.
"Finding it impossible to care properly for the seventy-five churches in the Jamaica Conference, we faced the problem of training local church elders for pastoral work. We began by teaching them how to organize a baptismal class and conduct studies for the preparation of candidates. We printed what was known as Baptismal Class Record Books, in which all the studies required to prepare the candidates for baptism were arranged in regular order. The record book served to record the number of studies each candidate had taken, so that when the ordained minister came, he could see at a glance just what instruction had been given. The native leaders appreciated having this responsibility placed upon them, and they did faithful work. The result was that the leaders themselves became better informed and qualified, as they reviewed the points of truth, and they were more enthusiastic in soul winning.
"There is another service in which we have made special effort to train the native leaders, and that is to take charge of funeral services. In a large conference it is often difficult and quite expensive for the ordained minister to attend all funeral services, and we find that the local leaders can conduct these services in a satisfactory manner. We prepared a suggestive program for a funeral service, giving an outline to be followed at the house or church, and also at the grave, and sent a copy to each native church leader.
"When our native church officers have the true vision of the work the Lord would have them do, we shall find that the lay members will fall into line, and we shall see the development of the great reformatory movement.' I am deeply convinced that if we carry out the program which the Lord has outlined in the messages of the Spirit of prophecy, we shall greatly strengthen our campaign to train the local leaders and the laity to go forth into the highways and hedges and do their part in the sounding of the last gospel proclamation. The subject of native evangelism is certainly worthy of careful study."
Adaptability, the Key to Success
Prof. Frederick Griggs, secretary of the Ministerial Association for the Far Eastern Division, says:
"One great problem before the foreign missionary is the development and establishment of an indigenous church. In the nature of the case the religious views of the foreign mission', ary and the means of promulgating them are actually foreign to those for whom he works. His views and methods are imposed upon those to whom he brings them. This is true in all lands and with all peoples, and particularly so in the Orient, for the Oriental and Occidental minds have constitutional differences. But be it remembered, the Oriental mind is as good and as capable as the Occidental mind. Because of these differences, the establishment of a native or indigenous church, with a strong ministry, presents.a problem that requires careful study. The religion of Jesus Christ is unchangeable. Its principles are applicable and equally beneficial to all men of all nations, kindreds, tongues, and peoples; hence, without the violation of any of its principles, it is adaptable to every need and condition.
"I once heard Elder S. N. Haskell tell of a conversation he had with a missionary of long experience in Africa, working under the direction of the mission board of one of the large Protestant denominations. In the course of the conversation Elder Haskell asked this missionary what he considered the most important subject to be taught in a school training young men and women for missionary service. The reply of the missionary was compassed within one word --adaptability.' Endeavoring to be more specific, Elder Haskell said, But what subject, such as history, Bible, science, do you regard as the most important teaching?' After thinking for a moment, the missionary replied, ' Adaptability.' Again endeavoring to make his meaning clear, Elder Haskell asked, " What subject or course of study could be taken in class that would be of the largest value in qualifying men and women for missionary service?' After a somewhat longer period of thought, the missionary, who was a well-educated man, replied, I can think of nothing more important in qualifying for the mission field than adaptability.'
"Now this answer to Elder Haskell's question is the key to the solution of the development of a strong, indigenous ministry in mission lands. The gospel is the same for all lands, but the method of its presentation must be adapted to the understanding of those to whom it is brought, and in the development of an indigenous ministry it is necessary to train for the employment of those means and methods of presenting truth which are understood and which make a strong appeal to the people.
"The missionary is not superior by nature to those to whom he presents the gospel, but the gospel brings to men a power that lifts them into the satisfying things of this life, and gives them the hope of the life that is to come. It absolutely changes their ideals and hopes. A native ministry that really appreciates and lives this new life, becomes equally capable, if not more so, in reaching their own people, than is the foreign worker. The great principles of denominational organization are adaptable to all believers in all lands, so that the native church led by a native ministry is fundamentally a part of the body of Christ, for through the gospel Christ becomes " the head over all things to the church, which is His body." Eph. 1:22, 23. Schools, institutes, and such courses of reading and instruction as are outlined and carried forward by the Ministerial Association, together with the personal life, work, and teaching of the missionary, are the means through which to develop an indigenous ministry in mission lands."