Many barriers are broken down when the gospel is preached by a pastor who is recognized by the people. The Holy Spirit can use anyone to be a witness, but consider the strength of using an indigenous (national) pastor starting a church among his own people. White Fields has been supporting, financially and through prayer, the ministry of national pastors since 1953. We use our network of churches to identify pastors who are ready to work full-time starting a new church in an unreached community of their own country. Through this partnership with national pastors the laborers evangelizing their communities are multiplied.
One barrier that is overcome is language. The national pastor has grown up speaking his native tongue. He not only knows the vocabulary and grammar, he also sounds like the local people. He speaks with the same pronunciation and knows how to select the right word for each situation. This is a great asset when teaching the Bible to new believers. It is easy to learn the daily common vocabulary of another language, but to gain a spiritual vocabulary is far more complex. Our pastors already know the language and speak it as their mother tongue so they can clearly explain difficult scriptural and spiritual lessons.
Indigenous (national) pastors look and live like their own people. This goes far deeper than just the physical characteristics of appearance, such as skin color, size and ethnic distinctions. The pastors have the same cultural background as the people in their communities. This means they know how to shop in the markets, build with the local materials, and live within the constraints of the local landscape. Because of this, the pastors are living examples to their church members. Removed is the confusion over whether this behavior or that behavior is a biblical issue or just a custom from another culture. New believers see a mature Christian, living and putting spiritual behaviors into practice in a way they can easily emulate.
This method provides a helpful fulfillment of Scripture: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7, ESV) It is easier for the new believers in rural villages to imitate someone from their own culture while they learn to put the Word of God into practice in their daily lives. The godly pastors we support live out the biblical character without the distraction of foreign culture.
National pastors also overcome the barrier of separation caused by living at different economical levels. As I have traveled with our pastors to visit their ministries in the rural and distant villages, I have come to realize that they are in constant contact with the average, common workers in their communities. They often live right in the corner room of the church building, making them easily accessible to the community. They use all the common means of mass transit, including the local pedicab, taxi and bus. I have observed first-hand how this lifestyle allows the pastor and family to have open outreach to all socioeconomic strata.
A pastor that looks like — sounds like — and lives like the people he is reaching is “No Stranger” to the people. This provides a strong opportunity for the gospel to be understood and the people in the community will have a living example they can imitate as they seek to follow Jesus.
This method has produced thousands of new churches as national pastors and their families have labored diligently in their own hometowns. But, there are still many communities that need their own church with a full-time pastor.
The national pastors need temporary financial support to get the church started. This is how White Fields joins in partnership with these pastors. We provide the financial support that allows them to start the church in a poor community, then gradually decrease the support until the church becomes self-sustaining. The Apostle Paul experienced this kind of partnership and thanked his benefactors at the church in his letter to the Philippians. “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” (Philippians 4:14-16 ESV) We select qualified godly pastors serving faithfully to receive this support. We also provide accountability and oversight by our Field Directors close by these churches in each country.
The national pastor will endure hardship and grueling conditions to reach their fellow countrymen. This is a characteristic I have often observed as I travel among our national pastors. They model an intense commitment to overcome any obstacle in order to start a church. They will live in places with no plumbing or electricity. They will start a church in places that require strenuous and arduous travel to reach because there are people who need to know Jesus and have no church in their village. I am thrilled that we can be partners with these faithful servants of the Lord.