Suppose I asked you, "Who is rescuing AIDS orphans in Sub-Sahara Africa?"
What would your answer be?
If I then asked, "Who is feeding impoverished children in Southeast Asia?"
Who comes to mind?
"Who is supplementing the education of kids in India?"
"Who is providing emergency relief services in the wake of natural disasters?"
"Who is giving communities safe, clean water?"
"Who is providing microcredit for poverty-stricken people to get a start with new businesses?"
"Who is visiting ailing widows and giving them needed supplies and emotional support?"
Did you think of an organization for each of these?
Or try to think of an organization?
You might have thought of some good organizations like World Vision or Compassion International concerning the help for children. Perhaps you thought about World Orphans regarding the rescue of the abandoned and orphaned. Maybe you thought of World Relief responding to a humanitarian crisis when disaster strikes. Did you think of Food for the Hungry as far as implementing feeding programs? A number of micro-lender ministries could have come to mind to assist with self-sustainable income-producing ventures.
But if an organization was your first answer for each of these questions, you missed it.
Local indigenous churches are God’s front-line of ministry. Collectively, they are doing far more than any non-profit organization you can think of. They are doing far more than every non-profit combined!
And usually doing it better.
We should recognize that.
Regardless of what type of ministry we can think of in the developing world, we should know that it is being done primarily (and that’s a big primarily) by local native churches serving their communities.
Quite a few of the organizations above acknowledge this. They do it right. (Compassion and World Relief are personal favorites of mine.) They channel their resources and counsel through local churches. But it is the churches that do the ‘real work,’ not the organizations. The organization is just an enabler, a provider of expertise, funding and accountability.
We often say that World Orphans rescues and cares for children. Indirectly, this is true. But we only do it through churches that we identify, advise, and resource for the task. They are the ones doing the direct rescue and care.
You’re going to be receiving a lot of year-end appeals from organizations during the next couple of weeks.
When you do, ask yourself the following questions:
"Are local indigenous churches ultimately doing the work and getting credit for it?"
"Is it the infrastructure and staffing of these churches that are being engaged and supported, or are you paying for an organization to set up its own duplicative (and less effective) systems?
In short, ask:
"Is the work of local churches in the developing world being enhanced…or replaced?"