Review: Revolution in World Missions

by K. P. Yohannan

Revolution is a dangerous book to pick up. It will change both your concept of missions and what may be the most effective way of doing missions. Author K.P. Yohannan is the founder of Gospel for Asia, a ministry seeking to equip, train, and provide funding for native pastors in India and Asia.

While the first part of the book shares the author’s personal spiritual journey to Christ and then to America, the rest of the book is deeply challenging to western Christianity and its churches.

It challenges the mindset of western mission agencies and their strategy to send western missionaries into foreign lands that already have a Christian presence. Yohannon argues passionately that a better and more strategic method would be for the affluent western church to send financial support for native pastors.

with more traditional mission agencies, it costs today between $50,000 and $80,000 per year to keep an average American missionary family on the field.

One could support a native pastor in India for only $60 per month. That means that the cost for keeping an American missionary family overseas for one year would also support one native Indian pastor for 111 years!

While Yohannan is not opposed to western missionaries, rather, he is deeply appreciative of the foundation that they have laid, he asserts that a “revolution” in world missions is occurring. He urges western churches to rethink their use of resources and to support native pastors where Christianity has already been planted and then to focus other resources on completely unreached people groups.

Approximately 85% of all missionary finances are being by western missionaries who are working among the established churches on the field ““ not for pioneer evangelism to the lost.

One of the things I deeply appreciated about the author’s heart was his constant differentiation between the “social gospel” and the Gospel of Christ. In a chapter entitled “A Bowl of Rice Is No Substitute for the Holy Spirit,” he urges Christians to quit buying into the notion that helping their fellow man is the same as sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them. While it may help build relationships, if it’s not combined overtly with the life-giving message of the Messiah, the social gospel of good works alone is no gospel at all.

He says,”We believe the most effective way now to win Asia for Christ is through prayer and financial support for the native missionary force that God is raising up in the Third World.” He also provides five thoughts as to why Gospel for Asia believes it’s wiser to support native pastors in their own lands than to send western missionaries.
1. It is wise stewardship.
2. The presence of western missionaries perpetuates the myth that Christianity is the religion of the West.
3. Western misionaries and the money they bring compromise the natural growth and independence of the national church.
4. Western missionaries cannot easily go to the countries where most so-called “hidden people” live. (due to political restrictions or overt persecution)
5. Western missionaries seldom are effective today in reaching Asians and establishing local churches in the villages of Asia.

Overall, I am impressed by Yohannan’s book and passionate plea for support of missions by supporting native pastors and missionaries. However, he is so passionate for this cause that he may miss some of the benefits of “outside help.” Many times, foreign missionaries have a much clearer perception of the sins and strongholds of a national people group than do native pastors and missionaries who were brought up in that culture. Foreign missionaries to Asia ““ whether from the West or not ““ (and for that matter, missionaries from other cultures) may have a harder time establishing ministries than native pastors do, but normally, they provide invaluable counsel, help, teaching, and direction that is balanced, wise, and full of perspective.

Another consideration is that if western churches were to do what Yohannon says, they could very well be reduced to “checkbook missions.” Coming from a denomination that has always given a large percentage of its resources to world missions, I am personally aware of churches who think they’re actively involved in missions because they send their money to agencies that support missionaries. They do little actual missions themselves. What they do manage is usually an “easy mission trip” or two that is designed to give teenagers or church members a “taste of success” rather than leaving a long-term impact and making true disciples of the Lord Jesus.

I don’t say this to counter Yohannan or to belittle western churches, for I agree with most of his missiology. I hope my comments only serve to strengthen the need for more churches, more people, and more resources to be poured into the glorious hope of bringing the Hope of the world to all peoples.

On this day...

4 comments

  1. Harold says:
    Jeff,
    I read this book quite a while ago and I agree with your assessment. I know that some of us do need to go but why do I need to spend $3,ooo to go to India when that money could support several natives for a year or even buy a couple of motorcycles to expand the reach of a ministry?
  2. deborah says:
    This man Yohannan is brilliant and i agree with everything he says.
  3. deborah says:
    It deserves 5 stars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  4. Doug says:
    I read your copy, and think he has some good points. We tend to want to control if ‘our money’ goes into projects, and need to learn that: 1.) We have to trust other Christians; 2.)It’s ‘God’s Money’ anyway, so let’s have Him control the usage.

    I think there are benefits to outside missionaries, some of which we could use here in the US. It’s easy to be blinded to how much we live like our culture in spite of the commands of Scripture.

    Ultimately I would say we have to compare the principles we see in the Bible to the methods we use. Biblically, we see some churches develop from indigenous gospel propagation (I went to seminary to learn words like that. Now I can use them), but we also see in Acts and in church history that cross-cultural missions work is also a command.

    The biggest hole I see in adopting one approach over the other, if you have a culture without any Gospel access, who’s going? Can we honestly sit back and hope someone else goes? Can we honestly sit back and wait for an American to go? We should any Biblically appropriate method and opportunity to present the Gospel to every tribe and tongue.

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