Former Missionary to Alaska, Fred Nimmo
I am not criticizing because I have made most of these mistakes myself and have learned by experience. However, after talking with other missionaries and pastors, and consulting many books, I find that some of the same problems are true in other areas as well.
Fred Nimmo, June 1975
However, the principles of this work are unchangeable. It is still the eternal Word of God. I have interviewed only three men for service on a two man team. When the cost was counted they backed out. Regrettably, there is still no one in sight, and we keep on with an inadequate system of trying to reach the world. Does anyone know how many have died in the last 15 years? and still so little has been done! My heart aches because of this knowledge.
Again I say, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” – meaning raising up two man teams for the preaching of the Gospel in our generation.
Fred Nimmo, September 1990
As we look at present-day missionary methods, we can see that so little is happening around the world; and especially in North America. There are hundreds of missionaries, but it seems that indigenous churches can be counted on one hand after 250 to 300 years of gospel ministry. I began to ask myself, “Why?” I wondered why my ministry was not any more productive than the ministry of those of the past. After much careful research and a restudy of the Bible, I have come to the conclusion that there are so many things that have become a hindrance to building indigenous churches. It is no wonder that there are virtually none among the native inhabitants in this part of the world. Below I hope to enumerate some of them.
There is a basic change that takes place from the classroom to the foreign field. It is subtle. I suppose all the Bible schools teach the missionary methods of Paul; but they are not practiced on the field. I believe I know why this happens.
1. There is a definite lack of trust of the native people and native Christians on the part of the missionary, and the missionary society. (It is not a lack of love, concern or zeal for his soul.) This causes them to keep the native people, Christian and non-Christian alike, at a distance.
2. There is usually a lack of understanding of the people to be reached.
3. There is a failure to treat them as an equal, or to properly respect them. There is a failure to recognize the good qualities of their culture. We can learn so much from them.
4. A missionary almost without fail, goes in among the people independent of them rather than being dependent on them. The missionary and the people are almost invariably worlds apart financially. By this I mean that he goes in fully supported, buys his goods, food, clothes, etc., from the outside world and brings in loads of items which makes him look super-rich in the eyes of the people. This results in building a “little America” in a foreign land. It may be a necessity to protect the family, but it is a hindrance in the long run. When crisis comes, he leaves. Always his strong permanent ties are with home and family elsewhere. This makes the native people feel uncomfortable. It says to the native man, “You don’t like my food. You don’t like my clothes. You don’t like my way of life. You don’t like my country; therefore you don’t like me.” “Therefore, I don’t like you, I hope you get out of my land!”
5. There is a lack on the part of the missionary of understanding that he is in a foreign land, even though he might be in Alaska, Navajo land, Canada or Greenland, etc. The missionary should learn to play down his own culture.
6. Feeling sorry for them, because of their background, culture or economics.
7. Becoming an over-indulging parent to the people. This results in oversupplying their needs, and actually perpetuating a covert type of rejection. The people can feel this but are not able to explain it. They know that it is there. This is paternalism.
8. Never permitting them to stand on their own two feet. This cheats them out of exercising the faith God has given to them, even as you and me. This creates a dependency factor in the people and causes them to look to the missionary, society, and the U.S. in an improper fashion. This keeps them babes in Christ and denies them many basic tenets of the Bible. This causes the missionary to be the Christ, instead of Christ being the Provider as He said He would do. All the missionary has to do is supposedly say a prayer to God, write home in his monthly letters, state numerous needs, get the churches and pastors to provide them, and the people don’t have to do a thing. The new reading of Philippians 4:19 is “But my missionary shall supply all my needs according to his riches in the headquarters by the mission board.” Then we wonder why they say it is the “White man’s religion.”
In this instance, it is. It surely is not his own. He has made no investment into it. The missionary handles the offerings, signs all the checks, handles all the legal papers, so he becomes the boss, pays all the bills, pays men to preach for him, doles out the food, clothes, medicine, and other services. He becomes the religious welfare agent. What is almost universally practiced in Alaska and the north, is a Christianized, Socialistic, Religious Welfare System. I can see no basic difference in this and what the government is doing. Overgiving and destroying their initiative is the end result. The people should handle their own finances, and the missionary should put his tithes and offerings in his home church that sent him out. This would eliminate loads of problems and financial difficulties on the foreign field if this method were practiced.
9. As you can see, all the foregoing sets up a foreign element in the city or village, and also a foreign religion. Naturally the people resent this. I can understand and sympathize with their feelings. Of course, this requires a foreign agent to handle all of its affairs.
10. Another problem is that the church that is started in this manner is never their own. It is always controlled by a source outside the city or village; whether it be controlled by a bishop, another country, or a religious organization. They are never independent and on their own. This sets up an episcopal type of church government instead of the Theocratic and congregational type. This is something Baptists have always rejected, but somehow they enthusiastically support it on the foreign field. How many times have you heard someone say, “I have so many churches that I oversee.” “They are in my care,” says the modern missionary. Is this what the Bible teaches? Is there a double standard?- one for independent churches in the U.S. and another for the foreign field?
11. Calling in another missionary when he leaves, or goes on furlough, thus telling the people that they are not capable of handling their own affairs or making decisions for their future. The native people reject this.
12. Never commending them to the Lord on whom they believe. See: Acts 14:21-23. Commend means to take them out of the care or bank account of the starting church and missionary, and depositing the new baby church into the account of God who alone is able to take care of them. Then the missionary’s job becomes one of encouraging, praying for, writing letters to, visiting them occasionally and building them up in the faith.
This makes a church indigenous, or self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating. Because Christ is now its head, it has a pastor from the native people and they can pray directly to God. He is all they need. Just as we feel here in the states and sing the song “He’s all I need;” so can they. We never permit churches on the foreign field to become Bible Believing Baptist churches making their own decisions. There is one native church in Alaska that has made their own decision concerning buying and selling land by the natives themselves and a purchase of a $600.00 printing set. Not a dime was asked, expected, or received from the missionary. They are also considering a Bible school and sending out missionaries themselves.
13. Not leaving at God’s appointed time. A missionary should go into a place with the people expecting him to leave shortly. They are immediately geared to the idea that they must take over, and that the missionary won’t be there to do it for him. Many missionaries stay on and on, and thus become the added element (or cancer) that hinders or possibly destroys the church he started by never turning it over to native leadership.
14. This point is closely related to point 13. Many missionaries consider never leaving their field, or going with the philosophy that I will die there. God never intended this; for if we follow the plan of the apostle Paul; he went on to other cities preaching the Word. So the missionary of God must move on to other places.
15. Owning the property of the church on the foreign field is a great hindrance to them. They have a built-in resentment of this. We have disdain for the financial institutions who hold the mortgages of properties in our country. It is multiplied in the minds of the native baby Christians in other lands of someone in the U.S. owns and has legal title to their property.
It means that if that new church doesn’t go along with the owners at home they can be evicted from their churches. That is why we have the independent Baptist movement. This actually happens all the time among the Indians and Eskimos of North America. Some headquarters, somewhere, thousands of miles from the native people own what the native people should own. The churches on the field should pay for, build, and operate their own buildings. But the hangup comes when the property is owned by a foreign missionary society; then the outside element has to pay for the building. The native people will not and do not see the need of paying for or taking care of someone else’s building. Another great hindrance is overbuilding.
The money is raised in the states and pays for “their” building; which is usually too large, too elaborate, too much of a western style and not fitting into their own background and the type they could and would care for.
16. Therefore, I believe one of the best things we can do for a new native church in a foreign culture, is to operate on the “don’t give them a dime” theory. This way, they expect no handouts and immediately become dependent on Christ and not on the missionary. This builds a self respect which is so badly needed among the native of North America.
17. Building a church on a denomination, idea, philosophy and/or on the missionary instead of on Christ and the Bible. I Corinthians 3:11.
18. Pushing a system on the people that they do not want. They usually get more than the gospel. They get provincialisms from all parts of the states and Europe: holidays, christmas trees, traditions, dogs, cats, bugs, hangups, diseases and ideas they don’t need; all in the name of Christianity.
20. Lack of spirituality on the part of the missionary and family. Living by sight rather than by faith is a common downfall.
21. The apostles went from country to country. Today a missionary is confined to one area and is thought to be out of the will of God if he changes “fields.”
22. Sending couples into places where only men should go. Doing this has caused innumerable heartaches on the missionary family and multitudes of problems-physical, mental and spiritual illnesses, hundreds of thousands of dollars lost, preacher and missionary children turning bitter against God, breaking up homes, causing intermarriage of the missionary and/or their children with the native people; which I doubt if God intended, etc. ad nausea.
23. Pressure from home to write letters with a good report or lose support. This brings on undue pressure and distress; and sometimes could bring even padded reports.
24. Writing letters to the wrong churches. The letters should be written to churches that the missionary has started as well as to the home church.
25. Following dead Protestant mission methods that have not and will never get the job done. They have not in 250 years in Alaska, 300 years in Canada, and as long among the U.S. Indian population. I wonder how many Baptist churches there are among us in our own country with complete Indian leadership and no outside support?
26. Not an adequate understanding by the missionary on what type of church he is building; universal and invisible or local and visible. Of all the nearly 57,000 non-Romanist missionaries in the world today, a vast majority are building the kind of church that can’t be seen; and many of those who do believe in the local church are hazy about it.
27. Too many missionaries have been hyper-dispensational in their practice and are using only Moody Publications, Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and not the Holy Bible for their missionary methods. These people use only from Acts 2:41 on in the New Testament. What about the missionary methods of Jesus when he started his first New Testament church when He was here on earth? How did he spread the Good News?
28. Not teaching the Old Testament to them and only teaching the New Testament. They have no back ground for understanding why Jesus died on the cross.
29. Borrowing money. See Romans 13:8
30. Seldom, if ever, taking a day off, or a vacation, or a rest period. Thus they become excessively tired and yet try to maintain a normal schedule. This brings on illness, irritability, etc.
1. Right doctrine – saved, proper baptism, beliefs, growing, etc.
2. Right spiritual relationship with God and man.
3. Right personnel for missions.
I will not elaborate on the right doctrine and right spiritual emphasis, as others have so ably done before me. Much has been written on these subjects.
I feel after a closer scrutiny of the Bible that God puts a difference between the ministries or work of men, women, and couples. I believe each has a definite area of labor and to overlap these areas only results in added problems, frustrations and difficulties that God did not intend. When this occurs, a man or woman can slip from the perfect will of God into the well- pleasing, acceptable or better will; or even into the third or lesser degree; to good will of God. The fourth is to be out of the will of God. A person through Satanic deceit, or ignorance can slip from one to the other without being aware of what is happening. (Romans 12:2)
We shall go back briefly and study the missionary methods of Jesus (which Paul followed; they were not his own, but received by divine revelation.) We see that Christ spread the gospel message in a definite way. During His earthly ministry when He started building His New Testament assembly, He called out 12 men in a two-man team fashion. These were 6 teams, paired off in teams of two each. This is clear from Matthew 10:14 and Mark 6:7. He sent them out without any of the “necessities.” They traveled extremely light, yet returned with great effectiveness. Later in Luke 22:35 when Jesus questioned them if they had lacked anything in their journeys, they replied, “Nothing.” God supplied all their needs long before Philippians 4;19 was ever recorded. He expanded this outreach by using 35 teams to preach the Good News which is seen in Luke 10:1-21 in the calling of the 70, with the same basic commission and operating methods; and they came back with the same marvelous results. This second group had the same power and effectiveness as the apostles, because it was the same Lord who sent them out. But, notice a major point. These were men, and whether they were married or heads of families is not known; except in the case of Peter and perhaps John. In the case of the other 80, one can only surmise and only other implications from the Scriptures might possibly determine whether or not they were married. This two by two pattern was used throughout the gospels and was an established and recognized method. Even Peter and John went to the temple for prayer as a pair. Later, I will mention some other instances. Seldom was there an exception. After things got off to a big start in Acts 2, with great growth occurring followed by the persecutions with the gospel spreading everywhere, the church in Antioch was going good. The Holy Spirit, a divine Person, said to Paul and Barnabas to be separated for a work whereunto He had called them. We see a definite two man team pattern observed by these men. It is rather obvious from I Corinthians 7 that Paul was in a single status, and Barnabas as well. Otherwise, he would have been guilty of neglect of the family for leaving them for such an extended period of time that it would have taken them to cover the first missionary journey. (See Acts 13 and 14; 1 Timothy 5:8)
Note these examples that are threaded throughout the epistles:
1. Peter and John Acts 3:1
2. Paul and Barnabas Acts 13 3. Paul and Silas Acts 16
4. Silas and Timothy Acts 17:14; 18:5
5. Paul and Luke Acts 16:10,12; II Timothy 4:11
6. Paul and Titus II Corinthians 8:23
7. Barnabas and John Mark Acts 15
8. Paul and Timothy II Corinthians 1:1; Philippians 1:1
9. Mark and Timothy II Timothy 4:11
10. Titus and a brother II Corinthians 12:18
11. Urbane and Stachys Romans 16:9
I see numerous examples of missionaries in the New Testament as men; with definite qualifications. I don’t see couples or single women in this number, though God does have a work for them to do. These men were soldiers on the battle front. They were to be ready to war and to give their lives, if necessary, not to be entangled with the affairs of this life, and ready to move at a moment’s notice. There is just no way that Paul and Barnabas could have had a family with them on their first journey when they met with much opposition, stonings, and beatings. In Paul’s travels there is no way that he could have found housing for his family, turned on all the utilities, placed his children in boarding schools, moved all his furniture, pulled up stakes continually, dodged the enemy, gone to court, established new churches and still have been at home enough to keep his wife happy and his children from becoming frustrated with starting in new schools, having new friends, leaving old ones behind, and being able to make the continual adjustments that would be required of them. Paul had lots of money at times, but can you imagine how much it would have cost to have done all of this in a two-year span of time? So, when Paul was talking to Timothy in II Timothy 2:7, he said, “Consider what I say and the Lord give you understanding in all things.” God did not expect these men to hustle their families around as in modern missions. We can have this same understanding. We have the same divine Holy Spirit.
A family must be protected and never taken to the battle field, nor inducted into such punishment as is relegated to men of war. See the passage in II Timothy 2:1-7 again. A warrior is to endure hardness; a family is not. Did any American soldier take his family to the jungles of Viet Nam? Or to the Korean Frustration to freeze in their winters while he manned a battle station? Or to Normandy Beach or Iwo Jima? Or into World War I, or any of the previous wars of history? No, the family was left behind. But we, in our present missions practices, are taking the wife and children right into the spiritual battle ground and many are becoming casualties as any war produces. We say to ourselves, “It’s time to go home now, I’m tired, stop the war, I want to get off, I need to see mamma (the wife) and take care of the children, so I’m checking out.” Can that be? The devil doesn’t think so; for the war goes on, viciously into the night and early morning hours; and in the case of the family the war comes right into the home. Then we wonder why missionary families need counseling with some doctor, psychologist, or pastor at home. On and on it goes. But I wonder, “Did God intend it this way?” No! I think not. The families have been subjected to treatment that God did not plan nor expect of them. A man with a family has a divine obligation to fulfill certain duties for his wife and children; otherwise, he is out of God’s will in this area and this naturally affects his effectiveness in his “missionary work.” Furthermore, the two men, Paul and Barnabas, traveled lightly, dependent upon God and on the people where they went. They were also supported; probably by the home church of Antioch, with the exception of the notable example of Corinth. (II Corinthians 11 and 12)
One objection is that a man cannot contain his normal sexual drive; and will look, lust, and love (erotic type) the woman that he has gone to reach for Christ. To say this is to say that the sexual drive of a man is greater than the power and word of Almighty God. He says in Galatians, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” God, who made the wonderful gift of sex, knows how to subdue it, lay it aside, or keep it under control while a man serves Him. Paul had a ministry of about 35 years, and he went without sex. So did Luke, Timothy, a young man who was told to flee youthful lusts, Titus, Barnabas, and all the others who worked with him. It was never a personal problem with any of them, for the living Christ controlled their lives. To say it cannot happen in this present time is to deny the Bible that we are supposed to believe and preach. Sex is not greater than God.
Paul’s work was with the men, with only one exception. That was Lydia. She constrained him to live briefly at her home, if he had judged her to be a faithful, pure and holy woman. Men today could work with men. There is a great lack of men in many churches of the U.S. and especially on the foreign field. Many times there are mostly women and children in the services of the churches. This pattern will invariably emerge when couples and women go into a strange place to do a work for God. (It is natural that they would attract the women and children.) When local men are grounded in the work, they can teach their wives at home and answer their questions. (I Corinthians 14:34-35) The children are to be taught by the parents, which has been a practice since there have been families from the very beginning. This plan will build strong indigenous churches in every land, in any culture; for it is God’s plan. When local men are ready for God’s service, they are appointed elders (Acts 14:21-23), then the two man teams moves on to wherever the Spirit leads them.
It is hard for me to imagine Christians believing this about two men in the service of God; but their minds are just as open to Satanic attacks as the lost man’s unless he resists them. Only Godly, highly qualified, morally sound men; those who are well adjusted, those who are not women haters, but having the proper respect towards them would be considered by the churches for service in this capacity. Probably only two out of ten thousand could qualify for such a service as this. Homosexuality has always been condemned all the way back to Genesis 9 and 19, and also in Romans 1. It should be the same with men in God’s service. They would abhor sexual abuse anywhere and especially in themselves. Again, if a man is controlled by the Holy Spirit of God, this would never; I repeat never be a problem.
If we would use this divine method again in our modem missions, we could see the mighty works of the gospels and the book of Acts repeated in our day, as with our Baptist forefathers. There would be no lack of money, because when the churches see something happening over in the faraway lands, they would be most generous in sharing what they have.
3. There is no one to go. At this moment, I do not know of anyone. But the Bible says, “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth (thrust out) laborers into his harvest.” In each instance where this is mentioned, it is in the case of men being called. Look at Matthew 9 and Luke 10.We must start somewhere, with some godly men, in their late twenties and thirties, or widowers; and say to them that God could use them, that they could go to the fields of God’s choosing. Also, we could play down the common statement, “You can’t (a word commonly used by the evil one) be a missionary without a wife.” Where is that in the Bible?
4. Another objection is, “What should we do with the 57,000 Baptist and Protestant missionaries already on the fields of the world?” The answer is, “Let them continue as they are.” But start with new prospects and train them in Biblical missions. I believe men are to be single if they qualify as a missionary. They have the privilege to marry (I Corinthians 9:5), but forsake that right if they want to be a missionary. Pastors of churches are to be family men; husbands and fathers with children and perform all the normal functions of family life. The married men are to stay home and not to be gone from their families any great length of time. A husband’s place is in bed with his wife at night (this would eliminate a lot of trouble if men stayed at home and women kept themselves attractive.) His children are to be in his house every night. Would it not be better for the children to be at home rather than off some place in boarding school? The married couple is to remain this way until the children grow up and set up homes of their own or enter into a career of their own.
I am sure you can see the great possibilities of reaching the world with this method that God has laid down in His Book. I believe it would produce one hundred-fold results. I am so excited about the aspects of this method that I can hardly sleep at times just thinking about the possibilities. I hope you can see them, too, and share in this great work of being used of God to help reach the world with the gospel of Christ.
The only notable example of a couple being used in missions service in the Bible is Aquila and Priscilla. They were called “my helpers” by the apostle Paul in Romans 16:3. Their travel with him was limited. They had a ministry of teaching and church building. Below is a list of things I have found describe this couple and their qualities and duties.
1. They were travelers. You will observe that no children are ever mentioned. They may have had some, but the implications were that there were none, or were an older couple.
2. They were tent makers by trade. This was a trade that was in demand and easily adaptable anywhere.
3. They were self supporting. They did not have to depend on someone else for their substance.
4. They were friendly, hospitable, people; no doubt for they took Paul in.
5. They were married – not just a co-habitation affair.
6. Strong in the Spirit
7. Industrious people
9. Cosmopolitan – Jews having dwelt with Romans and Ephesians
10. Compatible – could get along well together
12. Knowledgeable, explainer; expounded the accuracy of the Scriptures.
13. They were in a place to hear what was going on – as with Apollos.
14. They took Apollos in, received him, and accepted his limited knowledge of the Scriptures in order to help him. This gave great impetus to Apollos.
15. They were a couple with exceptional love and compassion demonstrated in the fact that they were willing to lay down their lives for Paul. Romans 16:4
16. They had the appreciation and love of the great apostle. Romans 16:4
17. Holy, Godly, and Christlike.
18. “My helpers” Romans 16:3. This comes from the Greek word sunergos which is used twelve times as fellowlaborer, fellowworker, fellowhelper, companion in labor, laborers together with God. It is listed in Strong’s (4904) and is used concerning various people in the Lord’s work.
19. Priscilla was an outstanding women and a lovely partner in this work. At times she is mentioned first. She was a great asset for their work.
20. They had a world-wide testimony (of the then known world). Many knew of them.
21. They were totally involved in the Lord’s harvest in the fact that they had a church in their home. Their ministry was the same as their Lord’s; who was in church building work, saving the lost, and getting them into New Testament churches. This would require great sacrifice because their home would be open to all people, probably at unusual times of day or night.
22. They located only in major cities.
This is the way I see that couples on the mission field should be treated. They should not be expected to do the marvelous feats of the men missionaries. To expect this out of them is to expect more than God expects. This is the pressure we put couples under: thrusting them out into the battle front. Then we wonder why there are so many casualties. If a couple can fulfill all this as recorded about Aquila and Priscilla, it will be a full time affair in any field of the world. I have come to the conclusion that great pain and heartache as well as thousands of dollars could be saved if we approached missions the way Jesus and Paul did. I see that greater results would occur, and actual indigenous churches would emerge if we followed this Biblical plan.
Why do so many people upon hearing of this method, become threatened by it? It would be a great blessing to the family and a great blessing to the foreign field if there were less homesick, discouraged, disappointed, bitter and antagonistic families in some small village at each other’s throats. It would be better for them to be back in their home towns serving God. We should be rejoicing at the possibilities, and should start praying the Lord of the harvest to thrust forth some godly, intelligent, adequate, prepared, completely sold out to God, men to use in preaching the gospel around the world. It would not take many; but only those who are Christlike, knowing and preaching the Bible as it is written. It would take relatively few; (not the thousands at present in missionary service), but Gideon’s 300 doing God’s will in God’s way. Great victories could be accomplished with God working through these men. His name would be glorified, His work advanced, and millions saved from destruction. Open your eyes and look on the fields. They are now white to harvest.
Of all the millions of dollars that are given, the gospel could be spread to every living person on earth, and many more churches built on the local home front. It would bring forth a harvest of souls that churches are looking for. I say, “What are we waiting for?” Let’s all pray as the man did who entered the pulpit of a famous deceased preacher, “DO IT AGAIN, LORD!”