With some variation in detail the mission writers we have studied (John L. Nevius, Henry Venn, Rufus Anderson) agree that the missionary must strive to establish self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating indigenous churches. What has become known as the “three self formula” is helpful and has validity provided the terms be carefully defined along Biblical, Confessional lines. This has not always been done; neither have missionaries implemented this method along Biblical lines in many instances.
(The Views of Rufus Anderson) The fundamental principle of Anderson’s (1796- 1880) views on missions is this: the aim of mission work must be the gathering of indigenous churches which are self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating. In this connection Anderson stressed that the task of the missionary is solely evangelism, i.e., the preaching and the teaching of the gospel. The missionary is not to engage in the work of civilization.
(The Views Of Rufus Anderson) We have seen that Anderson conceived of the missionary’s task solely in terms of the preaching of the gospel. The missionary must not attempt to transform heathen culture. He must preach and teach the blessed gospel and baptize those who are gathered into the church by that preaching. With this we are in hearty agreement. The aim of missions, according to Anderson, is the establishment of self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating, indigenous churches. To these principles we shall return, D.V., in later articles.
As we continue our studies of the Scriptural method or methods of performing mission work we will devote our attention to what has been and still is a very significant little book on Missions. The book is entitled:Planting And Development of Missionary Churches. Dr. John L. Nevius, a Presbyterian missionary to China in the late 1800s, authored the book. Dissatisfaction with the old methods of doing mission work led Dr. Nevius and his colleagues. In China to re-think missionary methods in the light of Scripture.
. With the last article we concluded our study of the principles of missions. With this article we purpose to begin a series on the proper method or methods of performing missionary work among the nations of the world. In other words our purpose shall be to examine the question of how the principles of missions must be implemented by the church in the actual practice of mission work. Quite frankly, the undersigned embarks on this venture with a great deal of reticence and even some uneasiness. There was no course in missions offered in the seminary while he was...
. We have repeatedly made the point that the chief task of the church in its mission work is the preaching of the gospel. In other words, mission work consists mainly in the preaching of the Word of God. This is what the missionary must do both publicly and from house to house (cf. Acts 20:20).
. Continuing our study of the preaching of the Apostles we concentrate our attention on the second sermon of the Apostle-Peter recorded in the Book of Acts. This sermon is recorded in chapter three verses twelve through twenty-six. (Since the passage is too lengthy to quote in its entirety the reader is asked to consult his Bible.) It is our thesis that the church in its mission work today must follow the same pattern laid down by the Apostolic Church. The church, also today, must preach the gospel, herald the good news, evangelize.
The reader will recall that we are involved in an analysis of the significant little book, The Planting And Development of Missionary Churches, written by the seasoned Presbyterian missionary of nearly a century ago, Dr. John L. Nevius. Nevius contended that the new converts should not be employed and paid by the mission for the work of preaching and evangelism. They should rather be left in their stations in life and encouraged to leave a witness to the Gospel by word and deed.
As I sit at my typewriter in the comfortable study of my home in the Beckwith Hills subdivision of Northeast Grand Rapids to write these articles on Missionary Methods I often feel rather uneasy. To write about the principles of missions as these may be gleaned from Holy Scripture is not difficult. But to write about how these principles ought to be implemented on the mission fields both here in North America and abroad is not so easy.
In the previous article we faced the question: Along what lines ought the native church be organized? Missionaries usually do not face that question very seriously. They simply assume that the mission church ought to be organized in the same fashion as the sending church. If the missionary is Presbyterian he organizes the mission church upon Presbyterian principles of church government. The Anglican missionary organizes the mission church according to the Episcopal form of church government. Dr. Nevius thinks this is wrong.