A Changing World

How MAF partners with the indigenous Church

A recent study* on global Christianity revealed that the 20th century saw the greatest shift in Christianity the world had ever seen.

In 1910, roughly 80 percent of all Christians lived in the United States and Europe—a century later over half of the world’s Christians live in Africa, South America, and Asia. That percentage is expected to continue rising.

And while the United States still leads other nations in sending the most missionaries, not far behind are Brazil, India, South Korea, and China. (Another point of interest: the United States also receives more missionaries than any other country.)

This shift in Christianity can be attributed to the faithfulness of past missionaries—and ultimately to the glory of God. As missionaries have gone from place to place, sharing the Gospel message, the churches they established are now sending out their own missionaries to reach even more people with the news that God loves them and sent His Son to die for them.

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A team from Centres Bibliques—a Congolese ministry—prepares for an MAF flight to carry out church conferences in west D.R. Congo.

“We now realize that for missions to go full circle, it is necessary for churches established by missionaries to become sending churches in order to gather the momentum necessary to penetrate each of the world’s remaining unreached people groups,” wrote Ralph Winter, founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission, in the book Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.

While wonderful, the rise of global Christianity has not only presented some unique issues to MAF in how to best partner with these local churches and organizations—it has set a challenge to believers across the United States and Europe to continue reaching not only the world, but their own countries.

MAF’s Role

Does this mean MAF’s job is finished? Is MAF’s presence no longer needed in light of local believers already being there?

“Our job is not finished! I have chatted with [Christian] leaders around the globe and they are saying they do not want us to disengage,” said John Boyd, MAF president and CEO. “They want us to engage more!”

In many places, MAF has adopted a more direct role with indigenous churches—serving as the connection to the outside world and partnering with these churches to reach isolated people. This partnership involves listening and asking questions like: “How can we help you? What are your needs?”

Partnering with Indonesian Churches

It took Petrus Giay four weeks of rugged hiking to reach the Weserau village—deep in the jungles of Papua, Indonesia. Giay sought to share the Gospel message with this primitive tribe who still wore clothes fashioned from tree bark and lived in huts made from natural materials. Giay was overjoyed when MAF partnered with his church and him to return to the village more easily in an amphibious MAF Caravan plane by landing on a nearby lake.

Giay, an Indonesian evangelist, is a member of the Effata Church, one of many churches that are rapidly growing across parts of Indonesia—churches that, like Giay, are passionately sharing the Gospel with their countrymen.

MAF partners with an increasing number of churches and believers in countries across the world to spread the message of Christ’s love. This growth is happening in many of the places MAF serves. For instance, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) MAF supports Congolese pastors, doctors, and others since the country’s two violent wars forced many Western missionaries and aid workers to leave the country.

While there may always be Christians from the U.S. and Europe ready to follow Jesus’ command and take the Gospel message to the farthest reaches of the world, MAF pilots are often finding local believers like Giay sitting in the passenger seats of MAF planes, rather than missionaries from the United States or Europe.

With MAF’s help, Petrus Giay and other Christians around the world can more effectively reach people living in the most remote corners of their countries. Listening to the needs of local churches and working with them enables the Gospel message to spread in a way that is both culturally relevant and impactful.

“The biggest thing for MAF is that we are tracking in a direction as an organization to deliberately engage people at the farthest reaches of the earth with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, and doing it in a culturally relevant way,” said Boyd.

* “Christianity in its Global Context, 1970-2020.” Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.

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