The Meaning of the National Church

when Empower uses the term the national church, we are referring to the indigenous Bible believing disciples of Christ who are resident in their country or region of birth and who are enthusiastically growing in Christ while purposely sharing their faith openly and assertively

The Meaning of the National Church

Welcome to Asked and Answered,” the podcast series that answers all your missions related questions. With me in the studio are Ron and Charis Pearce.

Joy- Hi, guys!

Ron- Hi, Joy!

Joy- Okay, so my question today is, can you explain to our listeners what Empower means when you use the term the national church?

Ron – Okay, there is a phrase I want to go through and describe, which I think we are going to try to analyze a sentence here, and I’m going to read it to you, Joy, and then we’ll take it apart. So it says this: when Empower uses the term the national church, we are referring to the indigenous Bible believing disciples of Christ who are resident in their country or region of birth and who are enthusiastically growing in Christ while purposely sharing their faith openly and assertively. All right so let’s start at the very beginning on that.

Charis- There is a lot in there.

Joy- That’s quite the mouthful.

Ron- There is a lot but it is one sentence that sort of encompasses what we mean because people today don’t really understand when we use the word sometimes, it’s becoming more and more common but they still use the word indigenous, which is good, the indigenous church obviously is like indigenous people to the land, they were there first and that is good except that overseas they talk even amongst themselves about the national church. So here we go, when Empower uses the term national church or the indigenous church or the churches there, we are referring to the indigenous Bible believing disciples of Christ. Now here is the difference, in many countries you are going to have two distinct groups of Christians. One would be the organized churches in the country who go by the name Christian but do not believe in being born again. They do not believe in a work of transformation in a person’s life once they give their life to the Lord. So, therefore, these people would say Christianity is a religion of outward belief in a God and they believe many times that Jesus was God, sometimes they don’t, and they believe that that is their Christian principle. So they live by the rules of being good people under the Christian teaching.

Charis- Sometimes it’s more like a title too.

Ron- It is and there is not much life in it in many churches. I’m not going to go into naming names or anything but I think people can read between the lines enough to realize that these are churches that are Christian in name only but maybe not in practice, teaching, preaching, or believing.

Joy- Well in recent years you have transitioned to the word believer, as well.

Ron- Totally, I hardly even use the word Christian anymore because it is so twisted now and I talk about disciples, believers, people that are committed to following Jesus, something of that nature. So that is why here, we go they are indigenous to their country so that means they don’t need passports or something to come back to their country, they are residents there. And they are Bible believing. To believe the Bible means that it is true, it is the pathway to eternal life, God gave it to us for a reason, He had to explain to us and have something to hold onto as this is the book to describe how to find me. And so they are Bible, fully believing disciples of Christ. Disciples of Christ? They are born again. And they are residents in their country or region of birth. It doesn’t need to be one specific country, it could be the national church of North Africa or in the Kosovo Albania region. Their borders don’t mean much because people are scattered across. Sometimes we talk in Southeast Asia about the national church of say Vietnam, but there are tribal groups in Vietnam that go right across the border and they are in Laos and Cambodia, etcetera, and those people don’t even worry about countries. So they are talking about their people group that are indigenous. Therefore, that is their identity that they know of. So these are residents in their country or region of birth and who are enthusiastically growing in Christ. They have made a commitment, they are growing not only in numbers but in depth, their walk with God, everything. The key word, enthusiastic.

Joy- Yeah that is a good word.

Ron- Well, it’s because that word came from entheos in the Greek, to be in God, so a person that was in God was defined as being enthusiastic.

Joy- Well, well, well, I never knew that!

Ron- You didn’t know that?

Joy- No I didn’t, I just liked the word enthusiastic! That is informative, thank you!

I stand up tall for Jesus, I’m proud of it, everything of that nature and I’m going to tell everybody else who is in my vicinity.

Ron- Okay, well that is where it came from. A person that is in God automatically, it is believed, becomes enthusiastic. They are enthusiastically growing in Christ while purposely sharing their faith openly and assertively. In other words, these people aren’t hiding it in their hearts, no, they are going by what it talks about, that if you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth you are saved. Therefore, these people say yes, I’m a believer. I stand up tall for Jesus, I’m proud of it, everything of that nature and I’m going to tell everybody else who is in my vicinity. I’m going to be open with them about it and I’m going to be assertive, I am a believer and you should be too! So that is preaching 101, you display it and you tell them. So this is why this sentence sort of encompasses and it draws a picture of what a Christian, in most of the time a third world but in national churches around the world, what they believe, how they operate. And this is why, to me, this little phrase, this sentence that we put together, it really describes the difference between a religion and a relationship.

Joy- And it really encompasses all countries that Empower works with.

Ron- Oh it is, we look for this. We’ll walk in and if there is not a strong national church of born again believers we will try to help it to grow or if it is at a stage where they don’t want it to grow, it’s stagnant, it’s flatlined so to say, some people say it’s a dead church, we probably will have to temporarily, until it comes alive, move on. That is when God would need to revive it. Therefore, the national church is a born again church within that country or region.

Joy- And would they have missionaries, so we work with the national church, now in these countries there are still foreign missionaries that come but they wouldn’t necessarily be a part of the national church.

Ron- Well no, they are probably but sometimes they are transplants in and they would not be regarded necessarily as the backbone. They can help, foreign missionaries are in there to share, to witness to do all sorts of things, teach in Bible schools, medical missions, whatever the case may be. But the purest form of the national or indigenous church is the idea that these are the people of the land. Missionaries come and go, they are visitors, whereas the indigenous church is staying. That is their home.

Joy- Yeah and that is why they have the biggest impact.

Ron- Totally. Because they are not visitors, they are not deemed that way by their people.

Joy- I don’t know if you can answer this, but how would you, in your opinion by what you’ve seen, how does the national church view foreign missionaries?

Ron- Many ways. They look at them as helpers, they give them honor that they are trying to assist, sometimes the national missionaries are very, very good. Sometimes they are an anchor on the activities of the national church, I have to be honest.

Joy- An anchor as they weigh them down?

Ron- They weigh them down, keep them back, they are not the best of examples in certain situations. That is not all the time so don’t make these all-encompassing rules that I’m trying to put down, they’re examples. But I’m just saying it can be all over the map and you have to really look at the missionary, you have to look at the intent of the organization that they are part of, all of that sort of thing. So there is no way of saying being a missionary is good, bad, or indifferent. It’s not that. Sometimes you will have to realize that everybody has to focus their attention on the national church, not on the visitors that are coming in to help. Our goal at Empower is to build up the national church planting networks within these countries. Part of that comes out of this phrase, Joy, because remember it says at the very end, these are growing in Christ while purposely sharing their faith openly and assertively. That really subliminally sort of talks about the idea that these are going to be church planting networks that the national church raises up to be able to plant these congregations of all these people coming to the Lord. Therefore, we don’t just stop with evangelism like one-offs, you know, win somebody to the Lord and drop them off, no, they have to be put into a cohesive group of other believers with good teaching, good mentoring in many regards. Therefore, you’ve got to put them in those environments to grow and to remain.

Joy- And at Empower that is what we look for, is church planting networks, something that is established and growing so we can come alongside and help that.

Ron- Exactly!

Charis- And we provide the tools and the resources to help feed that, to help grow it in Bibles, New Testaments, motorcycles, short-term support, whatever it is.

Ron- But we don’t start the movement. God has to start that movement. God will take that church planting network and grow it up. We help out with the growing up. But people often ask me in years past, how many of these networks have you started? Zero, not one, not even close to it because those have got to be born within the country themselves, by their own people.

Joy- It’s such an important distinction to make, that we have not started these movements, Empower comes along to support it.

Charis- We are just the fertilizer.

Ron –Exactly! We just want them to grow but God will raise up His own Church of His own people living in these countries. Transplants last for a while but not for long. They usually have their day until they are nationalized. Now sometimes you would get missionaries back in the 1750s, 1800s, that went into a certain country, started a lot of foreign churches there and you knew they were there and everybody knew they were a foreign church and they were the Christian church, all of that. Well, over the years the missionaries have gone home, left for whatever reason, and the churches, honestly, have been nationalized. Now it’s got national leadership, it’s got national standards, they operate in a very normal way for that culture and that society, everything like that. It’s not foreign anymore, it’s sort of morphed into something that is national, and then we would come alongside that and help it grow. It changed from a one-off church, big, cathedral sort of situation to a network of churches all fanning out. And then that way you will see a transformation going on in the country. So it all depends on where you are in history.

Joy- And to quickly revisit my new favorite word enthusiastic, I’m just wondering if, well I’m not wondering I’m kind of stating something, that is what is missing in North America I think. To enthusiastically share our faith. I think that as Christians we have become so comfortable, complacent, and if we could just get the enthusiasm that the national church has.

Ron- Enthusiasm doesn’t come out necessarily in bubbly emotion, enthusiasm comes out in a powerful discharge of the life of Christ within a person in their ordinary way of doing life. Therefore, there has got to be some. It’s a determination, but it’s bubbling over more than anything else. Enthusiasm is just something that comes out naturally out of a person, with some force. It’s not frothy, it’s not bubbles.

Joy- It can’t be contained.

Ron- It can’t be contained and it’s got a power behind it that is unusual and that unusual power is the Holy Spirit that those people that live in God will possess. If they’re not in God they won’t have enthusiasm, they will go to church, they will walk in, they will sit there, they will do their thing, and walk out but they are not in God. They are in religion and religion is not enthusiastic, there is nothing about it that is that way. But that is when you are a believer you can spot a person that is in God by what comes out in the way of enthusiasm.

Joy- Okay, well thank you, that’s great.

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