Mission Philosophy: Core Principles
Employ methods that empower rather than foster dependency.
When missionaries and humanitarian organizations employ methods that cannot be duplicated or sustained by the indigenous people, then the good that is accomplished will be short-lived. If we employ technology that the local population cannot buy, maintain, or does not have the ability to operate, then that effort cannot be sustained. Instead, such operations foster dependency on foreign money and outside expertise (assistance). Although often implemented with the best of intentions, such efforts often do more harm than good in the long run as the indigenous people become dependent on those services that soon disappear once the foreigners and their money has left the region. Hence, this principles could also be called the principles of sustainability.
We at Mapepe believe that programs and ministries should not be implemented that cannot be sustained by the indigenous people. We also believe that priority should be given to those efforts that provide long-term solutions to local problems (except in crisis situations like in a famine). To repeat an old saying, we believe it is better to "teach a man to fish…rather than to give him a fish."
We also believe this approach of empowering people also fosters self-respect and responsibility. We fear that many well-intentioned efforts actually end up making beggars of the indigenous population – something that is dehumanizing and destroys people’s self-respect. Far better to employ those efforts that empower people to solve their own problems (which fosters self-respect, personal responsibility, and gives people greater confidence and ability to solve whatever future problems fall upon them). In contrast, dependency only perpetuates among local populations the mistaken mindset that they must always depend upon the westerner for assistance.
Don’t do for the indigenous people what they can do for themselves.
Doing for others what they can do for themselves fosters dependency and irresponsibility. People become lazy and don’t learn to solve their own problems. Since our goal is to develop and empower indigenous leadership, it is essential that we take the time to train and involve local people in all aspects of the ministry. This is also critical to sustainability. Of course, faster results can be achieved if we utilize foreign workers and foreign technologies, but the results will be short-lived and unsustainable. It is far better to take the time necessary to utilize and develop local populations who can learn to continue the work one-day without foreign money and expertise (personnel).
Missions (ministry) must be holistic if it is to be relative to African life.
African populations do not separate the spiritual from the secular world as westerners do. They believe the two worlds are one in the same and that all of life is affected and influenced by the spiritual domain. If ministry in Africa does not effectively address the practical, real issues of daily live, then Africans will find it irrelevant and useless. Ministry cannot just be about what westerners call "spiritual matters" or "life after death."
At the same time, ministry cannot just be about physical concerns (humanitarian efforts alone). This too ignores the whole man and fails to address those matters that most undermine African’s salvation (development). Africans problems are not just physical and humanitarian in nature. Solving Africa’s problems will not be solved with just more money and more "stuff." More than anything else the problem is spiritual in nature (e.g. corruption, theft, oppression, war, tribalism, envy, fear of spiritual powers and reliance on witchcraft, etc). These problems will not be solved by humanitarian efforts alone.
Hence, it is paramount that ministry be wholistic, addressing both the body and the spirit as one. The salvation of Africa (solving Africa’s long-term problems) depends upon efforts that are wholistic. One without the other will not facilitate long-term, sustainable change. But, more importantly, this wholistic approach is the only approach that harmonizes with what Jesus modeled and taught his disciples. When Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God (new age) and bring salvation to humanity, he came teaching about the kingdom and ministering to people’s needs (Mt 4:23-25; 9:35). His ministry addressed both the physical and spiritual needs of men. And, this is exact the approach that he taught his disciples to employ (Mt 10 and Lk 10). The kingdom of God is wholistic.
Principle of Indigeneity.
This principle has already been noted above. In order for any operation to be sustainable and reproductive, it must become indigenous in every facet (e.g., leadership, culture, local technologies and resources, etc). Any dependency on foreign expertise (personnel), finances, or technologies will threaten the long-term sustainability of the program or operation. Hence, foreign workers must always be "working themselves out of a job" (i.e, making themselves unnecessary to the operation).
Furthermore, this principles also recognizes the fact that it is only those from the indigenous population who really understand the local culture and how to implement and manage the operation. Despite their best intentions, foreign workers will unknowingly employ western forms and protocols that do not effectively address the local culture. Unless the effort is eventually put in the hands of indigenous workers, the entire endeavor will "smell" and "feel" foreign to the people of the host country.
This also means that foreigners must respect indigenous workers when they make decisions that don’t appear appropriate to them. To empower local leaders means one must handover power and control (authority to act). This is not easy for foreign personnel; but it is critical to sustainability and contextualization of the ministry to the local people. Indigeneity will not occur if the foreign personnel intervene in to retake control. When this happens, local leadership becomes merely a "rubber stamp" of the foreign missionaries or boards.
Those of us from the "Church of Christ" believe in the autonomy of the local church. We do not believe that God through Scripture has authorized the creation of denominational boards, creeds, or leadership above that of the local church leadership (e.g. congregational elders). This respect the principle of indigeneity as this does not allow for the leaders of one country to rule over the leaders of another country, for example. Ultimate leadership remains in the hands of the local church and their leaders (under the headship of Christ and His word). This does not allow for the creation of denominational headquarters and higher positions of authority outside and above the local church. Thus, if there is any church or mission that respects the principle of indigeneity, it is those who come from the "Church of Christ."
The Bible is our only authority in matters pertaining to the kingdom of God.
We recognize no other authority in matters of faith than that which is taught in the Word of God. We recognize no creed written by men as authoritative. Though humans may write and teach, their words are not infallible. The ultimate authority in matters of faith is God and Christ as the head of the church. Thus, each church (government by indigenous leaders) are responsible to God to follow his will as taught in scripture. Although the teachings of the church-planting missionary (foreign or indigenous) may be helpful and instructive, no local church should be forced or compelled to agree to the visiting teacher/missionary. In fact, it is well-documented that many conflicts in African churches have been the result of foreign intervention and interference. This is yet another reason why it is critical that local churches be freed of foreign dependence: it seriously undermines the indigenous, local church from following the Word of God (since what the foreign support demands has great power in Africa).
We also believe it is important to "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." Too often divisions and conflicts within churches are caused because disciples either fail to obey God’s will as taught in the Bible or they speak where God has not spoken (i.e, make opinions matters of faith). We believe it is essential to have unity in matters of faith (essential of doctrine) but allow for diversity in matters of judgment (matters that Scripture has not addressed).