I was recently in a strategy discussion with SEND North church planters at Marsh Lake Bible Camp in the Yukon Territory of Canada when one of the participants asked, “Why should I leave?” Why should a missionary enjoying fruitful ministry in a particular community, move out of that community prior to their retirement? The discussion continued acknowledging that the question was important but no clear answer emerged.
Aside from SEND’s focus on church planting rather than providing rural pastors, I think that the question of the missionary leaving is not the primary issue. The primary issue is that developing local leadership is essential to establishing reproducing churches. Leaving comes at a stage of local leadership development when the missionary’s continued presence would impede the development of the local leaders. Both the church members and the local leaders will tend to defer to the missionary as long as he/she remains in the community. So it’s not that we want to leave, but that we want to see local Christians mature and assume the leadership of the local church.
Another point I would make is that church planters leave so they can plant another church in a new community. The needs are great in the North and the number of church planters is so small. Supplying “missionary pastors” to all the communities of the North would be overwhelming. The church planter leaves one community when local leadership has matured and has assumed ministry responsibilities. Entering a new community the church planter begins the process again.
This is certainly not a final or complete answer to the question posed, but just some of the thoughts that rolled through my head as I drove from Whitehorse, YT to Palmer, AK.
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER “WHY SHOULD I LEAVE?” We welcome your thoughts!