The Role of Outsiders in Movements

In 2019, a number of Western and national movement practitioners gathered to explore new models of missionary training. National leaders were asked for their insights on the role of outsiders catalyzing new works in their regions. While welcoming movement efforts, they spoke into the ideal posture of outsiders as they entered into new unreached fields.

Their insights can be unpacked into ten recommendations that anyone looking to go to the mission field or send workers to a field would do well to listen to:

Be an Example. Outsiders need “street credibility.” Making disciples and planting churches involve trials and suffering. Insiders notice and appreciate the patience and humility of an outsider who has been deepened in this way. Modeling is not just theology or tools. It’s a lifestyle of prayer, labor, perseverance, releasing responsibility, and trusting God.

Be Relational. Locals feel when outsiders come with more zeal for methods than love for people. An overly-transactional desire to get the job done grates on people in relational cultures. Movement leaders marveled at how much Western outsiders talked about “boundaries” without considering the needs and perspectives of local people. Additionally, local believers are not especially impressed by great tools and methods. They need to know, love, and respect their partners. Working to become family may feel slow, but it paves the best path to fruitfulness. 

Be Humble. The world operates on a hierarchical framework, but Jesus said “not so among you” (Mark 10:43). Don’t come in as a boss, but treat the inside leader as a friend. Empower them and release control. Control tends to kill movements, so work to establish “a round table, not a rectangular one.” Listening well shows respect, love, and care. Working with and through experienced leaders honors them.

Be a Culture Learner. Local believers often puzzle over how culturally unaware outsiders are as they bring the gospel to a new field. We need to recognize that when we arrive as an outsider, we bring the fragrance of our home culture. This affects how we communicate, how we correct, our alliances and biases, and the way we get things done. Even our tools carry cultural baggage. Commit to learn the language and operate through the culture. Discover with local people how to bring the Kingdom.

Be Patient. Movement leaders recounted how outsiders often arrive with their tools and methods and say: “I know this will work here because it has worked somewhere else.” A patient, relational approach grants a period of settling in, allowing outsiders and insiders to learn from one another through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Then trust can blossom. Patience demonstrates humility and a recognition that cultural insiders have much to contribute in helping enculturate the principles behind fruitful tools.

Be a Prayer Leader. Outsiders need to lead out in prayer, though they may find that local people do it better than they. Outsiders do, however, have the ability to catalyze outside prayer networks in strategic ways that can change realities on the ground. Connecting local believers with these prayer networks allows them access to a resource that may be hard for them to find.

Be a Vision Caster and Catalyzer of Insiders. Movement leaders tell stories of outsiders who cast a vision for them to be “laborers in the harvest” and dreamed with them about what is possible. Outsiders can create a broad base of relationships and help networks unify. Movement leaders shared how outsiders connected them to the 24:14 Vision for their region. These connections can also catalyze new laborers.

Be a Mentor and Coach. Outsiders can play an important role as a life-on-life mentor. But movement leaders caution that transactional coaching strategies fall flat in relational cultures. Local leaders crave time spent together exploring problems, with questions and cultural respect.

Be Dependent on the Word. Outsiders having a long history with God can help provide theological frameworks and dependency on God’s leadership through his word. A commitment to seek direction together from God and his word, and obey what it says, no matter what, models a reproducible life in God.

Be a Connector. An outsider will naturally be more trusted by other outsiders with resources. An outside catalyst who has developed relationships with inside leaders can connect them with Bibles, tools, or help with trainings that can help start new works. Outside catalysts can help with data gathering and reporting that helps the movement relate to other movements and networks.

As outside catalysts look to be effective in starting movements among the unreached, there is an example from many who have gone before on the most effective, God-honoring postures to take. May agencies send the kind of humble, honoring people that God can use to see His Kingdom come in every tongue, tribe, and nation.

 This piece was summarized with permission from 2414now.net and the author, Chris McBride