There are certain things you protect a child from in their early years. Good parents carefully monitor what a child eats. Early childhood nutrition has been proven to affect the rest of their lives. We make sure they get the right food and we are careful not to introduce foods that they are not ready for. If we introduce those things too early, they will develop allergies to them which they will struggle with their wholes lives, their bodies never being able to cope with these substances. Cow milk is a well known example. Introduced too early to a baby’s system it then creates a milk allergy.
Introducing a new church or movement to a lot of foreign influence and to foreign donors too early is like that. It can cause real damage to the church’s system and make them unable to handle interactions with the rest of the worldwide church in healthy ways as they mature. Its not that they must always and forever be “protected” from these foreign donors and cultural influences. That is to live in a bubble, apart from relationship with the body of Christ worldwide. No, they need to grow into this eventually, but only as they are ready to interact with maturity, self confidence and wisdom.
This is part of why while YWAM endeavors to plant churches and disciple indigenous people, we need to restrain ourselves from “doing our thing” as YWAM and recruiting to DTS, sending people for training in distant lands, inviting them to big international YWAM conferences or to speak on our bases. It feels loving and right and it certainly benefits our organization to have them there. We are enriched by their presence. But what does it do to them? What does it do to the work they are called to do among their own people groups and nations? Often it can do more harm then good, especially if it is premature, if they are not ready and mature enough to withstand the huge temptation to dive into all the available resources of the West- much like a child of five in front of a candy stand with a big sign saying “Free Candy, take all you want.” Even for some adults this would be a huge temptation! But for a child, its not safe and unfair to them to make them make those choices.
I'm not in any way calling indigenous leaders children. They are not. They are adults who must be respected as such. And at some point in their discipleship and development they must be educated about how to interact wisely with the powerful forces and temptations of the Western church. Doing this before they are strong enough within themselves as a church, strong enough in their own faith in Father God to provide for them, strong enough in their confidence and belief that God can use them and do it through them without Western partners, is a recipe for disaster and destruction to the fragile new work God has begun to do in those nations.
Lets love the national leaders we know enough to protect them from these good, but potentially destructive things being introduced too early. Lets be wise about when we offer alcohol, coffee, or even milk to the beautiful spiritual children God has gifted us with. Lets not be paternalistic and keep them “children” forever, but lets train them to make wise choices about accepting resources that actually cripple rather than empower them, or allowing Western cultural influences to become too dominant in their lives to where it hampers their own ability to reach the core people in their own communities and people groups. God give us wisdom!