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How to Do Missions in the Global South

Christianity continues to blossom in the Global South.[1] Our missions strategies and methodologies, while remaining unyieldingly planted in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, must change to include these demographic realities. Although missionaries have historically gone to areas of the world with little to no Christian presence, missionaries today often—though not always!—land in places with existing Global South churches. To prepare for missions in the Global South, we must reflect on mission strategies in light of Global South Christians, befriend Global South leaders, learn to listen to Global South friends, partner with Global South churches, and encourage the participation of Global South Christians in God’s mission.

Reflect on Missions Strategies in Light of the Global South

To figure out how to move forward, we first must evaluate our current missions strategies. Assessment is a key, but sometimes overlooked, element of strategy development. We may already have good missions practices, but honest evaluation encourages us to ask if they could be better in light of current Global South realities. Some questions we might ask ourselves as we reflect include:

  1. Do our missions strategies assume that there is no church in the area we serve? If so, is that assumption correct?

  2. If Global South churches are in the area, do we know the church leaders? Do they know us?

  3. Is there a way to include the existing church in our missions strategy?

  4. Is the existing church already doing missions? If so, could we build our strategy in partnership with their work?

Befriend Leaders of the Global South

At the Edinburgh 1910 Missionary Conference, an Indian missionary named V.S. Azariah spoke prophetic words that remain timely today: “Through all the ages to come the Indian Church will rise up in gratitude to attest the heroism and self-denying labours of the missionary body. You have given your goods to feed the poor. You have given your bodies to be burned. We also ask for love. Give us friends!”[2] Echoing Azariah, our brothers and sisters worldwide look to us and call, “Don’t simply give us your missions strategies, resources, or missionaries. Give us friends!”

We need to create time to build meaningful relationships with Christians from the Global South.

Friendship stems from meals, cups of coffee or chai, prayer, and hours of questions and answers about family and ministry. In today’s digital world, friendship can be fostered through WhatsApp messages, pictures, and Zoom calls. It requires shared love and vulnerability from both parties. Friends love, confide in, pray for, and spur on one another. When planning a missions strategy or a short-term mission trip, we need to create time to build meaningful relationships with Christians from the Global South.

Listen to Friends in the Global South

To work with Global South friends, we must listen to them, an action sometimes unintentionally overlooked because of the urgency of the mission. First, we listen to them just to know them better. These men and women have dreams, fears, frustrations, aspirations, etc. Through listening, we can discover what to pray for and how to encourage our Global South friends. And remember that listening between friends goes both ways; we also need to share our hopes, dreams, and prayers with them.

Next, we listen to our friends in the Global South to learn from them. These believers can teach us about God and his Word. They also know and understand the culture. They see the problems from a different angle. They have witnessed what works and what does not work. They comprehend the interworking of tribal disputes, local politics, and church dynamics. We can glean information about the context and receive advice about the strategy from our Global South friends.

We also recognize that we will not always agree. We listen sympathetically from a foundation of brotherly love.[3] We work towards mutual understanding and love, grounded in deep, Christ-centered friendship, even in disagreement. Sometimes, though, our definitions of the mission, our predominant strategies, and our theology will not harmonize, and we decide we should part ways. Even when our conflicts prove too great to work together, though, we strive for friendship and pray for those indigenous church leaders around us.

Partner with Churches in the Global South

Missions in the Global South calls for partnerships with long-term commitments. For long-term missionaries working in these areas, these partnerships require continual dialogue with and inclusion of the national churches in evangelism and discipleship strategies. This type of partnership also offers Global South leaders room at the strategy-building table.

Missions in the Global South calls for partnerships with long-term commitments.

In this type of partnership, churches in the Global North commit to an area for multiple trips and intentionally engage the Global South churches. Church leaders can ask their missionary partners to introduce their church members to local leaders. They commit to pray for these partners publicly and habitually. They may even invite those local leaders to address their church sometime. They can encourage friendships between their missions teams and the local church members.

When negotiating partnerships, all parties involved must make sure they over-communicate expectations. As one of my past articles warned, undefined partnership expectations can be one of the pitfalls of working in the Global South. Does partnership imply financial requirements? Are there relational obligations? The partners must be open and honest about expectations and participation.

Encourage the Missionary Activity of Christians in the Global South

The demographic of our missionary force has also changed. Samuel Escobar argues, “Christian mission in the twenty-first century has become the responsibility of a global church.”[4] Churches and missionaries in the Global North can multiply their time and resources by encouraging, training, and mentoring Global South Christians as they go to the nations.[5] Strategies like this deploy both long-term and short-term missionaries to encourage, train, and—at strategic times—finance the work of their brothers and sisters in the Global South, while also being careful to avoid paternalism and dependency.


In his 1974 publication The Coming of the Third Church, Walbert Bühlmann predicted a shift in Christian demographics. He calls it “an indisputable fact, an important event in Church history and . . . an outstanding opportunity.”[6] We live in the time Bühlmann foresaw. Will we take advantage of this outstanding opportunity by reflecting on our current missions practices, befriending our Global South brothers and sisters, intentionally listening to them, partnering with them, and encouraging their work to the nations?


[1] For an explanation of what the Global South is, see Matt Hirt’s article "Why and How to Do Missions to the Global South."

[2] V.S. Azariah, “The Problem of Co-Operation Between Foreign and Native Workers, Part 3,” in The History and Records of the Conference, Together with Addresses Delivered at the Evening Meetings, vol. 9, The World Missionary Conference, 1910 (Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson, and Ferrier, n.d.), 315.

[3] The term “listening sympathetically” is taken from Vern S. Poythress, Symphonic Theology: The Validity of Multiple Perspectives in Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1987), 52. For further explanation as to how to listen sympathetically across cultures, see Anna Daub, “Vern Poythress’s Perspectivalism in a Global Context: A Symphony of Contextual Theologies Seeking Harmony” (Wake Forest, NC, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2021), 257–61.

[4] Samuel Escobar, The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 11.

[5] Tom Steffen calls the Global North to become facilitative church multipliers. Tom Steffen, The Facilitator Era: Beyond Pioneer Church Multiplication (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2011), 39. Similarly, Ben Naja calls for Global North Christians to be “catalysts.” He states, “workers of the Global North are responsible and equipped to catalyze, model, train, finance in partnership, and coach.” Ben Naja, Releasing the Workers of the Eleventh Hour: The Global South and the Task Remaining (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2007), 83.

[6] Walbert Bühlmann, The Coming of the Third Church: An Analysis of the Present and Future of the Church, English ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1977), 22.


Anna Daub is the Director of Special Projects and Partnerships for Global Theological Initiatives at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a PhD in Applied Theology with an emphasis on Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a BS in Biology from Howard Payne University. She has served overseas in South Asia and worked with international students in the United States.


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