Kudzu arrived in the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia! The first recorded “Kudzu Planting” missionaries were Charles and Lillie Pleas. They have a historical marker in front of their Glen Arden Nursery in Chipley, Florida that states; “Kudzu Developed Here!” When the Pleas discovered that animals would eat the plant they began to promote its use for forage in the 1920s.
During the Great Depression the Soil Conservation Service promoted kudzu for erosion control. They gave hundreds of young men the job of planting kudzu through the Civilian Conservation Corps. Farmers were paid an incentive to plant kudzu in the 1940s.
Channing Cope of Covington, Georgia promoted the use of kudzu to control erosion. He wrote articles in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and spoke on WSB-AM radio. He was very disappointed when in 1953 the US government no longer promoted the use of kudzu.
The problem was that kudzu grows too well. It can grow up to a foot a day (or so they say). In 1972 the USDA declared kudzu to be a weed. The southeastern US has near perfect conditions for kudzu to grow out of control, hot, humid summers, frequent rainfall, temperate winters with few hard freezes, and no natural predators.
Kudzu is fully indigenous to Georgia, the Southeast, and many others parts of the US. If you will go back over this paragraph and consider what you read then you will have an idea of what our goal is as “church planting” missionaries. Today, kudzu is nearly considered a curse. You can’t kill it, you can only try to control it. The pictures should let you see that kudzu is really “native” to Georgia.
As we plant churches we want churches that will be indigenous or native to the area. The word indigenous means according to Webster’s Online dictionary; “having originated in and being produced, growing, living, or occurring naturally in a particular region or environment.” A synonym is native.
The term indigenous church has been defined by three characteristics; self-governing, self-supporting, and self-propagating. Though these are not biblical terms you will see their necessity when you begin planting churches. As you travel, research, and see churches on the mission field you may be shocked. A great number of them will not be able to support their own pastors even though they have been an organized church for many years.
Missionaries, it seems, must stay many years before a church is able to become “native” to the land. They are unable to maintain their churches, pay their pastors, start other churches, effectively evangelize their own people. When the missionary is forced to leave, the funds are cut off the work dries up and dies. The only other answer is to urgently look for another source of income and another foreign missionary to prop up the church.
Is it God’s will for His churches to be so weak and dependent on outside support? Can a church be planted that will take on the characteristics of kudzu and become so “native” that it will not need outside help? Will the Bible, the church, the gospel work as well in all cultures as it has in ours?
What would happen if we were to train some national pastors who would have the attitude of Abraham when he said in Genesis 14:23 “That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.” Abraham wanted God to get all the credit for his success and not a pagan king or anyone else for that matter.
I do not want to promote a position of boasting or pride among the national believers and churches but nor do I want to promote dependency that lasts for years. After having received so much help for so long they become bitter and demanding. They expect you to give to them and if you do not then you are wrong, selfish and bad. They demand, are not thankful, become accusing, and everyone is hurt all around.
In this short study I hope you will learn how to achieve the indigenous or “kudzu” principle. I hope you will at least learn to think, research, argue with yourself until you are convinced of your plan of action as you seek to plant churches for the kingdom and glory of God.