UPG:ISSUES:MISSION OR MISSIONARIES?`

QUESTION From:John Burgess branzjcb@MGMT.BRANZ.ORG.NZ ..I was wanting to stimulate some discussion...as to the support of missionaries as opposed to mission...

 

ANSWER From: hackett@cyberspace.com (David Hackett) John, I'm with you. Lately I've been pondering whether our usual support of missionaries is simply one more instance of ethno- centrism: We're concerned about our own, still, not those we're reaching out to. I see a difference in focus that comes about when we consider switching:

 

IF OUR FOCUS IS ON...`

Us `

Them

Missionary

Target people`

Missionary trials

The People's trials`

"Think about what they're

(the missionaries) giving up"

"Think about what they're`

(the people group) gaining"`

We think of Their loneliness

We think of their lostness`

Our "own" out there

Our Lord out there`

God seen as active through us

God seen as active in them`

 

I can predict that in a few years it might be that something as elemental as church mission budgets will list NOT missionaries' names, but target groups' names. Missionaries, agencies, etc will still be funded, but only as TOOLS to reach the object of a church's mission, the target group.

 

ANSWER From: Cecily Paterson <cmsaust@ozemail.com.au> ..I work for CMS Australia - the largest Australian missionary organization. We too struggle between the supporting misson or missionaries problem. Our aim is to get Anglican churches in Australia to be enthusiastic supporters of world mission. But of course, to do this, you have to find concrete things that people can hang onto and do. "Mission" is such a large term that it needs to be personalized. We use the link missionary idea and every Anglican church supports its own link missionary, but we find that once the missionary leaves the field (and they only stay there for 6-9 years these days), the congregation loses their enthusiasm.

Mind you, our set up is different from a lot of missions. People who support CMS actually support the organisation rather than supporting individual missionaries. Our missionaries don't have to raise support for themselves as such. Rather they help raise support for CMS, so CMS becomes the constant and keeps trying to give people the bigger picture. The missionary is a part of CMS. CMS as an organisation is the vehicle through which people support mission - not the individual missionary.

 

ANSWER From: Doug Birch <BIRCH@edsug.com> In our southern California evangelical church, returning missionaries have, in my thoughts, more than repaid and "debt" they owed for their financial support by the influx of the vital Christianity with which they have frequently returned. Their enthusiasm for, and experience with, an Acts Christian activism invigorates the local body.

 

ANSWER: sarbrad@mibai.inforyukyu.or.jp (Brad&Sara Cronbaugh) Considering that most churches in the US are smaller and rural, they live and communicate on a basis different from larger and urban churches. They live and breath via relationships, and the vast majority of missionaries they support are those they know. i.e., those that the church people themselves are familiar with or familiar with those that know the missionary. Even though the denomination or association to which that church belongs suggests support for this people or this project, what attracts them the most are those people they know. ...the actual work that person does ranks equal to...or incidental to that person and supporting that person. I offer all of that to say that it is not nor need it be a typical western 'either/or' consideration. Why can't we work with both and utilize both realities of relationship (missionary) and projects or peoples (mission). In fact, the small church I come from in Ohio works very well with both features of the support question.

 

ANSWER From: Chris: When I served a megachurch as a young missions pastor I was sold on the "new paradigm" of missionary strategy. ...We developed a strategy ..to screen missionary applicants, to drop missionaries who transitioned to fields outside of the church's strategic parameters, and to allocate budget funds in a balanced and yet focused way. I liked the idea of a missionary's "instrumental" value in furthering the goals of the church's mission... If God called the missionary and his family to another field, I thought...surely someone else would pick up their support.

As I worked more closely with veteran missionaries who were feeling threatened by the new focus on the "10/40 Window" I began to see another picture. These were men and women who had devoted their lives to planting churches and evangelizing the lost in fields that are now considered "reached." They had done their work well by God's grace. And now, as a church, we were ready to throw them out onto the dung heap in favor of new, more exotic unreached fields. As a missions pastor I came face to face with the "Strategy vs. Loyalty" conflict. I believe we resolved the issue by maintaining our support for the faithful veterans, while allocating new funds and diverting funds from missionary attrition to the new "unreached" ends of the earth. ..But the tension of strategy vs. loyalty was always there.

Now that I'm a missionary, I realize that God may have a different perspective on our mission goals. I believe that as God's children we have an "intrinsic" rather than an "instrumental" value to our Father. We may lose our earthly lives in our service to him, but we are never just TOOLS for the achievement of God's plan. We may suffer poverty and pain as we take the Gospel to a people who don't want to hear it, but we are never just robotic, recorded messages delivering our load and then self-destructing in a "Mission Impossible" scenario...

I haven't lost my passion for the unreached and I still believe in strategic planning. However, my appreciation for the value of the missionary calling has increased as a result of trying to fill the big shoes of those who went before me - and for those who lost their lives for Christ's sake.

 

ANSWER From: herrglen@iohk.com (Glenn C. Herr) If you would take the answers [from last week] at face value you would assume that the person (missionary) is redundant when compared to the task (mission). But, if you follow the rhetorical questions of the Apostle Paul to their logical conclusion, what ends up to be important is a person (a preacher, i.e., a missionary) being sent (by the church, cf. Acts 13).

 

ANSWER From: T. Scott Wood <TSWood1962@aol.com> I would have to agree with the responses on the idea of support for missionaries rather than just focusing support for fields. I am the Assistant Director of the School Of Missions at Christ For The Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. Our experience is that people invariably want to support projects and causes based on relationship.

We actually have taught that people are motivated to give to someone with whom they feel a sense of relationship, justified by a cause. People give to people, justified by a cause.

I was a missionary too, and saw the effects of churches focused primarily on giving for fields, versus missionaries. It was devastating to field missionaries who really felt led of the Lord to move to another field, to see their entire support base disappear under them.

I even ran into one missionary who actually left their field (through much personal agony), went to the 10/40 window, and within one year, their church was having major internal problems and cut the giving to them. They went because for years they had been part of that church, sent out from that church, and wanted to be in agreement with the vision of the church (and not be in disagreement with their church leadership). They ended up in a country where they were trying to give their heart and serve because of the churches' strategy, but now had no finances and not the heart to really go raise it from somewhere else (their heart was still back in the previous field).

Granted, that may be an example that is a little more extreme, but the point I'm trying to make is this, "What ever happened to shepherding the missionaries?" It seems to me that someone forgot that these missionaries were one of them, called by God to be one of them, and then called by God to be sent out from them.

What happens when the church changes their strategy in a few years for another people group. Do the missionaries who have given it all to reach the original people group - their lives, their hearts, their blood, sweat and tears, receive an ultimatum about moving on "or else?"

How do we delineate our relationships with missionaries to that of a transaction rather than a relationship?

 

ANSWER From: John North <71344.2673@CompuServe.COM> ..a good friend and excellent missions pastor of a large missions- supporting church...sent me back this insightful email and I pass it on for the discussion.

"..I have read the Brigada article which you sent to me... It did quite a good job of addressing the issues of sending, sent ones, strategy and loyalty. The author of the reply...spoke with authority, from his experience as a missionary and as a young missions pastor in a mega-church. His train of thought was consistent and I followed it up to the paragraph, "As I worked more closely." The problem at this point is the flow of his logic. He begins to talk about a one-way relationships.

Let me explain how I understand one-way relationships. The one-way relationship is when God calls the missionary to a new field, but "fails" to call the church to that field... This applies equally well when the church is called and the missionary "fails" to hear the same call... It assumes that either the missionary or the church has the "unique" ear of God. Decisions are made independently of those to whom we are accountable to or for whom we are accountable. The one-way relationship is when the missionary makes plans for his type of ministry without consulting his home church. The missionary simply announces that he is now a teacher, a cook, a theologian in residence. Similarly, the church makes plans for the missionary's ministry without consulting him. An example of this is when churches make blanket policy decisions that "we don't support missionaries in the continental United States," or "we don't support missionaries who do administration."

If we really believe in the primacy of the local church, then there is a logical inconsistency in these one-way relationships... The church needs to be good stewards of money and people. If in the name of loyalty to missionaries the churches and agencies drop all plans and strategies, then we will be like the man who tried to build a house without counting the cost. We must realistically count the cost of doing ministry in the post-modern world. Do we have the necessary tools to accomplish the given task. One way relationships only look at the external aspects of planning and strategies, without examining the human dimension.

Let me contrast these thoughts about one way relationships with some ideas about healthy relationships: Healthy relationships have dialogue which allows for change and growth... The missionary and church cannot gang up on the agency, hold the proverbial gun to the head, and demand that the agency do some plan or strategy. There must be a three way partnership between the missionary, church and agency. With the established tactics and strategic planning, the Holy Spirit guides all three parties on field and ministry changes. This necessarily demands adequate time for the decision making process.

Healthy relationships have the ability to see that God allows separation. ..An example from business may clarify this principle. A number of years ago the Sears Corporation...wanted to return to their strength of being a retailer. Since they didn't want to be in the real estate business, they sold the Sears Tower... They pared down their active business interests to those few areas which they could do with confidence, control, and competence. Many churches and mission agencies have realized that they need to focus... They tried to do all things well and did all things with mediocrity. The method for accomplishing the focus is, however, the real issue. Healthy relationships have plenty of dialogue and grace...

Healthy relationships understand the strategy and plans of the missionary, agency and church. It can harness the differences, allowing each one to contribute its God given role. The real question is not one of church or agency size, of missionary call or church strategy. The real question is "How can we be led by the Holy Spirit for effective partnerships?" Healthy relationships raise difficult issues. God may lead us to not work together. Are we mature enough to accept that concept? [In other circumstances] God may lead us to have a partnership. Are we disciplined enough to allow the missionary, agency and church the freedom to carry out their part in the task?...

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