Saturday, July 09, 2011

Faulty Missions Mind-set?

Recently I linked to a series of articles on missions in South America in the middle of the 20th century which I found interesting. There is a new, and interesting, installment.

Read it all, but here are two interesting lines.

First, their understanding of the call of God as primarily to a location soon leads to the question: ‘How fast can I get there?’ However, an understanding of God commissioning us to a particular kind of work would lead to a completely different question, namely: ‘How well equipped will I be for the work when I arrive?’

I admit to not knowing a lot about modern missions preparation. I am convinced that we do not do particularly well in domestic situations of getting men in places where they can succeed, and then giving them helpful and serious mentorship.

Equipping prior to getting there seems like a high priority. I know of one family currently doing a short-term stint in a creative access country to help some other families get adjusted through helping them think through ethnography and mission-related issues. I remember a discussion about this where one person was questioning whether or not this was necessary. I think it absolutely is necessary. And I think this probably needs to start before you spend months or years raising support, only to get somewhere and find yourself frustrated and discouraged because you aren’t ready.

In the future, one thing I want to know from prospective missionaries is this: What have you been doing to get ready? How seriously have you studied the culture and language of your prospective field? How long have you been doing this? What books have you read on the culture you are going to? What kind of ethnographical research have you done?

My friend Dave, who knows a thing or two (get it and watch it, and make sure you watch the interview) about missions, puts it this way:

What you should really ask is “What do I need to learn before going to the field, why, and what source or combination of sources can teach me most efficiently?” Those are not easy questions to answer, so you have to seek help from a multitude of counselors—especially those who have proven themselves faithful and fruitful.

Here’s a second quote from the Speared article:

I just want to point out that the two major interpretations of the Commission – ‘take the Gospel to every person that hasn’t heard it’ versus ‘take the Gospel to every people that hasn’t heard it’ – lead to radically different strategies.

I think (as the blogger says), that both of these are important. But which is the Great Commission? The word “nations” (ethne) seems to indicate the latter—people groups, though it does not exclude the individual people in the groups.

Paul’s pattern described in Romans 15:19-23 of leaving a place fully evangelized to go where “Christ was not named” is equally instructive, at least in some respects (with due respect to this perspective).

By having ‘fully preached the gospel’ he surely did not mean he spoke to every person. He rather meant that he had established a gospel presence that could now continue on without him.

“Pioneer missions” is certainly different than going to places with gospel works already established. And I confess that when it comes to mission support and encouragement, I would rather see missionaries go to unreached people groups or gospel-less areas rather than pile in on gospel preaching churches just because they have a “burden” or have a little different doctrinal perspective than a church already there.

That is not to discount going to evangelized places. If that is the desire you believe that God has placed in your heart, pursue it. But realize that when you try to get me to support you, you will need to convince me that you have a legitimate place there—that you are not merely duplicating the work of someone nearby.

And realize that if I have an option between you and someone going to an unreached people group, you are starting a step behind.

I realize that most communities could stand more gospel witness, not less. And so by going, you will be a help in many ways.

But I am reminded of two things. First, the gospel and Great Commissions is for all nations because Jesus died to purchase people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9-10).

Second, I am reminded of the old parable that if a bunch of people are carrying a log, consider helping out on the end where there are fewer people.

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Thanks for the post. It was refreshing with helpful perspectives both new and old.