Sunday, August 26

The future of institutional missions organizations

I found the following thoughts about institutional missions organizations by Bob Roberts, Jr. quite interesting and thought-provoking. What do you see as the future of missions organizations like the IMB, SIM, YWAM, CCC, etc. as we know them today?

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There has never been a time, or as conducive an environment, for mission agencies and institutions to engage the world like there is today. If it happens, mission agencies and institutions are going to have to:

1. see themselves as connectors of the whole body of Christ to the whole world.

2. release control or lose any control at all because people aren't going to sit around and wait.

3. train not just local culture and practices to a missionary but global culture and practices.

4. redefine how missionaries work, what they do and how they operate.

5. be a revolving door not just of sending western missionaries but of "global" missionaries from every society.

6. be a receiving entity for missionaries coming to America who feel called to work here . . .

7. value local churches and laymen beyond just seeing them as cows to milk for their institution (I'm convinced the key to raising funds is not asking for money but partnering and doing things together--there will be more money than they could ever imagine.

8. view themselves not as funders of people who want to be vocational missionaries but partners "gospel" seed planters of the kingdom throughout the world.

...People are going to work with people that are willing to work together and ignore those who aren't willing to partner. The days of a huge bureaucracy telling a church that is funding it what it can and can't do are numbered. Getting a bunch of young guys in a room and telling them "we want to hear from you" won't cut it. Getting a bunch of youngsters with a radical "newlight" missionary--saying there's a city, now take it, and the skies the limit. You empower them all, you infuse enthusiasm, and you learn from one another.

2 comments:

Tim Patterson said...

Guy,

I think Bob Roberts is recognizing some real trends that we should not ignore. Some of my observations about how he sees mission institutions should respond...

1. "see themselves as connectors of the whole body of Christ to the whole world..."

This is already happening and I think we are seeing some reaction among our IMB trustees to this... with policies that narrow parameters for cooperation, rather than looking for ways to further broaden opportunities to cooperate with others within biblical parameters. More and more SBC churches are choosing to work with a variety of entities as they seek to obey the Great Commission. Denominational identity becomes secondary to expanding Jesus' kingdom.

2. "release control or lose any control at all because people aren't going to sit around and wait..."

Cooperative giving is not declining, but neither is it keeping up with the rate of inflation (with a few exceptions). More and more churches are deciding to venture out on their own in missions and diverting resources that used to go to support institutional efforts. SBC better come up with more ways to decentralize control and share responsibility among our churches before an actual decline in support begins to occur.

3. "train not just local culture and practices to a missionary but global culture and practices..."

We tend to restrict the movement of our missionaries and their circle of influence. Due to territorialism within denominational institutions, our missionaries have to live with too many rules about where, when, how, what, etc. that can limit their network and ability to mobilize for kingdom expansion among their focus people group. Churches don't follow those rules, they have more freedom to "turn on a dime" and respond to what God is doing around the world. More and more SBC churches are developing international networks that connect not only with the stateside church, but also directly between entities in other countries.

4. "redefine how missionaries work, what they do and how they operate..."

Because of globalization... it is a new day for missions. We can still follow a biblical model without following a career missionary method that is no longer needed, or perhaps not even biblical. Where in the Bible do we see the model for a cross-cultural missionary living in a foreign place his whole life?

5. "be a revolving door not just of sending western missionaries but of "global" missionaries from every society..."

I think that we can play a part in this, but the primary role for sending should be the responsibility of that missionary's home church or church network. We can help them develop indigenous support/sending structures, as well as provide secondary support.

6. "be a receiving entity for missionaries coming to America who feel called to work here..."

I think the institution can help facilitate that, but needs to be on local church partnership level.

7. "value local churches and laymen beyond just seeing them as cows to milk for their institution (I'm convinced the key to raising funds is not asking for money but partnering and doing things together--there will be more money than they could ever imagine..."

AMEN!!!

8. "view themselves not as funders of people who want to be vocational missionaries but partners "gospel" seed planters of the kingdom throughout the world..."

Yes, the primary responsibility needs to return to the churches. The institutions should seek to facilitate accomplishing the Great Commission through the churches... not trying to control, but to empower them to follow the biblical mandate.

GuyMuse said...

Tim,

Your excellent observations are worthy of a post of their own. Thanks for taking the time to comment on each of Roberts' points. Along with the needed dialog of the future of missions, we also need to be discussing the future of missions organizations. The two go hand in hand. I too have sensed that already several of Roberts' points have hit the mainstream overseas. We are facing these very matters even as I type, especially #1,2,4,7. The others will become front and center in the next couple of years.