Today I would like to invite fellow IMB missionary Ken Sorrell to be my guest on the "M Blog" and with his permission reproduce his recent, "The Future of Missions: 4 Questions" that was submitted to the IMB-SAM Region Church Planting Forum. His four questions reflect four issues at the heart of mobilizing Stateside volunteers/partners to the mission field. Please feel free to interact with anything shared in his post. These matters ARE the future of missions and will either advance or hinder the Gospel depending upon how they are handled.
Greetings to all from Mexico,
I have been and continue to be encouraged and troubled with current trends in missions. I want to say upfront that I am in full agreement that the local church, in the U.S. and around the world needs to participate in a much greater capacity than we currently see taking place. It is exciting to see the level of interest in missions at an all time high. My concern focuses on the issue, not of participation, but knowledge. What many churches, associations, and state conventions term as missions rarely resembles any model or example as found in Scripture.
In a recent blog conversation with Tim Patterson, I posed 4 questions that I feel must be addressed as we look towards churches being both, "churches who send and sending churches", as Tim describes it. As I stated in my response to Tim's latest post, I want to be extremely careful here so please bear with me. I am struggling with a series of questions as I give serious consideration to this issue. Here are but a few.
1. There are many in the evangelical community today that feel that the current model of church is broken and needs serious adjustment. Assuming that a great majority of churches have strayed far from the New Testament model of church, what exactly will we be exporting when churches begin to go out as lone rangers to other cultures?
2. Where is the accountability for the strategies and practices of a sending church's missions efforts? Are they free to do whatever they want to do without any type of checks or balances?
3. Who is better prepared to evaluate missions projects, the missions committee at a local church or someone who is or has lived incarnationally in another culture?
4. Is this move to more intimately involved churches in missions really an effort to impact lostness or give fulfillment to U.S. believers?
I really hate the negative tone that these questions project because as I stated earlier, I am not opposed to a greater church involvement in missions. However, what is done and how it is done will either advance the Gospel or hinder the Gospel. This is not just a church problem but everyone's challenge. I work with missionaries who are called by God, love the people with whom they work, and really want to see a movement of the Spirit among their people. And yet, the bulk of their time is spent on activities that keep them busy but produce little to no fruit.
U.S. churches are a tremendous resource to Kingdom growth...We must find a way to engage in conversation greater numbers of our partners in order that we may learn from them and so that they may learn from us. The four questions above only touch the surface of the issues that must be brought to the forefront and addressed honestly and openly.
One other comment related to Alan Cross's comments to Guy. Alan states the following: "I guess that I am a stateside local church pastor that believes that the Great Commission was given to all Christians and that every local church should play a part. And, I don't want to just sit on the sidelines while I pay others to do it all for me."
I find this comment to be incredibly insightful and right on the mark, but not in the way that most churches in the states would read it. If the Great Commission was given to all believers and that the local church should play a part in fulfilling this command, doesn't this then also include our national believers and churches? Is it right for "others" to do the task for them that God has also commanded them to do? Also, in many situations, a few are being paid to do the task while the remainder of the believers sit on the sidelines and watch, or they sit on the sidelines and watch others do the task of the church for them.
If we are going to form true partnerships between U.S. churches and national churches, then it is critical that this relationship be based upon vision and purpose, rather than a redistribution of resources.