A New Trend in Missions
It’s not about what you are going to do…
God has greatly blessed our nation for the flood of missionaries who have gone, and are going, around the world to bring the Gospel to the uttermost.
Change has been a constant in our strategies to reach the world. Pioneer works developed into long-term investment of personnel. Coastal missions led to interior missions. Church planting missions evolved into a large variety of ministries under the banner of ‘missions.’ Some nations receiving missionaries are now sending missionaries. National believers are raising funds from our churches for ministry in their homelands. Teaching has become a major objective for preparing pastors and missionaries overseas.
But there is also an ever-changing world. Population growth has been staggering. Political upheavals along with religious animosity has led to many open doors becoming only open windows or even closed doors for traditional missionaries. Adaptations have resulted in multiple people entering missions as bi-vocational, with missions being secondary to the vocational platform for entry.
One can certainly ask the question, “Are we doing the same thing in missions in 2019 with 7.5 billion people that we were doing in 1960 when there were only 3 billion?” At the same time there seems to be a drastic decline in western missionaries. Those preparing to go struggle to raise the support to enter their chosen field.
Apart from pioneer missionary activities that continue to exist, most traditional missionaries are working in areas where missions has been a part of the cultural fabric for many years. Yet we continue to send missionaries in to do “something” and report back daily, weekly, monthly and/or quarterly on what they have accomplished. Is that still the most effective strategy with 7.5 billion people on earth and 65% of them living in countries that refuse to grant visas to traditional missionaries?
Oswald Sanders wrote in the 60’s in Spiritual Leadership (p. 147), “At a recent missionary conference, an Asian leader spoke frankly about the role of Western missionaries: ‘The missionary of today in the Orient should be less a performer, and more a trainer.’” It seems that it wasn’t until the 90’s that a focus on training became a major objective in missions.
It also seems that 1985 was a turning point in the mindset of missions- realizing that national believers could actually do missions work with or without traditional missionary oversight. Now there are multiple nationals and facilitating agencies giving opportunity for American churches to extend their missions endeavors, often at a reduced cost. However, accountability for funds, adequate encouragement of national missionaries, and unwillingness of many nationals to return to their homeland continue to be red flags to many.
What if we proposed another change with the hope for a new trend in missions. It could simply be stated: As a sent missionary from America, it is not about what you (singular) are going to do, it is about what you are going to assist national believers (multiple/multiplied) to do.
Every missionary who crosses a border could, and should, understand that they are entering someone else’s Jerusalem. Within the entered country is an obligation for its people to fulfill the Great Commission. This can be done without all the hurdles an outsider must overcome if the outsider determines to make the ministry about them. Initially, it will be all about nationals reaching their country, but as they take responsibility for their uttermost, they will likewise encourage their missionary crossing a border to follow the principle of it being about what the nationals of that country must do.
This will open the door not only within open countries where our missionaries are currently serving but will also provide opportunity into limited access and closed countries where the nationals are the only ones who can fulfill the Great Commission as their vocation.