A friend who is missions director at a large American church sent me a copy of their latest thinking about church/mission relationships.
Two earlier phases of mission support
For 50 years or more, his church ran a typical missions policy, mainly focussed on supporting career missionaries through a missions committee.
Inadequacies in this model led them to a second phase, dating from around 2008:
- They evaluated missionaries’ work as well as the missionaries themselves, learning about their impact and their standing among local partners.
- They expanded involvement of the congregation through short-term teams and other partnership opportunities.
- And they took over some of the traditional roles of the mission agency in pastoral care and missions advocacy.
Another new day
But after only eight or so years of this second phase, they again felt a need to refocus, to keep up with a rapidly changing world.
They are seeing a future made of ‘vocational professionals who partner with local Christians to advance missional goals’.
To get there, they suggest diverting funds from traditional missions to build a learning community of disciples within the church.
This community would learn in millennial-friendly contexts such as cross-team story-telling as well as pursuing a basic training curriculum.
Meeting every month or so, they would become a missions-focussed community within the wider congregation.
Presumably from this community would come the ‘Kingdom professionals’ as well as the members doing mission in other ways: some involved in short-term teams, some awarding grants, some in partnership/networking initiatives, some supporting the existing, traditional missions force, some doing local international ministry.
For our UK context
I found a lot of thought-provoking stuff here for our UK context.
- What do we think about recruiting generalists–eg ‘church planters’–for mission to the least-reached? Is it seeing God’s blessing? Have we analysed how these generalists actually spend their time? How possible is it to send generalists for most of the places we want to send people?
- Should we be recruiting ‘Kingdom professionals’ instead, people with a clear role and duties? One example cited was sending a Western doctor to an international hospital, with an understanding her role would include teaching indigenous Christian nurses who may then serve among the unreached in villages.
- How good are we at networking with the global south? Does a commitment to this networking lead us towards or away from a focus on evangelism among the least reached?
- What do we think of developing a missions community within our church? This community would embrace people as diverse as an old-style missions committee, short-term teams, and people with cross-cultural opportunities within their work-life or ministry. Such a community would cohere around a regular practice of mutual learning, story-telling, support, and worship.
- What’s the role of the traditional mission agency in this reshaped landscape?
Challenging stuff both for traditional agencies and churches!