by Gary Corwin
Oft-repeated mantras in both corporate and missions circles today demand that goals be assessed, cost-basis established, performance appraised, and positions reviewed.
Oft-repeated mantras in both corporate and missions circles today demand that goals be assessed, cost-basis established, performance appraised, and positions reviewed. These and other measuring sticks are thought to be crucial in determining whether the right things are being done in the right way. And there is little doubt that they have an important role.
One suspects, however, that most of the evaluation in missions circles today is focused more on individual performance and questions of competence than on corporate performance and questions of vision. In other words, there seems to be a whole lot more energy expended on efficiency than on effectiveness.
This is true whether one is talking about long-term or short-term missions, agency- or church-initiated efforts, and both traditional sending and indigenous funding approaches. Everyone seems quick to raise pragmatic efficiency flags related to things like cost advantage, accountability, and lay involvement. But there seems to be precious little “on-our-knees” evaluation of our true effectiveness in achieving the ultimate task of missions—establishing and building up God-glorifying and healthy manifestations of the body of Christ (i.e. churches) among every people, and in every nook and cranny of the globe.
Some of you are no doubt asking, “So what would an effectiveness-based set of criteria look like with regard to missions’ ultimate task of establishing and building up such churches among every people, and in every nook and cranny of the globe?” While I don’t claim to have ultimate answers, here are some possible starting points.
To be effective, any global missions effort ought to be able to answer the following questions in the affirmative:
1. Is our approach resulting in the gospel being presented to the unreached where they are least reached? This may be happening directly, or it may be the result of our passing on a Great Commission vision to others. One way or the other, however, and probably both ways, it should be happening.
2. Is our approach resulting in new believers being gathered into new churches in new areas and among new groups? In other words, are we involved in missions, or are we only encouraging near-neighbor evangelism? There is nothing wrong with the latter. It’s part of what every Christian should do. But it is not adequate to satisfy the global requirements of Christ’s Commission.
3. Is our approach fostering good stewardship and generosity toward God on the part of believers? Or is an unhealthy dependence on foreign money the norm? If the latter, that church will never reach its full potential as a vital member of the Body of Christ, and as a light to the world. That is because stewardship and generosity have long been God’s incubators for vision through the development of traits like faithfulness, obedience, and loving trust.
4. Is a self-sustaining church-planting movement the likely outcome of our work? Or would everything grind to a halt if the foreign missionaries left? If the latter, we have replaced God’s plan for a movement with a monument to our own egos.
5. Do believers see the church as their own entity under Christ? Or would they see themselves as bit players in what the missionary is doing? If the latter, then we have almost certainly found the reason behind a negative response to No. 4 above. Where the gospel is unleashed in a culture, there is power and expansion. Where there is foreign control there is almost always paralysis and exasperation.
6. Are spiritually growing indigenous leaders in place in all the churches which have grown out of our work? Or have we fostered an unbiblical leadership elitism, complete with the necessity of formal, and perhaps even foreign, study for one to qualify as a church leader? Leadership training is essential, but we must train the real leaders (the ones whom God has placed in his churches) and move away from the idea that our job is to use training to validate candidates for leadership. There is a crucial difference.
7. Have we done everything we can to pass on a missions vision which sees the Great Commission as a mandate for the whole church to take the gospel from all continents to all continents? Or do indigenous believers believe that missions is something that rich Westerners do? To the extent we are responsible for such a view, our failure is grievous, because we have deprived God’s people of one of his greatest blessings, and we have deprived a waiting world of some of its most effective messengers of hope.
These are not easy questions. They can be disheartening, even embarrassing. But they are crucial if we are to evaluate our effectiveness. It is not enough for us to make the machinery of missions run smoothly. We must be certain that the missions product is worthy of the labor, and more importantly, worthy of the Savior who called us to the task in the first place.
Gary Corwin is associate editor of EMQ and missiologist-at-large for Arab Wold Ministries on loan from SIM-USA.
EMQ, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 18-19. Copyright © 1999 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.