by Gary Corwin
Mission from anywhere to everywhere is here to stay, and most exciting of all, it is something that God’s people can pursue together.
Earlier this year, I was part of a first ever SIM gathering known as the Global Assembly. The purpose of this meeting held in Thailand was to inaugurate a new international legal structure that would better represent the multitude of national entities that are stakeholders in SIM.
This was an important step for SIM, but has implications for all who embrace and rejoice in the enlargement of the great harvest force in missions from anywhere to everywhere. Lest I be thought even more parochial than I actually am, let me quickly add that SIM is not the first international mission to take these kinds of steps and will undoubtedly not be the last.
What are some of the implications? First, the mission enterprise is a lot bigger than most of us realize. It is bigger than even the usual trinity of prayers, givers, and goers. It includes those in every nation whose heart and life reflects a passion for the lost and for the glory of Christ among the nations. Many of them labor in missions, though they are not “missionaries” in the usual membership sense of that word. Others serve on boards, inspire children, mobilize short-term teams, or volunteer their time and labor in a myriad of other ways to further the cause of global missions.
Second, there is no family like the family of God, particularly when its members from every conceivable background are pulling together to achieve the Father’s purposes in the world. It is not just that believers from every nation are trying to achieve the same purposes, but they are bringing their various strengths and weaknesses, competencies and incompetencies, values and styles to accomplish things so much better together than anyone could accomplish individually. All of us are smarter and more capable than any of us.
Third, the message that is sent by working closely together is one that the world very much needs to hear—that ultimately the gospel is the only thing that can break down the walls that divide people and bridge the gaps that keep them apart. Oneness in Christ is the most powerful antidote that exists in the world today to prejudice, political partisanship, and hatreds of every description. There is nothing like it.
Fourth, low cost and easily accessible technology has removed most of the practical excuses that have hindered meeting and discussing together in a meaningful way the tasks before us and the issues that divide us. It has even helped to make worship a truly global experience. Smart phones and tablets with a variety of translation apps have at very low cost practically eliminated the exclusivity of certain levels of leadership by English-speakers alone.
Fifth, relationships are the key to every kind of partnership in missions, so whatever can be done to strengthen them is a high priority task. Creating administrative structures that unite and providing forums for deeper level conversation, therefore, is job one. Other things can and will follow, but getting things right at this foundational level is essential. The old saying is still true: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Sixth, it is crucial to make sure that the thoughts and feelings of those from less outspoken cultures and personalities are heard. It is not just language skill in any particular language that hinders participation, but cultural views of etiquette, honor and shame, etc. that can play an important part. Drawing the quiet people out by asking for their views in an open-ended way is good practice and can provide the pathway to genuine buy-in that would otherwise be missing. Quiet waters run deep, and organizations that don’t tap into them are wasting enormous resources.
Seventh, articulation in clear and memorable writing about the things that unite us is extremely beneficial. At the same time, building understanding of the things that could potentially divide, and putting in place measures to avoid such division, is just common sense. Rather than quibbling over the meaning of particular words in different languages and dialects, get agreement on the ideas. Then, allow the wordsmiths in particular languages to express those ideas in the most appropriate cultural and linguistic ways.
Yes, mission from anywhere to everywhere is here to stay, and most exciting of all, it is something that God’s people can pursue together. The agendas, talents, and resources aren’t all the same, and they are not all equally well-suited to any particular task, but they are all equally designed by God to achieve his purposes. It is only when we see these various parts as integral to the great effort that they will be as effective as they are meant to be. But praise the Lord! I think the global Christian community is making real progress, and the fun is just beginning.
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Gary Corwin is staff missiologist with the international office of SIM.
EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 3 pp. 244-245. Copyright © 2015 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.