by Larry D. Pate
Missions is rapidly entering a new age marked by a decline in the growth of Western missionary-sending and a rapid increase in non-Western missions growth.
Missions is rapidly entering a new age marked by a decline in the growth of Western missionary sending and a rapid increase in non-Western missions growth. Robert Coote has discovered that the overall growth of member-mission agencies of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (IFMA) from 1967-1984 has been negligible. The top 26 unaffiliated (non-EFMA and IFMA) evangelical agencies, such as Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Foreign Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention have collectively grown only 42 percent.
By contrast, Larry Keyes, in his book, The Last Age of Missions, demonstrated a 448 percent decadal growth rate for the emerging mission agencies of Latin America, Africa, and Asia from 1972-1980. Our emerging missions research indicates that similar high rates of growth are continuing. In Asia, for example, the growth of the emerging missions from 1980-1985 was 308 percent per decade. All present trends indicate there will be more non-Western missionaries than Western missionaries by 2000 AD. This demands that all Western mission leaders and missionaries seriously consider what relationships they should develop with the emerging missions of Latin America, Africa and Asia.
In his 1980 study, Keyes discovered that non-Western mission agencies are willing to participate with Western mission agencies as long as there is doctrinal compatibility and their organizational autonomy is not threatened. Non-Western mission leaders made their feelings about partnership quite clear. They are more than willing to enter into partnership agreements with other mission agencies when mutual interests and benefits are effected. They would rather enter into agreements with other non-Western agencies because there is a justifiable fear of Western dominance. Nevertheless, if adequate assurances are given that full control will remain in their hands, through formal partnership agreements or otherwise, these leaders usually welcome Western assistance. The operative words are indigenous control, partnership, and task.
In a 1985 paper, Keyes stated:
. . . the need is for a new kind of partnership in our generation of missionary outreach; the context in which we work is vastly different than the age of missions even thirty years ago. The need today is not necessarily for a partnership based upon geography or tradition or association, but for one based upon task. With the majority of the world still unreached, and with missionary "sending bases" located in every region of the world, the need is less for effective relationships, and more for effective ministry which focuses upon target cities, target peoples and/or a target task.
It is time for a proliferation of what I am calling Task-Oriented Partnerships (TOPS). These are partnerships which are formed within a variety of organizational relationships, but where the partners work to achieve a common ministry objective. They may be partnerships between non-Western agencies, or between Western and non-Western agencies. They may be interdenominational or denominational partnerships. They may be associational or integrational partnerships. They may be multi-agency or they may be regional or international. But they all focus on specific missionary tasks.
Task-oriented partnerships most often prove to be the best means for Western assistance to the emerging missions. Here are some characteristics of successful task-oriented mission-mission partnerships:
1. They focus upon a specific goal which is mutually considered important by the partners.
2. They foster specific agreements concerning allocation and administration of resources, both personnel and finances.
3. They tend to be time-specific; i.e. they have a specific beginning and ending point which relates to the task. This avoids the need to seek some type of structural organizational amalgamation which is generally resisted by both Eastern and Western mission agencies.
4. They increase effectiveness, with each partner contributing what it can best offer to complete the task.
Some would object to partnership with the emerging missions, fearing that this would be another arena in which they would fall prey to Western paternalism. But is such fear well-founded? There is nothing I know inherently more autochthonous than a mission agency born in the hearts of indigenous leaders. Such leaders do not easily subjugate their vision to any paternalism, whether foreign or domestic. Let us not fall prey to a fear that everything we do will automatically be so paternalistic that it is best for us to let these indigenous missions movements alone so they will not be spoiled by our meddling. To many non-Western missions leaders, this error is more hypocritical and abominable than traditional paternalism. The leaders of non-Western churches have learned long ago how to deal with Western paternalism, by and large. But now that they are building their indigenous mission structures, in which they rightly have complete control, some leaders view Western reticence to help them not as a benign neglect for their own good, but a paternalistic Western fear of that which cannot be controlled.
FIVE PRIMARY NEEDS
In working with the emerging missions, it appears there are five primary forces which need to combine in sufficient strength in order to make the churches of a given country capable of producing effective and fruitful missionary activity on a wide scale. Each country needs: (1) a sufficient number of pastors and leaders who have a vision to evangelize the lost of other cultures; (2) organization and strategy: there must be organizational structures, both denominational and interdenominational, which assume responsibility for effectively managing the missionary enterprise; (3) adequate missionary training programs; (4) adequate information about target cultures and countries is necessary for effective strategy; and (5) ability to overcome problems related to raising financial support and maintaining their missionaries on the field.
Within a given country, serious weaknesses in any of these five needs will greatly hinder the missionary effectiveness of that country’s church as a whole. These five needs should suggest ways Western agencies can assist non-Western agencies. An analysis of needs in specific denominations, countries, or regions, will suggest areas for developing TOPS. Here are some specific examples and suggestions for TOPS in each of the five needs mentioned above.
Vision. In 1984, representatives of some Latin American missions and inter-church agencies met in Mexico City with representatives of North American mission agencies to discuss ways to instill a missionary vision into the local churches of Latin America. The result is the Latin American Congress on Missions (COMIBAM), to be convened in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in November, 1987. More than just an event, this congress has started a process of missions consultations and national congresses on missions in 23 countries. The 3,000 delegates to the congress will be able to take home practical books and monographs in Spanish or Portuguese which will serve as tools for them to start local missions movements at home. Two-thirds of the funding of this conference will come from Latin America, one-third from other countries. It is a large-scale example of what can happen when Western agencies enter into TOPS with non-Western agencies.
This kind of effort could be duplicated, on a large or small scale. Countries like Korea, Japan, Ghana, and Zimbabwe could greatly benefit from such vision-producing partnerships. On an international scale, each region of Africa, Southeast Asia and the Far East could greatly multiply their missionary vision through such efforts.
Organization and strategy. The autonomous Assemblies of God churches of nine Asian countries, together with their U.S. counterpart, have worked together for seven years to sponsor specific missionary projects through the Assemblies of God Asian Missions Association (AGAMA). Once specific projects are agreed upon, each country targets a specific amount of personnel and resources to help complete the project.
Western agencies can often serve as consultants, or even catalysts, in helping non-Western churches initiate their own mission structures. The Emerging Missions department of OC Ministries has been involved in such ministry with considerable success. We should not minimize the importance of assisting the emerging missions as they begin to organize and strategize for the task.
Training. The African Inland Church Missionary College, which was recently dedicated in Eldoret, Kenya, is a good example of a partnership which promises to multiply many African missionaries into the harvest. Dedicated specifically to the task of training African missionaries, the college is a result of cooperative sponsorship and direction by both Western missionaries and African leaders. The college states:
The best way to win the world for Jesus Christ is through a partnership of workers from established and emerging missions. Missionary College graduates must be prepared to work with missionaries from Asia, Europe and the Americas as well as missionaries from other African nations.
There are already many examples of Western agency involvement in the training of non-Western missionaries, especially at existing seminaries and Bible colleges. There is, however, a growing movement toward separate missionary training institutions. Missionary training is the one area where different denominations can profitably cooperate. Good missionary training need not step on any denominational toes. It is quite feasible for a missionary candidate to take theological training at his own denominational school, then take missionary training at an interdenominational school. Just such a school is being established by the Nigerian Evangelical Missions Association (NEMA) in Jos, Nigeria. Many Nigerian mission agencies intend to train their missionaries at this school. Partnership in the establishment of such a school could benefit many other groups.
Information. The task of collecting and disseminating information concerning target cultures and countries is an area where TOPS can be very effective. For example, Worldwide Evangelization Crusade International joined forces with Calvary Ministries (Nigeria) a few years ago to survey the entire country of Guinea. Their objective was to learn the most strategic way to deploy their missionary forces. NEMA is planning to undertake a similar project for all of Nigeria, and could greatly benefit from partnership with Western agencies in this task. COMI-BAM is sponsoring research throughout Latin America, Spain, and Portugal to discover the peoples and countries of greatest need for missionary work. These are all excellent research projects, and it would benefit the whole body of Christ if Western agencies would write these projects into their regular budgets.
Financial Partnership. One basic principle of TOPS is that each participating agency contribute toward the task what resources it can best give. This will vary according to the partners and the task. SIM International has recently entered into partnership with the Philippines Missionary Association (PMA) to send Filipino missionaries to South America. Contrary to what might be expected, all the large capital expenses, like travel and outfits, are raised through the PMA in the Philippines. The monthly support is raised through SIM in other countries. Six couples are serving as missionaries to Bolivia under this arrangement. If a true spirit of sharing resources emerges, there are many kinds of TOPS through which Western agencies can accomplish their goals together with non-Western agencies.
PRACTICAL STEPS TO TOPS
Research. Western agencies should commit resources to discovering strategic tasks in which partnership is desirable. If the partners, by working together, can accomplish the task(s) more effectively and/or efficiently than any partner working alone, partnership should be actively pursued. Possibilities: (1) The evangelization of a people group in India combining long-term Indian missionaries, short-term Western missionaries, and mutual funding; (2) find worthwhile projects already being attempted by the emerging missions, then discover the best ways to assist them.
Task Agreement. Once research indicates there is a possibility for partnership, investigation should follow to determine if partner agencies are interested in forming a TOP. Leaders of partner agencies should meet to agree upon basic policy and relationships.
Strategy Document. Once agreement has been reached for pursuing a partnership, representatives of the partner agencies should develop a general strategy specifying the allocation of personnel and resources to accomplish the task. This document should clarify goals and time sequences of the project. It should also establish policies for the supervision of the project until completion.
Formal Agreement. The strategy document should form the basis of a formal agreement which should be signed by all partner agencies. This should serve as both an official contract and guide to all partners throughout the implementation of the project.
Establishing task-oriented partnerships requires vision, trust, and courage. The world will not stand still while we deliberate whether we want to risk the effort. There are too many needs to ignore the challenge. Perhaps excerpts from a letter I recently received from an African leader best concludes this article and makes the point:
…God is really opening doors to reach the 300,000 Muslims in our area…We have won only 2,500 in ten years…We have ten churches, ten preaching stations, and ten pastors. We are waiting on the Lord in prayer and fasting…Our church is located in a rural area and we only get $600 total offering for a year… As chairman of this church, (I) would like to know if you could kindly direct our church to a…ministry (which could) send a man to come and teach our church so that we can be self-reliant and reach our goal of sending ten missionaries (to Muslims) by 1987.
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