by Gary Corwin
One of the most significant developments in the missions enterprise from North America over the last decade has been the emergence of missiomega churches.
As 5’3" Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets might declare, "Size isn’t everything!" "But," as most basketball coaches would be quick to add, "it sure doesn’t hurt, and you sure can’t ignore it!" Something like that is also true when it comes to churches active in the world mission senterprise: The big ones can do a lot of things that the small ones can’t and they have their own way of going about it.
One of the most significant developments in the missions enterprise from North America over the last decade has been the emergence of missiomega churches. They are differentiated from other mega churches by their commitment in global missions.
Sometimes they are characterized by a go-it-alone approach that largely ignores agencies. The thing most have in common, however, is attitude: They want to be directly involved in a big way.
So how is it going? Missiomega churches have tapped into Baby Boomer and Generation X characteristics and desires in a way that few agencies have. A distrust of organizational bureaucracy, a vision-drivenness, and a desire for hands-on and relational involvement are just a few of the areas that come readily to mind. These churches are geared for quick response, and doing things themselves is often quicker than finding an agency going the same direction. High profile, high publicity needs are attractive to their people because they have seen them on CNN. They want to respond quickly and they can. But they have seldom dealt adequately with the kinds of issues (e.g., strategy and logistics, clarifying the need in light of who else is ministering there, missionary care, etc.) that may have slowed down agencies in the first place.
Missiomega churches tend to follow a corporate model for planning strategies and measuring effectiveness. While strong on accountability and demanding results, the criteria are often skewed almost exclusively toward the quanitative and measurable. Some of these churches assume that almost all agencies are run ineffectively.
Missiomega churches tend to score high on vision and enthusiasm, but low on missiological awareness and preparation. This tends to result in high attrition of workers, and often in hardm to indigenous believers and churches. Entering areas where ministry is already taking place has sometimes been compared to unscrubbed friends barging into the operating room to assist the surgeons.
The short-term mission trip (one to three weeks) is the stock in trade of these churches. Many measure the number of trips annually in double figures, the number of participants in triple figures. They value hands-on participation much more than delegation to what for many are faceless mission bureaucracies.
Missiomega churches represent the single largest pool of human and financial resources available to the missions enterprise from North America. Smart agencies are working hard to relate effectively to them. Gone are the days of the unexamined buy-ins to whatever agendas the agencies happen to bring to the churches. These churches want to shape, or at least help shape, the agenda, and they want respect for their unique role in God’s economy.
One of the biggest, but least discussed, issues facing these churches is how to maximze their characteristic strength of being sensitive to the felt-needs of their flocks, without diminishing their prophetic role in addressing the missionary task. For example, while short-term trips certainly have value, using them as outlets to exorcise congregational "ants in the pants" is no substitute for the kingdom work of getting the gospel to all the peoples of the earth. "Drive-by missions" is not adequate for storming the "gates of hell." It will take the relentless tenacity of "siege-ramp disciple-making" to win the least reached. And that usually requires partnership.
One of the greatest weaknesses in the missions enterprise to date has been the lack of forums for missiomega churches to relate effectively with other stakeholders in the enterprise: the agencies, the training programs, and the mobilizers. While various associations and groups have attempted to build bridges in recent years, moving beyond token representation has not yet been fully achieved. Progress is evident, however.
This is a trend the missions community can celebrate, and to which it should provide some thoughtful encouragement along the way.
Gary Corwin is associate editor of EMQ and missologist-at-large for Arab World Ministries, on loan from SIM.
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