by William D. Taylor
What training do we need, who shall do it, and where? These are some basic issues for missions.
Last Sunday night in two different countries four choice servants of the Lord were commissioned to missionary work in the Middle East. Roberto and Maria are two of some 40,000 non-Western missionaries (including both short- and long-termers), while Dan and Rebecca of the United States are two of some 88,000 Western short- and long-term missionaries.
Although these two couples have much in common, there are significant differences between them, beyond the fact that they come from different countries and do not have the same financial backing. Roberto and Maria wanted some formal Bible study, but they belong to a church that, while it has a heart for reaching the world, also has a very negative attitude toward formal biblical or missiological study. By contrast, Dan and Rebecca’s church and mission agency wanted them to spend at least four years in theological and missiological study prior to leaving for the field.
Our Latin couple is going out without a mission agency (their church is sending them) and with a heart to pick up the language as best they can. The American couple, also sent by their church, is going through an agency and they anticipate two years of Arabic study.
Roberto and Maria have done a two-year internship in their church; their leaders know them and have tested and confirmed their gifts. However, Dan and Rebecca went to seminary right after college, and have kept in touch with their church, but their preparation has been more theoretical than practical and proven.
Which of these two couples will make the best missionaries? Which will have the greatest heart for the unreached? Which will learn the language best? Which will be shepherded adequately by leaders who will also help them strategize? Which has a greater guarantee of receiving ongoing financial support? Which will last longer in the Arab world? Which is truly ready to leave for the Middle East? And why?
These two examples are not fictitious. In some form or another, I have counseled similar couples. As I travel the world and interact with the missions movement in both Western and non-Western countries, I see clearly that we face new challenges in pre-field equipping of our missionary force, and that all of us must learn from each other.
The North American missions enterprise is mature and rich. It has developed an effective way to get candidates to the field. It supports formal pre-field study, but in some ways it may be recruiting and training missionaries for a world that no longer exists. It suffers from inflexibility in the face of radical challenges from younger church and missions leaders.
On the other hand, the non-Western missionary movement is much younger, but it is rich in people, with thousands of candidates waiting to go. It is more church driven, whether by denominations or local churches. But it suffers from organizational weaknesses and cannot easily launch and sustain candidates.
Support patterns are irregular. In too many cases, missionary support peters out after the first year or two, even though the promises of support were enthusiastic at the beginning. There are relatively few agencies; many candidates use nontraditional methods to get to the field. Relatively few non-Western missionaries have adequate training, and far too many soon quit the field.
My own interest is primarily in pre-field training. What are some of the issues and concerns? How can we best serve each other-Western and non-Western churches and agencies-in missionary training? First, let me examine one way to look at training. Then we will return to other key issues.
We must not look at the following categories necessarily as stages of training. Some things, such as the personal disciplines and the local church, endure through the entire process. Nevertheless, there is a process. The major components are identified in Figure 1. (See page 244.)
1. Personal disciplines. The personal spiritual disciplines are foundational: spirituality, life in the word of God (study, self-nurture, sharing our findings), prayer, fasting, personal life, relationships, purpose in life, missionary motives, sense of call (burning commitment to serve God cross-culturally), and spiritual warfare.
2. Local church. The local church is Training crucial. Too often, in both Western and non-Western countries, it has been marginalized. The church must be the testing ground of service, a house of prayer, the arena where gifts are confirmed and exercised, the place where leaders and members together evaluate candidates. After the church is satisfied with the candidates’ experience in evangelism, discipleship, and church planting, it sends them out with both financial and prayer support.
3. Formal and non-formal studies. Biblical and theological studies are central to preparation, even though not all candidates must have the same formal training. Study programs must be tailored both to the individual and to the individual’s future ministry. Where this study should be done depends on the candidates and personal needs. Unfortunately, Western schools for the most part do not have flexible programs that integrate formal, non-formal, and informal education. Since not all candidates can take a year’s residence study, we need some alternatives. However, candidates for career service-the kind who are needed for long-term church-planting work the unreached-should be willing to invest at least one year in a residence school.
4. Cross-cultural studies. This kind of preparation in some cases can be done simultaneously with biblical and theological studies. However, some non-Western missionary training schools take a different approach. Their students have already completed their formal biblical studies. One school I know of requires two years of prior pastoral and ordination. Their program focuses exclusively on cross-cultural communication, pioneer church planting, and missionary life.
5. Pre-field equipping. More agencies are expanding their own training, partly because of some unhappiness with formal training. These programs vary from two weeks to two years and cover the agency’s doctrinal, practical, operational, and geographical distinctives. Of course, if the church-either local or denominational-is the sending body, it teaches its unique elements.
6. On-field training. Missionaries need sensitive shepherding and further training to maximize their gifts and service. The sending church itself, or the agency, must offer in-service training.
7. Training trainers. In the West, we have expected teachers of mission to set the missiological qualifications, both practical and theoretical. To be effective and authentic, they themselves must have had significant cross-cultural experience. They must be contextualized communicators, as well as good teachers, shepherds, disciplers, models, and mentors. They must demonstrate team commitment to both discipleship and learning.
Having examined the training process, let us look at other important re-issues. Many of my observations from non-Western colleagues.
1. Who needs to be trained? First, these are those who serve cross-culturally in their own countries, such as U.S. missionaries to the Navajo Indians in Arizona, or Indian missionaries from South India to the tribals in North India. They cross linguistic, geographic, and cultural barriers, but they do not need visas.
Second, there are those who cross many barriers and who need visas to serve in another country. Third, there are tentmakers serving in countries closed to missionaries. Fourth, there are non-residential missionaries. Fifth, there are long-term "student missionaries," always enrolled, studying, and evangelizing.
2. What about the trainers? Where will the trainers of missionaries come from, and where will they receive their own training? The West has a substantial pool of gifted women and men for this task. Non-Western institutions have fewer experienced missionaries to serve as trainers. Therefore, experienced, competent Western missionaries should invest a major part of their lives in training non-Western missionaries.
At the same time, we must encourage the training of a new corps of non-Western trainers. This does not mean sending them to the West for more theoretical training. Rather, some Western schools should adopt a non-Western training program and invest in this unique partnership.
3. We need integrated pre-field training. Because many Western agencies require only formal schooling, and are too structured, some Western and non-Western churches are bypassing them. They are sending out enthusiastic, gifted people, who are not sufficiently prepared for career service.
Non-Western church and mission leaders generally desire good pre-field training, but they don’t want their people to fall into the trap of formal, theoretical, degree-driven programs that divorce them from reality and from their churches. Mission agencies, churches, and schools must come up with the best integrated training possible.
4. We must analyze our learning and teaching styles. How do people think and learn? How do we teach in light of differences? Too often oar teachers assume that all people think and learn the same way. Consequently, teachers and students often get frustrated. Learning styles are affected by cultural, gender, and genetic factors.
5. Non-Western missions leaders want training in their own contexts. This may appear to be obvious, but I am surprised by how many people think that the West is the only place to get theological and missionary training. A few years ago a Singaporean pastor who was headed into missions asked me to help him get a scholarship to study in the United States "where the best missiological schools are." After listening carefully, I gently suggested that for cross-cultural service he would gel the best training in either India, the Philippines, or in Singapore itself.
Missionary training in an Indian, Latin, or Nigerian context brings with it the reality of economic deprivation, with sparse campuses, resources, and staff. Training in Korea, Japan, and offers another economic perspective. Contextualized training requires people of different academic and social levels to together.
6. Non-Western missionaries and trainers should get their training in learning communities, with continual interaction between faculty, staff, and candidates. Most Western training centers do not offer this opportunity. Training must develop spirituality and discipleship in community, because missionary survival in most cases depends less on formal schooling and more on deep spirituality and the ability to live in harmony with colleagues. All Nations Christian College in England is one example of a school that emphasizes this kind of interaction.
7. Our training should combine formal with non-formal and informal education. We are most familiar with formal education with its emphasis on classes, grades, examinations, written work, degrees, and a host of academic requirements for graduation. The values of this approach must be balanced with the other two approaches.
Non-formal education is planned, purposeful study, but usually not in the classroom. It combines field work with evaluation and dialogue, group activities, practical courses, and internships. Graduation requirements are more related to the ministry skills acquired during training.
Informal education looks at the ethos of the training community, the life of the missionary in daily contact with fellow students and with staff as disciplers, models, and mentors.
Certain practical questions arise from these seven considerations, which relate to all missionary training, Western and non-Western. While the non-Western leaders develop their own new programs (some still copying Western models, but others starting new ones), their Western counterparts have to ask and answer some questions about their own missions industry which has bought so heavily into formal, theoretical, non-church-related education. Is it possible that the accreditation bodies (Christian and secular) are more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to effective missionary training?
The major players need to get together and grapple with these issues. I mean future missionaries, receiving and sending churches, mission agencies, churches that either favor or oppose formal training, teachers of mission, and Western school administrators. Together, they should launch a research project to evaluate training and analyze issues, and then offer creative, contextualized training programs.
We need a radical reversal of our thinking, to focus on the outcomes of our trainees instead of curriculum, faculty credentials, administrators, facilities, and library. What knowledge, attitudes, and skills do we want our candidates to have as they enter missionary service? How do biblical leadership requirements fit into our curricula?
Too often, it seems, we promote our programs with slogans something like this: "Here is our program, tops in the world. Study with the best scholars and receive our credible missiological degrees." Of course, the alternative I am proposing would not abandon all of our education structures. But it does call for significant changes.
Western leaders must dialogue with non-Western missionary leaders and listen to their convictions about the Western missionary movement. The West needs to see the creative work being done in some non-Western settings, as well as hear the gracious evaluations of traditional Western missionary training programs.
Let me review once again what I see as the essential qualifications of our missionary trainers. These men and women must: (1) have substantial experience in effective cross-cultural ministry; (2) be gifted teachers who can transmit content, heart, and vision as effective, contextualized communicators; (3) be pastor-shepherds servant hearts, committed to the learning community reflect the realities of cross-cultural service; (4) be able while teaching also to disciple, model, and mentor their students; (5) be competent in their fields.
Of course, non-Western trainers still have to face the difficult decision about where to get their advanced degrees. The situation is changing. For example, Africans can get a master’s degree in missiology at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology; Indians can get a similar degree at Union Biblical Seminary, or South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies; Filipinos at the Asia Theological Seminary; Koreans at a number of schools; Latins at the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Colombia. Every year brings more programs in non-Western countries.
Should they come West for further studies? It all depends. Western schools offer doctoral studies, and I support advanced study at these schools, but only for certain candidates: those who have (1) already proved themselves as missionary trainers; (2) made written commitments to return to their assignments; who will (3) negotiate with their professors for flexibility in assignments and theses subjects in order to research and write contextually; and (4) be shepherded and mentored by sensitive cross-cultural teachers.
Some Western seminaries have invited gifted non-Western missionary trainers to stay and teach for them. Why don’t they instead work out partnerships in dialogue with non-Western leaders and offer contextualized advanced training in other countries?
Roberto and Maria, and Dan and Rebecca, represent thousands of creative, committed cross-cultural missionary servants. They all deserve the most effective and appropriate training, so they can stay on the field as long-term, career missionaries. This is the challenge and opportunity for our mission leaders and trainers.
The younger, enthusiastic, non-Western missionary movement, and the older, more experienced Western movement, can and must combine the wealth of their resources. By so doing they can effectively equip the cross-cultural missionary force to attack enemy strongholds for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and his church.
Four missions educators, two Western and two non-Western, have been invited to respond to William Taylor’s proposals about missionary training. –Eds.
Dean, Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions, Columbia, S.C.
Bill Taylor’s call for "the younger, enthusiastic non-Western missions movement and the older, experienced Western
movement" to combine their resources so as to enhance the effectiveness of missionary training must not go unheeded. He conservatively places the number of non-Western missionaries at 40,000 and the number of Western missionaries at 88,000. However, if present trends continue, by the end of the century the number of missionaries sent from these newly emerging societies will outstrip the number of Western missionaries. He wisely concentrates on long-term, career missionaries. In .the future, I hope he will focus on the growing number of non-Western short termers.
While I concur with the central thrust of his proposal, his analysis, the issues he highlights, and the questions he poses, I do have concerns about three things.
Perhaps for impact he appears to the best of Western missionary preparation with the worst of non-Western missions. This is not helpful because it reinforces the "West is test" syndrome. A continuum is preferable. Some non-Western missionary preparation is superior, while some Western pre-field training is shoddy. Although by no means universally true, in my judgment at least the freshest, keenest thinking about pre-field training, and the most creative preparation, is taking place among the emerging non-Western missions.
I question Taylor’s "Western versus non-Western" dichotomy. For instance, I contend that "non-Western" is not a proper label for Latin America. It is predominantly Western (Southern European mingled with native American) in its cultural orientation. Further, the global pervasiveness and influence of Western culture, particularly in urban areas, makes Taylor’s distinction unhelpful when applied to other areas of the world.
His distinction between "established and emerging missions" isn’t helpful, either, because new missions continue to emerge in North America and Europe, as well as in other parts of the world. What about North Atlantic mission societies as distinct from Two-Thirds World (Africa, Asia, Latin America) societies? I think this terminology best clarifies the discussion.
Although Taylor mentions the importance of learning from each other in regard to both the infrastructures as well as pre-field equipping, most of his article is devoted to the latter, and relatively little is said about the former. Balance is needed.
BONG RIN RO
Dean, Asia Graduate School, Asia Theological Association; Executive Secretary, Theological Commission, World Evangelical Fellowship, Seoul, Korea.
William Taylor clearly brings out the importance of cross-cultural training for Western and non-Western missionary candidates. Nevertheless, the training of non-Western missionaries within their own cultural contexts is doubly significant, because two-thirds of the non-Western missionaries have gone out without adequate cross-cultural training. Consequently, of the non-Western missionaries, both from the fields and from churches, has risen in re-years. Therefore, the time has arrived for the non-Western churches to review their missionary activities in order to gain more effective results.
Non-Western churches have much to learn from their Western brothers strategies and missionary, training. Non-Western missionaries need help in three crucial areas. First, they need missions structures, both at and on the field, because most of them are controlled by the local churches that support them. This has confusion and division among them on the field.
A Korean missionary in the Philippines recently mentioned, "We need a traffic police to oversee 300 Korean in this country."
Missionary candidates must learn how to behave according to the regulations of their mission organizations, with regard to relations to the churches, language studies, finances, mission work, and so on.
Second, many non-Western missionaries need help in educating their children, because their MKs get their in English, not their own language. Consequently, many non-Western missionaries end up in America for their children’s education. The matter of MK education must be dealt with during their training before they go to the field.
Third, missionary training must include the continuing education of non-Western missionaries more in their home countries than in the West Continuing education programs must be developed so that they can work toward advanced degrees in their own cultures.
CLAYTON L. (MIKE) BERG, JR.
Served in theological education in Costa Rica; president of Latin America Mission, 1976-1989, Jacksonville, Fla.
William Taylor has addressed a crucially important subject, especially when the "we" in the title is seen as Christian training leadership throughout the world. His article provides guideposts as expressed most forcefully in the "tough questions" section.
His examples move the reader close to life and reality. His pedagogical underpinnings are clearly and fruitfully demonstrated (learning and teaching styles, as well as working toward clearly defined results). The training dimensions in his helpful diagram provide essential building blocks.
His eight training dimensions appear to be comprehensive, but do they reflect an unduly individualistic approach, without giving sufficient attention to group dynamics? Are they restricted by a career-service without adequately addressing the trends toward short-term service and short-term opportunities?
His emphasis on the local church, and on the obvious but seldom recognized need to integrate formal, non-formal, and informal education, elicit strong support from me.
Regarding the contributions of both West and non-West, we need to keep in mind the tension between the Western, goal-setting, managerial approach to missions (with great value given to church growth statistics), and the non-Western penchant for being more relational as well as more conscious of the spirit world. Each can learn much from the other.
In terms of contextualization, cultural sensitivity lies much deeper than is generally realized. Differences in dress, language, music, thinking processes, and social customs are fairly obvious. But how does one get into the very soul of the people-their world view and deepest underlying values?
It is well to recognize the limits of pre-field study, especially about culture. Readiness to learn plays an important role. When the reality of a situation presses down on one, the principles begin to sink in.
As I thought about how grateful I was to Bill Taylor, and pondered the scope of his article, a disquieting thought tugged at me. Is it enough to consider the evangelization of the world from a strictly missiological stance? What is true about missionary training applies in large measure to the preparation for all kinds of ministry in the church. How can we better integrate theological studies and missiological studies at whatever level and in whatever form, into an "on-the-scenes," local church-oriented, growing experience of learning and serving all over the globe, East and West, North and South?
Dean, Asian Cross-Cultural Training Institute, Singapore
The Western mission force has channeled the gospel to all continents, and now the Holy Spirit is teaching and sending a multitude of gospel receivers to join in today’s mission force.
I affirm Bill Taylor’s emphasis on the need for an integrated missionary training that is "free from the bondage of curriculum, faculty credentials, or facilities." He has gathered a sufficiently wide spectrum of views for missionary trainers to spend months in dialogue, and for our implementation.
Bill suggested that "competent and experienced Western missionaries (should) invest a major segment of their lives training their non-Western counterparts." While I fully support such a cooperative effort, a careful selection of these trainers is essential.
Can a missionary trainer train cross-culturally? It depends on whether he can work under the leaders of the host country. I have seen excellent Western in non-Western classrooms, but they appear to be very impersonal and not trainee-oriented. They may rich lecture materials, but if they keep important Western seminary patterns either they will not last long, or the training center will collapse. Honest, sincere contextualization principles apply to this international missionary training.
Certainly there is the temptation for gifted non-Western missionary trainers to stay on the staffs of some Western institutions. But the West can also see a tremendous open door for competent, experienced non-Western missionaries to invest a segment of their lives training Western counterparts.
The time will come when Western trainees discover the benefits of receiving training in their target continents, and, moreover, it may cost less. To borrow Larry Keyes’ language, modern missionary training needs "feet and faces of all colors."
We need to build Christian leaders with ‘a global heart. Missionaries teach TEE-theological education by extension. How about MEE-missions education by extension? Missionary training should begin with a healthy missions education program at all levels, to all age groups.
STRUGGLING MISSIONS COMMUNITY
Reflecting on the state of our missions community, one can truly say that it is a straggling community. The downturn in the economy has highlighted some of the weaknesses existing in the system, and while many missions are attempting to overcome these systemic problems with "more prayer and hard work," others are beginning to realize that the world has indeed changed. The U.S. supporting constituency, as well as the context in which we minister around the world, will never be as predictable or understandable as we thought it was.
We’re in the midst of a massive reshuffling of the financial forces in missions. The evangelical denominations, which for many years were the bulwarks for the advance of Christ’s kingdom through cross-cultural ministries, find themselves with decreasing financial resources. Foreign missions has been the last to feel the pinch, but now denominational foreign mission boards recognize that the decreasing loyalties of churches and individuals to denominational structures impacts them as well.
The church in America is realigning her priorities. Churches are shifting to meet needs along the home front. The foreign field is no longer the exotic, faraway place. It is the familiar electronic image which enters their homes almost every night. Because of its sanitized, bloodless familiarity, it does not seem so lost or needy when compared to the "real" flesh and blood problems which we face in our own land.
For some of our member missions there is a lack of candidates. Far more agencies are facing the problem of having numbers of qualified candidates to send out and the inability to do so. This is true either because the pipeline for support raising is already full, or because of the denomination’s inability to gamer and increase support levels.
At home there is an increased desire by the church to shift the world evangelization burden to the new, emerging forces in world evangelization, la most instances this is an opportunity to shift the load of responsibility and the finances that go along with it to someone else. It enables the donor and local church the luxury of consciences untroubled by the reality of the unreached world. In most instances, this self-serving reaction is an effort to decrease cost rather than to take advantage of new opportunities. Few, if any, new dollars, are invested. We are a struggling community in the midst of change.
—Paul McKaughan, executive director, Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies, in Pulse.