by Ruth Tucker
A Selection of significant articles about missions
Many missionaries are unhappy, but Dave and Linda Baer think there’s a cure. They offer "The Baer’s Nine Uninspired Comandments for Missionary Happiness Under Stress" in the Latin America Evangelist.
Their first is "Read Torn Clancy." le words, "have some diversionary reading, movie-watching, or other soul food that has no connection with your work." The second and third emphasize setting aside an hour a day of quiet and guarding against time-consuming commitments.
Their fourth is "Fix your eschatology," The Baers remind the missionary, "You are not the Messiah…. There are lots of hurting people who will continue to hurt and might well become worse if you don’t help them. But you can’t help them all."
The fifth and sixth focus on physical fitness and healthy sexual relationships. Their seventh is simply "Grow up," followed by some words: "Contrary to popular belief, there are tons of unhappy missionaries about. And it’s not a pretty sight. Latins can feel a North American’s unhappiness from a passing bus. But they will rarely approach you to tell you how you’re coming across. Don’t let yourself blame anyone or any country for your own unhappiness. Make a decision and get happy!" The eighth commandment challenges the missionary to realize "all of life matters, not just that over there called ‘spiritual ‘ministry.’" And the last is "Talk to God." "Prayer isn’t everything, but it is a thing, not when it comes to surviving as a missionary."
Dave and Linda Baer, "The Baers’ Nine Uninspired Commandments for Missionary Happiness Under Stress," Latin America Evangelist, April-June, 1992 (Box 52-79000, Miami, Fla, 33152).
THE PROS AND CONS OF TENTMAKING
"Write an article encouraging people to consider tentmaking evangelism? You must be kidding." These are the opening lines of an article by an unidentified tentmaking couple serving in the Middle East. It is one of four on the subject in Impact.
This couple describes some of the difficulties both members have faced, not the least of which is working "for a secular company which … resists our ideals, our moral character, and our goals." Added to that, a full-time job consumes a lot of time. "We are very much aware that our daily ministry time is far less than our ‘secular’ time."
Besides the professional constraints, there are cultural and religious limitations. "Since the end of the (Gulf) war, we’re seeing a rapid rise of Islamic fundamentalism and of Westerners."
Despite these obstacles, this couple has found many opportunities to spread the gospel, especially since the Gulf war. "While the raged, our small Bible smuggling and ministry ballooned into an enormous effort. In 1989 we had managed to get 20 or so copies of the Scriptures into various closed around us; in the past 18 months we’ve handled more than 3,000."
An editorial by Lois McKinney, entitled "Tentmaking? I Was a Skeptic," offers another perspective. She tells her early suspicions about tent-makers- people who often had little or no theological or missiological training; people with no accountability to a home church, or to a church on the Field; people enjoying a salaried profession (without raising support) and still calling themselves missionaries.
But her skepticism began to dissipate in 1987 when she attended a missions congress in Brazil. Her roommate was Ruth Siemens, a leading proponent of tentmaking, who challenged her to look at the benefits, especially the opportunity to reach people in closed countries and to reach influential professionals diplomats, and government officials who might have very little contact with traditional missionaries.
"Tentmaking is here to stay," McKinney. "In-as the cost of living skyrockets in some part of the world, it may become the most viable means of keeping missionaries on the field." But "effective tentmakers must realize that they are not free agents." They "need academic work in Bible, theology, and missions’" and they must be "accountable to their home church."
Ruth Siemens, in "Tentmaking: Earn Your Living Overseas and Make Disciples," a strong ratio-for tentmaking. She insists that it is a viable form of mission outreach for people of all ages, from students to retirees. She points out that tentmaking is die only means of access to many countries. "Half the world’s people live under governments that do not admit missionaries. China’s billion-plus population is off limits, as are most of the nearly 1 billion Muslims."
Siemens’ own experience is most compelling.
People often ask if a full-time job leaves enough free time and energy for spiritual ministry. When God called me into tentmaking my secular school positions in Peru and Brazil were crucial in providing the sustained people contact so important for evangelism. And the witnessing that began on the job flowed naturally into my free time.
At a school board reception I met Marta, still grieving from her pilot husband’s fatal crash. After a few Bible studies, she invited Jesus Christ into her life.
Then another teacher responded. Most of my sixth-graders joined my Sunday school class and almost all found the Lord. I started high school Bible clubs. Parent conferences brought me invitations into Peruvian homes.
To improve my Spanish I audited classes at the University of San Marcos, and Maria, a psychology student, tutored me weekly. The language lessons became Bible studies and Maria became a believer. With a handful of students from the churches we began what became a large student movement.
If she can do it, readers should be asking, Why can’t I?
Impact, May, 1992, Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society, Box 5, Wheaton, III. 60189.
PREACHING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
The U.S. ban on prayer and Bible teaching in public schools is foreign to some other countries, including Brazil, where Gospel Missionary Union missionaries regularly teach Bible in public schools in Northeast Brazil. Elaine Goossen calls her story in The Gospel Message "Go Therefore and Preach the Gospel in the Public Schools of Brazil,"
Interestingly, her first contacts came from public school teachers who wanted to use GMU’s camp for an outing to celebrate Brazil’s Children’s Day, "We were a bit surprised by the request," she writes, "but we wanted to be sensitive to community needs…. We spent the day relating to kids and teachers, seeking to establish rapport. The day was a great success. That evening, as we said our goodbyes, the principal Joe (Goossen’s husband) if he would present a Bible message at school during the next term. Joe saw this as a possible first step toward beginning regular Bible classes in the school, since instruction,"
The following year Goossen with the principal and received permission for weekly Bible classes. Soon two missionaries and 18 church volunteers were teaching. "Word spread about the good effect the Bible teaching was having in this school, and soon other school teachers came to our Bible teachers asking for Bible classes to be taught in their schools also."
The doors are open to the public schools in Brazil, but "for lack of more teachers," writes Goossen, "we have had to turn down requests from other schools."
Elaine Goossen, "Go Therefore and Preach the Gospel in the Public Schools of Brazil, The Gospel Message, Number 2,1992,10000N. Oak Trafficway, Kansas City, Mo. 64155.
SUPPORT ON THE HOME FRONT
What’s the secret for building a vibrant church comprised of missionary-minded world Christians? An important key is finding the right model. That’s what Ron Wilson does in Ms article in East Asia’s Millions, "Forged in the Crucible: The Story of One Church in Birmingham That’s Taking on the World."
"In 31 years Briarwood Presbyterian Church has seen 450 of their own people leave the church and go over seas as missionaries. They now support some 250 missionary families in than 50 countries, including 50 families from their own church….The missions budget, which roughly equals the church’s operating budget, tops a million dollars, and pastors and lay people come from across the country to learn Briarwood’s secret."
One of the keys to success is its missions pastor, Tom Cheeley. He "believes that missions is Briarwood’s special gift. ‘It’s reason able to assume,’ he says, ‘that if God gives special ministry roles to individuals, he also gives them to churches.’ Briarwood’s gift, he says, is world evangelization."
But no missions pastor could do what Cheeley is doing without the full support of the senior pastor. "Back in 1960, Frank Barker told a handful of church organizers that he would come and be their pastor for the summer. But he hasn’t left yet, and the church that once met in a storefront has grown to nearly 4,000 and now occupies a $32 million plant."
Through his leadership, the congregation has been schooled to believe that the church exists "to reach Birmingham to reach the world." So strong is the missions focus that Cheeley jokes that "if you have an to incorporate into this church, out some way of saying ‘world missions’ in the process and it will fly."
Briarwood did not as a missions-minded congregation. In fact, the offering for the first missions conference was $30. The next year, after Barker had read Triumphant Missionary Ministry in the Local Church, he introduced pledging, and the offering increased 200-fold to $6,000. From there he began contacting mission agencies about missionaries needing support. He quickly learned that many were being delayed or turned away for lack of support. This knowledge became a burden that he passed on to his church, and sacrificial giving became the standard.
"This year the-27th Annual World Missions Conference was a affair…..Flags and banners festooned the sanctuary and fellowship hall. Large continental maps marked the location of missionary families, and urged parishioners to ‘adopt’ one. Some 70 missionaries were on hand; 40 or visiting pastors and church leaders attended a three-day workshop on how to run a world missions program…. The actual of the faith promise (pledges) is not a big production. Barker is not a pulpit pounder…. The response came more from his consistent expository preaching and a steady presentation of missions throughout the year. That results in approximately half of the members pledging for world missions. The number of those giving to missions goes up each year. This year the staff is praying for 125 new givers,"
"Missionaries are not else’s responsibility and it’s not their ministry," says Cheeley. "It’s God’s, and we’re both responsible for it."
Ron Wilson, "Forged in the Crucible: The Story of One Church in Birmingham That’s Taking on the World," East Asia’s Millions, 10 West Dry Creek Circle, Littleton, Colo. 80120.
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