by Dean Merrill
To mark the occasion, we asked the heads of our sponsoring associations where we are in missions now compared to 1964.
To mark the occasion, we asked the heads of our sponsoring associations where we are in missions now compared to 1964. What have been the major 20-year trends The keen analysis of Wade Coggins (EFMA) and Edwin L. (Jack) Frizen, Jr. (IFMA) grows out of many years of experience.
By wade Coggins and Edwin L.(Jack) Frizen
Twenty years ago, on February 25, 1964, the first Editorial Committee of Evangelical Missions Quarterly was appointed: Edwin L. Frizen, Jr., Clyde Taylor, Ralph Odman, Jack Shepherd, Philip Armstrong, Horace Fenton, Jr., and James Reapsome, chairman. Three months earlier the Quarterly had been brought to life by a joint committee of the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association. The first issue appeared in October, 1964. On the twentieth anniversary of our birth, we look back at what’s happened in missions over the last two decades. The following interviews with Wade Coggins and Edwin L. (Jack) Frizen, Jr., help us to do that.—Ed.
How far have we come in inter-mission cooperation over the past 20 years?
Coggins: There has been significant progress. Evangelical Missions Information Service and its publications are a prime example of a new level of cooperation. Joint regional committees of EFMA and IFMA have improved communication among missions, and have been instrumental in improving cooperation overseas. Missions, for example, were instrumental in initiating the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar (AEAM). AEAM is now a strong church-related association. EFMA and IFMA have committees dealing with special areas of concern, such as: personnel matters, cost of living concerns, ministry training, and so on.
Looking over personnel policies, both recruiting and placement, what trends have you seen since 1964?
Coggins: One significant factor in recruiting is the increase in the number of missionaries coming out of secular colleges and universities as compared with those coming out of Bible schools and Bible colleges. This seems to be the result of the effective evangelism by a number of youth organizations. From that source many young people have been finding their way into missionary service.
There has also been a trend to recruit missionaries with specific skills and experience to fill positions that are requested by overseas churches. They may serve in communications, education, medicine, agriculture, etc. With the emphasis during the past few years on reaching unreached people groups through church planting, there has been a swing back to the missionary whose work involves entering new areas and doing church planting.
Patterns of length of service have varied. During this period of time, there has been a very significant increase in the number of people going out for summer assignments (and other types of assignments involving a few months). Large numbers have also gone as short-termers, serving for less than two years. The core of the missionary force, however, continues to be the career missionary who goes with a view to lifetime commitment. There may be interruptions after one or two terms for family or personal reasons, but basically those remaining constitute the core of the missionary force.
Another group is commonly known as "tentmakers." There is still a great deal of misunderstanding and miscommunication about this type of ministry. While great numbers of American Christians live and work abroad, only a handful of them qualify as tentmakers. A tent-maker is a person who has training in Bible knowledge and is skilled in cross-cultural Christian work. Such a person is prepared to do a significant missionary task while he earns his living working for some non-missionary employer. Under this definition, the rise in tentmakers has not been as significant as is sometimes supposed.
What about so-called service missions? What has happened since 1964 in specialized work?
Coggins: Service missions have continued to function in very much the same way as 20 years ago. In some cases there has been appropriate and increased cooperation with other ministries, but by and large they continue to carry out their own specialties. Frequently, they serve others who need their specialty. Those served may be either churches or other missionary organizations. This is especially true in literature and radio.
As far as cooperation in combining various communications ministries, such as radio and literature, very little has been done. In some cases broadcasters have gone into literature work to follow up and service listeners, but actual cross-pollination between specialized literature ministries and radio ministries has been slow in coming. A matter of urgent need, in view of the coming communications revolution, is for various media users to work out their programs together.
Linguistics continues to be a very specialized area, but a number of general missions are also reducing languages and translating materials. There are special cooperative efforts between groups like Wycliffe and some of the missions.
Medical work tends to be carried on by the individual missions. There are, however, a few cases of cooperative medical endeavors. Medical work has changed in nature over the years because many governments now provide hospitals. Perhaps the most significant new development is the interest in primary health care and other types of community concerns in medicine.
Two specialized youth organizations, Operation Mobilization and Youth With A Mission, have grown older and have begun to increase their ongoing staff. They also continue to emphasize recruiting young people for short-term ministries around the world. Their emphasis varies widely according to the conditions within the country where they are doing the work. Their ships have been able to get into some unlikely places such as the Arab countries and Mainland China.
What have been the major innovations in relief and development work?
Coggins: The major trend is the move from emergency relief to a broad spectrum of development activities. The majority of agencies that started out as relief agencies have now moved into longer term ministries. Typically, they have worked through the transition from emergency to rehabilitation to development. They help people find ways to restructure their lives.
Tensions over verbal witness and practical service have become less acute in recent years. Differences have not disappeared, but at least there is increased communication on the subject. There is wider acceptance of the fact that some development and community activities are appropriate for evangelical agencies.
There has been some increased cooperation between the regular missions and the relief and development agencies. Increased development activities have given rise to some debate about whether evangelical agencies should accept grants and funding from the United States government. This is still being studied and debated, but a number have established separate corporations that are non-sectarian and they are receiving some grants.
What trends in government and politics, U.S. and overseas, have affected missions since 1964?
Coggins: From the U.S. point of view, government and government activities are not a major factor in missionary work. Some things have had an impact. As noted in the previous question, the willingness of government to deploy funds through private voluntary organizations has resulted in some quasi-mission operations receiving government funds. What the impact of this may be over the long run probably is not apparent at the present time.
On another front, U.S. passports are less frequently restricted than they were in the past. Few countries are ever off-limits for American citizens. This has created opportunities for tentmakers to go into countries where missionaries might not be accepted, but where private citizens can find ways to live and witness.
Overseas, the picture has been mixed. There have not been major shifts in open countries since 1964. However, a number of countries have become somewhat more difficult to enter. The Communist influence in Africa has placed some countries off limits, to some degree. On the whole, however, missions have continued to operate in most countries where they were serving before 1964.
Heightened political tensions between the Right and Left in such places as Central and South America have set up some dangerous situations for missionaries, but on the whole, they have been able to continue ministries in the region.
Are church-mission relations overseas any better in 1984 than in 1964?
Coggins: Relationships have improved. Some tensions remain, but many have been overcome. Some are using written agreements to arrive at a firm understanding of the responsibility of each partner. Some have moved toward the merger of some of their functions.
The rising interest in missionary work by churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America is a significant factor. When a national church begins to send foreign missionaries, their relationship with their own missionary founders often improves. They consider ways of working together in joint mission, either within the country or externally. This draws them together with a common vision and purpose.
What have been the major trends in world missions over the last 20 years?
Coggins: Specialized training in church planting, or church growth, has increased to such a degree that it might be called a trend. A very significant trend has been the development of missionary agencies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The rapid growth of emerging missions and the increasing vision for missions among churches around the world is probably having a stronger impact than most of us yet realize. There is a lot of talk and excitement about tentmakers, but evidence does not yet confirm a major thrust in that direction. We may be seeing the beginning of a trend.
If you could pick out only one thing, what would be the most significant thing that has happened in world missions since 1964?
Coggins: The rise of mission agencies and missionaries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The growth rate of this movement overshadows the growth rate in North America and Europe over the same period of years.
A second development, if you permit, is the new way of viewing the unfinished task. The unreached people group movement has caught the imagination of a lot of people and convinced them that there is indeed a remaining task. Coming on the heels of a time when people were talking about maturing national churches and conflicts between missions and churches, the concept of vast numbers of unreached people groups has challenged people to a new involvement in missions. This concept also challenges missions as they seek to find unreached peoples and prepare strategies to reach them. An increase in prayer concern for world evangelization is also significant.
What has been the role of local North American churches relative to world missions over the last 20 years? Frizen: Local churches have generally increased their financial support of worldwide missions, but not in proportion to their expenditures for church plant, staff, and school. Evangelical churches that participate in a program of personal support of missionaries have been a major source of funding for missions. Missions responding to a recent survey reported an average of 56 percent church support, with the next largest amount coming from individuals. Relief and development agencies have a much larger percentage of income from individuals.
A significant factor in local church mission involvement has been the rise of the Association of Church Missions Committees and the helps it has provided to pastors and local church missions committees.
What part have North American schools-Bible institutes, colleges, and seminaries-played in world missions over the last 20 years?
Frizen: Bible institutes, Christian colleges, and seminaries have performed a key role in the preparation of prospective missionary candidates. Almost 100 percent of career missionaries are products of these schools. In recent years a significant number of faculty members have become involved in short-term overseas service using their expertise to assist mission and church schools. A number of theological seminaries have upgraded their missions programs.
In terms of church planting, how have we done?
Frizen: This has been a period of increased specialization in missions. The training schools have reflected this in their curricula. While courses in church growth have been developed in most schools, there have been almost no specific courses in church planting. This is being corrected.
North American missionary candidates have experienced very few role models in church planting. Thus, missions have had increasingly more difficulty in maintaining their church planting thrust. This has hampered church planting in unreached areas. In the past few years this has started to change, with more and more national and missionary church planters and church-planting teams making progress in strategically targeted areas.
Over these decades mobilization evangelism has been effectively employed, particularly in Africa (New Life for All) and Latin America (Evangelism-in-Depth).
How well have we done in nurturing our churches established by missions?
Frizen: Evangelical missionaries have worked diligently at nurturing the believers of churches they have established overseas. Strong emphasis has been maintained to see that children and young people are nurtured in various church, school, and club programs.
Bible schools have continued to be a high priority for evangelicals in all countries and have recently been strengthened by accreditation programs led by evangelicals. Both lay and ministerial training have been upgraded by the introduction of theological education by extension (TEE). The IFMA and EFMA Committee to Assist Ministry Education Overseas (CAMEO) has had a significant role in popularizing the TEE concept around the world. Workshops on TEE and programmed instruction techniques have helped to prepare mission and church educators to make theological training available to more grassroots church leaders who are not able to leave their families and jobs for three or four years to attend resident Bible training schools. During this period, evangelicals established graduate seminaries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America, making this significant training available to Christians in their own cultural setting.
Where have we come in the last 20 years in mission finances?
Frizen: Inflation has greatly affected the mission movement. Sending missionaries overseas is an increasingly expensive undertaking, particularly in supporting large missionary families. Churches and individuals have continued to provide the needed funds for evangelical missionaries. Funds for mission projects and administration are more difficult to secure. Most independent or interdenominational missions still operate under a personalized support system, with missionaries securing faith promises toward their needed support. Individuals and churches that want all of their contributions to go to the personal support needs of particular missionaries are not always the best stewards of misson funds. In extreme cases missionaries are hampered in effective missionary service. They and their family may have full living support, but have little or no funds for ministry expenses.
There has been some movement toward churches giving more support to their own missionary members, while seeking to interest sister churches in the area to take on the remaining support needs. This frees the missionary to spend quality time with supporting churches on furlough, or home ministry times, rather than having to travel thousands of miles each furlough to visit supporters. A good example is the program of six churches in the greater Detroit area. The home church seeks to provide 50 percent of its missionary member’s financial needs, while the other five churches each attempt to provide 10 percent of needed funds.
Today missions are saving funds by good money management practices. Missionary support now includes items such as transportation to and from the field, field ministry expense, medical, hospitalization, and retirement programs. Thus the number of special offerings for missionary "emergency" needs has been greatly reduced.
What have been the major trends in world missions over the last 20 years?
1. Cooperation among evangelicals exemplified by cooperation between IFMA and EFMA, representing both the independent and denominational mission agencies. The strongest joint committees include Evangelical Missions Information Service; Committee to Assist Ministry Education Overseas; Personnel Committee, and area committees for Africa and Latin America. This cooperation is also seen in the growth and development of national evangelical fellowships. Many of these national fellowships are related to the World Evangelical Fellowship and continental groups such as the Association of Evangelicals for Africa and Madagascar.
2. Missiological studies have been upgraded with courses through the doctoral level at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Fuller Theological Seminary, and other evangelical seminaries. The Association of Evangelical Professors of Missions and the American Society of Missiology have been developed.
3. Medical missions have been undergoing an evolution of their basic approach. The trend is from curative to preventative, from medical institutions to community based primary health care programs.
4. Recognition of the contribution of missionaries from the developing countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The WEF Missions Committee provides a forum for mission interest from all parts of the world to all parts of the world. The leadership of missions is no longer limited to administrators and missiologists from the Western world.
5. Theological education overseas for evangelicals is no longer limited to Bible institute levels. Evangelical colleges, seminaries, and graduate seminaries are now a reality in all continents. Theological education by extension has matured as a recognized training system. Accreditation of evangelical theological education programs is now a reality in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
6. New mission agencies and short-term missions.
7. A number of significant evangelical churches with strong missions involvement have added staff members serving as missions pastor or missions director. Such churches have related themselves to the Association of Church Missions Committees (ACMC). These churches are interested in becoming involved directly in missions strategy.
8. The use of computers for translation and other literature projects. Radio, TV and other media tools are being used to greater advantage in communicating the gospel worldwide.
9. One of the most encouraging trends is the focus on frontier peoples and unreached people groups. The U.S. Center for World Mission is one of the most strategic agencies giving strength to this trend. This period has seen a great growth in interest in missions to Muslims and other groups difficult to reach.
10. The legitimacy of Europe as a needy mission field has been recognized during these 20 years. Missions to Europe are enjoying an increasingly larger percentage of missionary candidates.
11. Another important trend is the recognition by foreign mission agencies in North America of their responsibility in helping to reach ethnic groups within North America, including North American Indians and the one million or more newcomers arriving each year in the U.S. and Canada. Some 50 percent or more are Spanish-speaking.
What missiological and theological issues have surfaced since 1964?
Frizen: The IFMA-and EFMA-sponsored Congress on the Church’s Worldwide Mission at Wheaton College in 1966 highlighted major missiological and theological issues. Major study papers were presented and discussed on syncretism, neo-universalism, proselytism, neo-Romanism, church growth, the need of foreign missions, evangelical unity, evaluating methods, social concern, and a hostile world
In 1967 the Evangelical Missions Information Service sponsored a conference which considered church and mission relations. This has been one of the major issues of these decades, including both the relation of the mission to the church planted overseas as well as to the sending church.
Other significant issues are best seen in three areas:
Theological contextualization charismatic renewal liberation theology power encounter nature of evangelism dialogue biblical inerrancy hermeneutics centrality of church centrality of prayer
Sociological nationalism resurgence of non-Christian religions population expansion atheistic ideology world economics materialism urbanization community development
Missiological methods of communication unreached people groups mission frontiers methods of evangelism ethnomusicology short-term workers mental health of missionaries theological education church growth in China church growth in Eastern Europe
If you could pick out only one thing, what would be the most significant thing that has happened in world missions since 1964?
Frizen: My choice is the renewed focus on unreached people groups and penetrating the frontiers still remaining. This has influenced missions agencies at home and in the field to evaluate the work of their missionary staff, to see if they are in fact reaching out to unreached peoples. It has helped new mission agencies of churches in developing countries to make their own mission goals without working toward an institutional approach to their work. In North America, the movement has given a renewed vision to many supporting churches, prospective candidates, and missionary training schools.
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