by Gordon D. Loux
When the Berlin Wall was torn down, and the Cold War evaporated, civilization was said to be poised on the verge of “a new world order,” a phrase coined by President George Bush. Then war broke out in the Persian Gulf and it became apparent that “a new world order” was taking shape in the Middle East.
When the Berlin Wall was torn down, and the Cold War evaporated, civilization was said to be poised on the verge of “a new world order,” a phrase coined by President George Bush. Then war broke out in the Persian Gulf and it became apparent that “a new world order” was taking shape in the Middle East. Put in another way, power in the Middle East went through a major paradigm shift.
“Paradigm” is one of those sophisticated “in” words that all of us now use. “Paradigm” is the way we see the world — it’s a model, a composite perception, a frame of reference. Subsequently, a “paradigm shift” may be defined as a “break with tradition and old ways of thinking.”
A paradigm shift of sorts is taking place in our own missions community. We need to recognize this shift if we are going to be effective in the future.
Ten years ago, Roger Blackwell, professor of marketing at Ohio State, said: “The more successful an organization has been in the past, the more likely it will fail in the future unless leadership acts.”
As a North American missions community, we can look back on a great many successes. We have come a long way in recent years. Many positive changes have taken place in our organizations.
Although I have been involved in international Christian work for 25 years, I must admit that my experience in the traditional missions community is limited. From my experience, however, I have struggled with some of the ways Christian organizations operate.
A number of years ago I went to Calcutta. I had been asked to speak at the Bible college started by William Carey and at the church where Adoniram Judson — one of the first American missionaries to India and one of my heroes — had been baptized. When our team got to the college, we discovered that it was surrounded by high walls. To gain access, we had to pound on a large door for more than 10 minutes before we received a response.
While speaking to several students the next day, my heart suddenly broke. I realized that after so many years of ministry, neither the Bible college nor the church had found an Indian who was qualified to head the ministry — only Americans or Canadians. I also thought of how Carey’s labor of love among the people had contrasted with the great walls that now separated the college from the masses.
Another pertinent experience happened when I was living in Pennsylvania and was on the board of a small mission to Tanzania. The mission leader, who had been there for 35 years, brought back one of the converts, Pearson, to take around to churches in the Eastern United States to raise support. He had been a Christian for 15 years and was one of the brightest men I have ever met. Yet he was not allowed to even select songs for the worship service, let alone preach.
It is easy to be a Monday morning quarterback and find places to criticize; that’s not my purpose. My hope is that we will find new paradigms that will work in the next decade.
In 1976, Chuck Colson and I began Prison Fellowship in the United States. Two years later, we started to receive requests to bring Prison Fellowship to various countries.
At first, Chuck felt we should put together the typical American-led organization. However, after more discussion and struggle, we decided to try a new paradigm: Each country from the very beginning must have a national as executive director, a national board, and national funding.
In fact, we added a special requirement, that every country would be required to pay 5 percent of its general fund income to the Prison Fellowship International.
Some of my friends in the Christian community said, “Gordon, you’re out of your mind. This will never work. You can’t expect these countries to pay 5 percent. Where are you going to get the leadership for these countries?” Today, after 10 years, Prison Fellowship ministry is taking place in more than 75 countries — 40 of which have met this chartering criterion.
We also decidedto establish an international board, separate from the Prison Fellowship U.S.A. board. Chuck and I were the only Americans among the 18 members of the board, chaired by Sir Mari Kapi, deputy chief justice of the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea. We also decided to raise up regional directors who were from each region because they understood the culture.
Appianda Arthur served as PFI regional director in Africa for five years. As the son of a paramount chief, Appianda studied at the University at Ghana, came to the U.S. as a Fulbright Scholar, and earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in anthropology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He went back to Ghana, taught at the university, and later became a member of Parliament. He went on to serve as the chairman of the committee on presidential affairs, which ran the radio stations, newspapers, and television stations in Ghana. But through a coup he ended up in political detention.
While in detention, Appianda became a Christian. After his release, he returned to America to attend Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission, both to teach and pursue post-doctoral studies. Afterward, he returned to Africa to develop Prison Fellowship in 22 African countries.
He now serves as vice-president for public ministry with International Students, Inc. In the following section, he addresses the American missions movement both past and present.
For centuries missionaries have been planting seeds in Ghana, West Africa, my home country. I am a beneficiary of the years of investment they have made, not only in Ghana, but throughout the entire world.
I was born in a mission hospital, educated in mission schools, became a Christian because a missionary cared enough to leave his familiar sociocultural environment to come to Ghana and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with me while I was in political detention. This same missionary nurtured me into maturity. Later, I started working full-time with a mission organization.
In my village there are missionary graves—the remains of men and women who invested themselves in distant lands so that people like my family and me would come to a saving knowledge of the one true God.
However, in recounting the political history of many Two-Thirds world countries, any mention of missionaries and the mission movement is often negative. They are characterized as either pundits of colonial governments or agents of foreign intelligence networks.
Although this allegation may be true in some instances, it is also true that many missionaries, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, came and lived among us, built our schools, provided us with health facilities, and then shared with us the salvation message of Jesus Christ.
In Ghana, most people who were involved in the leadership of the independence struggle and who subsequently led Ghana to independence from the British colonial government benefitted from the Christian education that was provided by the missionaries.
Over the years, educational institutions established by missionaries have turned out thousands of young men and women who are currently in leadership roles in government, industry, education, science, and medicine, not only in my country, but also in many other countries of the Two-Thirds world.
In fact, there are still several missionaries assisting in one way or another in our most remote villages.
Personally, I am thankful to missionaries for coming to us, living among us, and for loving us with the salvation message of Jesus Christ.
Some of those young men and women who were ministered to and became Christians are now ready to serve alongside modern-day missionaries in partnership.
As in the relationship between a parent and child, there comes a time when the child grows into adulthood and the parents get older. During this period a role reversal takes place. The child begins to serve the parent the same way that the parent did when the child was young.
We Christian international men and women have come of age. Trust us and let us servetogether in partnership. A family is richer when the children mature and are given opportunities to contribute to the family wealth.
The paradigm shift in missions is already occurring. Larry Pate wrote in Evangelical Missions Quarterly: “All present trends indicate there will be more non-Western missionaries than Western missionaries by 2000 A.D.”
Gordon Aeschleman, in his book Global Trends, wrote:
From a purely statistical point of view, Christianity is a non-Western religion. This reality has yet to impact the majority of us in the United States, but we will experience it in the final decade of the twentieth century. The power and influence of Christianity’s new leadership will be felt in a variety of ways: The top theological schools will be in Asia and Latin America; new questions on theology and praxis will emerge reflecting the social, economic, and political realities of Third World living; few whites will occupy plenary posts at Christian conventions.
We rejoice that a new missionary era has dawned. The dominant role of Western mission is fast disappearing. God is raising up from the younger churches a great new resource for world evangelization, and is thus demonstrating that the responsibility to evangelize belongs to the whole body of Christ. The mission agencies providing significant leadership to tomorrow’s generation of cross-cultural servants will be those that grapple with their insulation from the real issues concerning their Third World partners.
I think Aeschleman may have overstated the case. I agree more with John Naisbitt in Megatrends 2000, who said, “The rise of the East does not mean the decline of the West.” It does not need to be East or West. We both need each other. We have much we can learn from each other.
For me, I must constantly work on putting myself in the shoes of other people. David Zac Niringiye wrote in the January, 1990, Evangelical Missions Quarterly:
It disturbed me that I and my fellow students from overseas were often paraded as “fruit of our missionary efforts.” It made me feel as though our churches in Africa had never done anything in missions. So, I had to grapple with my own role, the role of the churches in Africa generally, and in Uganda in particular.
Tokunboh Adeyemo wrote in the March-April, 1990, issue of Action:
One American misconception regarding the church in Africa is the implication that because we are called Third World, that automatically means that the church is third-class. As a result, the “first-class” church of the West does not have anything to learn from Third World, “third-class” churches. Some assume that there isn’t anything the baby church can contribute to the mother church.
When I joined International Students, Inc., I had to learn about a whole new world. I had spent 12 years working with prisoners around the world, and realized that I had to walk in the shoes of those who had come to study in the United States.
Why this tension between the First and Third World nations? It is partly because we are all products of our own cultures. American nationalism was high last spring because of the events in the Persian Gulf. There is a place for that as Americans, but when we become Christians our primary allegiance must be to a higher kingdom.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:12: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
We have to think globally rather than nationally. We don’t have a great deal of time in which to make that transition. I am reminded of the 1988 Olympics when the Americans were expected to win the gold medal in the 4 x 100-meter race, but in the trial heat Calvin Smith passed it to Lee McNeel too late. Ironically, they won the race but were disqualified because they passed the baton too late.
We in American mission leadership need to be passing the baton to a new generation of leaders. It does not mean thatwe are no longer a part of the race, but that we, as part of the team, are sharing the race with other qualified runners.
Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People presents an interesting concept:
Some people have a “scarcity mentality” and some people have an “abundance mentality.” Those that have a “scarcity mentality” have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power and profit—even with those who help in the production.
They also have a very hard time being genuinely happy for the successes of other people — even, and sometimes especially, members of their own family or close friends and associates.
He contrasts this with the “abundance mentality,” which is
. . . the paradigm that there is plenty out there for everybody. The “abundance mentality” flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.
In my own self-examination, I must ask: “Gordon, do you have a ‘scarcity’ or ‘abundance’ mentality? Do you feel that sharing will take away from you?”
James MacGregor Burns wrote about leadership:
Those organizations that have benefitted society in the long haul, have had at their core a group of people that are committed to a cause that they consider to be greater than themselves and to one another as friends.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one when there is no one to lift him up. And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.
Peter Wagner says that we
. . . must be willing to move from what has been called a “shepherd” attitude to a “rancher” attitude. A rancher sees to it that all people are properly cared for and counseled and consoled, but he, himself, does not attempt to do it personally. He recruits and trains others who are gifted for that task so that his own energies can be used for more crucial specialized leadership roles.
I am also learning that God gifts people for the roles they should play. One of our challenges in Christian leadership is to place people in appropriate roles. Just because a person has been with our organization for a long period of time does not mean the person should be in leadership. By doing so we have denied others who may be more qualified for those particular roles.
We need to take a fresh look at our selection of people in our organizations. We need to look for the most appropriate person for the roles and not be guided by national boundaries.
There should not be affirmative action within our missions so that we place people in leadership roles just because they are of a particular race or nationality. But it cuts both ways. People should not be denied roles because they’re not North American white males.
Unfortunately, when Appianda was appointed vice-president of ISI, I received letters from some of our staff members who essentially said that he should “go back home where he belongs.” It pained me because he has brought quality to our organization. He has had experiences that I have not. He has helped develop policy and strategy for the future that out of our limited experiences we never would have been able to think or dream of.
I can’t speak for other organizations or tell their leaders to restructure, but I will raise the question: Why do we have so little international representation and people of color in the leadership of the North American mission community? Indeed, at the most recent (1990) joint meeting of the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies and the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association, among more than 300 mission leaders, no more than five were internationals.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AND LEADERSHIP
One may ask, Where are we going to get that new leadership? It is among us now. Admittedly, until three years ago I would have never thought about the international student community. I’m like the blind man whom Jesus healed—the scales are now off and suddenly I see 400,000 of the brightest and the best that more than 180 countries have to offer who are studying in the United States. More than 50 percent of them are studying for their master’s, doctorate, or post-doctorate degrees.
There are thousands of committed international believers on the campuses of our Christian colleges and seminaries. Fifteen years ago, when I was living in Wheaton, Ill., and serving as an elder of the Wheaton Bible Church, there was a young man named Bong Ro who was studying at Wheaton College Graduate School and to whom I did not give five minutes of my time. I didn’t make any effort to get to know him. I didn’t see the potential. Today, he heads the Theological Commission of the World Evangelical Fellowship.
There are more men and women of his caliber in America right now, lonely, isolated, and unused in our Christian community. What a resource for those of us in the missions community. Forty present heads of nations have studied in the United States. Tai-wan’s cabinet consists of 18 members, 17 of whom have studied in North America.
One of our staff members at a major Eastern university was leading a Bible study for a number of Asians. One Thursday one of the students did not show up, but called later from his country’s capital to apologize. He explained that his president had called him home to be minister of justice.
Lawson Lau wrote in The World At Your Doorstep: “One-third to one-half of the world’s positions in politics, business, education, and the military will be filled in the next 25 years by foreign students attending colleges and universities in the United States.”
What will these future leaders see of our spiritual lives? Unfortunately, 70 percent of them will never see the inside of an American home. As far as I have been able to determine, Christian ministries are not reaching even 10 percent of them. Their view of American Christianity will be gleaned from television, radio, newspapers, and from their view of the library window.
We must change that. I have a dream that every international student in the United States will have a Christian friend. At ISI, our mission statement affirms that “we exist to serve international students as we share Christ’s love with them—in cooperation with local churches and others—to help equip them for effective service.”
As this “new missions world order” develops, we must form bold new alliances. I propose first a formal partnership between mission organizations and those of us serving ethnic groups and international students, so we can link missionaries going to a particular field with students from that field in an internship.
Second, I propose a partnership with mission organizations so we can use returned missionaries who have had appropriate experience in dealing with the leaders of other nations.
And third, I propose a formal convocation between interested mission organizations and those of us working with international students. We need to discuss how we can develop a partnership that will strengthen our ministry to foreign students, and discover how we can get non-Americans into our mission organizations.
It should not be a “win-lose” situation, but it should be a situation that is good for the nationals of the United States as well as the nationals of other countries. We can no longer be independent agencies doing our own thing. We need each other. We must be risk-takers. We need to have the freedom to fail. As Teddy Roosevelt said many years ago:
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; whodoes actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those who know neither victory nor defeat.
My challenge is that we be in the arena and struggle with the issues of internationalization. We must be willing to get our hands dirty, willing to fail, and willing to learn from each other so that, in the end, Jesus Christ may be glorified.
EMQ, Vo. 27, No. 4, pp. 402-409. Copyright © 1991 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.