by Philip E. Armstrong
Any mission organization by the very nature of its existence has certain spiritual responsibilities.
Any mission organization by the very nature of its existence has certain spiritual responsibilities. These involve the relationship of the organization to the home church, to the individual missionary, to the mission group as a whole, to the national church which it brings into being, and to the church of Christ at large, to say nothing of responsibilities to the government in the homeland or in the country where it is a guest.
In mission administration the most sensitive area comes within organization. Group responsibility can produce individual liberty. Mission executives are responsible to create that kind of freedom for each member of the mission. It is not always easy.
CAUSES OF CONFLICT
Any conflict between individual liberty and group responsibility can be traced to the fact that most missionaries are highly motivated individuals. Our evangelical heritage gives us a strong bias, in spite of our wholehearted pledge to work together in interdenominational groups.
Background of the missionary. Many concepts that make up the American way of life are diametrically opposed to that which produces good missionary material. "Yankee ingenuity" and rugged individualism that have made America famous-and which on the mission field have produced many a pioneering spirit-have also resulted in a "don’t tread on me" attitude. They give rise to the feeling that we have the biggest, the best, the fastest.
Modern concepts of education prevalent in America with their emphasis on self-expression and non-directive guidance have affected candidates and their parents. The home life of the candidate, the lack of discipline in the home, and the number of candidates who come from broken homes are all factors in this problem.
Candidates from evangelical churches have had deep theological convictions. Many times these churches have had to stand, and stand alone, for such convictions. Some have been expelled or separated from their denominations. However, the departure from the denomination also meant the overthrow of established or instituted authority. An independent church, or frequently an association of independent churches, faces the problem of reinstituting authority.
Extra-church evangelistic activities have brought many thousands of young people to the Lord. However, for example, converts from Youth for Christ, Bible camps, Inter-Varsitv groups in universities have often had little consciousness of any responsibility to a local church. This carries over into their attitude toward a mission group as well.
Within evangelical circles there has been an emphasis on inductive methods of Bible study, which has produced some young people with keen insights into handling the Word of God. However, along with this has come a highly subjective attitude toward the Scriptures. This often is revealed in spiritualizing certain situations. In the question of guidance, for example, a person can be authoritarian in his interpretation of the theology of the Scriptures, but be almost Barthian when it comes to putting it into practice. This means you can validate our claims of guidance by the inspiration of a certain passage to you!
The congregational system of church government and emocratic principles have influenced the attitude of the inividual toward the group. Everything must be discussed by lie whole as over against the almost authoritarian viewpoint of leadership you find in the Scriptures. "Since I elected the field ader I have the perfect right to question what he does," is a eflection of this attitude.
The personalized support system that is frequently used y faith missions, while giving an extremely wholesome attachment to the home church, also leads to a sense of individualism. arried to an extreme this means "my support," comes from my donors" or from "my church." It was designated for me t was "my faith" that brought in my support.
Each of these factorsproduces a candidate who must be most sensitive to his brethren and to the fellowship under hich he serves.
The breakdown of leadership. The source of the problem is not always the membership f the mission, however. Here are some of the characteristics of he decline of leadership:
"Men will not long follow a timid leadership whose strategy is to keep on asking its followers if they still want to be led." This statement, made in reference to young churches’ ttitude toward mission leadership, is applicable in any area.
Korah said to Moses in Numbers 16:3, "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of hem, and the Lord is among them…" Because the qualifications for elders are observed among all candidates, there is a tendency to ask, "Has the Lord spoken only by Moses?" In ppointing a member of the China Inland Mission to a position of responsibility, Hudson Taylor said, "I may appoint you, but you must understand the position is one to be gained."
The leader may find it difficult to stand alone, and to stand unmoved. Someone has said, "The enemy of a leader is that he likes, and that he likes to be liked." Impartiality and complete disregard for the opinions of critics are difficult qualities for a leader.
Breakdown is not only with the individual leader but with the system of leadership as well. A danger signal in an organization is the length of time it takes to arrive at a decision. Dr. Henry Brandt, who has traveled widely as a consultant for missions overseas, made the observation that many organizations are "so organized in their administration as to remove all authority in an elaborate system of checks and balances which is maintained so that no final authority exists."
You have heard the life cycle of a mission: a man, a movement, a machine, and a monument. A movement of God becomes a machine when it becomes preoccupied with improving the organization itself rather than accomplishing its goals. Certain standards must be fixed and need not be discussed. To be selfconscionsly examining the structure of a mission every few months can be deadly. While flexibility is a virtue and rigidity is a vice, solid, settled convictions are essential.
In its frustration, leadership may compromise the cost. We may seek to substitute; to institutionalize work that should be a spontaneous outflow of the individual worker; to overorganize -to produce a little black book that will legalize the letter, rather than provide the spirit of scriptural man-to-man exhortation of one another; to allow facilities to substitute for function, trusting in mechanical gadgets for getting out the Gospel.
In the Far Eastern Gospel Crusade we look for four distinct calls on the part of a candidate. First, he is called to the Lord; that is, he is set apart unto the ministry. Second, he has a distinct call to the board; he is confident God has led him into this fellowship. Third, he has a distinct call to the field on which he is to serve. Fourth, he has a call to a specific work or ministry on the field. These may not follow in sequence; they may not all be present simultaneously. Sometime during his ministry he will come to a clear understanding of what his gifts are-gifts that will be clearly recognized by his brethren.
Indisputably, the call to the Lord is first, although the candidate may overexaggerate this sense of personal guidance. The true proportion of his call to the Lord will give him an unflinching faith in the sovereignty of God. Joseph Carroll, an Australian evangelist ministering at our field conference in the Philippines, made this statement, "You would never get me to trust five men of the field council to find the mind of the Lord. But I can trust the Lord to reveal His will to five men."
There is a distinct difference. Such confidence in the ‘sovereignty of God demands nothing less than totalsubmission. Such submission will attribute to God every circumstance or (relationship in a man’s life. Failure to do this will lead to the height of frustration.
Mission executives make decisions day after day that have far-reaching influence over personal lives and ministries. It is easy to lose sight of what God has called us to do.
Any sense of dedication on the part of the group will be limited to the clearness of the goals outlined by the leaders. Our experience has been that whenever the leadership has concerned itself with outreach and vision, the mission morale has been at its peak. Failing in this, we have spent our energy on personnel problems or structural reorganization, not recognizing or realizing that we were missing our mission because we had no group goals.
Responsibility to the group. Obviously, leadership must provide facilities for the individual missionary to accomplish his task. But more than that, leadership must provide a climate in which the workers learn the sheer joy of teamwork. Leadership must put into practice the principles held by the mission. Such words as faith, grace, love, unity, are all spiritual principles that must be demonstrated.
There are diametrically opposed qualities of leadership in the spiritual and business worlds. Such words as lachets, towels, a voice in the wilderness, a seed falling into the ground, a cross, each immediately bring mental images of the greatest Leader of all time, the One whose presence is clearly recognized in any true work of God.
Members of a group have some basic needs mission leadership must supply. Try this check list on your mission:
Community. How is the missionary to pass on any sense of belonging to nationals if he does not have this sense of acceptance in the mission himself?
Authority. Can the missionary find commensurate response sibility, authority, and accountability in the mission? How can he instill this in the national church if be is frightened by authority?
Security. Is the lack of candidates due to the fact that we say the time is short, doors are closing, and the like? What sense of security or permanence does your mission provide?
Responsibility. Can the missionary have a reason for being on the field? Each missionary should have at least one job that is his. If he did not do it, it would not be done.
Responsibility to the individual. Dr. John Stott, returning from a mission tour, observed that personal oversight of the missionary was the most neglected ministry. Perhaps this neglect is partially caused by our misunderstanding of what is involved. We think of it as negative, laying down the laws, rather than positive, laying on of hands. Paul, in his relationship to his men, seemed to have a secret of stimulating personal motivation, vet without making it conflict with group fellowship. In industry it is said, "The job of management is not to direct things, but to develop people …. Leadership is the stewardship of the talents of those entrusted to them."
The personal oversight of the missionary should be a pleasant thing. There should be no subject the missionary would rather discuss than his work.
Delegation is the next responsibility of the group to the individual. In industry it is called span of control, but it is described beautifully in Acts 6 as the neglect of the ministry. Delegation may mean a poorer job than the leader would do himself. However, it should be looked upon as an opportunity, for growth for the individual. Only by demanding of the worker what is beyond his capacity will he be brought to depend fully on the Holy Ghost. He must have sufficient responsibility to know that he is not just "using a pick to no purpose." With the tremendous task of world evangelization before us, there should be scope for the simplest believer, as well as the individual missionary, to be given sufficient responsibilities so that he will have the satisfaction of hearing his Lord say, "Well done." This is the responsibility of spiritual leadership.
Our danger is that the mission may become an end in itself. When opposition comes, will we seek to strengthen a closely knit, tight fellowship with rigid rules for those who work with us? Or will we seek to make the organization as unobtrusive as possible, so that the spiritual gifts of each overseas worker may be given to the church? What kind of a missionary can stay on forever? Let us make our mission fit this kind of men, who simultaneously and consecutively can fill four roles:
1. As a guest the missionary must with courtesy and poise humbly accept the hospitality of the church, not imposing himself or his labor.
2. As a servant, with an eye on his master’s needs as well as his master’s wishes, he serves with a grace about his gift that makes it easy for the church to accept it without embarrassment.
3. As an apostle he has some message, some meaning to his ministry that will evidence ordination, not only by the church at home, or the Head of the church Himself, but by the body of which he is a member and with which he serves overseas.
4. As a disciple he is not only one who is disciplined, but who can bring others under authority, under the discipline of the Holy Spirit; not only one who is taught, but one who never stops learning.
These principles do not apply simply to carry out God’s work efficiently. Like begets like. Mission boards are not the church; they do not replace the church either at home or on the field. But with growing tensions of nationalism, churches overseas must see God’s pattern for them demonstrated by us. God has provided within each mission organization a proving ground for the principles on which national churches will pattern every interpersonal relation. Compared with a display of the practical oneness of the body of Christ, organizational ecumenicity is appallingly barren. Without this display, we create a caricature of Christianity that the world may justifiably criticize.
Unity is not simply a goal. It is an essential ingredient and a quality of grace for the establishment of the church. It is the means not the end. It is demonstrated only by the Holy Spirit – brother to brother and body to body.
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