by Gary Corwin
A neutral term I have coined, “missiocracy,” means simply the rule or governance of missions.
A neutral term I have coined, “missiocracy,” means simply the rule or governance of missions. However, “missiocracy run amok,” the concept’s most virulent form, hinders serious dialogue and effectiveness in the organizational culture of missions agencies, much as “missiologically correct” thinking stifles discussions of global strategy. (See my column in last October’s EMQ.)
You may find it surprising that the smug self-assurance of missiolo-gically correct thought has a parallel in the actual functioning of missions. Then again, you might not. Sadly, like the AIDS virus, it often resides quietly in assumed and almost automatic ways of doing things.
While its pronouncements are not as strident as those of missiological correctness, the tenacity of missiocracy (whether running amok or not) is every bit as real. It is both a formal and an informal road map of behavior that fleshes out the term “missions ethos.” At its best, missiocracy keeps things moving forward and provides a sense of identity and predictability. At its worst, it can chew people up, waste valuable kingdom resources, and keep agencies from adapting to new circumstances and opportunities.
As with missiological correctness, there are lots of signposts when missiocracy has run amok:
1. You know that missiocracy has run amok when questions of “How?” have almost completely superseded questions of “What?” Put another way, issues of efficiency overshadow issues of effectiveness. Serious thought about the ought is replaced by vigorous unction about the function!
2. You know that missiocracy has run amok when the ability to manage is more highly valued than the ability to lead. This is the application of No. 1 above in the personnel and leadership realm. The ability to keep everyone happy and not rock the boat is the key to success.
3. You know that missiocracy has run amok when mission-church relationships are seen as problems to be solved. Our language often betrays our priorities. While opportunities to conquer new mountains together with our national church brethren ought to thrill our souls, we often focus on the hiccups of cross-cultural relationships that simply come with the territory.
4. You know that missiocracy has run amok when no one ever gets fired. Missionary job security does not prove missionary effectiveness. Confusion between commitment to the Lord and giftedness for a particular task is endemic, and both the people involved and the work suffer for it.
5. You know that missiocracy has run amok when the most innovative and effective people in your organization are looking for other things to do. While who a mission attracts measures well the effectiveness of its public relations, who is leaving is a good measure of the quality of its administrative structures. Agencies that rein in the bright lights invariably lose them.
6. You know that missiocracy has run amok when the organization jumps wildly from one bandwagon to the next. Agencies who know who they are and where they are going, and are comfortable with that picture, are very cautious about bandwagons. While open to considering new emphases, they don’t slavishly follow the crowd.
7. You know that missiocracy has run amok when nothing ever changes, or when everything changes every month. Neither fossilization nor total fluidity is the answer. A mission agency needs to know its mission and have an orderly process of adjusting its methods in order to fulfill it.
8. You know that missiocracy has run amok when candidates are seldom turned away. Reluctance in this area may reflect serious shortcomings in our theology of calling and giftedness, or simply a lack of courage to exercise tough love. Whatever the reason, it hurts a lot of people, wastes a lot of resources, and irresponsibly endangers the effectiveness of a lot of ministries.
9. You know that missiocracy has run amok when more energy and resources are spent on fund raising than on services to churches. Churches do not exist to bankroll agencies, but to be God’s instruments to reflect hisglory and to establish communities of grace to the uttermost parts of the earth. If we have somehow superseded that agenda by promoting one of our own, even if the result looks the same, we have indeed run amok.
10. You know that missiocracy has run amok when corporate prayer is we-centered. As God’s instruments, we know we need prayer desperately, but we sometimes forget that it is his kingdom we are to seek first. The “all things added” don’t precede, but follow.
EMQ, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 18-19. Copyright © 1997 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.