by Clyde W. Taylor
The sudden proliferation of sending agencies has attracted the attention of missiologists all over the world.
Few features in world evangelism have stirred more interest than the recent development of missions in the "Third World." While this is not unheard of (since the first of such missions started over 100 years ago), only recently have our brethren of the third world started sending out significant numbers of their members as missionaries to other lands. The sudden proliferation of sending agencies has attracted the attention of missiologists all over the world.
A combination of factors during that last decade has contributed to this trend. There has been a reduction of mission personnel by many of the denominations in the western world, especially those where liberal theology governs the thinking of their leaders. This shrinkage in personnel has been partially offset by the growth of evangelical missions. The Afericasia (Africa, Latin America, and Asia) missions will also help fill the gap by providing missionaries. When new statistics are published soon, we may find that western losses have been more than compensated and that the church worldwide has kept pace with the increase in population. Churches in the third world have begun to assume a very important responsibility in evangelizing the over two billion people on earth that are still without adequate information about the gospel.
In response to questions regarding third world missions (i. e., sending agencies), a research team of three missiologists (James Wong, Peter Larson, and Edward Pentecost) was formed. Their report (published early in 1973 in Singapore as Mansions From The Third World, by the Church Growth Study Center) covers 196 agencies from 44 countries that replied to their questionnaire. They received information on 14 Latin American countries having 61 agencies, 12 African countries having 27 agencies, and 18 Asian countries having 108 agencies. All of these are nonwestern. Total missionaries reported was 2,971. By adding estimates for agencies which did not reply, the book projects a total of 3,400 missionaries. Although some are very old (for example, two in India started in 1875 and 1905, respectively), the majority of these agencies were organized since 1960.
The All-Asia Consultation on Mission, held in Seoul, Korea, at the end of August, 1973, examined the growth of these groups. Twenty-five delegates from 14 Asian countries met to confer specifically about missions in Asia. By design the conference was dominated by Asian delegates. Western observers and speakers participated only for the last two days of the consultation. A number of excellent papers were presented by the Asian leaders, among whom was Rev. Samuel I. Kim, candidate for the Doctor of Missiology degree from Fuller School of World Mission. Kim’s paper, entitled, "Problems of the Third World Missionary," related his personal experience as a Presbyterian missionary to Thailand for 17 years, and provided studies of other Asian missions. In an enlightening and candid manner, Kim pointed out weaknesses of missions (covering the areas of administration, policy and general mission misunderstanding) that can cause real hardship to their staff. The very fact that these problems were discussed frankly indicates the maturity of these agencies.
Some Asian agencies were started by western missions at the request of the national leaders. In the ease of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, national missionaries were sent out under the international mission. The Christian and Missionary Alliance in several countries has encouraged its churches to establish their own agencies. Limited services can be provided by the C&MA from the U.S. As in the western world, some new agencies are church related ,but not church controlled` making them, in effect, "nondenominational" or "independent."
A closer examination of the listing of third world missions will reveal, however, that most of them are denominational in the sense that they really are church controlled. At the Asian Consultation, the idea that para-church or non-church controlled missions might be preferred was advanced both by Asians and Fuller School of World Mission professors.
In several cases the new mission agencies had been started by national evangelical fellowships or associations. The Evangelical Fellowship of India began such an agency that now has sent out 12 missionaries. Likewise in West Pakistan, the Fellowship started a mission to work in Free Kashmir where Western missionaries are not allowed.
WHERE THEY ARE SENT
Where are these third world missionaries sent? This was a question I asked many times as we interviewed the leaders of some 60 Asian missions in October and November of 1972. We discovered that the word "missionary" is being used very broadly. In many cases the missionary is really an evangelist supported by the church, sent out to establish churches in contiguous areas. Others are sent to work among another section or tribe within the country. In such cases it has been our practice to designate them as "home" missionaries. Many are "ethnic missionaries," sent to settlements of their own nationality who have immigrated to another country. They minister in the same language and culture but in a different country. This is especially true of Chinese, Japanese and Korean agencies.
Increasingly, they are sending missionaries to people of differing countries, cultures, and languages, making them easily identifiable in western parlance as "foreign missionaries." Those of us in the west, however, must realize that this word "foreign" has little meaning when missions from 444 "foreign" countries send missionaries to the "foreign regions" of the United States, Canada and Europe, among others. Mission terminology is in a state of flux and new terms will have to be developed to communicate effectively.
SOME UNIQUE PROBLEMS
Third world mission agencies not only face most of the problems that are faced by western missions, but some that are uniquely theirs. Along with all missions they have the cultural, linguistic and spiritual obstacles. Their color or race will often be a distinct advantage, but can be a liability. A Nigerian missionary working in Sierra Leone once told me it was more difficult for him, a black man ministering to black people than it would be for me. He said, "I have a different culture, language and economic standard than these people. For you, a white person, they would understand and make allowance for your difference. I am a black man, so they make no allowance for me."
Many other liabilities or limitations facing third world missions were discussed in Seoul. For instance, several of the nations (where there are strong mission agencies) have very strict laws controlling the export of national funds. Missions find it almost impossible to get permission to send funds to their missionaries. A Western mission may be able to offer assistance in overcoming this problem.
New missions are also finding that their theological colleges and seminaries do not have adequate courses to train missionaries for overseas service. Like many U.S. seminaries, the mission course is a pastoral course with a little missionary flavor. For that reason the consultation voted to cooperate in setting up a theological school of missions in Seoul to specially train candidates for mission service. An introductory summer school of missions was held in Seoul for the first week of September utilizing the four visiting missions professors, one from Dallas Theological Seminary and three from the Fuller School of World Mission.
The raising of funds to support these agencies is a further limiting factor. In a few cases there seems to be adequate local funds. If they get enough volunteers for missions, the Asian agencies very frankly expect the western churches and missions to help support them. One Korean mission already has a U.S.A. office helping to raise funds for its support using a full-time American director. Several "Asian" missions are actually U.S. missions organized by Asians who have immigrated to the U.S. and now raise funds and send Americans of Asian ethnic origin back to Asia as missionaries. As a result, some western missions are examining their policies which, as now existing, would not permit them to use their funds to support third world missionaries.
In conclusion, we would caution western missions not to excuse themselves from responsibilities in the third world, reasoning that the new agencies will take over this huge task. We rejoice that these new missions resolved to send out an additional 200 missionaries by the end of 1974. We know, as they do, that their endeavor should be evangelism and church planting and not the establishment of expansive institutions. All of us have the responsibility of encouraging, praying for, and helping each other in every way possible. The Great Commission is still valid and impinges on the church in every land.
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