by Samuel Chiang
The ’90s are the decade of decision for Westerners and the new world of missions.
A DEFINING DECADE
The 1990s will define the future of world missions. What many have worked for but have not seen has come to fruition: The churches of Africa, Asia, and Latin America have developed a missionary vision and are taking the gospel to the unreached. While this trend poses some problems requiring flexibility and sensitivity, it carries tremendous implications for the work of the church in fulfilling the Great Commission. However, we may not receive what has been promised. Others will come and build upon the foundation we erect today for the next century. Thus, this decade is a defining decade for all of us.
This is a defining decade because it holds promises and perils. One peril is that if the Western church does not change, we will become less effective in advancing the gospel. Massive movements of people are taking place. Ethnic multiplicity is facing most societies. The U.S. monocultural view of reality may well become a relic of the past. Failure to change with a changing world endangers the missionary enterprise. The flip side of this peril holds promise, however, because together we can confront the challenge and turn it to our advantage. We can, as Eugene Williams has said, make competent choices within the parameters of God’s will as we confront change in today’s world.
This is a defining decade because economic power has shifted from North America to East Asia; traditionally, expansion of the missionary movement parallels economic expansion. While many career Western missionaries will be leaving the field and retiring, God has provided another work force, and the churches of Africa, Asia, and Latin America stand ready to contribute. The shift is coming; indeed, it is happening now.
This is a defining decade because mission organizations in the West must confront this new variable. How do we add such a significant harvest force into our equation? How do we make changes to accommodate, and preferably facilitate, the vision of non-Western missions leaders? Who will fund the mission advance of these churches?
THE NEW WORLD HARVEST FORCE
A century ago, only 5 percent of evangelical Christians lived outside the West.1 Today that figure is between 66 percent and 75 percent. Larry Pate of OC International and author of From Every People (MARC, 1989) has carefully documented the amazing growth of evangelical Christianity’ in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He collected data from 1980 to 1988, used previously published data, and projected patterns for the future. Here is what he found:
- The total non-Western missionary force had grown to approximately 36,000 by 1988, 23,000 more than in 1980.
- There were approximately 1,100 mission agencies from the non-Western world in 1988, an increase of over 350 from 1980.2
In February, 1992, Pate summarized the statistics this way:
There were an estimated 49,000 Two-Thirds World missionaries by the end
of 1990. That was 35.5 percent of the global Protestant total. This
movement is growing five times faster than the Western missions
movement. We have discovered there are at least 2,727 Two-Thirds World
missionaries being sent out by Western agencies. This does not include
national workers in any given country. Our projections indicate that by
1991 there may be as many as 108,000 Western Protestant missionaries
and 89,000 non-Western Protestant missionaries. But by A.D. 2000, those
same figures may be 164,000 non-Western missionaries and 132,000
Western missions agencies must identify the needs of these new organizations. Is there anything they are looking for which the Western church can share with them? How can we serve them and be partners with them to create a strong legacy upon which future generations may build?
CONCERNS AND NEEDS
India, Nigeria, Zaire, Burma, Kenya, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Korea are the top 10 sending countries from the non-Western missionary movement.4 Africa is fielding many missionaries, as Panya Baba, president of the Evangelical Churches of West Africa (ECWA) and a member of the steering committee for the AD2000 Movement, points out.5 However, the Nigerian missionaries face some obstacles. The work force is ready, but lack of finances has prevented sending out more missionaries. In order to avoid control from the West, Baba observes that many of the African churches do not depend on money from Western churches. At most, Baba estimates, only 10 percent of financial resources comes from the West.
In East Asia, Korea is not only a top sender of missionaries, but in addition has a significant reserve of 100,000 young people ready to go. Unlike their African counterparts, the Korean churches have the financial resources to unleash them. David Cho, international president of Korean International Mission and chairman of the Third World Missions Association, has some concerns, however.6 He insists that Western missionaries are still needed, though not in the "traditional" sense. Rather, they are needed as side-by-side coworkers. Cho believes Western missionaries can serve the Korean church as educators, thinkers, theologians, and especially, as co-laborers to train the eager Korean Christians in cross-cultural missions. Cho does not wish the West to show excessive compassion financially. Like Baba, he is afraid Western money might create an unhealthy dependence.
And what about Latin America? Even a secular anthropologist, David Stoll of Stanford University, has recognized the legitimacy of evangelical Christianity there in his book Is Latin America Turning Protestant? In Crisis in Latin America, William D. Taylor addresses the evangelical movement country-by-country and examines the region’s significant missionary force. With COMIBAM as catalyst, the Latin American church has been motivated to send missionaries cross-culturally, and to the Muslims specifically. While, as above, finances do come into the sending equation, Larry Pate identifies the more critical needs as training, strategy, and partnerships.7
The two overwhelming needs of the new world missions harvest force are training and funding. The two are linked. Taylor recognizes that if funds were available, missionary training would be accelerated throughout the world.8 How can the West overcome the reticence of non-Western leaders in terms of funding? Due to fears of control and dependency, leaders such as Baba and Cho want very little Western financial assistance. Western missionaries have contributed to this barrier in the past, and now this obstacle must be torn down. The concerns of non-Western leaders must be addressed in a spirit of equality and brotherhood.
The West definitely has financial resources to share. Prior to looking at how we can share these resources, however, let us examine how the non-Western missionary movement has come this far despite relatively little Western aid.
SHARING AND SACRIFICING
Christians generally are better off financially than the world population as a whole.9 Theodore Williams, president of the World Evangelical Fellowship, says the crisis is not of money, but of obedience. Keeping this in mind, how have African, Asian, and Latin American churches sent and sustained their missionaries?
Case study from South Asia. In the northeast Indian state of Mizoram, 96 percent of the Mizo population declares itself Christian. With a strong vision for missions, they have discovered creative ways to challenge Christians to give. Church families are challenged to set aside one stick of firewood each day. The women of the church collect these at the end of the month, and the proceeds from their sale go to missions. When Mizo women cook rice, they measure out what is needed for the family, then take back one handful. At the end of the month, the rice collected in this manner is taken to the church and sold for missions. The rice is hardly missed by the family, but when held back twice a day for a full year by every Christian family, the total amount is quite significant.
Case study from Latin America. Edison Queiroz, former executive director of COMIBAM, tells this story from his church in Sao Paulo. The church’s three-story educational wing is called "The Leftovers." In their building program, funds ran out for the construction of this wing; there was, however, money available in the missions fund. The church members wrestled with the idea of allocating missions money to the building program, but in the end they decided "missions must go on." After church members made that stand, finances miraculously came in to complete the building on schedule. Thus, the Christian education building became known as "The Leftovers."
Case study from Southeast Asia. The Dani tribe in Indonesia had sent out more than 130 missionaries by the mid-1970s. How did this tribal people support their own missionaries? John Dekker tells in Torches of Joy that the Danis would bring their animals, produce, and crafted items to church sales. Twice a year, all the goods would be auctioned off, and the proceeds would go to missions.10
There are many other case studies and models which successfully demonstrate the sacrifice by African, Asian, and Latin American local churches in support of their missionaries. Why, then, does the West need to be involved at all? To put it simply, the tremendous growth of the non-Western harvest force will soon outpace available funding. One solution is for the Western churches to share their more extensive financial resources.
PRAYING, PAYING AND PROCLAIMING
The non-Western harvest force can teach the Western church meaningful lessons in the sharing of resources. From both perspectives, how would this sharing work? Partners International, for example, practices a pattern of partnership that prescribes a relationship between two independent ministries in which each complements and supplements the other.
Chris Marantika, founder and president of the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Indonesia, has sought to set aside the old "three-self model and introduce a partnership model, focusing on praying together, paying together, and proclaiming together. Praising the concept of interdependent partnerships, he has said that "providing independent national ministries with funds, information and other tools demonstrates trust that we can get the job done effectively without Western direction." He adds, "We have proven to be good and faithful workers and, in most cases, more efficient and more effective than foreign missionaries at reaching the unreached of our countries. Furthermore, with help from the West to train our people, we can provide far more workers than Western missions ever will, and at a much lower cost."11
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
Within this concept of partnership, the Bible can and does guide the sharing of economic resources. Partners International, soon to celebrate its 30th year, has been working with indigenous ministries from the beginning. We have tried to apply biblical truths to practical working situations and have developed a number of guiding scriptural principles.
• We believe in the principle of equality through creation (Gen. 1-3), with the implication that human society is to be preserved through economic sharing.
• We believe in the principle of justice (Job 31:13-15), with the understanding that economic sharing with those in need is not benevolence but justice.
• We believe in the principle of grace (2 Cor. 8:1-9): having been on the receiving end of God’s grace in Christ, believers now have the privilege of being on the giving end, showing grace to those in need.
• We believe in the principle of interdependence (Eph. 2:11-15; 1 Cor. 12:21-26) and its corollary that although diversity exists, the unity of the Body is paramount. "The head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.’" The concept of interdependence requires us to recognize the legitimacy of cultural-historical distinctives, but it also calls us to live a life of unity in diversity, with a willingness to share financially.
• We believe in the principle of family (Gal. 6:10; Acts 2:44,4:34,11:28-29) and apply it as a commandment to do good, especially to those of the family of God. We, as Paul, must practice the sharing of material possessions with other believers across cultural, linguistic, and geographical boundaries and barriers.
• Finally, we believe in the principle of yieldedness (1 Cor. 9:4, 5, 6, 12). According to John Richard, this involves a willingness to surrender legitimate rights—to food and drink, to marriage, to leisure, as well as to material support.12
From these basic biblical principles, we have in addition derived the following working principles.
• Partners must agree on doctrine and ethical behavior. It is absolutely essential that potential partners understand one another’s doctrinal stances, so that with a clear conscience, they and their constituency can work comfortably together-without making issues out of differences.
• Partners must share a common goal. If partners focus on a common objective instead of on individual programs, they will be far more successful. The sharing of personnel and financial resources eliminates "territorial lines" between organizations and fosters the sense of co-laboring for the kingdom.
• Partners must develop an attitude of equality. Non-Western missions leaders have much to offer. The West can look to Korea for an example of a church that prays mightily. Eastern European and Chinese leaders speak out of a background of suffering and martyrdom from which it would behoove us to learn.
• Thus, we believe as well that partnerships must avoid dominance of one over the other. Who should control the resources, or make the decisions, or determine the policies? Both, equally. This is indispensable, especially the sharing of financial resources.
• Partnerships require open communication. Misinformation thrives in a vacuum. Cultural differences in communicating must be taken into account: a Chinese values face-saving above all; an African takes the circuitous route to arrive at an issue; a Westerner prefers a more direct and confrontational style. Misunderstandings, irritations, and collision courses can be avoided if partners exercise openness, flexibility, and sensitivity in communicating.
• We also believe: partners should demonstrate trust and accountability; partners must have clear financial policies; partnerships demand the sharing of complementary gifts; partnerships demand sacrificial commitment. These are measurable areas which demand not only a bonding but a blending of partners.
• Lastly, we believe partners must pray for each other. Praying together is the foundational activity in working together to build the kingdom.13
1. The range is from 5 to 10 percent depending on the researcher and the definition of "evangelical." Pate, From Every People, MARC, 1989, puts the figure at 10 percent.
2. Larry Pate, From Every People (MARC, 1989), pp. 17, 51. I feel this projection may be a little high for several reasons. Assuming Pate has factored in the 30,000 missionaries who have left or are leaving, the present figure of 85,000 Western missionaries includes at least 32,000 short-term missionaries. Given the changing pattern in missions involvement as researched by Engel and Jones ("Baby Boomers and the Future of World Missions," Wheaton College Graduate School, 1989), it is doubtful that there will be the predicted number of long-term career missionaries. Are we comparing Western and non-Western missionaries based on career missionaries, or based on a combined total of career and short-term missionaries? If the short-term missionaries are taken out of the equation, I believe it will be difficult to achieve Pate’s figure of 120,000 missionaries.
3. Larry Pate, "We Asked," Pulse, Feb. 7, 1992, p. 5.
4. Pate, From Every People, p. 28.
5. Panya Baba, interview with Pulse, Nov. 24, 1989.
6. David Cho, interview with Pulse, May 11, 1990.
7. Larry Pate, Pulse, Feb. 7, 1992, p. 5.
8. William Taylor, interview with this writer, February, 1991.
9. Luis Bush, Funding Third World Missions (World Evangelical Fellowship, 1990). This was revealed at Lausanne II in Manila, 1989, and is cited by Theodore Williams in the preface to this book. It is said that throughout the world, 52 percent of all Christians are affluent, 35 percent are well-off, and only 13 percent are poor. I believe these figures need to be reconsidered, especially since Africa is said to be heading into a decade of poverty.
10. Bush, op. cit., pp. 21-23.
11. More details can be found in a paper prepared for the EFMA conference of March, 1991, given by Luis Bush, entitled "The Internationalization of Missions and the Empowerment of Nationals." The biblical foundations are from Ephesians 1:23, 3:19, and 4:13.
12. Bush, op. cit., pp. 18-20.
13. Details of these principles may be found in chapters 4 and 5 of Partnering in Ministry: The Direction of World Evangelism, Luis Bush and Lorry Lutz (InterVarsity Press, 1990).
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