by Gary Corwin
Desire for change in the way we do mission training in North America has been a burr under a lot of saddles for a long time.
Desire for change in the way we do mission training in North America has been a burr under a lot of saddles for a long time. Too much of this, and too little of that, has echoed forth with the regularity of a leaky faucet: "Too heady!" "Too shallow!" "Too little hands on experience!" "Too little emphasis on character formation!" "Too much emphasis on the social sciences!" "Too little emphasis on the Bible!" "Too costly!" "Too school-centered!" "Too little church involvement!" "Too… you name it!"
Well, change may finally be on the way. The World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) Missions Commission has achieved what others have acknowledged as essential, but have been unsuccesful at pulling it off. They got together representatives from all the major stakeholders in mission training in North America and locked them in a room (more or less) for three days, and put them to work profiling what ideal missionaries ought to know, be and do. Then they wrestled with what it takes to produce those kind of people and who is in the best position to faciliate various parts of the profile. The result? Finally, there has been serious movement toward establishing what good missionary training in North America ought too look like.
The "Quadralogue" workshop, as it was called, took place at Columbia International University, October 2-5, 1995. The four categories of mission stakeholders who met together included representatives from North American churches, mission agencies, and schools/training programs. Another three participants were from receiving churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
The purpose of the gathering included (1) building trust between key representatives of the four mission training major players; (2) developing realistic competency profiles of the desired missionaries that are acceptable and valued by the major players represented; (3) identifying training goals which grow out of these profiles; (4) identifying, affirming and promoting various circles of influence the particular role each player has in training effective missionary candidates; and (5) carrying training goals back to the represented ministries to develop with colleagues curricula attuned the goals for each context.
While his was the first time such a representative group had gathered in North America for such a purpose, similar gatherings had already taken place in several parts of Latin America, Asia, the South Pacific and Africa. Rudy Giron, president of COMIBAM (a Latin American missions mobilization movement), who had also participated in several of these earlier gatherings, called this one "a remarkable step of partnership between North American and receiving churches. It is a great model of how missions needs to be done in the future — sending nations and receiving nations working in an interdependent partnership of missions."
Unfortunately, this kind of partnership is still something of a holy grail in too many contexts. Lots of people talk about it, but too fee have actually seen it, let along participate in it. There are just too few places in the North American missions industry where one can find parallel examples of partnership in conceptualization. Oh, there are plenty of partnerships for implementation, where some effective communicator successfully sells his or her vision agenda to others. But partnership which begins at the point of envisioning, and is not limited simply to issues of methodology and logistics is rare.
As an agency person, this writer was thrilled with the outcomes and processes of the meeting. The broad representation and the well-designed workshop format made it unique. It is a consultation model that needs to be repeated time and again, in the training sphere to be sure, but in a myriad of other mission areas as well. It showed that insistence on the presence of representatives from key groups need not be compromised. And that more meeting agendas need to combine real work with dialogue focus. The reliance on talking-head presenations has been way too exclusive.
The momentum generated by this gathering, both for improving missionary training and for furthering cooperation between missions stakeholders, is very significant. As one participant put it, "Kingdom outcomes were pursued in kingdom ways." Burrs came out from under lots of saddles, and a lot of people are riding their mission training steeds more confidently as a result.