by David J. Hesselgrave
The EMS will provide a unique forum for discussing critical missiological issues.
Last November, the Association of Evangelical Professors of Missions voted to broaden its base and change its name to the Evangelical Missiological Society. The new organization will serve the needs and interests of missionaries, agency executives, and students, as well as professors of missions.
How significant is this change? First, a number of evangelical missiologists will give their answers, and then I will discuss a number of important background issues.
WHAT SOME REPRESENTATIVE MISSIOLOGISTS SAY
Paul A. Beals, Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary: Professors of missiology who have been members of AEPM welcome wholeheartedly the inclusion of administrators and field missionaries in the membership of the newly-named EMS. At our recent annual meeting in New Orleans, interchange with mission executives reminded us how mutually beneficial the enlarged membership and purpose will be. This new relationship will enhance understanding between mission teachers and mission personnel, enrich the communication process as we pursue our mutual concerns, and foster interchange of ideas as we share our goals of global evangelism and church planting.
Kenneth B. Mulholland, Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions: By bringing together in the same organizational structure missions professors, mission executives and field missionaries, the formation of the EMS launches a new era in evangelical missiology. It breaks down barriers and enhances communication between the academic community and the sending agencies. It is a significant step toward the goal of discipling the nations.
Ronald A. Iwasko, Assemblies of God, Division of Foreign Missions: In my view, the formation of the EMS expresses several deep and abiding concerns of evangelical missiologists, whether professors or field professionals, Among them are (1) the need for a clear and unequivocal evangelical stance based on a commitment to the Bible as fully authoritative and to biblical theology as having priority over the social sciences; (2) the absolute necessity of a close relationship among professors of missiology, mission strategists, and mission leaders; and, (3) the need for a missiology which has as its end view the eternal salvation of those who are without Christ as Lord and Savior. This society has the unique capacity to bring together solid evangelical scholarship in both theology and the social sciences. It can address missiological issues in very practical ways to make a significant contribution to the cause of missions worldwide.
Ray Tallman, Moody Bible Institute: The annual conference of the EMS (former AEPM) was indeed a historic event, a landmark in many ways. Organizationally, for the first time a complete slate of national and regional officers, representative of all of North America at both the graduate and undergraduate levels of missiology was elected. Programmatically, there was a significant interchange between members of the ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) and the EMS. Institutionally, there was a recognition of the legitimacy-even the necessity-of missiology as an academic discipline essential to the spread of the Christian faith worldwide.
John F. Easterling, Northwestern College: The EMS has come of age as a strategic evangelical organization by providing the crucial link between the field, the home office, and the classroom. As a missiologist, I see the reorganization as providing a networking that will bring both practitioners and strategists together for the advancement of His kingdom.
In order to appreciate these responses and understand the role of the new EMS, it is necessary to reflect on recent history and then take a look into the future.
THE NEED FOR THE MISSIOLOGICAL SOCIETY
The Association of Evangelical Professors of Missions was formed in 1967 at the Urbana student missionary convention. Only a handful-perhaps 15 or so-of us were there. But we agreed that as missions professors we needed to be able to meet with each other, exchange information, and, upon occasion, act in concert.
The fledgling AEPM was soon eclipsed by the new American Society of Missiology (ASM) formed in Nashville in 1973. At that time some of us questioned the need for still another such organization, because we already had the AEPM in addition to the older and more inclusive Association of Professors of Missions. We also questioned the viability of an organization that included Roman Catholics, liberals, and evangelicals. As to need, we were told that such an organization would help reinforce the place of missiology as a bona fide academic discipline. As for viability, the response was that, since evangelicals would be in the majority, they would provide most of the leadership and set the direction and agenda for the organization.
Few would question the fact that the ASM has played a significant part in securing increased understanding and acceptance of missiology as a legitimate discipline in the academy. This has been a plus for all of us. From an evangelical point of view, however, viability is another matter. Though editorship of the ASM journal, Missiology: An International Review, has been in the hands of evangelicals from the very first, the ASM leadership pattern rotates top positions among Catholics, and liberals, and evangelicals. This is as it be in this kind of an organization. The initial notion that the majority should or could set the agenda was both unrealistic and unreasonable. At any rate, it has become abundantly clear that, though the ASM is in a position to reinforce the science of missiology, it is not in a position to promote the mission of the church when the mission is understood as discipling the nations in accordance with the Great Commission.
With this in mind, the late Donald A. McGavran once wrote to me:
I want to lay before you, David, a very important item. The evangelical professors of missions have an organization which is not really called missiology. I think that that is a grave mistake. . . . What is needed in North America and indeed around the world is a society of missiology that says quite frankly that the purpose of missiology is to carry out the Great Commission. (Personal letter dated April 7, 1988.)
The future role of the Evangelical Missiological Society
What will be the role of the EMS? How will it serve the missionary cause?
First and foremost, the EMS will provide a unique forum for the discussion of those missiological concerns that confront all evangelicals as we race toward the third millennium of Christian missions.
Why a "unique forum"? First, consider this combination: (1) Membership in the EMS is limited to missiologists who subscribe to an evangelical statement of faith. (2) The EMS allows for the participation of all persons with expertise in missiology, whether classroom teachers, field practitioners, mission administrators, or student majors. For the first time opportunity will be given in the same venue for professors, for example, to meet with each other for a consideration of school concerns also with missiologically informed for discussion of school-mission relationships.
(3) The EMS agenda will be dedicated to all items of broad evangelical concern. We will resist the tendency to allow the agenda to be controlled by any one special ministry, strategy, or interest, no matter how important and legitimate. On the other hand, we will be free to schedule discussion of any topic important to Christian mission, no matter how sensitive. Our overriding objective will be to contribute positively to the cause of world evangelization.
(4) The EMS leadership will schedule annual meetings in conceit with other important evangelical groups. Currently, meetings are projected in conjunction with either the Evangelical Theological Society or the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association and the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association. Nine regional meetings (seven regions in the United States and two in Canada) are also projected annually. The Occasional Bulletin of the EMS (currently four issues annually) will be used to disseminate information concerning these meetings.
Second, the EMS is important because it provides an agency through which missiologists can both serve and be served by the larger evangelical body. Doors are now open for the publication of monographs and books that otherwise would not see the light of day. The opportunity now exists for an exchange of helpful missiological materials developed in the schools and missions but not for marketing. We have the potential for becoming a central clearinghouse for the type of information that will enable schools and mission organizations to seek out qualified mission professors, researchers and administrators. The EMS, therefore, will provide increased potential for evangelical missiologists to participate in cooperative undertakings that will benefit, not just localized, but also national and world enterprises.
Third, the EMS will serve as a launching pad for biblical missiology and mission in the 21st century, if God grants us more time for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Religious, theological, and missiological pluralism already casts a shadow over 21st century prospects. To face the year 2001 without a vital, enterprising, organized movement among evangelical missiologists would be regrettable and devastating.
The challenges and opportunities that come to evangelical missions and evangelical missiology during the years ahead will be great indeed. With Paul we ask, "Who is sufficient for these things?" The answer must be that no one of us is sufficient, nor are all of us together. Our sufficiency is of Christ.
I invite you to put the new EMS on your prayer list. Pray for our new president, Paul Beals of Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, our new secretary-treasurer, Elizabeth Lightbody of Moody Bible Institute, our publications chairman, George Jennings, and the nine regional vice-presidents in the United States and Canada. If you have expertise in and concern for evangelical missiology, give consideration to joining us in the near future. (Write EMS, c/o Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, III. 60015.)
Whoever it was who first said, "Work as though Christ were coming today but plan as though we were not coming for a thousand years" was a wise person. New endeavors need to be encouraged. Younger missiologists should be encouraged. The imperatives of biblical missiology and mission must be high on the agendas of academies, churches, and missions. We must practice missiology as though Christ were coming today; we must plan missiologically as though he were not coming for a thousand years.
Copyright © 1991 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.