by Stephen T. Hake
Too often a student’s minimal exposure to missions results in stereotypes and myths about the mission of the church that must be corrected by a sensitive guide and direct experience.
A saucer-eyed fresh, Rob took a leap forward spiritually when he first discovered in the Bible the centrality of God’s plan for the nations.
Jill had grown up on the mission field but never understood her parents’ passionate missionary vision. Gaining an overview of the worldwide missionary task provided both catharsis and prescription. Confusion faded, self-doubt eroded; and her own sense of missionary purpose emerged.
Jeff began college as a product of the "me-decade" of the 1970’s-and quickly focused on a field of study that promised economic security. But an introduction to statistics of world hunger, the explosion of the refugee crisis, and the acid imperatives of Scripture to make disciples penetrated his plan and motivated him to risk a summer missionary project in Thailand. He now serves overseas as comptroller to a third world missions agency.
Too often a student’s minimal exposure to missions results in stereotypes and myths about the mission of the church that must be corrected by a sensitive guide and direct experience. Herbert Kane has said:
There is a great deal of confused thinking these days with regard to various aspects of Christian mission….Church members…seldom read literature dealing with missionary strategy and policy. Most of them know little or nothing about the progress of the past or the nature and extent of the problems that remain. Much of their information comes through the annual missionary conference, and that is usually more inspirational than informational. Hence the myths persist.
The first academic hurdle in motivating and training students for missionary involvement is encountered in the introductory course in missions. Of course, if the student goes on to prepare for full-time service in cross-cultural ministry, other hurdles will have to be crossed in still other courses. This is implicit in David Hesselgrave’s emphasis on adequate preparation for mission. He writes,
Can missionary vision tolerate missioiogical preparation? Will the heart still be willing once the mind has been prepared? Missionary preparation is needed but what kind and how much?…One thing is sure. Preparation is needed…For every missionary who might be over-prepared there are probably scores who are under-prepared.
But unless the student soars over the first hurdle in M101, it is problematical whether he will take other courses and get to the field. How, then, can young people in liberal arts and Bible colleges be positively and contagiously introduced to the study of missiology? Making an introductory course in missions relevant, biblical, and inspiring is one of the most difficult tasks confronting teachers of missions around the world.
Faced with the prospect of motivating 30 unmotivated Christian university students eight years ago, I retreated to my graduate school notes, to my own experience as an MK, and to phone consultations with several missionary colleagues in similar positions at other institutions. My notes were sketchy and the texts were outdated, but the phone conversations were invaluable. I established a network of relationships I have since relied upon on a regular basis.
I found that I was not alone in my enthusiasm for my subject. The creativity and zeal of other professors was catching. I became motivated to design a course that would not only deal with the cognitive level of facts, dates and events of missions history, but that would also interest, inspire and eventually instill the life-changing conviction that becoming a "world Christian" is God’s highest priority.
Equipping students to help fulfill the Great Commission was not just a good idea, it was the most important cause to which I could devote myself and on which I could focus my teaching. With that in mind, I have attempted to refine the course each, year by resorting to wider study, deepened experience, student responses, and class evaluations. My experience has also taught me that the Spirit’s enlightenment is essential, if this art we call teaching is to he effective for Christ and his kingdom.
In this article I propose to deal with the purposes, course description, objectives, content, and teaching strategies of an introductory course in missions. In the process I will note what various professors of missions whom I have contacted personally are doing in the context of this particular course. I will also mention some of the sources that are widely used by myself and others.
I. THE PURPOSES OF AN INTRODUCTORY COURSE IN MISSIONS
An introduction course is a survey of the discipline for students with, limited understanding and experience. This survey is conducted at two levels-first, for students for whom this is their only course in missions; second, for prospective majors in missions who need an adequate foundation in the language, literature, and leaders of the discipline. The course must be both extensive and intensive if it is to provide a valid preparation for further study. As a part of the general education requirements of liberal arts institutions introductory courses are intended to accomplish the following purposes:
a. To introduce students to the structure of the discipline and to the processes by which that discipline operates. That involves not just covering the relevant topics, but also teaching students how the concepts and principles came into being, and how they are developing. The history of a discipline is vital to understanding how the method of inquiry and research has been conducted, and what developments have moved the study along.
b. To present the discipline from a Christian frame of reference-to help them develop a more complete and thoroughly Christian world-view. This involves not only a personal Christian faith, and bringing a Christian commitment to bear on the concerns of ethics, but, even more importantly, it attempts to answer the question, How does the structure of this discipline look when viewed from a Christian point of view? To think Christianly is to think "worldviewishly." That means that we both approach the discipline from a distinctively Christian perspective, and also help students learn to use the insights of discipline to view the rest of the world more holistically.
Take the study of biology as an example. Most biologists look at the living world from an evolutionary perspective. Their presuppositions must be evaluated from a Christian perspective. Paradigms in biology (and every other discipline) have changed significantly from generation to generation.
So an introductory course in missions should alert students to trends shifts in perspectives within the discipline. Even a cursory study of missions, for example, will have to discuss the different emphases and respective contributions of three major groups-Roman Catholics, conciliar Protestants, and evangelical Protestants-to missions in the past 30 years.
c. To highlight the values implicit and explicit in the discipline. The values component is clearly linked with the world-view approach. No course will be complete unless it has a solid values component running through it from the outset.
It is one thing to know about what God is doing in the world today; it is quite another to commit oneself to live by the Kingdom values of the King. Values are the basis on which we make our decisions and combine to shape our attitudes. Our behavior is an outgrowth of our values and the principles by which we choose to guide our lives.
Students must be continually bombarded by biblical values during an introductory course if they are to begin to understand the razor sharp distinctives of a biblical lifestyle lived out in the harsh realities of the 20th century. The servant’s lifestyle described in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount must become the very basis and motivation for missions. Therefore, the explicit values of the Kingdom, and the implicit values in the principles and strategy of reaching the world; must be dealt with intentionally. Students must not only be reminded of those values for themselves, but also helped in very concrete ways to think through the conflicts and dilemmas which scream at them from the global dilemmas posed by refugees, world hunger, and three billion unreached people.
I have had to be very explicit in helping students to confront the tension between an affluent American lifestyle and a more simple lifestyle that frees additional resources for world evangelization. If I only deal with information, I bypass the heart of the matter-the student’s value system.
d. To help build effective communication skills related to the discipline. The very heart of the missionary task is both living and communicating a message of good news that has life-changing consequences. Verbal, written, and electronic communication skills are demanded today. So are the range of skills required in dealing with people in various settings, from person-to-person and small group interactions, to mass communications. These are some of the processes and communication skills to be covered.
These four broad dimensions should be a part of any introductory course in Christian missions. They, in turn, will influence the selection of course objectives, course content and teaching strategies.
II. THE COURSE DESCRIPTION
Course descriptions reflect the personalities and styles of the professors, as well as their approach. Essentially, an introduction to missions is a survey of the contemporary worldwide Christian movement from Pentecost to the present; an exploration of the biblical foundation of world evangelization; a study of the nature of the church and its cross-cultural mission; an analysis of conflicting political challenges to the gospel; an evaluation of traditional and innovative missionary methods; and current prospects for discipling, holistic community development, and church growth. Typically, the course also examines the structure of the discipline, the nature of the missionary call, spiritual gifts, qualifications and preparation for service, and current issues in world evangelization. It is a practical, interactional experience helping students understand cross-cultural ministry. That’s a large order but an exciting one for the blossoming undergraduate!
III. THE COURSE OBJECTIVES
The flavor of the course needs to be clearly upbeat. The overall goal is not just to inform and expose, but to excite and motivate students to study more, experience more, and become "world Christians."
Multnomah’s Norm Cook says: "My approach to missions is built on the realization that 90 percent of the students I am talking to will’ not end up on the mission field. But every student should have a missionary heart. I try to build that in every way I can!"
Cliff Bedell, veteran missionary from the Philippines now teaching at Columbia Bible College, describes his objective as follows:
At CBC we call our course "The Christian and World Mission." We endeavor on the sophomore level to reach every student and to encourage every student to become a World Christian. We try to distinguish between the goal of mission and our individual role. We are not here to talk students into becoming missionaries, but we are interested in encouraging them to assume a life role that is in accord with God’s goal.
Since incoming students are usually parochial and individualistic, the course must be seen as a catalyst to a broader interest in missions. So Bedell adds:
We are big on prayer. We begin with prayer, we end with prayer, we encourage students to pray outside of their circle of friends and to begin to develop a ring of prayer concerns that circles the globe. We hope to help students see that through prayer you can minister anywhere in the world….Many do get turned on to prayer through this course…
Essential to any introductory course is hooking interest of younger students. Peter Wagner’s On the Crest of the Wave is one of the best recent books for this. It reviews biblical principles, historic events and trends, and current developments with fresh enthusiasm for the fact that God is at work around the world. His positive approach is contagious.
David Bryant’s In The Gap is non-technical and also has high motivational appeal. Bryant may be largely responsible for popularizing the concept of "world Christian" and specifically calling the present student generation to prayer for world evangelization. His analysis of the American church’s resistance to missions is an incisive critique.
IV. COURSE CONTENT
Wherever a course begins, the instructor must quickly grab the attention of the student audience and bridge the gap between their felt need or points of interest into the content of the course. If missions is the most exciting endeavor in the world, then those who teach it cannot afford to be dull and pedantic. If the Holy Spirit is continually doing a new thing among the unreached peoples of the world, then surely professors of missions can do no Jess than attempt to accomplish new things among the unmotivated collegians of this country. But it goes without saying that enthusiasm must be coupled with solid course content.
From Columbia to Seattle, from Biola to Moody the contents of introductory courses in missions evidence similarity in their emphasis of the following five crucial areas:
1. The Biblical Basis of Missions. The student/learner should be able to identify/explain the development of the biblical theme of world missions as God’s plan for the ages, thereby establishing a biblical and theological context for contemporary international Christianity. Four essential topics include "Missions in the Old Testament"; "Missions in the Life Teachings of Christ"; "Missions and the of the Church"; "The Holy Spirit Missions, "Helpful texts devoted to the biblical basis of missions include written or by Blauw, Boer, DeRidder, Dyrness, Kane, Peters, and Stott. Books including key chapters have been provided by McGavran and Wagner. The various compendiums of missions conferences and consultations such as Urbana and Lausanne are also helpful.
2. The Historical Dimension. Knowledge of the major expansion routes and periods of Christianity from the apostolic period to the present, giving special attention to the last 150 years of church growth and expansion, is standard. This not only sets current missionary efforts in an historical context, but also helps students identify key principles, trends, periods, and pioneers.
Ruth Tucker’s recent book from Jerusalem to Irian Jaya has been snatched up eagerly because it provides an historical survey of Christian missions through the use of biographical studies, It is both honest and stimulating, presenting the heartwarming personal perspective as well as the often-shielded "warts and all" side of missionary life. It lets students climb inside the skin of their hereos to see how they responded to God’s direction, answered the hard questions, and adapted to the demands of missionary life. (Others who present historical surveys are Kane and Winter and Hawthorne.) Focusing on missionary biographies in this way has real power, is more interesting, and is full of illustrations of the biblical principles.
Missionary biographies exert power that speaks for itself. Almost every introductory course requires students to read at least one missionary biography. Classics such as Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Borden of Yale, Shadow of the Almighty, and the more recent Bruchko, Peace Child, and Give Me This Mountain, capture attention and convince students of the reality of the high priority of mission as few lectures and textbooks can do. Paperback reprints of long out-of-print classics are a welcome supplement for professors today.
3. The Cultural Dimension. Contextualization is the new "in" word, and the new generation of missionaries must be able to understand the interaction between Christianity and culture, and how to sensitively adapt communication appropriately within a given cultural setting,
Wycliffe’s increased visibility and effectiveness in translation tasks have made terms such as "dynamic equivalence" and "identification" part of the missionary’s vocabulary. No college or seminary today dares graduate their missionary candidates without equipping them with a broad range of cultural understandings and sensitivities for working with people cross-culturally. Don Richardson’s books have made cultural anthropology understandable and appealing as a discipline. The books of Grunland and Mayers, Hiebert, Kraft, Loewen, Nida, and Hesselgrave are all excellent references in analyzing cultural differences.
4. The Strategic Dimension. The student should be able to ground the development of current missionary practice in biblical principles and explain the emerging strategy of world evangelization. Beginning with the discipling ministry of Jesus, and based on His clear commands and transparent model, the church has attempted to follow the Master’s pattern of communication. Glasser describes how the Spirit employed "mobile missionary bands" to plant churches in the first century. Hesselgrave describes the "Pauline cycle" of locating audiences, communicating, converting, discipling, and turning over the authority and responsibility of leadership to the new disciples as soon as they were ready. The Strategy Working Group of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization has fostered increased evangelical cooperation among denominations and international agencies. The Lausanne Compendium edited by Douglas, Wagner’s Frontiers in Mission Strategy, the MARC newsletter, and Dayton’s That Everyone May Hear are most useful in introducing students to this important area. The Future of World Evangelization, edited by Ed Dayton and Sam Wilson of MARC, documents the advances made by the Lausanne movement and introduces places and peoples on which we must focus if we are to fulfill the mandate initiated at Lausanne.
5. The Contemporary Dimension. The student must also be able to identify and explain the major issues shaping missions today. The challenges of paganism, secularism, communism, nationalism, and materialism are but a few of the contemporary issues that students must understand. It is also important to relate the spread of Christianity to the expansion of non-Christian religions. The ways in which Buddhists, Muslims have attempted to dose doors to Christianity constitutes one of the central issues confronting contemporary missiology.
Moody’s Ray Tallman also suggests that the student should experience firsthand the dynamics of the local church as it is involved in recruitment, education, and the promotion of missions. This might be added as the "local church dimension." Students need to see how the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic contemporary dimensions are integrally related to the on-going life of the local church, in order to take roles of responsibility and leadership in the years ahead in their congregations. This is a practical application of understanding Christian mission which is very important. In the introduction course every student will gain enough information and perspective to effectively become the "missions pro" in his or her local church. There is no reason to be "unemployed" in the Body of Christ.
V. TEACHING STRATEGIES AND APPROACHES
1. Classroom Activities. Two most important elements of any course are class procedure and class requirements. Class procedure describes what teaching strategies teachers select to communicate content during the typical 50-minute class session. The predominant mode of various professors is a modified lecture with opportunity for questions and discussion at the end. This method facilitates the giving of new information in a limited amount of time. Various instructional media including overhead projectors, slide-tape presentations, and taped music enhance the lectures. The courses for students raised on the electronic media must incorporate a multi-media approach. Although the lecture may be an efficient way to transmit substantial amounts of new information, educational research reveals it is not the most effective way to help students learn with a view to retention and transfer. The key is to create an appropriate mix of varied learning strategies that is best suited to the content, audience, and teaching style of the professor.
An increasing number of high quality Christian films and slide-tape presentations are available, ranging from Wycliffe’s narrative of Marilyn Lazlo’s translation work in Mountain of Light, to Don Richardson’s evangelization of the West Irian Sawi tribe in Peace Child, to the recent first fruits. Inter-Varsity’s 2100 Productions make available superb slide-tape presentations on missions history, evangelism, and vignettes of unreached people groups.
Guest speakers are used by almost every professor of missions when missionary practitioners, national church leaders, and other scholars related to missions are available. Panels of MKs and students who have recently participated in summer missionary projects can provide helpful stimulus events. Small group exercises and activities can be used effectively, especially for in-class inductive Bible study, dilemma discussions, and buzz groups interacting about a particular problem.
2. Class Requirements. A second component of the course experience is the range of learning activities outlined in the syllabus under "Course Requirements." Careful attention to reading, written work, and varied experiential learning events can greatly enrich a student’s first exposure to missions.
When requiring written work the key is to design optional projects that best match individual learning styles and which interest students most. Requiring every student to do the same assignment leads to laziness, boredom, and the indiscreet borrowing of information. Designing specialized assignments from which students can select those which suit their interests and meet personal needs enables students to build on internalized motivation. This is one way to individualize the approach while focusing on specific learning objectives.
Reflection papers at the outset of the course allow students to review their past experience and awareness of missions; reflect on who and what has influenced their present understanding of missions; and encourages them to identify their goals and personal objectives for the course. "Action/reaction papers" developed by Cliff Bedell at CBC use structured questions to guide students through the reading, while probing their comprehension and affective response, and providing a channel for feedback and emotional response.
Although research projects or term papers are nothing new, Lloyd Kwast offers a helpful innovation. He provides a list of topics from which students can select a subject for a 20-page paper of original research. Issues range from the history of missiology, to translation issues, third world missions, and trends in contextualization. This helps students identify crucial issues with a minimum of lost time, focuses their energy into readily available resources, and encourages them to discover personal insights into contemporary missions. This has proven to be an excellent way to acquaint students with the literature of the discipline.
I also assign the compilation of notebooks that include lecture and reading notes, current clippings, student reaction and research papers, book reports, and other materials that would be useful for teaching missions in the future. This is especially helpful for Christian education students who otherwise would have scant resources for administering an effective missions education program in a local church.
Written reports on the missionary biographies discussed above complete the range of written assignments presently used.
When a school is located in an urban center other opportunities open up. At Seattle Pacific, for example, the urban setting provides a variety of experiential learning encounters for introduction students. Students can choose to attend one of several missionary conferences at large local churches, conduct an evaluation of a local church missions program, and conduct interviews with MKs, missionaries, or recent student summer missionaries.
One eye-opening action project is to spend eight hours in Seattle’s international district, attempting to find directions, conversing with at least 10 different people, eating at an ethnic restaurant, and exploring the types of Christian ministries present. These day-long Saturday field trips evoke the most immediate and positive encounters with different lifestyles, worldviews and cultures. Visiting a variety of mission projects in the inner city and attending an ethnic church are other ways for students to see for themselves how the church is attempting to minister to needy people.
Field trips to mission agencies or social service agencies’ are powerful means of acquainting impressionable students with the size and complexity of operating an overseas, inter-cultural organization. Year after year Seattle’ Pacific students rank the class visit to World Concern and Inter-Cristo headquarters as their most memorable learning experiences.
By exploring and developing available ministries for site visits the professor can creatively design active projects to meet specific learning objectives. The human resources of the campus, local church, and the nearest urban center provide more than enough people to enrich students’ direct exposure to missions.
Finally, a word about reading and memory assignments. Despite the fact that many courses in biblical studies and theology no longer require memory work, it is curious to find that almost all professors I talked to are convinced of the importance of Scripture memory. A balance of verses from both Testaments dealing with the origin, purpose, and strategy of missions provides students with a core of missiological understanding available for ready reference and meditation.
Reading for the introduction course must be sufficient to cover the subject, readable enough to capture and hold the students’ attention, diverse enough to relate to a variety of interests, and passionate enough to warm the heart as well as inform the mind, Herbert Kane’s Understanding Christian Mission is still the most comprehensive volume written expressly for such a class. Peter Wagner’s On The Crest of the Wave surveys the field in popular language and with the latest findings. Winter’s and Haw thorne’s monumental Perspective on the World Christian Movement includes offerings from some of the best mission thinkers and communicators of this generation. Ruth Tucker’s biographical survey of mission history has already been cited.
Two other books bear mentioning for possible use in | the introductory class as well, Ted Engstrom’s What In the World is God Doing? is one of the few texts written by a .missions executive which offers an exciting overview of worldwide missions today, Edward Pentecost’s Issues in Missiology is a thorough introduction to the discipline and emphasizes the contribution of the social sciences. (It may be better used with older students, however.)
Having experimented with all of these books in the introduction course, I continue to use the popular Perspectives text, because it gets students enthused about what they are reading like none of the other books. I assign Wagner and Bryant as recommended reading.
In addition to introducing students to various mission agency periodicals, I call their attention to three magazines that provide excellent coverage on a wide range of current issues for college students today. World Christian magazine is devoted entirely to raising awareness of the worldwide task and inspiring "world Christians" with a global vision. TEAM’s quarterly Wherever magazine presents thematic issues in a visually stimulating manner and an easily readable style. Inter-Varsity’s monthly His regularly contains articles on missionary theology, communications, and personal issues written in a most penetrating and evocative style. Exposing students to these three periodicals is a must.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
How do you prepare students for overseas service? Jesus took three years to walk 12 men through a rich variety of learning experiences including observation, lectures, discussions, hypothesis testing, and interviews. They were involved in healings, meeting of physical, needs, health care, food distribution, humanitarian service, evangelism, follow-up, and personal counseling. Surely his nonformal approach is still the ideal model for helping students become effective ministers, missionaries, and disciple-makers. But, lacking the flexibility and, time required for such an experience, the formal education process does have some positive qualities that professors of missions can incorporate in their introductory courses in missions.
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