by G. Linwood Barney
No part of the world is immune to the startling and accelerating tempo of change. In fact, the sudden exposure of nearly all the world to modern technology, the new ideologies, and the upsurge in literacy and education, plummets in the span of a decade or two whole societies and cultures into complexities which have required many centuries for development.
No part of the world is immune to the startling and accelerating tempo of change. In fact, the sudden exposure of nearly all the world to modern technology, the new ideologies, and the upsurge in literacy and education, plummets in the span of a decade or two whole societies and cultures into complexities which have required many centuries for development. The missionary is not immune. He encounters people at every position in the broad spectrum from the primitive to the most sophisticated. His problem is made more complex by the fact that most of the people whom he meets are not stationary but are in the constant motion to other points in that spectrum.
The missionary candidate is not immune. Indeed, he is more a product of this confused age than he realizes or most of us are willing to recognize. Let me illustrate this point from a paper by Ralph Covell, professor of missions at Conservative Baptist Seminary, Denver:
" . . . Intellectually, socially and spiritually our young people are a new breed . . . The knowledge explosion has made the junior high student more aware of the world in which he lives than the college freshman of twenty years ago. Children grow up with the omnipresent eye of the television set intruding itself into their lives. `Instant knowledge’ rather than the `one-step-at-a-time’ sequence of the printed page has revolutionized both the content of knowledge and the method of acquiring it. Missionary stories, unfocused travelogues, emphases seemingly irrelevant to the mist apparent social needs of countries will not appeal to junior highers whose school wave-length finds them writing lengthy papers on the ‘Sino-Soviet Split’ and the `Emerging Nations of Africa’.
"Socially the young person seeks involvement now in a cause with which he may be identified. He is interested in authentic living, tends to be idealistic, and is very sensitive to human values. He tends to be person-oriented rather than institution-oriented . . . He questions the past and puts high priority on independence, creativity, and experience. He lives in an affluent society and, despite idealistic rebellion, will be greatly affected by it."
Pusey and Taylor summarize today’s mood of youth as: "Let me serve God and not a church which only half obeys Him; let me be doing what I ought and want to do instead of running organizational machinery; let me avoid the hypocrisy of making money in a life of sacrifice, or let me notbe poor for the wrong reasons; let me help to break the barrier between clergy and laymen; and let me get where the action is" (Ministry for Tomorrow, p. 41).
Dr. George Peters of Dallas Theological Seminary reminded a recruitment workshop that today’s student comes to college with a life which has experienced the tests, doubts, ideologies, moral temptations, etc., which were the total experience of an adult life a generation ago. All these forces have not come in sequence but rather as a nearly instantaneous profusion of attacks.
Out of this maze emerges today’s missionary candidate. He is not unmarked by all this turmoil but by the grace of God he emerges with a love for God and an intense desire to serve him effectively. This word "effectively" is carefully selected, The candidate wants to be God’s servant, in the place of God’s choosing, serving in the manner of God’s choosing. This he considers honest, relevant, and authentic. Anything less is submission to human institutionalism and not God’s rule.
Without being too specific, this indicates something of the situation which faces us today. It challenges each of us whatever our role in missions: veteran missionary, missionary administrator, missionary candidate and missionary preparer.
For young people in today’s western world to obtain a standard education is really demanding. To absorb all the knowledge and evaluate it in the context of multiple crosscurrents of ideology is almost beyond human ability. For the Christian to acquire this knowledge is necessary. For the Christian to face these prevailing ideologies is inevitable. For the Christian to come forth with an affirmation of faith which has the clear ring of authority and assurance is imperative.
It is imperative for the Christian in "Anytown" USA; it is imperative for the Christian in Mecca, New Delhi, Brasilia, Pyramid Station or Red Bobo land. By word and precept, the gospel must be preached and understood and the church must be established and reaching out.
This task must be carried out in every place, in any and every situation, and to all classes of people. It is a task which must be recognized as necessary to the fulfillment of God’s eternal purpose. It is a task which must be seined in loving obedience by every new missionary recruit.
What part does missionary training play in all of this? Let me attempt an answer by citing what we are doing at the Jaffray School of Missions. Jaffray seeks to explore and analyze the missionary task from two basic perspectives: one is that of biblical theology and the other, that of the social sciences with particular emphasis on cultural anthropology. Cultural anthropology not only serves to describe other cultures and societies but it provides many insights into cultural processes by which cultures change, ideas are accepted or rejected and values are discarded or developed. Such knowledge and insight is not only successful in self-analysis, but is instrumental in terms of missionary methods and strategy. However, such knowledge is in need of the checks and balances which come from biblical theology. Cultural forms and systems must be taken seriously but not as final authority. The nature of faith and the nature of the church as each is related to the nature of God, must be authoritative in the final sense.
This is the pattern of redemptive history in the biblical record and in church history. In revelation God takes finite human language seriously. In the incarnation God in the person of Jesus Christ invades human culture and society. He is born of woman under the law and takes culture and society seriously. Yet, he establishes God’s order in the midst of man’s disorder. This is the motif in the high priestly prayer of John 17. "Father do mot take them out of the world but keep them from the evil in the world."
The book of Acts (in conjunction with much in the epistles) describes this continuing pattern wherein God’s truth and redemption must supersede the Jewish forms and structures as it is embraced by the Gentile world. As God crossed the infinite-finite border, even so the missionary must cross the cultural border and make every effort to let God’s truth be known and to let His church take root under the creative execution of the Holy Spirit in significant patterns and forms of the other culture.
At Jaffray we attempt to maintain this two-fold perspective throughout the year; the anthropologist and the theologian sit in on one another’s lectures and are free to interact along with the students. This is the methodology of teaching by which we attempt to explore God’s redemptive history, and by which current missionary principles and practice are examined. In this fashion there is an attempt to define the essential Gospel, the radical nature of faith in Christ; the real nature of the church. Then a ‘study of indigenous church is a natural sequence.This is followed by a study of the encounter of the Christian faith with non-Christian faiths, the issue of ecumenism, the varied ideologies facing the missionary and the church, e.g., the new universalism and the new look of the Roman Catholic Church.
There is study of the mission-church relationships in terms of theological issues and administrative functions. Finally, the Jaffray program concludes with an examination of the missionary as a person: his relationship with fellow missionaries and nationals, his spiritual, intellectual and physical wellbeing; his relationship with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the problems peculiar to a missionary family.
At the beginning of the year the candidate receives a tentative field assignment and throughout the year studies this area by guided research. Also, throughout the year our men from headquarters, and missionaries on furlough are brought in as resource persons to present field information and the policies of the Alliance.
The Jaffray approach to missionary training attempts to be academically respectable, but more than this it seeks to lead the candidate into a way of life which rejoices in the Lordship of Christ, desires to bring glory to Him, and seeks to complete His rightful inheritance in the saints. This exciting perspective sees our missionary activity not as the tailend of history but as the cutting-edge of history.
It is an awesome responsibility to receive missionary candidates from a variety of backgrounds, schools and levels of education, and then seek to guide them into a relationship with God and an understanding of today’s world that they will be effective servants.
At Jaffray we seek to prepare the missionaries to be God’s people in the mainstream of society. The church has never tried to escape its responsibility in the arena of the world’s activity. Some segments of the church in various institutional garbs have withdrawn to the monastery or "Bible City." However, history shows that God has always had his committed disciples who serve Him in the market place, the gathering place, the remote mountain valley or the bustling city-where the action is-where God wants to encounter men.
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