by EMQ Editors
We invited the following responses to our question.
U.S. National Director, Overseas Missionary Fellowship.
1. We need to continue and strengthen the movement toward unreached people groups. In spite of controversy over who and how many, the basic notion of establishing a church-planting movement among the remaining unreached ethno-linguistic groups is still valid. This is sound, biblical missiology.
2. We need to continue the mobilization effort of the church in reaching the unreached in terms of the total task, and not just in response to what’s interesting, popular, or affordable. Obviously, missions should focus on ripe fields, or potential harvests, and maximize the opportunities. But at the same time, we must not overlook the hard facts and harsh realities of regions that even yet are neglected and underevan-gelized, representing major unmet needs.
3. The local church must increase its sense of ownership of the task of world missions and work more than ever in creative partnership with mission agencies. Both are needed in the process, and communication and inter-dependence need to be strengthened. The Adopt-A-People Movement has the potential for enhancing quality church-mission partnership, and it should be encouraged.
4. Cooperative task forces, or consortiums in missions, can be extremely helpful to achieving our goals and should be facilitated wherever practical or possible. While there are limits to cooperation, recent models demonstrate also that networking and interdependence are both productive and appropriate, especially in terms of stewardship and maximizing resources.
5. Much more needs to be done in reaching international students. For instance, in the U.S. it is estimated that at best only about 10 percent of the international students are being adequately reached by efforts of all groups and agencies. What a tragedy! In Japan, there are some 100,000 students from China who represent a tremendous challenge. This could be multiplied in many respects in other countries. But mission agencies need to think people groups and not just geography. They must be prepared to invest much more in working with recent immigrants to the U.S., for instance, and international students.
6. Asia represents the last great missiological challenge. Although containing 60 percent of the world’s people, it represents only five percent of the world’s Christians. Of the 27 nations in Asia, 15 have less than 1 percent of their population counted as Christians. With almost 2,500 ethno-linguistic groups, many are still unreached, and perhaps 1,000 do not have the Bible in their language or dialect. Asia contains the largest blocs of unreached groups among Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and tribals. Every three seconds, five people are added to the global population, three of whom are Asians. Despite two centuries of missionary efforts, with some remarkable successes, Asia remains the least evangelized continent on earth.
7. While short-term programs and church-based ministry teams have their vital place, experience continues to show the need for career missionaries and agencies that are geared to the long haul. This is not intended to justify our existence, but reflects both a historical as well as biblical perspective. Neither can we afford just to send funds alone to support nationals as the only viable and economic way of church involvement. That is too simplistic as a solution. Every church is called both to give and to go.
8. With economic pressure on many supporting churches, we are in danger of overprioritizing the pioneer church planter to the exclusion of other vitally needed training and support personnel. We must think missions enterprise and not just missionary. We must keep in mind the total task force, and not just focus on the individuals who appear to be on the cutting edge. Missions history has repeatedly shown that a mission team is made up ideally of a wide range of complementary gifted personnel, each contributing to the task.
9. In spite of all the rhetoric and seminars, we are still not taking full advantage of thepotential contribution Christians living abroad can make, including the technical tentmaker. Churches need to fully recognize their contribution, and screen, send, support, and service Christian professionals overseas as they would so-called full-time missionaries.
International Director, Action International Ministries, Bothell, Wash.
If missions are not careful, they may become like the old empty cathedrals in Europe. We could become sidetracked with our main activities being caring for our missionaries, building retirement homes, increasing our monthly allotment, upgrading our insurance, and obtaining more modern and nicer office facilities instead of taking the gospel to the masses.
If we get sidetracked with the baby boomer, baby buster, seeker, or warfare seminar mentality, instead of taking the simple gospel to the masses, missions in the 21st century will simply be a shell, possibly with lots of activity, but no life.
Our purpose in the 21st century should be, in the words of Paul, to “. . . proclaim (Christ), admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28).
EFMA and IFMA missions need to meet for planning and strategy to disciple the millions in India, in lost Europe, Muslim Africa, and the Middle East, the world’s 100 million street children, the 800,000 teenage prostitutes of Thailand, as well as the major unreached cities of the world, such as the 550 unchurched slum areas of Manila and the over 9 million poor of Calcutta. This will take more than “supporting a national worker or a needy child” (we should be doing both), but calling on the church to give its best, young and old, for world missions.
Large and small missions need to “hit it before the sun sets,” to recapture the word “sacrifice” for the sake of the lost. Let’s not wait for the 21st Century. Let’s reach our generation now with the gospel. Spurgeon said, “If I have any message to give from my own bed of sickness it would be this—if you do not wish to be full of regrets when you are obliged to lie still, work while you can. If you desire to make a sickbed as soft as it can be, do not stuff it with mournful reflections that you wasted time when you were in health and strength!”
Why don’t some of us older missionaries forget about retirement, break out of the “we deserve a break” mold, and give all we have for the gospel’s sake and God’s glory. We shouldn’t just talk about our heroes, such as Paul, C.T. Studd, Hudson Taylor, L.E. Maxwell, William Booth, and Amy Charmichael; let’s emulate them. Missionaries today, and in the 21st century, should recommit themselves to die in the battle if need be, with our backs bent under the gospel plow and our bodies worn out in ministry for the masses who need the gospel of salvation in Christ. “And for this purpose (we) labor, striving according to his power, which mightily works within (us)” (Col. 1:29).
JULIA MCLEAN WILLIAMS
President, The Mission Society for United Methodists, Decatur, Ga.
I was on page 313 of Racing Toward 2001. The chapter titled “Anticipating the Next Age” described the need to let go in faith as we move into an undefined future. These words jumped out to challenge me: “. . . sometimes reaching for the future means spending some terrifying ‘time in midair’!”
Leaders of mission agencies in a world moving at an incredibly fast pace, with increasing and ever-changing needs, complex global relationships, and mass desperation, can understand the “terror” in that phrase. But I can see some distinct advantages to that “time in midair.”
In midair, we let go of all that ties us down so we are able to move. There is flexibility and freedom from some of the “hoodlums of habit” that have kept us ever behind. We can lead the way.
I am president of a young missionary sending agency. Here, because it is a less-than-10-year-old organization, structure and tradition are not master. This frees us to develop untried strategies to help complete the GreatCommission. It allowed us, for example, to recruit a retired couple in their seventies to go to Kazakhstan to serve the team there as “grandparents” to the missionary families.
From a “midair” vantage point, we have a clearer vision of the whole body of Christ. The future demands an interdependency of working relationships, strategies, funding, training, administration, and general care of the health of the body. Interdependency is a mature relationship. God intends all parts of his body to function well together.
The Mission Society has partnership agreements with many agencies, and we are negotiating more. This gives us an expanding awareness and dimension. It is cost effective. It sets loose a creative energy among us that is life-giving in an age of sick and dying institutions.
When we spend “time in midair” we are reminded of our dependence on God through prayer. It is through prayer that God reveals his vision for the new forms of mission and strategy needed for the future. Prayer shapes our character as agencies and propels us to an even higher and more costly place.
Through prayerful planning the ministry of the Mission Society has broadened to include Life Changers, a student ministry to develop future missionaries and church leaders; and a partnership with Enterprise Development, International, a ministry that, through a revolving loan system, provides small loans to the world’s poor so that they can become self-sustaining and a part of the army to complete the Great Commission.
It would be good for us to spend a lot of “time in midair.”
EMQ, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 367-370. Copyright © 1993 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.