Monday, January 15, 2007

Missions and the Local Church- A look at cooperative missions and missions sending orginizations

For the sake of review, let me give a synopsis of the things that I am focusing on in this series before moving on to the subject of cooperative missions. I believe that the primary mission sending organization is the local church. Let me put that in a way that may be more biblical. The church's mission is to spread the glory and gospel of God throughout all nations. Now, I have said that one of the stumbling blocks to the church seeing this as their mission is the disconnect that both the church feels when its missionaries leave and the missionaries feel from their church when they leave. I would like to charge both to keep in contact with one another and to hold one another accountable. If you are a missionary out on the field and you are reading this and you haven't heard from your home church in years; send them a letter, or an email that lovingly asks for their support and care. If you are a church member and you haven't heard from missionaries in years but you remember sending them out, take the time to find out who has been sent out and contact them. They'll appreciate it. Most importantly—maintain contact.

Now, with that said, I know that I have also said that I feel mission sending organizations have unintentionally communicated that they are the primary mission sending organization. I, being a Southern Baptist, have looked directly at the IMB and asked what they are doing to connect missionaries to local churches. But, I also see the way they view themselves in the mission sending organization. They want to "lead" Southern Baptist in doing missions. I have suggested that they "serve." Now, what does that mean? Isn't cooperative missions important? Are there different ways of doing cooperative missions? How could the IMB serve the SBC churches in doing missions?

First, let me say that I am very supportive of cooperative missions. I am not against it, and I think that missions sending organizations have done a great service to the kingdom of God. So, by no means am I suggesting we kick the IMB or NAMB to the curb. Cooperative missions is very important especially for those churches that cannot afford to send missionaries out on their own. Now, I could continue to develop this point, but I'll be developing it throughout the post so I'll depart from it for right now.

Second, there are different ways of doing cooperative missions. One way, is through your local association (See this post for the importance of associational missions). There are a few advantages to this. First, it puts you in contact with people that are around you, can get to know you and examine your life. One of the greatest problems I've seen with the way we do missions in the SBC currently is that the IMB or NAMB has to make decisions based upon a few meetings and references. They really don't know the Christian who is applying to go overseas. My feeling is that the church could do a much better job at setting apart those who are to be sent out.

What if churches or associations were sending missionaries? Would we still need the IMB? Absolutely! The IMB could help coordinate these two in doing missions by letting them know of other churches/associations working in a particular area where they are sending people. They could also help by giving money to associations that struggle financially year after year. In this they would be providing a service. There also may be some associations and churches not actively sending missionaries. They could help encourage, educate and equip the church/association for this (wow I just did some alliteration! I have a three point sermon!). They would take less of a leadership position over these churches as they have now, but they would provide a great service to the SBC. Would the IMB be willing to do this?

The IMB could also be Johnny-on-the-spot when catastrophes happen (such as tsunamis) in the areas where missionaries are at work, all the time connecting with the local church/associations to do so. I've been part of several churches, and my father has been a pastor of some that have split just before we arrived. So, I know all too well that sometimes power struggles can happen in a church. The IMB could help a missionary family out who has been defunded because Mr. "I've got money" quits tithing because the new fellowship hall wasn't named after his grandmother. The IMB could help support those missionaries that lose their funding for reasons beyond the fact that the missionaries were not being faithful to what they had been sent out to do.

There are many other ways that the IMB could help serve us, the local church, that I haven't listed here . Nor, have I worked out all the logistical problems of my suggestion. All I want to do is ask, "can we do this differently?" My generation is good at asking questions and picking apart people and ideas (like some have done when they criticize the IMB), but we never provide any answers. I hope that this will cause us to reexamine the local churches role in sending missionaries and provide an answer to some of the question that many are asking.

Finally, let me say one thing to missionaries who feel called to go to a different country (this is a little off subject). You don't need a missionary sending organization, a church, or whatever, to pay your bills for you while you serve as a missionary. You could work overseas, or just buy a one way ticket and put your trust in God to take care of you. Read Bruchko. Here, you'll see a young man who bought a one way ticket to Colombia to work with Indians who had never heard the gospel. He did so with absolutely no financial backing. I do encourage you to seek your local churches support (none would give it to the author of this book) and work with them in what you feel called to do.

Through Christ,
Dougald

PS-Please have mercy on me if I have not said something well! Or, ask me to clarify! :)

2 comments:

Alan Knox said...

Dougald,

Once again, you've asked some good questions and offered answers. There are only a couple of points that I would disagree (or state differently).

First, you said, "The church's mission is to spread the glory and gospel of God throughout all nations." This is true. However, I believe it is true because the church is the people of God and it is their responsibility to "spread the glory and gospel of God". This is not an organizational responsibility.

Second, you said, "Cooperative missions is very important especially for those churches that cannot afford to send missionaries out on their own." I understand what you are saying. But, I have a question for you: If God desires for a church to "send missionaries" to you think he will also supply the resources? Could it be that we assume that some churches cannot afford to "send missionaries" because of what we assume that means (i.e. 100% support, the missionaries not working, etc.)?

Just a couple of questions... hope you don't mind.

-Alan

dwmIII said...

Alan,

Thanks for the comment and questions!

In realtion to your first point I want to thank you for bringing that to my attention. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with you, it is the church's responsability to do this and not an orginization. Thanks for clarifying that for me.

In relation to your second point, I'll actually break it up into two seperate parts. First, if I understand your question correctly, you are asking if it is God's desire for a church to send missionaries, won't he provide for them? To that I would say, yes. However, I wouldn't want to deny help from other churches if they wanted to help out in this area especially for a church of say ten. But, I do feel that it should happen first on the associational level (I'm still working inside our present ecclesiastical structure as SBCers since I don't have a suggestion for a change). I do believe this would require a great deal of involvment and encouragement between these sister churches and the church that is receiving the help.

Now, on to 100% support...
I do think that we tend to lean towards an unhealthy expectation that we should receive support for our missionary endeavors. Back when the IMB had its budget crisis Wes and I both talked about the idea of sending more missionaries who worked and supported themselves. We've even discussed that for ourselves and would be very willing to work where we go. The book Bruchko is a great example of someone who went with 0% of support.

This past summer as we raised money for airfares and housing for our trip to KZ, we ran into some money problems. We only had about $50 dollars in our account after the tickets. This was two weeks before our trip, and we sent four people ahead of us, one of them being Wes' wife, and his two kids. I told them, we have to be prepared to live off of nothing when we are there. It also got me thinking, would I do some work for a day on a mission trip to raise money so the team I lead, or my family, can eat. Certainly, I think we should be willing in either case (short-term or long-term)to do so. So, while I don't have a problem with 100% support, if that support was removed I would have a problem with a missionary who quit after losing support. We do need to be willing to work.

Dougald