Missions Works! God chose to give us the Great Commission. He chose to use weak vessels to carry out the greatest task on earth and because He initiated the plan, it will be accomplished. The purpose of this blog is find ways in which we may be more efficient in this task. We would like to generate healthy conversation that will result in more results for our resources. While no article written here will perfect our missions methods, we pray that we can network together to more efficiently use our resources for the spread of the gospel. While there are many topics explored in this site, the top trends to raise our efficiency are listed both above and below to the right as links that can take you to an article explaining the why and how. Please, feel free to comment on articles and share this site within your network of Pastors/missionaries/friends.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

10/40 Window

The 10/40 window has been a very popular and driving missions term in the last couple of decades. Many efforts have gone into recruiting missionaries to go into these unreached areas to evangelize many who have never heard the gospel. Praise the Lord for all that has been done and all that God is doing. 

I sometimes have felt guilt for not going to this part of the world. I have read many articles, heard many messages and have many friends advocating the need in the 10/40 window. It is a great need! Some churches now will only support new missionaries going to this area of the world. In the book Missions in the Third Millenium author Stan Guthrie quotes people as saying “those in other countries have had their chance” and “no one deserves to hear the gospel twice until everyone has heard it once.” I know that most 10/40 advocates are not this stern, but it sometimes gets implied. While I agree that everyone needs to hear the gospel, I tend to disagree on the philosophy this teaches in our goal of making disciples. 

How many times did you hear the gospel before you were saved? I heard that the average is seven times. Did you immediately become a mature fully devoted follower of Christ? If we are to reach the unreached, will it only be Americans that can reach them? 

The International Baptist Mission board has put great focus on the idea of unreached people groups. They have started to pull their missionaries from “reached” areas in order to send them to the unreached. While I agree that the unreached need to be reached, I disagree with this decision. Americans are descending the list of countries that send out missionaries. Why can we not train the nationals in these “reached” countries so they may be more effective in sending their missionaries? This is also a need. 

I work in Brazil and there are plenty of churches needing pastors. There are not many choices when it comes to receiving a Pastor. In Brazil there is a need to train Pastors and missionaries. Brazil is growing economically and in Christianity and could be a great sending country; but if we pull our trainers from the country, it will fail. 10/40 window countries are more receptive to Brazilians because of their skin color and political neutrality. Americans often need to use “creative access” to get into these countries, when Brazilians just go in. I know Brazil is not the only country where this is the case. Can we not have a focus for the 10/40 window by focusing on training in other countries? 

Another issue with the 10/40 window focus is that there are other areas in the world that are just as needy. Europe has dove into unreached status in many areas; Brazil has places that are under 2% evangelical as well and I know that there are other countries in the same boat. 

Stan Guthrie also says: “the concept of the Window is at odds with another key missiological principle - reaching the spiritually receptive. Is it ethical to take missionaries away from regions where large numbers are entering the kingdom, such as the Philippines, in order to send them to resistant areas where the harvest is almost nonexistent? The answer should be sending more to both. Missions is not a limited pie. We need more people, more money, more resources, more thinking, and more prayer, both in the Window and around the world, until the Great Commission has been fulfilled.” 

Let's reach the unreached! But lets not forget to train mature disciples in other countries that will extend their influence in even the unreached areas.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I have a dream!

I have a dream that one day missionaries will be multiplied across the globe. I have a dream that they will have a strong partnership with a sending church that supports them in every way possible. I have a dream that no missionary will have more than five supporting churches and that they will find rest a possible goal during furlough. I have a dream that churches will support no more than ten missionaries and have active partnerships with each one of them including trips to the field and active communication. I have a dream that together we will reach the world for the glory of Christ’s holy name and it will culminate in a multi-nation, multi-linguistic worship service that lasts forever!

If we have no vision, we will go nowhere. What does the future look like for missions? I do not know for sure, but I know that we can work to improve. God has always had a great plan for reaching the world and we cannot stop it! But we can join in and do our best, making wise decisions that will benefit the cause and bring glory to Him.

It is about process. Martin Luther did not think racism would stop that year; he knew it would take time. Nick Saban, coach of the Alabama football team, is famous for “process.” He does not worry about the future, he thinks about the next practice and how that will fit into the goal of developing his players to win the next game. We must also think about the process it must take to arrive at the future vision of making more disciples of Christ. If we improve on the partnership and support models, there will be less burnout of missionaries and more funds available resulting in more disciples made.

Let’s do this thing!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dangers in long term missions

Dangers with long term missionaries? Is that even possible? I wanted to deny it, but after thinking for only seconds, I realized that there are not just dangers in short term missions, but also in long term missions. 

The job of a missionary is to work himself out of a job. Paul stayed in one city as a missionary for three years max, his average was 6 months. He went to the cities, preached the gospel, organized the believers, appointed elders and moved on. 

The main “danger” that I thought of when I read over a comment from a fellow missionary is dependency. In mission started churches, often the church is dependent on the missionaries. Obviously, it needs to be at the beginning, but as soon as possible, nationals should be taking over. The national's mentality though is “why would they need to teach when there was a better qualified missionary available to teach?” The missionary needs to de-emphasize himself and re-emphasize the gospel and God’s word as the real need. 

We need to be careful and conscious of “rice Christians” (those who see the financial benefit there is to being a Christian and “converting” for this reason). This topic might have frustrated me most about being on the field because it is hard to tell who your true friends are. My neighbor always started to ask spiritual questions right before he would ask me for a favor. He was really obvious, but most are not so obvious. Long term missionaries need to be careful with how they help out so as not to create an easy atmosphere for false converts. 

I loved living in the Amazon and could see myself there forever doing plenty of needed ministry. But with that I could envision myself forgetting the idea of working myself out of a job. Missionaries need to keep that in mind as they train leaders to whom they may pass the baton. 

What are the other dangers in long term missions?    

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Should missionaries use an agency or strictly the local church?

I posted this article a few weeks ago on my personal blog and was pleased with the feedback: I added that plus some additional material to this post.

A recent trend in missions is for missionaries to be sent out of their local church without a board. Very biblical, I like it. I wish sometimes we just had one church that is really behind us pushing hard, investing in our lives. But we don't, and I am in some ways glad. We go through ABWE, the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. Yesterday we had our board interview in which the board loved and encouraged us. They made us know that they are behind us. I told them that we loved ABWE cause their structure kept us on the field.

You see, a mission board understands missionaries. Churches probably do to some degree, but it is not their specialty. ABWE specializes in training missionaries, taking care of missionaries, mobilizing missionaries, counseling missionaries and networking in missionary resources. When we had way too many bad boat rides and were ready to give up, our administrators told us we were not bad people for feeling that way. They told us they loved us and we were doing a good job. They told us to take breaks when we needed breaks. They loved us so much. 

ABWE does not take the place of our home church, it aids our home church. The home church is the sender and the board is the facilitator. When one is sent out of a home church with no board, they do not have the networking resources. ABWE has a structure all set up to help with accountability and support on the field. They are also able to get international health insurance at a group rate. They have developed high quality internationally friendly evangelism and discipleship material. They understand how different cultures work and how to prepare for the life of a missionary. 

Before we arrived on the field we were required to attend several training seminars. We were told what to expect. That understanding can save the life of a missionary who will face daunting cultural challenges. 

So yes, be a great home church; and sure, support them for 100%. But make sure that you are connected to the resources you need to make your missionary as successful as he can be.

I received some great feedback after this blog. People seemed to think that it would be cheaper through a church, but a couple people pointed out that the church may not be as prepared as to the training aspects of sending a missionary. Jeff Selph pointed out that it would depend on the church. The larger churches might have the capabilities to do more training and sending, but the smaller churches might not have those resources. Aaron Carpenter pointed out that the mission boards could do a better job informing the churches of their role. Our mission board, ABWE has a conference for Pastors in which they go over how to be a great sending church. I highly recommend the conference for churches with missionaries.

Here is another conference in Nashville http://sendingchurchgathering.com that will go over being a sending church. 

Nathan Sloan, a missions Pastor, says: “My challenge to mission boards is to allow the sending church to really take an active role in training and sending. Most boards talk about supporting and assisting the local church, about the church being the key figure, but most boards don't actually function in this manner.

My challenge to the local church and its leaders is to take your rightful place in missions- be the trainers, senders and sustainers you're called to be. Giving sacrificially is important but it is just one part of the puzzle. Local churches need to be about equipping, coaching, missionary care, on-field engagement, etc.

A new trend in missions is for mission agencies and local churches to work together in all aspects of the mission process. My prayer is that this continues!”

Stan Guthrie, in his book Missions in the Third Millennium  weighs in on this topic in the first chapter. He defends both sides. “Citing what they see as the high costs and ossified thinking of traditional missions agencies, a sizable bloc of churches, sometimes called megachurches for their size and clout, has decided to go it alone...they risk making the same mistakes and relearning the very same lessons the agencies have over the decades.” 

“Some in the church-only movement see the church, either locally or through denominational boards, as the only legitimate sender of missionaries.”

“Agencies,... are being forced to justify everything they do.”

Tom Stellar, missions Pastor at Bethlehem Baptist, says “I don’t feel we have the time or expertise to do what a well-run agency can do.” 

Jim Reapsome, editor at World Pulse and Evangelical Missions Quarterly says “churches want regular performance reports, more say in missionary deployment, up-to-date financial support information, pastoral care for missionaries, and current information on agency personnel needs...most agencies come up short in these areas.” “I have listened to both sides and am amazed that they cannot find time to sit down and listen to one another with mutual respect, trust, and appreciation.”

Friday, August 23, 2013

How do I transition to a less for more strategy?

Let's say that you agree we need to support less missionaries for more money. You like the idea of saving travel time and money for our missionaries. You want the missionaries to spend more time investing in their home church. What are the steps to taking your home church to that missions philosophy? Realistically, it is not going to happen over night.

Of course, there must be vision casting within the church for this to happen. People must understand the overall goal, but they also need to know it will take time. First of all, we can't just start dropping all the missionaries randomly. That could cause a lot of chaos. Remember, this process will be very slow. There will not be a sudden shift in missions that will have all the missionaries taken care of, but you can gradually make the changes that will make it possible for the future. 

Check up on the missionaries. Sometimes those you support are not even on the field! Unfortunately that happens. Make sure they are being held accountable for their work. This topic links closely to the topic about partnering versus supporting. Be a partner!

Instead of supporting new missionaries, increase the support of those you already support, especially those from your home church. A comment was made on the blog that if one church supports for too much and then they have a change of leadership, the missionary could be out. I understand that (and really think that if the church had a proper leadership structure, it wouldn't depend on one Pastor. There should be a leadership structure that is constant and are the main decision makers).  There is always the chance a church can drop a missionary, but the missionary would have to spend time raising more money anyway, whether before he gets to the field or once he is on the field. If he has a strong relationship with people in the church, it should not be that easy for a new Pastor to come in and take his support away. That is why it is important to have a partnership attitude with our missionaries, not just a business-throw the money at them- type relationship. 

If you do get to the point where you can take on more missionaries, look for missionaries whose home base is close by. They should not have to travel so much to be around you. (I hope to have an article on here sometime about consortiums). You can also lobby for the missionaries from your home church to find churches nearby that will support them so they don't have to travel so much.

Also, share this idea with other churches. Encourage them to buy into this philosophy because it won't work if only a couple churches are doing it. Actually, churches are already starting to do this, but the majority is not. Let other churches know what can happen and be excited about it.

Here is a link to another great post on this topic by Jeremy Wallace, an independent baptist pastor in Chattanooga. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Short term trip shortcomings

My parents took our whole family on short term mission trips as children. Out of that I felt called to missions and took a couple more trips to confirm that calling as well as the location to which we would minister. My wife caught interest of missions from two short term trips and that is one major reason I caught interest in her. Many missionaries felt their call to missions after a short term trip and many fields have received a big boost from these trips. Obviously, short term trips play a vital role in missions. 

However, there are several stories in which we look back and see examples of how short term mission work has damaged the progress of making disciples. 

The Great Omission is a book by Steve Saint (son of missionary martyr Nate Saint) who talks about what happened with the Auca indians of Ecuador. While the Auca church boomed after the return of Rachel Saint, the site became a tourist attraction for short term trips. The church was then left in disrepair and short term missionary Pastors took the place of lead pastors due to the overflow of them. 

David Whiting, Pastor of Northridge Church of Rochester cites this example and explains the error in it. We often do not understand the cultural differences that are underlying factors in missions. In this case, as well as many other countries, if you construct something, you are responsible for its maintenance. Upon arrival in the Amazon I felt compelled to dig a well for poor people in our city. I sought advice from other missionaries and found out that they already had a well, they just did not maintain the well. In fact, with several different issues, the nationals would not take initiative because they were used to receiving. When they did receive, they expected more and did less. We hear people boast about taking clean water to many areas of the world and I am sure it happens effectively in many areas, but in some places, due to this cultural difference, they will only have clean water for a couple of months. 

Pastor Whiting explains that places like Haiti and Africa who have received billions of dollars of “help” are none the better. We must be careful with how we give help in both charity giving as well as short term trips to help out. Finding the right organization is important. If you don’t, you could end up hurting more than helping. Probably helping in a way that doesn't just give a fish, but teaches them to fish would be more practical. 

Another story is told of a man who went to the same place each year for short term missions. He was in a pre-service meeting when the question was asked, “so who is going to raise their hand and go forward tomorrow night?” He was shocked and asked for clarification. They said, “well, we value these trips so much and get so much out of them, that we want you all to come back each year. We know if all of us go forward each time, then you will not believe us, but if around half of us go forward, you will all come back each year.” I know this does not happen everywhere and that there is legitimate fruit, but there must be some sort of long term accompaniment in order for disciples to be made (in contrast to apparent converts with little or no follow up). 

A Pastor told of how good it felt to take a team to Mexico and build two houses. After a few years they figured the price it took per house; 30,000 dollars. It would have given jobs to Mexicans that could have done it for 3000 dollars. When they presented the houses to the families, the husband was no where to be found. What should be his job of providing a house for his family, was given to someone else, thus shaming him. 

A lot of this material I am getting from Pastor Whiting’s missions series “The Great Omission” that can be found by clicking here. I feel like I have not done justice in this blog to the strong points he makes. 

I know that short term missions is needed, but I think we must consider some of the consequences, balance the ratio of long term versus short term missions spending, and think about exactly what we are trying to accomplish. Short term missions will never go away because we will always need missionaries and there is so much it can accomplish. The short term trips page on this blog has some great tips in the comments section on how we can think through some of these issues. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

College, Seminary, Debt, and Missions

I have enjoyed counseling younger people interested in missions and it seems like there is a topic that often comes up. College debt. One young man was overwhelmed with the future of college debt and wondered what to do about it. The other is studying for his masters and his parents told him to put a 2000 dollar mission trip on his ever growing loan package (that could be a topic for the short term trips page). His plan was to work until he could go to the field. I wonder what his future will look like, but if he follows the footsteps of many, he will get a job, get a wife, get some kids, have a life, and not be on the mission field. 

Is this just reality that we can do nothing about? Is this the only way? I do not want to write as though I have an answer, I want to ask the questions and hear from you. 

What was the educational level of the disciples? I know there were not master’s programs around at that time... but there was a lot of very educated ministers called Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.. Yet the disciples did well; granted they had Jesus and we just have cheap imitations of him. (that was a joke, don’t try to defend yourself).

I have read a book lately that every Pastor/missionary should read called Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp. He argues that the education system has developed a church that looks more at the education of a candidate Pastor than his actual spiritual maturity. 

I will never argue that college/seminary is always bad for those in ministry because it does usually greatly enhance a person’s gifts/knowledge to allow him to have greater influence. 

I just wonder if there is a cheaper way to develop these minister’s gifts and knowledge to where they could be more effective earlier in life because they are not under the pressure of paying off debt. 

I mentioned Sojourn in one blog article and they actually have a school of missions out of their church. I know that every church does not have these capabilities, but there are programs out there that offer courses for cheaper.

Our mission board, ABWE, has varying requirements for their missionaries. If the missionary will be a Pastor/seminary teacher or in a similar position, he is required to have at least a degree for it. Other missionaries are required to have at least OT/NT survey classes, Bible Study Methods and a doctrine class. They also are required to take a Good Soil (20 hour) seminar and an Essential Missions Components class. 

We can’t throw the untrained out to the wolves to be devoured; we must train our missionaries and pastors, but is there a way we can avoid the debt? What are your thoughts, ideas?