MissionShift 3 – The Future

This is the last in a series on essays from MissionShift. You can read Ed Stetzer’s initial blog along with David Hesselgrave’s essay here. Feel free to interact with Ed Stetzer’s blog, my blog here, or any of the other bloggers.

Jesus tells us to go into the world, teach others to obey what He taught us, love our neighbors, treat people differently, and more.

Therein lies the tension. As we do mission, how do we do it? We want to share the ultimate truth and spiritual healing found only in Jesus Christ (evangelism), yet we see the physical needs that exist here on earth (social justice). The writers struggle with the same thing, and Stetzer drives home the continuing tension at the end of his essay.

Quick Thoughts on the Essays

As I read the Winter’s essay, I was frustrated with the wide brush strokes of history, but agreed with the need for the social aid along with the sharing of the gospel, keeping with the primacy of the Word, but struggled with how to keep the main thing the main thing, avoiding the errors of the past.

Moreau had some good additional areas to think about, though he was sparse on details. For example, I was not sure what partnerships he was thinking of – between non-religious and missions groups?

Little’s essay resonated strongly with me – our purpose is the glory of God.

Barnett I fought with as he challenged Little but agreed with as he called out Winter’s simplification of history, and then soared as he struck a chord in the need for the church to be center stage with missions.

Terry challenged me biblically and theologically, looking at Ephesians 2:8-10 and showing the need for social and spiritual missions. I particularly enjoyed his look at future trends, which is more of what I expected from Winter’s original essay.

Hesselgrave’s additional essay (found here on Ed Stetzer’s blog) added some strong Scriptural insights on Paul’s missionary role, and added additional insight about Winter’s other teachings.

Future of Missions

So that leaves me thinking – what is the future of missions? How do we do missions in the coming years?

Internet Watching the situation in Egypt, Iran, Bahrain, and other countries, many are driven by social networking.  How do we use these tools as radio has been used in the past?

It certainly allows us to keep up with missionaries and the world. I know for my family it has served this purpose, allowing my children to know and understand the world that exists beyond our community, communicating with missionary friends regularly.

Local Church Partnerships My church, Woodside Bible, has been focused on this for the past several years. Rather than sending small amounts of money to a large number of missionaries, we focus on specific missionaries, and further focusing on specific groups and projects.

For example, my family has worked closely with our partnership with Mano Daniel. I have taught with his seminary, and my wife has worked with medical missions and the orphanage for AIDS-affected children our church helped found with his wife.

Practical Social Justice This may go along with partnerships with local groups. It may include financial help, food, founding orphanages, micro-loans, other ways we can’t even envision yet. A focus on sharing our lives and resources with people we are reaching out to.

Short Term Missions I seem to be one of the few advocates of short term missions (only Terry spoke with positive comments about them), but then my church does not send you on vacation. I spoke at length with Mano Daniel about this when I was there last year. My specific question was “What do you need in terms of missionaries from the States?”

His response was that he does not need more long-term/career missionaries. The issue is that it takes somebody 5-8 years on average to be effective in the culture. He wants more who come for short-term and specific projects. In the teams we have sent to add on to the orphanage, we have been able to complete more work during a 7 day period than locals can accomplish. He said that the teaching teams that we send make a more significant impact in the 5 days of teaching, preparing local pastors to be more effective biblically, than we can know.

And the added bonus of short term missions, having traveled there with my family, is that my kids all know Mano and his family, the challenges that they face, and know better how to pray for this mission field than they could by just sitting through a presentation during a missions weekend.

Mano also made a comment that surprised me. He said that many large international organizations and personalities will travel and come in and do large tent meetings for a week or two, and then leave. While drawing large numbers of people, they often do more damage when they do not partner with local churches, as they get people excited, and then leave. There is no follow-up, no discipleship, no assistance. This is an example of evangelism with zero social justice that does more harm than good.

Tent Makers Many of the areas that Christians want to focus on are closed. Imagine what could happen if people understood their role as ministers of the gospel in the area that God has placed them, and used their ability to travel and work in other countries, partnering with local churches and believers to spread the gospel. We could even be more effective in our local communities by waking believers up that our faith is not a Sunday only experience!

Recognition of missions in daily living Face it – most of us are in a global community on a daily basis – in our offices, schools, and neighborhoods. This means that we need to be focused on sharing the love of Christ daily.

Raising up local leaders This goes along with partnering with local ministries and the type of teaching I have been able to do in India. This will make local pastors more effective biblically, and provide them with regular encouragement.

What can we do?

We are church leaders. Here are a few thoughts:

  • Going back to Van Engen’s essay, we need to define missions (historically, biblically, culturally)
  • What is the gospel and how do we share it?
  • What does contextualization mean in our setting?
  • Struggle with the balance of evangelism and social justice

Jesus prayed for us in John 17, and is continuing to pray for us – that we would be in the world not of it, that we would be protected by His name, that we would have His joy, that we would be sanctified by His Word – truth, that we would have unity.

We sang in church this weekend – “We must go…keep us from just singing” (Tim Hughes – God of Justice). May we go beyond the blogosphere into practical reality!

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