18 days have passed since I left home for India. A lot has happened. I’ve seen so many things, been confronted with endless needs, and am positioned to step into some amazing opportunities for Kingdom impact.
One of the reasons for my trip to India at this time is that it provides what is desperately needed for missions in a new era. Fading away are the days when an agency picks a field (or chooses it because someone wants to go there) and churches eagerly support it. The paradigm of primarily sending long-term full-time missionaries to a people group or region is a motif of days past. Because many churches want missions to be personal, hands-on, and often times self-led, completely new initiatives for missions must be considered. There is a startling amount of mission work still to do, we just need to approach it differently in today’s changing times.
Consider a few reasons that a mission agency like Converge Worldwide must still be relevant in our current shifting context:
The world is flat. 20 years ago, if a church wanted to engage in missions, they needed an agency. Not so today. A pastor simply needs to get on the internet and identify needs, opportunities and partners to do missions with–an he can do this in less than 10 minutes! I know of one church that did exactly this, found a church in Kenya with its same name, contacted the pastor through email, and for several years now has had wonderful ministry through this connection. If an agency hasn’t found their nitch or “add-value”, it will quickly disappear.
A little information can be dangerous. Many churches are giddy about what they’re doing in missions, but it’s too often creating more damage than good. While working in India, I was confronted numerous times by pastors telling me how detrimental one well-know mission agency is in Asia. Though respected in the United States because of its excellent marketing, it is creating havoc in countries where income is low. Very few of these chuches are evangelistic in nature, but instead draw 75% of their people from good Bible-teaching self-supporting indigenous churches. People are drawn away because they go where the money is–American money. And I hear of great churches and wonderful people all the time (many of them from Converge Worldwide) who are givingt to this organization and feel really good about it. This, of course, is only one example of how a little knowlege can be dangeous. Somehow, mission organizations need to inform and guide churches into strategic and wise mission engagement.
Many churches like to go solo. Yes, it’s easier, but it’s not better to go solo. Larger churches easily fall into this “trap.” With substantial resources, mavericks in leadership, and people resources to do great things, it’s common to overlook an important body-life principle — we’re better, stronger, and more effective working together. If churches passionate for a mission field or project could engage other churches effectively, everyone wins. More needs are met, checks and balances between churches and leaders are present, and the blessing of unity is unleashed in the church. Especially as a denominational entity, we can help form collaborative partnerships to see great ministry get done in new places. So far, in Converge, we’ve been calling this “church-driven missions.”
Nationals do it best. At least if you have godly and God-ordained leaders in the countries where ministry needs to get done. If we can identify the “champions” and construct wise methods of partnership and engagement, the probability of getting good, fast, and culturally effective ministry done with exemplary stewardship of resources is very good. We have an amazing scenario coming together like this in India which contains one seventh of the world’s population and still around 3000 under-reached people groups.
This, of course, is just a simplified synopsis of the changing face of missions today. There is so much more. However, my commitment as a leader of missions and missionaries is that we see all of these realities with fresh eyes–most importantly, with God’s eyes. If we don’t strive for effective ministry in our current reality, we will be quickly discarded on the waste-heap of unresponsiveness. That wouldn’t do anyone any good. Most of all, it would dishonor our God who has such a passion for our lost world.
That’s why 18 days in India. I hope it produces 18 years of relevance for the Kingdom.