12 common mistakes by Western Mission Agencies

Discussion in 'Evangelism, Missions and the Persecuted Church' started by Pergamum, Mar 18, 2010.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Top 12 Mistakes Mission Agencies Should Avoid | Christianpost.com


    12 Mistakes Western Mission Agencies Make:

    1. The Mistake of Starting Bible Schools, and not Universities
    2. The Mistake of Only “Salvation in Heaven,” not of helping God's “Kingdom on Earth”
    3. The Mistake of Congregations Direct-Sending Missionaries, Not Using Mission Agencies
    4. The Mistake of Whole Congregations in Direct Involvement, Not Professional Missions.
    5. The Mistake of Insisting that Devout Followers of Jesus Call Themselves “Christians” and Identify with the Western Church
    6. The Mistake of Sending Only Money, Not Missionaries
    7. The Mistake of Sending Short-Termers, Not Long-Termers
    8. The Mistake of Not Understanding Business in Mission and Mission in Business
    9. The Mistake of Healing the Sick, Not Eradicating Disease Germs
    10. The Mistake of Thinking “Peace” Not “War”
    11. The Mistake of Assuming Science Is a Foe Not a Friend
    12. The Mistake of An Evangelism That is Not Validated and Empowered by Social Transformation
  2. Covenant Joel

    Covenant Joel Puritan Board Sophomore

    I read through the article...though I wouldn't agree with everything he said, these 12 things seem to be quite an important/kick in the pants to many missions efforts coming the US. I was particularly intrigued by the 1st one actually. Given the widespread nature of universities in many countries now, is it feasible for missionaries to start them?
  3. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    The premise of the article seems off. They are criticizing such a huge picture, that they end up saying very little to people who have "stuck to their knitting" over the decades.

    1. Missionaries should start a Seminary, and let some other entity or person do University or "Bible School."

    2. Missionaries should be primarily concerned about "making disciples," who then live as Citizens of Heaven, sojourning here on earth. I think I understand what is WRONG with the "get-them-saved" approach being criticized, however the answer isn't the CHURCH getting people thinking more about the WORLD than about HEAVEN, where CHRIST is!

    3. Missionaries should be sent by the church (whether it is one congregation or several). A denominational missionary has been examined and vetted by the church. As for the independent "mission agency," I can envision plenty of problems arising from an unaccountable body of "professionals." This concern seems mainly to affect small, independent churches.

    4. Ministers of the gospel are the missionaries, without whom there is nothing to call "missionary-work." Every-Joe isn't a missionary. But I'm not sure that this response is exactly what the article is criticizing. Because I wonder about this "professional" model they are using.

    5. Believers were first called "Christians" in Antioch. Seems like a normal paradigm to call yourself after your Lord. As for "identifying with the western church," I would just ask if the writer thinks that the churches Paul founded should have been "identifying themselves" with the Jewish church, with Antioch, with the Apostle's, etc.? "If anyone seems contentious, we have no other/such custom, nor do the churches of God." But there is a problem with indigenous churches being made "colonials" of the "mother-culture." We need to distinguish between exporting a "biblical-Christianity" that is cross-cultural, and western (or eastern, or whatever) philosophy and ideas dressed up in Christianity.

    6. Again, this is a problem of not being a connectional church, with a proper "pool" for resources. Sometimes, all a tiny church can do is "give money." But if they think that sending money (even to an HQ) is "all" they need to do in order to be "missionary-minded," that's wrong.

    7. Short-term "missionaries" (i.e. kids or adults on a mini-vacation/exposure trip) ISN'T missionary-work. Let's stop calling them after the name of called ministers of the gospel and their assistants.

    8. What does "business" have to do with "missionary"? Seems like this problem is with missionaries (of whatever sort) getting their priorities mixed up.

    9. I am happy with medical-mission work, but no proper mission begins with Rx, and Christ come afterward. And it is not the church's job to raise sanitation levels. I expect mission-work to result in better sanitation, but that's because really changed lives translate into changed society. If society isn't changed, perhaps it isn't that the message needs to be changed from "Christ" to "sanitation," but rather that preaching "Christ" has NOT BEEN the message of about 90% of the missionary-labor for the past century.

    10, 11, 12. Here, we are just getting farther and farther away from anything recognizable as biblical mission...
  4. jambo

    jambo Puritan Board Senior

    1. The Mistake of Starting Bible Schools, and not Universities
    I thought the great commission was to make disciples of all nations and to teach them all things Christ has commanded. The focus of mission is to plant churches not colleges

    2. The Mistake of Only “Salvation in Heaven,” not of helping God's “Kingdom on Earth”
    I think this is a mistake a lot of churches here in the west make and not just in the missionfield.

    5. The Mistake of Insisting that Devout Followers of Jesus Call Themselves “Christians” and Identify with the Western Church
    I think this is a problem and particularly so in the Islamic world. Christians in Asia, Africa or wherever should be called Christians but their churches should reflect the Indian, African etc culture rather than western culture

    6. The Mistake of Sending Only Money, Not Missionaries
    Definitely. Sending money is for some a substitute for not going

    7. The Mistake of Sending Short-Termers, Not Long-Termers
    I think short termers have a valid role to play on the mission field and can be a great encouragement. However this thinking has usurped the need for long term workers. Some feel they can do short term work and that is their bit for the kingdom over. I think a lot in the west need to rethink missionary commitment.
  5. Covenant Joel

    Covenant Joel Puritan Board Sophomore

    Is this not perhaps a false dichotomy? Granted, I know what it is that you're arguing against...an attitude in which the important thing is raising education levels, food distribution, etc. without focusing on "things above" as Colossians above. But I think Winter is perhaps reacting against those who have gone the other way, those who talk about things above but then say "Go in peace! Be warmed and filled!" to the one who is in need (James 2:16). The answer lies in the message of the gospel transforming lives, motivating God's people to be radically involved in their communities now for God's glory and under Christ's Lordship.

    As far as the general principle, I agree. They should be sent by the church. But I see no reason why a church cannot support missionaries through mission agencies for reasons of finances, insurance, networking, etc. My wife and I will be heading overseas in the next few years, but we likely won't go with the denominational agency for a variety of reasons. But we will be very accountable to the church in which we are members (PCA).

    Well, this is something that I think a lot of people are working through, including me (cf. the recent discussion(s) started by Dr. Gonzales). That is, what is the role of the unordained in evangelism and missions? I'm still processing this point.

    This is particularly complex in the regions we'll be heading (Muslim areas). Is calling oneself a "follower of Jesus" not acceptable? Must a convert from Islam call him/herself a Christian, given what means in Islamic culture? That is another question I'll be spending a lot of time thinking through, but I think it's tougher than at first meets the eye.

    Regarding no. 8, this is quite important when it comes to closed (particularly Muslim) countries. One can't just say, "I'm a minister of the gospel, and I want to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to you," and get in the country. Thus sometimes one must start a business or some other venture in order to get into the country. I taught English when in the Middle East before. I knew others with a variety of businesses.

    Should the church, then, never be involved in medical issues? Sanitation levels? This, again, is another area I need to think through more, but I fail to see how focusing on the gospel excludes these issues. Rather, it seems to me to provide the foundation for them.

    I'm not even sure what 10 was getting at. 11 was the one I had serious reservations about.

    No 12 relates closely to No 9. I suppose this simply returns to Niebuhr's models of the relationship between Christ and culture. But I don't think Winter's suggestion here is so easily suppressed.
  6. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    As far as the the role of the unordained in evangelism, Paul calls women sunergoi as well and speaks of them laboring in the Gospel work.

    ---------- Post added at 06:48 AM ---------- Previous post was at 06:44 AM ----------

    Also, it is not the church's job to raise sanitation levels, but it is the churches job to care for widows and orphans and Christians have always been at the forefront of helping the humanitarian conditions of the people to whom they are ministering. Should William Carey have been rebuked for focusing on eliminating sati, or the missionaries to Japan been chided for eliminating foot binding when they should have been focusing on the Gospel? I think many operate with false dichotomies of Gospel preaching versus social action, when we should be vigorous in every realm.
  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Joel S.,

    I'm responding to the list as given; I'm not writing a comparable article.

    My responses to the article are coming from a Reformed perspective, and the article is criticizing "missions" as (currently and widespread) practiced, and is not presenting that criticism from a Reformed perspective. Therefore, both mission-errors and the writer's basic perspective are fodder for analysis.

    Responding to your commentary on mine, I will offer the following:
    1) Missionaries need to figure out what their basic job is. Frankly, the article seems to criticize a narrowly focused "get-em-saved"-mission, to which they
    (in?)advertently lump a "whole-counsel of God" ministry. And what is the substitute? Sounds like the old social-gospel repackaged. Great. So, the answer to the last century's failed liberal-program is... rope the conservatives back into the game. Sorry, but ANYBODY can teach sanitation. But NOBODY but a called man-of-God can preach the gospel. And the gospel is NOT simply the "door" into Christianity or heaven, but it is the daily sustenance of the Christian in this world.

    Myself being a former missionary-kid, living in a Middle East Islamic culture, I hope that as you go out to serve, you don't spend up to 50% of your time on the field focusing on encouraging whatever converts you gather (by God's grace) to "change the culture around them." Emphasizing Christians as "change-agents" rather than "those being changed from one degree of glory into another" results in less personal/internal change, which translates into no family and culture change for the better in the long run.

    2) I think an unordained person can be useful on the mission-field. Is a wife "useful"? Doctors & Nurses? An educator for missionary children? All these and other persons can be invaluable to a mission station. But without the Preacher of the Gospel, what is going on? The notion that the church is just a bunch of Christians, and if they have a preacher then "lucky for them," is unbiblical, and unReformed.

    3) Re. "follower of Jesus," etc.,
    The notion of code-references, or abandoning biblical terminology because of pragmatism... why? There have been Christians in the Middle East long before there were Christians in Britain, or (much) later, the US, or anyplace "western." The answer isn't in adopting some new nomenclature, or trying to camouflage one's identification, or verbally disassociating oneself from "the west" or the present (often moribund) Eastern or Roman church.

    What is foolish and wrong is telling converts to "change your name from 'Mohammed' to 'Peter'". It is proper and bold to baptize (nice thing about sprinkling, it fits right into a wilderness-culture; you can do it anywhere, and requires no special facility or fanfare), and take "the Name" of Christ. It is inane to compel people to drop their "cultural" markers, such as separate seating for men and women, or even standard clothing. It is commendable for Christians to suffer for doing good. I think some of the biblical writers actually said something specific about that...

    4) Trust me, I know first hand what sort of difficulties there are in getting into some closed-off places, and what sort of visas one needs to obtain, and how long they can be for, and how many times they can be renewed, etc. However, I would recommend being about as open and guileless in your intentions as you can possibly be. It is much easier to deport some guy who thought he could falsify his premises for entry, than to be up-front about your activities. "Undercover" Christian-work is generally counter-productive. The more you hide stuff, the more likely the suspicious and paranoid authorities are to think you are really foreign secular govt agents.

    5) Re. medicals:
    Of course, Doctors are great. So are a variety of laborers for the physical good of people. That's not the question. The question is: is that foundational? No. If that were the case, then Jesus would have made "healers" one of the permanent church-officers. Miracles of healing accompanied the founding of the NT Age, and the inscripturating of the Word. Those SAME miracles now accompany the Word, being a part of the record of revelation. So, no labors of doctors (or even miracles) are necessary accouterments of the gospel. Can they HELP? Sure, but if a church has a choice--send a pastor or a doctor--sending the latter is a mistake. Medicals aren't foundational.

    The point is, people can be helped in medical needs, and the gospel doesn't even have to be there. ANYBODY can do medical work. But if the CHURCH doesn't preach the gospel, then that critical work doesn't get done. There is no other agency that has been commissioned for that task.

    That's why I point to the PRIORITY of the gospel. If we forget what our main job is, by getting distracted with all the other, overwhelming needs, then the central task gets sidelined. All the while, we're slapping each other on the back, because of the new septic system. We can SEE that. THAT's PROGRESS! The story of 20th century liberal-missions is a study in failure to strengthen the indigenous church, in favor of social reform. The answer isn't to just get people to make a decision for Jesus, and then call that "success" either. Again, that focuses on visible results. Numbers.

    In the end, I would simply recommend taking a look at the whole picture of OPC missions--from philosophy to organization to implementation. It is one church's attempt to be radically biblical, radically evangelical, and radically ecclesial, in its approach to being a "sending" church. The criticisms of the article tend to lump the past--from the extremes of social-gospel and quickie-decisions--into one giant "western" mistake. The sad thing is, that what they seem to want to replace it with is just repackaged liberalism. Well, Machen was correct a century ago. And his same criticisms are valid against all the same "relevance" arguments put forward today.

    If a missionary could do something, given his situation, to eliminate a natural-wrong, without blunting his gospel message with a distraction--fine. I don't think a missionary to headhunters should just wait to address that sin. But address these matters as SIN, and a violation of God's moral law, to which he will render severe judgment. But, it goes without saying that it should be obvious when he makes the connection between a specific practice and the Law of God.

    But if a missionary thinks that he will be effective if he takes on every measure of social-inequity, or physical injury, he is kidding himself. The gospel changes PEOPLE, who then change their families, and then their culture. Building the church is an inter-generational labor for us on earth. Only Christ is here for the duration of this conflict. Not even the Apostles made it out of a single century to see the effects of their foundational labor.
  8. Covenant Joel

    Covenant Joel Puritan Board Sophomore

    Understood, and I appreciated your thoughts. I just had some questions/concerns regarding them.

    I think we're pretty much in agreement here. Though, as I mentioned, I'm still working through what exactly the role of the unordained is.

    Interesting to know you grew up over there. Again, I agree completely. I didn't mean to suggest that I would be spending half my time focusing on that. Rather, I meant that as the Scriptures are taught, the implications for life should be made clear. And I'm sure on that we agree.

    I don't know that I substantially disagree. In fact, one thing I did notice quite clearly was the lack among the missionaries of serious biblical and theological knowledge (a generalization, there were exceptions). Though I do still need to think through the role of the unordained in evangelism.

    I understand your point. It's something I'll be spending considerable time thinking about.

    I understand your points. I'll reflect on them. Though I'm not sure that avoiding the term "Christian" (masihi in Arabic) is necessarily not taking the name of the Lord. "Follower of Jesus" does identify one as Christ's, but doesn't have the connotations in the ME.

    I agree completely, having experienced all of this firsthand. But that doesn't invalidate that one may need a business/job/occupation in order to get the visa. It seems to be that this is an area where great wisdom is required rather than hard-and-fast rules (depends on country, govt, the job, etc).

    I think we are pretty much in agreement on this. I've just been around some who thought that having that foundation invalidated any endeavors in medicine, education, etc. That seems like a false dichotomy, but I agree we need to have the foundation right.

    I too have been intrigued by the OPC's endeavors. But I'm in the PCA, and I'm committed to where I'm at. So for now at least, I must figure out how to best operate where I am.

    Thanks for your thoughts, they were helpful.
  9. jwithnell

    jwithnell Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    This is one of the issues that fueled the divide between the mainline church and those who ended up at Westminster and the OPC. The gospel changes people and, in the larger setting, the communities in which they live. Showing mercy as part of the spreading of the gospel, certainly -- many of the missionaries in Haiti immediately offered assistance, then developed a strategy that will stabilize their ability to minister in the longer term, and avoid throwing aid into a maelstrom of good intentions ending up unused or in corrupt hands.
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Even in the absence of later chances to evangelize, one should strive to relieve human suffering.
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