Archive for the ‘MOTW General’ Category

Missions Mentoring

After a recent speaking engagement, an attendee inquired about the “generational changing of the guard,” which is the premise for the The Meeting of the Waters.  He wondered if I am enthusiastic about “Apple Guy” leading the global church into the future.  He questioned whether global missions leaders should simply go along with all new trends, or whether we should preserve some tried and true ways of doing missions, for at least a while longer.

I am quick to admit that I have concerns about this transition period. So many young people embarking on missions, today, have short-term orientations. They don’t foresee being “in the field” for more than a couple of years. They haven’t devoted extensive years to training for their missions life. They haven’t necessarily “signed up” for the difficult, uncomfortable, sacrificial lifestyles required in so many mission assignments.  And then, after gaining wisdom and expertise in their foreign setting, many of them return home after a short, two-three, year stint. By contrast, “Mission Marm’s” burning zeal for the lost, her willingness to do whatever it took and to serve the lost in other countries, and her commitment of her entire life to serving God in the missions context–those things will all be sorely missed.

But the future world will require missionaries to be more adaptable and connected than Mission Marm was.  And the change has already begun: studies show that American churches’ support of career missionaries is markedly decreasing.    The younger, shorter-term mission workers are the new normal.  The good news is that, I have found that the Apple Guy generation is open and eager for inter-generational relationships and guidance. More experienced Christians should take it as a personal challenge and commitment to mentor younger believers in missions and other spiritual matters.  This will help them gain knowledge and wisdom, and also serve as their entree into the workings and leadership of the global church.

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In this month’s “Leaders Edge Book Summary” for The Missions Edge, David Mays wrote the following write up about “The Meeting of the Waters.”  They also posted a link to an audio clip extra where Fritz sat down for an informal half hour conversation discussing his thoughts on the 7 global currents.

Fritz Kling is a foundation executive who has spent the past decade traveling through villages and cities across the world interviewing grassroots workers and high-level leaders. The title metaphor comes from two large rivers that flow together side by side before mingling to become the mighty Amazon. Kling identifies seven huge trends impacting today’s global church. His fascinating stories illustrate the themes of mercy, mutuality, migration, monoculture, machines, mediation, and memory.

Chapter 4. Migration – A Taste of Heaven

Refugees and immigrants from the global south are bringing fresh fervor and devoutness, as well as opportunities for ministry, to Western countries.

Information arbitrage is looking at the world from many perspectives. Nick in Ireland said that every aspect of his ministry is influenced by Migration. Ministry is all about migration. It is the key issue of our day. We must learn the cultural assumptions and expectations people bring with them, and then use those as bridges to establish rapport. Immigrants are often open to church and faith. The church too often reacts to change rather than anticipates it. We need entrepreneurial, opportunistic outreach.

Migration is occurring everywhere on the globe. Urbanization is one of its most profound expressions. Today’s world-cities obliterate the old distinction between home and foreign missions. A redemptive view of the city sees vibrant opportunity, innovation, and new expressions of Christianity.

“With our brothers and sisters from developing nations, their outward appearances of poverty and subservience can hide deep reserves of spiritual, intellectual, and cultural wealth. Viewing people without money or power as equals is not only the right choice – it is becoming the only choice. … Mutuality may be the single most important Current for understanding how to support, work with, and pray for Christian movements around the world.” (65-66)

“Believers from poorer nations understand humility before God and dependency on God in a deeper way than I could, largely because they have lived in countries where physical deprivation and humiliating dependency are commonplace.” (66)

“If you really want to understand the future of Christianity, go and see what is happening in Asia, Africa, Latin America…. God very often is working most powerfully far from the center.” (73)

“One of the problems in modern life…is that the people who are good at being civil often lack strong convictions and people who have strong convictions often lack civility.” (quoting Martin Marty) “We need to find a way of combining a civil outlook with a ‘passionate intensity’ about our convictions. The real challenge is to come up with a convicted civility.” (quoting Richard Mouw) “Followers of Christ must step into the void between factions – sometimes as prophets, expecting condemnation, but more often as peacemakers, encouragers, and friends.” (164-165)

“On May 18, 1980, in Skamania County, Washington – eight years after Nike was founded just seventy miles away – Mount St. Helens erupted. Wind-borne volcanic ash dusted the sidewalks, penthouses, public plazas, and lawns throughout the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Fifty miles from Mount St. Helens, ash piled two inches deep. Winds carried trace amounts of the ash literally around the world.

A volcanic eruption is a perfect metaphor for how Monoculture came to be. Like volcanoes, companies push ideas and images throughout the world to customers thousands of miles from the source.

Once Monculture arrives in town, the place never looks the same. Fez will look a little less like Morocco, for instance, and more like Monoculture.” (112-113)

If you are harvesting this illustration for future consideration, file it under monoculture, or global culture, or global youth culture.

In societies around the world, differences are being emphasized, arousing suspicions. Indignities are exaggerated, prompting extreme actions. Moderation is disdained. The global church must step into mediation. Mediation is needed in many areas: political, philosophical, social, ethnic, international, mission, class, economic, and religious. Every Christ follower can be involved in reconciliation with people with different beliefs, customs, and ethnic backgrounds. The church must proclaim Jesus with theological integrity, critical contextualization, and with an open and transparent spirit.

Different generations are used by God to serve the world in different ways at different times. Today’s Christians need to be highly adaptable and relevant as well as orthodox. These will be hallmarks of the global church’s next generation.

David’s Recommendation:

Many in the older generation are highly concerned about conserving orthodox theology and historical mission methods. Many in the younger generation have Christian commitments in a much broader arena, such as poverty, human rights, ecology, justice, conflict, equality, reconciliation, and global events. The author suggests we must bundle the past passion for evangelizing with many other approaches to societal change.

What is your perspective on this question? Is your organization focused on either “spiritual change,” or “societal change,” or both? Is it changing? What is the balance in your organization between maintaining commitment to your theology, history, and values on the one hand, and becoming more adaptable and relevant? Is your organization unified on your approach? Are there fault lines in your organization between office and field? Among generations? Elsewhere?

What steps do you think your leadership could take to be both biblical and relevant, to accommodate your elder leaders and your young generation members, to satisfy your supportive constituency and make new inroads in a rapidly changing world?

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St. Francis’ famous saying, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words,” can be misused.  A recent article in The Wall Street Journal has some interesting insights.

In “How Missionaries Lost Their Chariots of Fire,” Brad Greenberg addresses some trends in global missions today, several which I detailed in The Meeting of the Waters.

  • Mercy – “Christians today typically travel abroad to serve others, but not necessarily spread the gospel.” “Missions experts note rising interest in strictly social justice and humanitarian work, even on short-term visits.”
  • Migration – “The overwhelming majority of American missionaries today are “vacationaries.”
  • Memory – “The term “missions” itself now carries with it a negative connotation, even in politically and theologically conservative circles.”

In reference to the Mercy trend, the author strongly encourages Christians, not just to do good works around the world, but also to share the gospel.

Unless foreigners explain that they are motivated to help by their religious beliefs, locals may be grateful for the new home but they should not be expected to connect dots that they may not even know exist.  The reality is the Church should be doing both: serving the needy and spreading the gospel. This is what makes the humanitarian work of Christians different than that of the American Red Cross. Both are motivated by the desire to help others, but Christians are spurred by that Jesus thing.

To read the article discussed above click here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704895204575321101671590716.html#

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