Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Christian Missions

“You haven't been writing much recently, Jon,” you say. “What have you been thinking about?”
OK, I know no one really said that but anyway here it is since I am a blogger and I share what I think regardless of whether anyone cares!
Missions. There has been a fair amount of stuff written in the blogosphere about Christian Missions. No bible-believer doubts the need for some kind of mission to share the gospel. The main thing right now in 2007 is that I think we are working with the wrong paradigm. There is an adage: armies always prepare to fight the last war. I think this is true of missions. We don't even blink at spending $50,000 or more to send an American to live in a foreign country and plant a church. We are unfazed when every fourth year he brings his whole family back to the US and travels to his 60-100 supporting churches. We are unconcerned that there are churches supporting multiple missionaries when they are not honoring their pastor by supporting him financially.
“So,” you ask, “what paradigm should we be using.” The NT one of course! Paul did not try to go to every town in an area. He makes this clear in Colossians 2. He did go to the big population centers and then sent people out from there to plant churches in the hinterlands. So, where are our big populations centers. New York, L.A., Singapore, Hong Kong, etc. If we could do some really effective gospel outreach in these places we could reach the world!
My second thought is that missions is cyclic. There are periods when the focus is outward and there are periods when the focus is inward. For instance: can you name a great missionary from the reformation? No, the focus was on building up the church with a renewed focus on God's Word. From that we get later great missions outreach. My thought here is that the great American missions movement came from a church that was domestically healthy and growing. Is that still the case today? Perhaps we need to focus missions on really building up american churches and sharing the gospel with the growing number of our fellow citizens who have never been to church or heard the gospel.
American missions has historically done a huge work in evangelizing the whole world. We have sent missionaries to every nation and translated the Bible into hundreds of languages. But the now the church is failing to reach our own Jerusalem. A huge majority of those in evangelical churches will never give the gospel message to anyone. Yet we hold fast to the idea that we, as Americans, have shouldered the burden of world evangelism and the idea that we should deviate from that in any way is unquestioned. Until now.


The Gilmores said...

Hi Jon,

Thanks for sharing your comments on missions. I think this is a tough issue - one Ericlee and I grapple with a lot. Is a church or individual pouring so much money and energy into the global focus but ignoring their own Jerusalem? Then again, do we as Americans have such an abundance of resources that we really should share with the world? Definitely something to consider.

Our own church is shifting focus for that very reason. We have always been a church willing to fund missionaries and trips abroad but the city neighborhood with mostly minorities where our church is located is in dire need of a church to open it's doors and meet people where they are spiritually.

However, I would argue (as I often do as a member of our church missions board) that we need that balance. We still need to bring the gospel to the nations. And we need to recognize that some people are gifted in bringing Christ to the nations and others have an awesome sphere of influence at home. We should treat them both as missionaries, train them and support them.

I also wonder what it means to "build up American churches" as you say. I'm seeing some churches justifying big dollars being spent on churches that asthetically are so intimidating they can only reach the upper class. I'm not sure if that's money well-spent.

Food for thought.

Jon from Bucksport said...


Thanks for your comments. I know you guys are passionate about the Gospel and so I appreciate it that much more!
I agree that we do need balance. I know there are American missionaries that are doing great work in foreign lands but there is also a lot of dumb stuff that continues to be supported just because that is how it has always been done.
Frontline Missions is supporting book stores in China that provide gospel outreach to Chinese that are looking for any English reading material. There are organizations that are running bible colleges in other countries since it is cheaper to send professors there than to bring the students here. These are great things!
When I speak of "building up American churches" I mean that doctrinally and not in any way numbers, money, plant size or reputation. I personally believe that roughly 200-400 is the ideal size for a church. It provides enough money to support a small staff, support several missionaries and support the members. Would it not be better to have 10 churches of 400 scattered around a city than one of 4000? I would think that 10 churches would probably reach more unsaved than the one of 4000 also!
Thanks again for your thoughts!