Is One Kind Of Mission Work More Important Than Another?
No! Yes! No! Yes! How Can We Decide?
"Our mission committee can't agree on priorities." "Our money must go for direct evangelism or count me out." "We can't support people who are not overseas." "France is just as important as Asia." "Real missionaries ought to be working on the frontiers."
MISSION PRIORITIES! Mission committees in local churches are assailed from every side by "new ministries" with new angles, new ideas, new emphases.
When a new idea comes along some members of the committee are the "early adopters" and race out ahead, jumping on the bandwagon.
Others typically are more cautious, and often caution is the best policy. But not always. Even if we get used to expecting people to jump to new ideas and want to dump old ideas, you can't just dump missionaries already out there-- are some missionaries in the wrong place? (See the article, "Are 90% of Our Missionaries Serving in the Wrong Places?" on pages 21 and 22.)
Even mission executives find it very, very difficult to deal with differing mission field priorities.
Let's take a quick look at the record. In the United States in the last half century no one denomination mission board has a better record in starting mission-minded overseas churches than the Christian & Missionary Alliance. The C&MA supports one of the very largest bodies of cross-cultural missionaries. More than any other agency I know of, it has consistently stressed the inherent mission- planting obligation of a mission agency. C&MA has not considered it good enough just to start an overseas church movement--if that movement does not rise with the vision to add its gifts to the completion of the global missionary task. SIM is quite similar.
And, perhaps the best example of bold stress on frontiers at the expense of other kinds of mission work is the story of the C&MA and SIM and the other "Faith Missions" which a hundred years ago performed the valuable, but thankless task of frontier emphasis. Their founders went around stirring up the frontiers inland (rather than the 10/40 window), and bringing down on themselves enormous criticism.
But the whole mission world began to stir, and within 20 years moved decisively into the new frontiers.
The greatest Christian mobilization effort in history is now gaining momentum, moving ahead with a quickening pace, and with more and more year-2000 goals that are concrete, measurable, and feasible.
At the same time, as we dig out our tools to do this huge job, we find that old slogans are not enough. As we get closer to the end we see things in greater detail. We are being forced to speak more precisely. We cannot glibly talk of "winning the world to Christ" without specifying just what we expect that to mean. We can't go on talking about how many people "have never heard the name of Christ" when we have never believed that was good enough anyhow. Confusion right now is necessary, painful, helpful, even encouraging when you take a close look.
Right Now, in 1995, What Do You Think Is the Most Prudent Order Oo Mission Priorities? One Man's Opinion:
Priority One: More mission mobilizers--mission pastors, more active mission committees, more missionary education on the local level. Why do I say this? Because I believe there must be at least 40,000 younger adults who have in the past few years made a missionary decision but who will never make it to the field--due to local ignorance, indifference, baby-boomer detachment, school debts, etc. Only crash education can stem the downward spiral. Anyone who can help 100 missionaries to the field is more important than one missionary on the field.
Priority Two: Missionaries staying where they are, turning to mobilize the overseas churches for missions. This is the greatest single under-utilized resource for missions in the world today. Our missionaries need to be not just church-planting but mission-planting missionaries. New missionaries might well specialize in this.
Priority Three: Missionaries sent to the pioneer fields (at home or abroad, but especially at home, because most missions cannot do this due to local churches being unwilling to support missionaries reaching truly unreached people groups represented in the United States.) [Dr. Ralph Winter]
Precise Ways of Talking About Missions
PIONEER MISSIONS = frontier missions, reaching unreached peoples. UNREACHED PEOPLES = Peoples within which there is no viable, indigenous, evangelizing church movement. PEOPLES (in the phrase, Unreached Peoples) = groups within which there are no barriers to the gospel (and thus can be reached with a single "Missiological breakthrough").