Mission Cooperation Goes Global
An Interview with the Director of the Global Network of Mission Structures
For this special issue of Mission Frontiers, we talked to Dr. Yong Cho, international director of the Global Network of Mission Structures (GNMS) about his role and vision for this new world-level initiative. For our readers, we have included some excerpts from that recent interview below.
MF: Dr. Cho, you have quite a remarkable background as a field missionary, then international director of a global mission agency (Global Partners), then general secretary of the World Korean Missionary Fellowship and now director of the GNMS. Tell us a little about your journey and how God has prepared you for this new role.
Dr. Cho: After my conversion to Christianity in Korea, I moved to the United States to continue my studies, where I completed a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies at Trinity. My experience in the U.S. really helped to broaden my perspective on world mission, so later when I moved with my family to the Philippines as a missionary, my work there was focused on developing the missions movement in the country (rather than on the typical church planting focus of most Korean missionaries at the time). Our team conducted surveys of unreached peoples, developed partnerships (such as the Samar Integrated Community Advancement Project, which was focused on the unreached Waray people) and helped serve the Philippine Missions Association. My experiences there enabled me to see firsthand the importance of the body of Christ working together to fulfill the Great Commission.
MF: You have also been involved with the Third World Missions Association from its beginning in 1989. What have you learned from this experience that can benefit the GNMS?
Dr. Cho: TWMA has done much to help strengthen the missions movement in the non-western world. However, there are several areas which are lacking that the GNMS can and should address. First, in TWMA we were working primarily with existing mission agencies. What is needed now is to facilitate the birth of new mission agencies and structures around the world to tap the unlocked potential of the global church. For example, what might a Korean Presbyterian mission agency do to help Presbyterians in Mexico develop their mission program? Second, there has been a great deal of progress in mission sending from the non-western world. Missions is now from everywhere to everywhere, and while this is a good thing, it has also created a great deal of unnecessary duplication and even confusion. We need to ask ourselves how we can all work together to maximize the effectiveness of missionary deployment to reach the unreached. Third, we need to partner more with the West. The GNMS is the ideal entity for facilitating this since it is not limited to any particular segment of Christianity, that is to say, we are able to work with Evangelicals in every Christian tradition, including those affiliated with the World Council of Churches, charismatic groups, and independent indigenous movements.
MF: What makes the GNMS unique in its approach?
Dr. Cho: We are especially concerned about strengthening small beginnings, that is encouraging smaller mission agencies and new mission networks. We feel they actually have the most to benefit from participation. As they interact with larger, more established mission structures they can learn from the wealth of experience represented in these groups which will be invaluable to their efforts. This is why at Tokyo 2010, even mission organizations with as few as five missionaries and only a few years of experience will be invited to come.
MF: What do you hope will result from Tokyo 2010?
Dr. Cho: Several things. First, we anticipate that Tokyo 2010 will be an important opportunity for mission organizations from around the world to learn from one another. Second, we expect that from this, significant strategies will emerge to facilitate inter-mission cooperation at every level—nationally, regionally, and globally. Third, we want to see this translated into real field-partnerships that will engage the unreached peoples of the world in the most effective way possible. As of yet, there is still no global network of mission organizations networking together to fully engage all the peoples of the world in a systematic way. We remain largely ignorant of what each other is doing. We need more cooperation in research and joint planning to address this, and our hope is that Tokyo 2010 will get us moving in that direction.
MF: What do you anticipate will be some of the obstacles in moving forward with the GNMS?
Dr. Cho: There needs to be clear communication about its purpose and objectives, and a greater appreciation for why global mission cooperation is vitally important. So the basic obstacle we need to overcome is simply creating awareness about where we stand and where we need to go from here, both on the field—among the unreached peoples, and in terms of what is lacking in mission infrastructure to address those field realities.
MF: Finally, as the director of the first interdenominational mission agency in Korea, which is now almost forty years old with 230 missionaries, what would you like to say to other mission agencies around the world, especially those just getting started in the “Global South?”
Dr. Cho: We need each other. We can’t repeat the mistakes of the past. They will only be amplified by the fact that so many more people will be making them! Are we going to plant a hundred different denominations in Turkey, for example, each with their respective ties to groups around the world, or is it possible that after two hundreds years of Protestant missions we can do better than that? I believe we can, and for the sake of the unreached peoples, we must.