Has Missiology Become Too "Managerial"?
The World Evangelical Fellowship hosts international forum on mission.
Foz de Iguasso, BrazilWhen 160 Christian mission leaders from 53 countries gathered in Foz de Iguassu, Brazil this past October, they made it their aim to stand in line with "an unbroken, continuous cord of God's people who have congregated in strategic times." Standing at the hinge of the next millennium, William Taylor, Executive Director of the World Evangelical Fellowship's (WEF) Mission Commission continued his opening remarks with an expression of concern over "the use of emotive slogans to drive the missions task; a partial understanding of the mission of the church; the application of simplistic thinking and methodologies in the Great Commission; a limited geographic focus [and] the over-emphasis on research and managerial missiology."
What followed was six days of lively interchange from the participants who came roughly 1/3 each from North and South America, with the remaining third coming from Africa, Asia and the South Pacific. Included in the list of subjects covered was an attempt at developing a "Trinitarian" approach to mission, pluralism and profiling a globalized missiology.
Though he was not present, a paper written by Samuel Escobar (Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary) and presented at Iguasso was the most roundly condemning of what has been labeled "managerial missiology." Escobar wrote that "the distinctive note from the missiology that has developed especially around the cluster of Evangelical institutions in Pasadena ... is the effort to reduce Christian mission to a manageable enterprise."
Writing in Christianity Today, David Neff observed that "The discussion sometimes seemed divided along First World--Third World lines, but statistical and strategic approaches to mission had their Latin American defenders."
If what is meant by managerial missiology is the use of research to determine what needs to be done and the use of statistics to point out peoples and geographic locales where there is presently no Gospel witness, then a number of people questioned whether the time was right to abandon such an approach.
"It has helped our people to grasp the challenge and stimulate prayer and action," said Rudy Giron, chairman of COMIBAM.
Bruce Koch, a representative of the U.S. Center who attended the conference, felt that Escobar's critique of managerial missiology was too simplistic--painting all North American missiology into a single caricature, unrecognizable to all involved. Defending the use of quantitative methods, Koch says, "There is no shame in using statistics to make the remaining task of Christ's mission mandate understandable and compelling for those to whom it was given--it's what we call mobilization."
Yet Brazilian missiologist Valdir Steuernagel argued that "What we need for the future are more informal, relational, cheaper models of mission--a missiology from the South. The managerial school can support this process, but there are dangers if it dominates."
Global Evangelizaton Network Renamed
Leaders primarily affiliated with three international evangelical movements (AD2000, Lausanne Committee on World Evangelization and WEF) have combined forces--initially in Norway (March '99)--to create a global evangelization network. This international network, initially called the Global Evangelization Roundtable, has been renamed the Great Commission Global Roundtable (GCGR).
The Roundtable resulted after joint meetings of WEF, Evangelical Fellowship, the Lausanne Movement on World Evangelization, and the AD2000 in Norway and this past August in Dallas. A facilitation team chosen at the Dallas meeting picked the name, Great Commission Global Roundtable, to emphasize obedience to Christ's mandate to evangelize all peoples while listening to God and one another "around the table" of the Lord. The Roundtable's purpose is to hear, serve and connect diverse segments of the Body of Christ in hopes of achieving closer coordination and cooperation in sharing the Gospel.
The Roundtable's coordinators for the next two years are Bertil Ekstrom (Brazil), chair; Iman Santoso (Indonesia), vice-chair; and John Robb (USA), international coordinator.
ACMC Joins Forces With EFMA
Peachtree City, Georgia
ACMC has announced the completion of its merger with EFMA. Effective October 15, 1999, the ACMC (Advancing Churches in Mission Commitment) became a wholly-owned subsidiary, retaining its name, purpose and voice for the church. ACMC's purpose is to foster the mission commitment of local churches in North America. The EFMA (Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies) is an association of over 100 mission agencies, roughly one-half of which are denominationally-based.
Founded in 1974 in an effort to spur effective mission work from the North American church, ACMC (originally the Association of Church Mission Committees) has become part of a network of national church mission-advocacy groups such as ACMC Singapore, ACMC Brazil and ACMC Canada.
"The union of ACMC with EFMA symbolizes a concrete commitment to a new kind of collaboration between churches and mission agencies ... Its substance lies in a strengthened understanding of the complementary roles of the church and the agency in the stewardship of the Gospel," said Dr. Dellana O'Brien, former president of the Women's Missionary Union.