The U.S. Center for World Mission
An Idea Whose Time Has Come
"Only rarely is one granted the opportunities to participate in the development of an idea that is likely to change the world in which we live."
The U.S. Center for World Mission is such an idea. Those who participate in its development have the opportunity to affect the destiny of half the people in the world.
Comprised of over 70 different agencies and located on a 35 acre former college campus in Pasadena, California, the Center has been the leader in a movement that has revolutionized mission thinking in the past ten years.
A Revolutionary Message
The message of the Center is this: Christians mission agencies, missionaries and mission senders need to refocus their thinking about missions.
Jesus, when He spoke of discipling all 'nations" (Mt. 28:19). was not speaking of making disciples in every country of the world, What He intended was for us to make disciples of all peoples or tribes in the sense of the Cherokee nation (people, tribe...). A "nation" or "people" in this sense is an ethnic group. Such a "people" or "nation' is defined by its language, culture, social status, religion, etc.
Why is this so important? Well: right now, there is a church in virtually every country of the world, but most nations do not have churches.
There are viable, evangelizing churches in about 5,000 peoples nations around the world.
About 17,000 peoples do not have viable, evangelizing churches in their cultures. About half the world's population lives in these 17,000 groups.
Roughly speaking, there are about 5,000 tribal. 4,000 Muslim, 3,000 Hindu. 2,000 Chinese, and 1,000 Buddhist groups without strong churches in their cultures.
The agencies at the Center cooperate in four significant pursuits: Research on these groups and on methods and strategies being used to reach them.
Mobilization of American Christians for prayer, giving and going on behalf of these peoples.
Training of missionaries who wish to serve on the front lines.
And the provision of technical services to agencies seeking to preach the Gospel where Christ is not known.
But What Does the Center Do
"Hold it!" someone objects. "I'm sure it's a great work all the agencies and offices are doing there on your campus. But is there any special reason why they have to rent space from you? "Is the Center doing anything special that the individual agencies and groups on its campus are not doing or cannot do? "I've been told the Center needs to spend almost 9 million dollars in order to purchase its campus. Is that a good use of the Lord's money?
"What would be lost if the Center were to go bankrupt and all the agencies and organizations and programs on the Center campus were to hunt for office space somewhere? Would anything really change? Wouldn't the programs and agencies and offices just can)' on?"
No. The offices and agencies and programs would not just carry On!' There would be drastic changes. The mission movement in America could be set back 20 years or more. Consider:
The Center is not an inn.
An inn provides living space for anyone who happens to come along. If you need a place so sleep or if you are a traveling salesman a place to set up a temporary sales office, a morel (or inn) may be just what you are looking for.
If, when you come along, there are rooms still available, and if you have the money and are willing to conduct yourself according to the rules of the house, an irtnkeeper is usually happy to provide you the space you need.
He doesn't care what your business is; he doesn't care where you've come from or where you're going. And, likewise, you don't care what bustness your neighbor is in, or where he comes from or where he is going.
The goal of an inn is to provide space to the person who needs it.
The Center is not an inn.
There are other, more useful analogies.
The Center is a mission shopping mall.
Why do stores rent space in shopping malls? Is it merely because they need space and malls offer the best deals in rent? No. Stores rent space in malls because they find that by affiliation by setting up shop next to one another they all gain additional business. Malls are successful because store owners know that in cooperation there is strength.
The Center for World Mission is ...a mission shopping mail. And just as stores find that they do more business when located in malls than when they stand by themselves, so, too, mission agencies find that they receive more inquiries and gain more candidates when associated with the Center than when they try to make it on their own.
There is an advantage for the customer at a shopping mall. The same advantage holds true for the visitor to the Center. We shop al malls because we know that, if one store doesn't have what we are looking for, another one right next dour might have it. In fact, the store next door might have it for a better price than we thought possible! And if no one has what we are looking for. someone is likely to have something else that will meet our needs equally well.
A mall is convenient. It saves us time. It gives us options and ideas we never would have thought possible had the mall not existed.
So too with the Center. People interested in missions find here options and possibilities and ideas they never would have had if the Center did not exist.
A graphic artist came to work for the Center. While here, he discovered an exciting magazine called World Christian. He'd never heard of it before. He decided World Christian offered him the best opportunity he had to use his skills in God's service.
A young couple came to take the introductory missions course, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. While here, they heard about needs in the Muslim world. And they found out about two agencies Global Opportunities (an employ' ment counseling agency for Christians interested in using secular skills overseas), and Frontiers (a support/sending agency for persons interested in working among Muslims). Both of these agencies helped equip this couple to go where they were needed.
The list could goon and on.
The Center is... a mission shopping mall, It is the world's first, and currently largest mission shopping mall. It has over to mission "shops."
There is another analogy.
Isn't it interesting that the various departments in a university all locate on one campus? We don't expect to see state universities with the department of anthropology in one city, physics in another, biology, mathematics, music, psychology, etc., etc., etc. all in their own towns and cities. What is the advantage of having them all located on one campus?
Isn't it that they can make better use of common teaching facilities; and that the students who come to study have the opportunity, to expand their horizons by being introduced so a broad range of subjects; and the faculty members themselves have a greater opportunity to interact with each other?
We see these kinds of things happening at the U.S. Center for World Mission. Agencies are able to use common facilities'meeting rooms, classrooms, mailing services, printing facilities, etc.; visitors are almost unable to avoid being introduced to an amazing variety of mission activities; and the mission executives and office workers themselves ate daily challenged by the thinking and strategizing and working of others.
The Center is a mission Pentagon.
Though military bases are and must be spread all over the world, it would be extremely difficult to run an effective military campaign with the high command of the Navy in Kansas, the Army in Florida, and the Marines in Alaska ....
And so we have a Pentagon.
To an even greater degree, for a much Uglier purpose, we need a Pentagon for missions. The Center is such a place.
Mission agencies are finding their thinking, their strategizing their operations in every way¬ are strengthened and improved by working side by side at the U.S. Center for World Mission.
One agency thinks of an idea, another implements it. One organization establishes a plan, another refines and improves it. Agencies are able to determine their own peculiar strengths and weaknesses, and by coordinating efforts, all their ministries am improved.
It's true: agencies don't "need" to cooperate. They will continue to do their work. They won't necessarily go "out of business" if they refuse to join a Pentagon. They can get by. But how much stronger, how much better, how much more efficient is the ministry of all when they strategize and work together!
The U.S. Center provides the strategic and operational benefits of a mission Pentagon.
The Center is...a mission "Milk Association" (or Florida Orange Juice Commission. You've seen the ads: "Milk is a Natural." 'Come to the Florida Sunshine Tree ....")
Whole industries or at least large groups within industries come together for the purpose of promoting their common products, No longer is it Foremost Dairy against Carnation, or Sunkisl vs Minute Maid. They work together to accomplish their common end. They all want to sell more milk, or orange juice, beef, or whatever. So they form an association.
The U.S. Center is such an association. Mission agencies come together here for the Purpose of promoting their common product, their common goal: reaching the ends of the earth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ten to fifteen years ago it was common to hear complaints about missionaries who 'destroyed" cultures. "Missionaries, go homer'wentthecry. "Let the national churches do their own evangelism!"
Upon inspection, one discovered that the complaints were unfounded. But the mission industry needed a voice to answer the charges. The U.S. Center for World Mission has provided that voice in many cases.
The mission industry needs a common voice to inform the church, and educate Christians about the way things really are:
Turkey is calling for 1,000 English teachers: a tremendous opportunity for Christian missionaries ("tentmakers")...if someone will only go!
'There is no glut of missionaries on the world market. We need far more missionaries than we now have. (Consider: secular workers from the Western world outnumber missionaries "in the field' 105 to)—Students interested in missions should obtain cross cultural experience before seeking to "go.' We need colleges that will build into their curricula such cross cultural experiences.
The mission industry has not yet formed an association that will do this kind of promotion.. apart from the U.S. Center.
The Center is... a mission "Bell Laboratories."
Someone must take on the long term responsibilities of developing new strategies, new answers, new "products" that will help the mission industry do its job. Someone must be willing to foot the bill for experiments, trials, test runs. Someone must nurture new projects, and attempt new things.
The U.S. Center for World Mission provides the atmosphere the people, the tools, the facilities in which new ventures have the opportunity to succeed. The Center provide' the environment in which experiments can flourish.
The Global Prayer Digest was an experiment; the Center has helped it through its formative years. World Christian magazine was a new venture; it has planted its roots in the rich soil of the U.S. Center. The Global Mapping Project, two years old. has been strengthened through its association with the Center.
But there are more projects yet to be thought of, more projects yet to be begun.
Who will attack the problem of raising up 1,000 Christian ("missionary') English teachers for Turkey? Who will provide the models for colleges to follow in providing cross cultural experiences to students who desire to serve God overseas? Who will help develop adequate responses to the mission needs of today.. and tomorrow?
The U.S. Center for World Mission is ...a mission "Bell Laboratories,' a mission "think tank." an experimental center devoted to the future success of the world Christian movement.
What would happen if the Center were to go bankrupt and all the "stores,' "departments," "armed services.' "companies," 'projects" on campus were forced to find space elsewhere? Would anything really be lost?
The U.S. Center for World Mission is the world's first, and currently largest center devoted not only to the unreached peoples, but to mission strength through cooperation.
It is to mission agencies what malls are to stores, what universities are to academic departments, what the Pentagon is to the armed services, what industrial associations are to their members, what Bell Laboratories has been to AT&T (and to the communications industry in general).
The U.S. Center for World Mission: an idea whose time has come.