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October 1988


Editorial Comment

Can Christ's Global Mission approach the kind of cooperation you see in a single team?

What is the Best Approach

Adoption/Partnership Makes a Difference

Who Says Agencies Don't Work Together?

Countdown 2000

Regional Centers to Get Boost at Interface Meeting

Scripture's Golden Thread

Fresh Winds Blowing

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Can Christ’s Global Mission approach the kind of cooperation you see in a single team?

When deer hunters shoot other deer hunters—on purpose—that is really bad.

When they shoot each other by accident it is still bad.

When they take great care NOT to shoot each other, that’s better.

If they help each other when they are hurt, or feed one another if the bears get one hunter’s food. That’s really nice.

But what if they all decided to operate as a single team, like a football team?

What if they want to but don’t have a coach? What if they all sit down and say, we’ll each TAKE ORDERS from the consensus of this group?

But what if some say, “Naw, I want to hunt by myself…?”

But what if the rest say, “That’s OK, just don’t shoot any hunters, but the rest of us are going to work as a team.”

Shooting Other Hunters
I know at least one mission organization that for years has seemingly taken aim on virtually all other organizations. They got passed by the ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) because they were careful to count their bullets, etc. But the organization I am thinking about would have never even dared to apply for membership in the IFMA or the EFMA (see front cover for what these acronyms mean). Now even this organization is changing.

Accidentally Shooting Hunters
Unfortunately quite a few missions accidentally, or unconsciously, promote their work in such a way as to throw doubt on the work of other missions. I mentioned this sort of thing in the last issue.

I feel this is especially easy when a mission is not what I call a general mission, needing to tell about the many different methods and tools they use. That is, a specialized mission can highlight the one thing it does. It does not go out to start from scratch and do all the many things necessary to plant the church, help it grow (without condemning other churches) and to assist the new church to become a mission force in its own right as soon as possible. [This latter fruit is what I think the goal of all general missions ought to be, namely, to plant not just a church movement, but a church movement that will itself have a missionary vision, and begin sending its own missionaries to other groups.]

Following the Second World War, 170 new mission agencies were founded in this country in the next five years. Most of these went out to assist the general missions, with radio, planes, literature, evangelistic campaigns, technical services of all kinds, etc. This was the hour of the healthy proliferation of the Service Missions, and they now exist by the hundred, helping in truly wonderful ways.

But, you know, Americans are especially attracted to gadgets, and to getting things done by new methods. Thus, in the promotional literature of specialized missions the older, general missions can sometimes look like transport planes compared to fighter pilots.

In some cases, a mission with a specific, helping tool gets so enthusiastic about its gadget or insight that its promotion unintentionally reduces people’s interest in all other more conventional endeavors. How about a satellite that does away with the need of any missionaries?

Unprecedented Teamwork!
We have in these pages recently portrayed the many ways in which the IFMA and EFMA missions cordially work together both at home and especially on the field. But even “working together” may not be quite the same as being on the same team.

I don’t want to stretch this too far. I really don’t envision the 5,000 missionaries in Nairobi or the 2,000 missionaries in Manila or the 3,000 missionaries in Brazil all TAKING ORDERS day by day from some central office.

Nevertheless it is a fact that looming up in a few days is an unprecidented gathering in Singapore (Jan 5-8) in which the idea will surely be present: why can’t Christian organizations, as organizations, TAKE ORDERS from an international consensus group? Some mission agencies are going to this meeting prepared to set aside their own self-developed long-range plans and be willing to be part of intentional collaboration on a level and on a basis which may never have been seen before.

In view of all of our common denominators, all of our Spiritual unity in Christ, all of the good words of good will that have been expressed about the single, overarching goal of world evangelization, in all of the various world level meetings—since the Berlin Congress in 1966 at least—why can’t this higher order level of cooperation become the order of the day for many agencies?

The Question of Methods
At the IFMA meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, Ross Lang of Gospel Recordings presented an overhead transparency (see something vaguely similar on page 6) displaying the various kinds of communication tools presently at use by major agencies attempting to reach the world for Christ.

On page 7, I have attempted to amplify the chart and to make forever clear that these different methods reinforce each other rather than compete. It is a disservice to the cause for anyone to claim any one of these will make the others unnecessary.

The Question of Numbers
Many are troubled by the confusion that comes from different methods of working churning up different numerical goals. Again, on page 7, I have attempted to comment on this briefly.

One major difference has to do with the use of different terminology. Few people realize that missions is a job that can be finished. Not even the average missionary very often thinks about finishing the job.

But a great deal depends on what you think "the job" actually is. It is a fairly famous phrase, "the unfinished task", but precise technical, measurable definitions of that task are less common than the casual use of the phrase. But now we are getting close to the end. Now it is imperative that we compare terms and know what we mean.

I heard only recently, in a video tape, the phrase "we want to know how many unevagelized people there are in the world and why they are unreached". This phrase employs unevangelized and unreached in a synonymous way, which is perfectly okay except for the fact that in professional mission circles today the two words are sharply distinguished, at least when we are talking about evangelizing and reaching “nations, tribes and tongues” rather than evangelizing and/or reaching individual persons.

Both terms are very helpful but they are nowadays defined in quite different ways.

It would be very difficult to overlook the immense efforts of David Barrett, who has more precisely than any other person defined degrees of evangelization. Built into his impressive World Christian Encyclopedia is this concept of to what extent has a people been exposed to the Gospel. It is a valuable phrase because no matter what you are attempting to do, evangelization is the key activity. No definition of the Great Commission that can do without the concept of evangelization. Reaching to the hearts of people is essential to every definition of finishing the task.

However, there is another person equally influential, Donald McGavran, who has in the last twenty-five years clarified to everyone the fact that the highest quality evangelization MUST enable an individual to come into an accountable fellowship of believers — that is to say, does not just preach but plants indigenous churches so people can join one without abandoning their own cultural and linguistic tradition or being forced to learn something else.

Dr. Donald McGavran, produced the truly revolutionary proposal embodied in the new book that is advertised on the back cover of this issue. In so uncertain terms he emphasizes the presentation, not merely of the gospel but of an organized, accountable, fellowship of believers as the highest quality form of "evangelization" that can be achieved.

For this reason more than any other, in America today mission circles regard it as a clean sweep that the concept of unreached peoples, meaning peoples that do not yet have a viable, evangelizing, indigenous church movement within their group, is the most satisfying definition of goal in the area of evangelization. From McGavran's point of view the planting of the church is itself a means of exposure, high quality exposure, the highest quality of exposure. In fact, from his point of view it is the essential quality of exposure whereby we can deem a group evangelized. This is the stress, therefore, in most American mission executive circles. But, Barrett comes out the same place. He defines the degrees of progress whereby true evangelization can take place!

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