Who Says Agencies Dont Work Together?
Society for Frontier Missiology Considers Adopt-a-People, Data Sharing, AD 2000
EFMA Executives Retreat Focuses on Muslims, Strategic Planning, Baby Boomers
Ask the rank-and-file Christian if mission agencies work together, and more likely than not youll get a blank stare. Numbed by a barrage of fund appeals and prey to the debilitating stereotype that missionaries cant get along, hes apt to assume that each agency is intent on preserving its own niche in a competitive market.
Good evidence to the contrary was presented September 26-29 at Glen Eyrie Christian Conference Center in Colorado Springs, where the Evangelical Foreign Missions Association (EFMA) conducted its annual mission executives retreat. More than 150 leaders gathered to consider Challenges for the Nineties, including Muslim evangelization, mobilizing Christians from the baby boomer generation, and the very future of the association itself. Founded in 1945 as the missions arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, the EFMA today embraces 93 agencies which field 13,000 missionaries around the world.
Robert Douglas and Samuel Wilson of the Zwemer Institute led the executives in two lengthy sessions of reflection on Muslim evangelization. Presenting a truckload of statistics on the distribution of Muslims worldwide, Douglas and Wilson challenged EFMA leaders to give more attention to ministry among Muslims both in the U.S. and overseas. No strangers to the realities of spiritual oppression, the executives present were nonetheless sobered by video clips of a worship service of a Kurdish sect that practices self-flagellation as an integral part of its expression of folk Islam.
James Engel, communications professor at the Wheaton College Graduate School, and Jerry Jones, editor of Small Group Letter and Single Adult Ministries Journal, directed two sessions on Winning Babyboomers to the Cause of World Missions. Engel and Jones highlighted the growing demographic prominence of babyboomersthose born between 1946 and 1964and suggested ways in which mission leaders should adapt personnel policies, media presentations, and financial appeals to accommodate this generation. (While I shared the perspective of many others that these presentations were helpful, I was also not the only one who observed that some babyboomer cultural norms need to be prophetically critiqued and not accommodated! Maybe thats easier for me to say than it is for others since I myself am a boomer.)
A third emphasis at the retreat was strategic planning for the future of EFMA. Wade Coggins, who since 1975 has served as the associations executive director, plans to step down in March 1990, and the search for his successor has become the stimulus for a broader re-evaluation of what EFMA has become and should be. Those in attendance at Glen Eyrie were profuse in their praise of Wade and their gratitude for how EFMA has fostered helpful inter-mission cooperation, but they were also quick to suggest many new initiatives the association could foster in the future. Mission Frontiers readers should be encouraged to note that next years EFMA retreat, also scheduled for Glen Eyrie and the intended occasion for the announcement of the new EFMA executive director, will be organized around the theme of the significance of the year 2000. (See the story on this years IFMA meeting elsewhere in this issue of MF.)
A final highlight of the 1988 EFMA retreat was the pastoral ministry of Elward Ellis, the director of Destiny, an organization seeking to mobilize black Christians for missions. Ellis exposited passages from Philippians each evening of the retreat, highlighting the themes of partnership, identity in Christ, and servanthood. I found it beautiful to witness a gifted black leader opening the Word to an overwhelmingly Anglo audience. This is a harbinger of even better things to come!
Reflecting on the retreat, Wade Coggins affirmed, Theres a sense that we need each other. That sense is real, not merely rhetorical. Thats why the U.S. Center for World Mission is proud to be a member of the EFMA. Mission cooperation is happening and is on the increase! n
In the summer of 1986 North American mission leaders first began to discuss a proposal for the formation of a professional society focused on frontier missions, unreached peoples, and the year 2000. When 19 leaders formally endorsed the proposal in September 1986, the U.S. Society for Frontier Missiology was born. A year later, at the societys second meeting, members voted to invite international participation and to encourage the development of chapters in each country or region showing such interest.
Today the Society for Frontier Missiology includes more than 100 members from 61 agencies and nine countries. The U.S. chapter recently conducted its third annual meeting September 29-30 in Colorado Springs, following the EFMA executives retreat (see story on opposite page). Thirty-one mission executives from 25 agencies gathered on Thursday evening and Friday morning to roll up their sleeves and tackle some of the nuts-and-bolts issues in frontier missions today.
One such issue is data-sharingwhat information is needed for strategic planning, how much of it can and should be shared between agencies, and whos already doing what. Gary Corwin of SIM International reviewed guidelines established earlier this year by another small group meeting in Dallas, and then Bob Waymire and Mike ORear gave a helpful demonstration of the database, mapping, and electronic bulletin board assistance now available through Global Mapping International.
Another important issue discussed was ministry in restricted-access countries. Spirited debate followed a presentation on this topic by Mark Albrecht, senior editor for Issachar Frontier Missions Research. How do we define restricted-access? Does the term obscure as much as it enlightens, and does the concept artificially discourage the average Christian from comprehending the power of the Gospel and the ingenuity of the traditional mission agency?
Malcolm Hunter, on loan to the U.S. Center for World Mission from SIM International, fielded questions on the Adopt-a-People program currently coordinated by the Centers Mobilization Division. Participants later identified the Adopt-a-People program as the topic they would most prefer to address in greater detail at a separate symposium in 1989. Hunter and other participants noted the wonderful convergence between the Adopt-a-People program, which helps churches and sending agencies join hands to reach unreached peoples, and the new concept of the non-residential missionary. This latter idea, trumpeted most loudly by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, promotes the commissioning of Christian workers to serve as mobilization advocates for particular peoples or regions whether or not the advocates are able to gain or maintain direct access to these peoples or regions.
While participants at the Societys 1988 meeting greatly benefited from these and other presentations, they seemed to most appreciate the opportunities to informally glean frontier mission insights from one another. Huddling around tables were representatives from the Assemblies of God, the Southern Baptist Convention, OC Ministries, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Youth With A Mission, World Home Bible League, and many other agencies. Dreams were shared, plans were revealed, and resources were reviewed.
This meeting really spoke to my needs as my agency looks to the 1990s, commented one executive. Another said, My agency is just now moving toward people thinking. Its been a tremendous help to feel welcomed by others who are further along. A third participant observed, Ive appreciated the freedom weve had to challenge the presenters comments and assumptions. The resulting sharpness and clarification has been very helpful.
An additional leader declared, Ive made contacts here that could make all the difference in the world. May his words be prophetic! Lets pray that new cooperation between mission leaders will soon bear fruit among all the worlds unreached peoples.