Anticipating Tomorrows Headlines
An Interview with Darrell Dorr, Coordinator for the Global Network of Centers
Mission Frontiers: Most of our readers are familiar with the U.S. Center for World Mission, since Mission Frontiers is the Centers official bulletin. But now, suddenly, we are being told there are possibly 40 centers for world mission around the world. What does that mean? Are there 40 mini-USCWMs around the world?
Darrell Dorr: Absolutely not. Each of the 40 centers has its own form and set of functions, although there is significant overlap in functions from center to center. Magnus Sorhus of the Kansai Mission Research Center in Kobe, Japan, was correct when he pointed out that none of the centersincluding the U.S. Center for World Missioncan possibly expect to do what everyone else is doing.
The Kansai Center focuses on research. The Brisbane Centre is strong in mission mobilizationespecially mobilizing young adults. Each center has its own focus, its own audience, its own strengths. At the Singapore meeting, we came to appreciate our diversity all the more.
MF: There was another recent meeting, a meeting of regional centers for world mission in the U.S. Bruce Graham, associate director for Regional Centers at the USCWM, commented that the U.S. Center wants at least some part of every regional center to be under the supervision of the USCWM.
Are these international centers for world mission in some way also under the leadership or direction of the U.S. Center?
DD: Im glad you asked that. Im grateful for the work Bruce Graham and Wes Tullis have done to serve those regional centers who look to us for leadership and who want to be legally and financially affiliated with us. But the centers Ive been responsible to serve are those which are autonomous from us and which are our peers.
Most of these centers are in other countries, but some, like us, are based in the U.S. Its important to recognize that the U.S. Center for World Mission is not out to create some empire of branch offices around the world!
MF: Apart from their relationship to the USCWM, are there any other distinctions between the two types of centers?
DD: Theres overlap in function, but the international and national centers tend to do more mission researchespecially primary researchwhile the (US) regional centers are top-heavy in mobilization. Both do training, including offering the introductory Perspectives course, but the international and national centers are more likely to also conduct training for missionary candidates headed for the field.
MF: You suggested at the Singapore meeting that centers for world mission take up Ralph Winters challenge that they, among others, take orders from international consensus groups in determining their agendas. Will this really happen?
DD: It already has. My exhortation in Singapore was simply for the brethren to excel still more (to use Pauline language!). For example, the Singapore Centre is spearheading the WEF Missions Commissions survey of research centers. The East-West Center has buttressed the Asia Missions Association and Third World Missions Advance. For years MARC has provided much of the operational backbone for the Lausanne Committee, and we at the U.S. Center have tried to do what we can to rally behind the January 1989 Global AD 2000 consultation.
MF: Okay. So there are these 40 centers and some of them got together in Singapore. Why should Joseph and Josephine Average Christian care?
DD: For two major reasons, I think.
First, the development of a network of centers is one more piece of evidence that all the recent talk about a global evangelization movement is for real. Centers for world mission are themselves signs of such a movement, and they are key implementing agents to translate the rhetoric of a movement into reality.
Second, participation in both global and regional networks of centers helps us at the USCWM to serve the publics the Lord has entrusted to us, including Mission Frontiers readers. Our research will be sharper, our tools will be better, our training will have more depth. These networks extend our reach and put more resources at our disposal.
MF: Those are pretty big claims!
DD: But theyre also realistic. We now have relationships with other centers who can market-test some of our materials and ideas. Even while we were in Singapore we received a strong dose of reality therapy. For example, we were confronted with inconsistencies in our literature distribution policies, and so we got the extra "push we needed to come out with some written proposals for improvements.
But there are other benefits we can expect from these strengthened relationships. Those of us who were present in Singapore now have a greater degree of trust in one another than we did before the meeting, a trust, for example, that will foster the sharing of sensitive research data within prescribed limits.
Another strategic benefit: CentreCon revealed the potential for centers for world mission to establish the permanent national research functions that are indispensable to Global Mappings many aspirations. Centers can either become these permanent national research functions or can serve as advocates for the establishment of such functions.
MF: And now youve established an association of centers. Whats the significance of that?
DD: For a center to say that its part of a network gives greater credibility, especially to some of the newer and smaller centers, but were not getting into the formal endorsement or accreditation business. I think association conveys too much of the feel of an organization, while network better describes the informal nature of our interaction at this point.
We discussed the possibility of recruiting staff for one another: the average church or Christian is frequently more eager to support overseas missionaries than missionaries working in their own country. Even though the homeside center staffer is making a strategic contribution to world evangelization, that contribution is so broad and subtle that its often virtually invisible to people in the pews . . . so lets send some workers to a center in Seoul or Brisbane or Oslo, and maybe theyll send some staff our way!
We may be able to negotiate some reciprocal training agreements. We could help set up the long-discussed worldwide Adopt-a-People clearinghouse that links congregations and mission agencies and ensures that no known unreached people group is overlooked. We may be able to exchange late-breaking mission news via electronic mail, cassettes, or video: exciting news that currently goes unreported.
And heres one more strongly felt need: one center may soon assume the responsibility for low-cost NTSC-to-PAL video conversion (conversion between the North American standard and the standard used in much of the rest of the world) on behalf of other centers. That way everyone can share quality videos with everyone else.
MF: So CentreCon was worth it?
DD: Sure. Meetings and networks arent exciting in themselves, but they often house tomorrows headlines. Centers for world mission are vital parts of the infrastructure for world evangelization. My hope and prayer is simply that the rest of the Church will develop a growing appreciation for these instruments of innovation and implementation.
A directory of centers for world mission, produced immediately before the 1988 CentreCon huddle, includes the following list of existing or prospective centers. A few centers are not listed here because of political sensitivities in their countries. Further investigation may reveal (a) the existence of additional centers unknown to the conveners of CentreCon and (b) that some listed organizations are not actually centers for world mission according to their own or others' assessment.