Introducing the Global Network of Mission Structures
Finally … a Global Network of Mission Structures has been called forth!
Prompted by initial discussions at the Singapore 2002 Unreached Peoples Consultation, a group of 28 delegates from older and newer agencies gathered in Amsterdam April 18-21, 2005 to found the Global Network of Mission Structures (GNMS). Since the Edinburgh meetings of 1910 and 1980, no non-invitational gatherings of mission leaders had been held which were open to all the agencies of the world sending equal delegates, nor had any other gatherings “called” for the establishment of a global-level network of strictly mission structures. As such, the Global Network of Mission Structures is reinvigorating the rich tradition of the International Missionary Council in the first half of the 20th century. (See page 11, “Historical Precedents and Foundations.”)
While many valuable “invitation-only” global-level conferences have been conducted, these can sometimes cultivate an “elitist” status and mentality for those invited and can further separate them from grassroots leaders. By contrast, the delegate format – where each participant represents and is delegated by his or her own agency – allows a leader from a newly-formed, 30-member agency from the Global South to dialogue as an equal with leaders of 1000-member agencies from the West.
National-level associations of mission agencies – such as the Nigerian Evangelical Missions Association, the India Missions Association, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies (USA) – have shown great value. So have regional networks, such as the Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association of North America, the Asia Missions Association, and the Third World Mission Association. But none of these are global, while the people groups which missions seek to reach are on the move all over the globe!
Thus, the sense of the founding group in Amsterdam was that a global network can significantly advance God’s Kingdom. Since unreached peoples are on the move, we face a clear need to establish a global office to monitor their movement and plan for more coordinated efforts of outreach. The staffing of such a network will not necessarily be large since it can draw on many other offices and agencies in collaboration, but the sense of the Amsterdam group was that a closer networking of agencies, missiologists, and others – including sister organizations on a global level – is needed.
Furthermore, while it is a splendid thing for church leaders to network on the global level to better discern the potential outreach of congregations, the specialized task of missions has often gotten lost in the shuffle of many such gatherings and in the many worthy activities of churches. “We want to maintain the cutting-edge vision of specifically mission structures themselves,” Amsterdam participants noted.
How to achieve such a task and nurture the Global Network? Today we have more tools than ever, including the Internet, to nurture connections, information-sharing, and other forms of learning among agencies. The founding documents at Amsterdam noted, “The idea is for all ‘frontier-active’ mission structures—wherever located—to become equal members with each other. Small, newer structures can belong and be full members.”
After discussion, Amsterdam delegates agreed to speak primarily of mission “structures” because such a term is more comprehensive than mission “agencies.” A mission statement was formulated:
The Global Network of Mission Structures:
Coming together to advance the Kingdom across the frontiers
The name speaks for itself: the emphasis is on unity in advancing the Kingdom towards the frontiers of the gospel. “Frontiers” includes more than unreached people groups – anything that advances God’s purposes.
Many felt one “servant facilitator” would be sufficient at the beginning to promote the cause of the GNMS and to actively engage participation of a wide range of mission structures – old and new, and from the West as well as the Global South. David Packiam was appointed GNMS administrator for a term of two years. Packiam is Chairman of the newly-formed Malaysia Missions Network and also Chairman of the Strategic Missions Program (STAMP). In addition, Packiam is Director of the Malaysian Centre for Global Mission (a missions training center), a director of Antioch Missions – Chinese Church Support Ministries, and Senior Minister of The Dwelling Place – a Ministry Centre (church) he pioneered and planted, with his wife, ten years ago.
Amsterdam delegates noted, “What the GNMS will be three years from now depends upon whether we start out boldly or not. The question of what will happen depends upon the basis of which we start.” Part of an effective beginning is to incorporate an organization to give legal standing to the network. After much discussion, it was agreed that the office of the GNMS be in Malaysia but the corporation be registered in California because of the difficulty of moving funds in and out of Malaysia.
Amsterdam delegates also formed an initial Executive Board for the GNMS, seeking a broad representation of world regions. Nominated from continental networks, the following were selected to serve:
Latin America — Obed Alvarez (Peru)
North America — Ralph Winter and Chong Kim (USA)
Africa — Gabriel Barau (Nigeria)
Asia/Pacific — Ian Prescott (Singapore), Yong Cho (Korea), J. Emmanuel (India)
In a “working governance model,” the GNMS Executive Board is to provide the anchor for the vision and overall operation. The terms and duties of the Executive and the larger Board will be outlined in the by-laws and articles of incorporation.
Amsterdam delegates noted that sufficient financing will be necessary for the success of the GNMS. The delegates agreed to initially encourage freewill contributions from participating agencies rather than imposing fees because the latter might hinder some agencies from joining. GNMS membership is open to all structures that classify as “frontier-active agencies” and have fulfilled minimal administrative standards. A GNMS web site has been established (www.gnms.net), to be incrementally upgraded in coming months.
Other activities and functions anticipated for the GNMS include:
- Membership directory (web-based)
- Information-gathering (case studies/articles) on mission structures, values, and successes
- Identifying and discussing unique needs
- “Discovering” new sodalities
- Sharpening the criteria for membership
- Improving ways for GNMS members to access the community
- Identifying pitfalls and learning from others how to avoid them
- Sharing of tools, knowledge, and resources
- Sharing vision
- Sharing experiences in internal evaluation
- Providing models/case studies of effective ministry
- Helping information-screening for peoples and countries
- Clarifying GNMS uniqueness/purpose/value/place in history
- Encouraging a 2010 Centennial Event for Edinburgh 1910
- Sharing field contacts
- Sharpening the GNMS cyber presence
- Highlighting joint opportunities in promotion and jobs to be done
- “Pointing the way” to emerging ministry opportunities