All kinds of ships sail the missional seas of today. Some really big vessels have powerful engines. Others small boats navigate with just a couple of oars. Just as in commercial transport by sea, the flags of some northern countries once dominated the practice of Christian mission. In shipping, the flags of a few “free-states” allowed some to give less importance to security, maintenance and labour laws, with negative consequences.
The worldwide missional scene has seen in the last three decades the launching of many “mission vessels” with an unseen diversity of flags from all the continents. Without forcing the comparison, the spreading of the Good News requires all sorts of boats, both those that can navigate the big seas and those that can enter the smaller rivers and berth at local harbours.
The size of the boat does not matter, neither the port of origin. Some are built for deeper water, others are fragile for navigating streams but not the dangers of unknown seas. When big vessels try to enter small rivers or when rowboats go out to deep waters, catastrophe is eminent. Both “Titanics” and rowing boats have shipwrecked.
Both the numbers of injured sailors and of lost missionaries has been a big concern for some time.
The missional challenge is to understand and acknowledge the distinctive functions and seek co-operation between missional initiatives of all sizes, flags, and destinations. We look for partner-ships to be inclusive, respectful and strategic. As sea-routes go today from everywhere to everywhere, our missional co-operation should reflect the reality of the Holy Spirit’s initiative to move God’s people into His mission.
A good model for partnership is seen among Jesus’ disciples: “…they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats…” (Luke 5:7).
The WEA Mission Commission considers itself to be a missional community — a fleet of many diverse boats, if you will. The MC Leadership Team does not aspire for the MC to be a big vessel. Rather, we want to be a catalyst for many partner-ships that include both the big and the small. In the worldwide trouble waters we believe that a safer and more productive journey can be done when we know each other, share our navigation journals and unite our efforts.
What experiences have you had with mission partnerships? Feel free to post your comments.
The WEA Mission Commission Leadership Team wishes you all
A Blessed New Year!
I was encouraged by Ethne to Ethne meet at Seoul, Korea. November 27-30, 2012. People will hear the Gospel through these efforts!
Nearly 325 participants were there (100 from Korea plus 225 from about 45 other nationalities). We met to think about the unreached, unevangelised and unenegaged peoples of the world. Since Ethne to Ethne began building momentum 10 years ago, the efforts have born fruit in terms of new communities of Christ believers in places where, before, there were no followers of Christ.
The meeting was organized by steering committee that is thinking and active in mission leadership. It took place Hallelujah Church whose former senior pastor Rev. Dr. Sang-Bok David Kim is the Chairman of WEA. My respect for Korean missions and churches increased. It was my privilege to visit Dr. David Lee, the former Chairman of WEA MC. His vision is sharply focused on training Koreans for mission work through Global Mission Training Centre and Global Professional Training Centre.
The plenaries were reports on the progress of the Gospel in several parts of the world. The meeting was always bi-lingual with Korean translations. When participants made reports in their own mother languages with interpretation, one could feel the global nature of people who followed and took the Great Commission of Jesus seriously.
- 12 Ephesus strategic working groups discussed definite church planting issues for 12 different clusters of people groups. Each cluster had similar cultural affinities or languages or regional closeness–the 300m Bengali speaking peoples, Cushites 57 million, NE Africa, etc.
- Some WEA Mission Commission networks were represented: Vision 5: 9, Tent-makers, MemberCare. But I would have liked to see more networks and more Mission Commission Associates.
An important issue was raised, and I hope some will comment here about it: About 30 years back, 29% peoples of the world were unreached. Even after 30 years still there are 29% unreached peoples. Why? With all that we have done why is it that the world is still unreached? What would be our price to pay?
I came back very exhausted but encouraged in spirit. Jesus is at work.
On my recent visit to Mozambique and South Africa, I was reminded again about the importance of the mission legacy from the West. Churches have been planted and grown. In some cases large denominations have been formed. Some things should have been done differently. The ecclesiastical models, the doctrinal imposition and the Western culture as normative for the new believers have caused significant delays in the contextualisation of the Christian faith in many places. The search for cultural roots and relevant expressions for the faith in local contexts creates unnecessary tensions between leaders and generations. The supposed superiority of written books over oral transmission causes a deficient understanding of academia and the overestimation of formal studies in detriment of practical experience and popular wisdom. Leadership development and discipleship are in shortage. Could this be the result of foreign models that are not suitable to African realities?
It is extremely important that mission efforts today seriously consider the local culture and its history and allow local Christians to form their contextualised structures for the church and find their appropriate expressions for the faith. Outsiders can and should collaborate with the dynamic and spontaneous churches in Africa, but the dancing rhythm and the singing tune have to come from the African leaders.
The Danish Mission Council (DMC) is marking 100 years of ministry by focusing this year on the theme, ‘Partnership in Mission.’ Last week they held seminar on their centennial theme in the city of Odense, and I was privileged to participate. Denmark, along with the rest of Scandinavia, is unique for good ecumenical relationships that result in rich and helpful dialogue between the different expressions of the Christian faith. Perhaps this is one reason why churches of Denmark are treated by the Danish government with high confidence. As a result, an increasing amount of resources is channelled through the churches and mission organisations for community development around the globe. Valuable documents, fruit of the Danish experience can be found on their website (two of them are in English, for those who don’t read Danish!).
As you will see, the partnership vision of the DMC comes from themes that are important expressions of Christian discipleship: “the vision for a good and fruitful co-operation (partnership) in mission is relational and person-focused partnerships, centred around Christ, unity in faith and common values, characterised by trust, openness and transparency”.
Between denominations and mission agencies, the 36 organisations in the DMC represent the breadth of the Christian Church in Denmark.
We were all challenged by the importance of radical discipleship as a lifestyle from which we must teach and mentor a younger generation. The perception is that Evangelicals in Latin America have grown in number but not always in maturity and influence in the surrounding society. The mission movements has grown although, but there is much more potential in churches for and even stronger involvement in world missions.
The week was full of fellowship, new friendships, challenges from God and reaffirmation of the commitment to serve His kingdom through the Ibero-American mission movement. Jose Luis Ramirez of Mexico was elected the seventh president of COMIBAM. He will provide leadership for the movement together with the Executive Director Decio de Carvalho for the next three years.
The strategic plan of COMIBAM includes concrete actions that will promote deeper commitment by God’s people in Ibero America and will support that commitment by walking together with the very diverse missional initiatives.
As Latin American evangelicals continue to become effective in missionary outreach, the realities in which COMIBAM does its work have also changed. At its General Assembly this week, COMIBAM announced initiatives that continue to mark it as a pioneer in a new phase of global missions based on south-south partnerships.
The daily themes were
- Together in the Word
- Together in Prayer
- Together in Fellowship
- Together in the Task.
Each theme was applied to the administrative challenges of COMIBAM. I had the privilege to share about the Centrality of the Word of God in the first evening.
Victor Ibagon spoke about Prayer in the morning session of the second day.
In his Presidential report, Victor Ibagón described recent changes in COMIBAM, In the past, COMIBAM saw its primary task to be challenging national movements to become mission minded. These efforts have been largely successful. In each country of Latin America there is now a national movement with sufficient maturity to develop their own plans.
The new focus is on mobilization toward unreached people groups. And it is this new focus that has led COMIBAM to turn to partnerships with non-Western initiatives. COMIBAM announced plans to participate in the Ethne to Ethne Network. COMIBAM has also worked out a co-operation with MANI in Africa.
We look forward to hearing from you about how the MC can encourage even more of these kinds south-south connections.