Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is God an American?

Vincent Donovan in his book Rediscovering Christianity goes into a tribe as a missionary and tells the people there that "big G" God is much different that the "little g" gods that they had been worshiping. He tries to teach them that God does not show favorites and loves all of the other peoples and tribes equally. Donovan was rather humbled when the villagers asked him about his own home culture and whether they believed that God loved them more than the other tribes. He began reflecting on the ethnocentrism in his own culture and church.

I think we often times unintentionally think that God loves the United States more than the other nations of the earth. Sometimes we put our allegiance to our country before our dedication to the Lord which was never his intention. It probably would not go over very well to stand up in a church today and ask if we have prayed for the people of Afghanistan as much as we have for our troops serving over there. For some reason, I think that Christ's view of the world may look different than our perspective which gets filtered through a very Western lens. Did you know that nine of the ten largest unevangelized cities are in Afghanistan?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Fewer missionaries going due to lack of finances?

One of my favorite blogs to follow is Guy Muse, a church planter down in Ecuador that is always talking about reproducibility, dependency issues, and multiplying disciples. He is a missionary with the International Missions Board and has voiced his concerns regularly about the future of the southern baptist cooperative program. It seems that giving to the Lottie Moon offering and to the program in general has gone down in recent years and especially now that the country is in the midst of an economic crisis. Many have said that the future of some of the field missionaries might be in jeopardy at some point. I just received my newsletter from the IMB stating that "new appointments to the career, apprentice, associate, and journeyman programs also will be reduced, with only the most strategic assignments being filled". The Baptist are one of (if not the) top sending agency of missionaries in the world and to see them have to cut the number of people being sent on account of lack of funds is very disheartening.

Bill and Amy Stearns, who are some great missions mobilizers and recently came to speak at our school say that there are about 40,000 candidates ready to go out among the nations and that the biggest thing holding most of them back is debt and finances. A few stats from their website:

• It’s usually 7-10 years from a point of commitment to missions until actual deployment.
• 70% of North American missionaries must raise their own support. It now takes an average of 2-3 years for missionaries to raise support to go.
• Supporting missionaries is such a rare discipline in our churches today that even among those exploring mission service, only about 5% personally support a missionary!
• In the past few years, perhaps 40,000 North Americans have made a commitment to go. Yet, says missiologist Dr. Ralph Winter, “They will never make it to the field due to ignorance, indifference..., detachment, school debts, etc.”

I know I am biased, but I think missions giving (especially to the unreached) is maybe the best investment of kingdom resources for individuals and churches. I would love to see a higher percentage of our budgets going directly to reach those who have never heard. Any thoughts?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is it worth the risk?

I'm in the process of writing up the risk management policy for our missions organization, Global Frontier Missions. We are about to open up a new location in Atlanta and Houston, and need to make sure that all of our ducks are in a row and that we are up to U.S. legal standards. A lot of the process I find very good as we look at doing all that we can to be accountable and transparent with how funds are used, high standards for your board of directors, background checks for students and staff, etc. It is also good to have policy in place in case some sort of emergency were to occur (earthquakes, terrorism, kidnapping, loss of data). However, some of the stuff that has to be done to make Americans feel safe seems a little over the top.

I have been living in Mexico for 12 years now and preparing to move stateside in October. As I have been trying to get our organization ready to minister in an American context, I am realizing how high of a value our culture puts on security and comfort. We must have insurance; we must try to make sure our organization is as risk free as possible; we have to make decisions based on not getting sued. We actually just had a summer session of our short-term mission trips go from 90 participants to 30 because of the swine fly scare. We have also had people drop out due to the drug cartel voilence along the border which is about 18 hours away from us. I've heard many sermons where the pastor says that "faith is spelled R-I-S-K". So, I'm just trying to figure out the balance between due diligence (we would never purposely put someone in harms way) and the risk that is always going to be a part of cross-cultural missions work. Jesus said that he was sending us out among wolves, that the world will hate us, that we will have troubles, and that we will be his witnesses (greek word martyrs) throughout the whole world. I'm just glad that Father didn't tell Jesus, "Son, you probably shouldn't go down there to planet earth because it is dangerous and you might get hurt or sick." If anyone has been able to reconcile being cautious and careful with the kingdom of heaven advancing with force, I would love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

State of the World 2009

I just got my copy of the Mission Maker magazine put out by the fine people at STEM International. They include their annual state of the world statistics which we use in our summer missions program to teach people about the remaining task. The biggest thing that caught my eye is that worldwide, there are 13,444 frontier missionaries going to the unreached (0.0006% of all Christians). According to Joshua Project, there are 6,653 people groups that remain unreached with the gospel. I got inspired to begin blogging and start an online conversation about what the church both in North America and abroad can do about seeing the least reached people groups of the world reached with the love of Christ in our generation. I hope that many people from all over the body of Christ will join the discussion as it is going to take an army of individuals and churches across denominations to come together and take seriously the command to go and make disciples among all nations.