Monday, May 24, 2004

How finding "ideological soul mates" is great for world mission

Technology today is letting ideological soul mates find each other. So describes a Washington Post article about politics, not mission. But whether about politics or not, the observation gives a world of insight into the changing dynamics making this one of the most exciting times ever for world mission.

"The rise of direct mail, cable television and the Internet has enabled ideological soul mates to find one another efficiently, to organize, to concentrate their resources and to evangelize. Big Media especially network television and daily newspapers are rapidly losing their power to shape public consensus and marginalize ideological extremes," says the article.

In other words, the "usual suspects" that shape our news and views of mission are fast giving way to new mouthpieces and methods. Missions' version of Big Media (mission agency and denominational mouthpieces) seem to be inadept at keeping up with the pace of connection and information demanded today.

Churches are less and less content to wait for stale, polished reports on mission endeavors from annual or quarterly organization newsletters: they want it fresh, and they want it direct. Better yet, they want to be the ones reporting new mission developments to others because they are so deeply involved and connected! In my view this means we're getting into the halcyon days of mission. Nothing could bode better for mission than this reconnection of mission to the local congregation.

New technologies such as email groups, networks, blogs and more are paving the way for what the Washington Post calls "ideological soul mates" to discover each other, organize for mission, concentrate their resources, and (wow, what a parallel universe!) evangelize.

The desire to find others who share our dreams and Spirit-promptings for mission is one of the most hopeful developments in mission today. We can move away from Lone Ranger mission, disconnected, non-networked mission - and into Kingdom-building, effective and coordinated mission.

So here's a bow to all readers who think it would be just great to find some ideological soul mates for mission. Press on! May you be successful for the sake of the gospel and the advancement of Christ's glory.

--Dave Hackett


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

"Indigenizing" a vision for mission

"We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did." (1 Thess. 2:8 - Msg)

One of the larger groundshifts taking place in Presbyterian mission these days is that our churches are realizing they no longer have the resources or desire to fund mission indiscriminately. The big question: "Is this a mission involvement that has our name on it?" This is a healthy trend, if we realize what that last phrase means.

A few years ago Loren Mead wrote "The Once and Future Church," a book that, among other better conclusions, pompously pronounced that the era of international missions was over. Mead flatly declared that only local mission was of interest to churches anymore.

Knowing the biblical call for global mission, the joy of that kind of ministry, and the significance of that kind of ministry, I have intuitively rejected Mead's conclusions. On further reflection, I think he had it almost right: The vision for mission must be generated locally, but the location for that mission can be as far as the mind can imagine. If no local vision for mission is present, it might as well be a dead duck.

Churches are realizing that they can't afford to simply support other people's and organization's visions for mission anymore. It's not enough to simply trust organizations to do good mission: Our churches intuitively want to be connected better than that.

I believe what's going on here is that our churches need to "indigenize" their own mission vision, that is, make their mission involvements their OWN concern and conviction, not someone else's. It comes to reflect us, not others.

Particular forms of mission take on special power and persistance when they become the hope and commitment of the local church itself. Mission that turns this critical corner then has the power to move out under its own gathering steam. At that point a church is not caring for someone else's vision but instead is living out its own, and nothing will stop it from moving forward.

What indigenized mission vision is and is not
An indigenized vision does not mean a particular church has to do a given mission project all on its own. It does mean that a church understands it is on a committed, corporate quest. It means a church will want to seek out others who share the same commitment to gather a critical mass for maximum accomplishment of the work.

A church with this passion-driven view of its mission goals will discover (or even create) partnerships with partner groups of all stripes - logical and even the unlikeliest of partners. It will want to leverage its resources by combining them with other's to tackle the biggest dreams for glorifying Christ in our world today. THAT's exciting mission!

An indigenized vision also does not mean that the mission must only be local. It can be around the corner or around the world in Ethiopia - but the VISION must burn bright right here in the local church, somewhere, somehow, and in someone.

This shift is already changing the task of the local church in mission. It's no longer: "How do we best spend our money?" It becomes: "How do we develop our people into those who care passionately for the world and are willing to follow up on that passion with energy, sacrifice, creativity and a partnering heart?"

Following this trend has led many churches to make commitments to choose a particular unreached people group that they will focus on to help bring the gospel to. Scores of PCUSA congregations have made a "PCUSA Commitment to Share Good News" with an unreached people group - an official denominational commitment akin to the Commitment to Peacemaking or Commitment to Evangelism. I commend it to your church.

In my work with Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, I often am asked what helps people get fired up and energized for mission. What helps them catch that glimpse of what they are capable of? I have found it involves opening churches up to the empowerment of the Spirit of Christ that is theirs to act on. People are encouraged by hearing the creative steps other churches have taken to move out in mission bravely and boldly, breaking the ancient patterns and locks that have kept them from experiencing life-giving mission work.

I truly long for churches to get riskier in how we approach mission. Desires for perfection and safety and no risk are deadly hinderances to God's gospel mission. I have the audacity to suggest that individual congregations can influence the spread of the gospel among an entire culture somewhere. I boldly suggest that the Spirit has already been moving among our churches to guide them to particularly deep investments of all the resources a congregation can deploy - people, prayer, time, relationships, contacts, money, imagination, organization, and more. Presbyterians benefit greatly from getting a glimpse of what they "just might possibly could do" if they catch the right energy pulse of God.

I have gathered a list of incentive quotes that I call "Kickers for Ministry" that many churches have said helps them get beyond those ancient patterns and locks. You can view my Kickers for Ministry here.

Two of my favorites:

"The only people who achieve much are those who want knowledge so badly that they seek it while the conditions are still unfavourable. Favourable conditions never come." (CS Lewis: The Weight of Glory)

"If something's worth doing, it's worth doing poorly." (GK Chesterton)

Friends, my prayer is that you discover the joy of indigenizing your own vision for mission, partner up for effectiveness, do something worthwhile poorly rather than not at all, and go about it with all your gusto for God's pleasure. That's exciting mission!

-- Dave Hackett

Links listed:

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Annual Stewardship Magazine "Giving" touts example of church supporting frontier mission

"Giving" magazine, published annually by the Ecumenical Stewardship Center, Indianapolis, IN, includes a reference in its 2004 lead article to a PC(USA) church supporting frontier mission. The church, Eastminster Presbyterian in Wichita, KS, is cited as an example of a church taking stewardship seriously by intensifying its mission engagement, including frontier mission support.

The lead article is "Enough," by Arthur Simon, founder of Bread for the World and the author of How Much Is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Age. "Giving" is online at www.stewardshipresources, although the 2004 issue's contents are not yet available on the Web site.

The portion of the article referring to Eastminster:

"...We act as though there is little we can do to end hunger. Isn't Jesus telling us to "go and see" what gifts he has given us, and to offer them for the multitudes that hunger in today's world?

"Eastminster Presbyterian Church in Wichita, Kansas, had designed a new sanctuary when a devastating earthquake struck Guatemala, destroying homes and churches. "How can we set out to buy an ecclesiastical Cadillac when our brothers and sisters in Guatemala have just lost their little Volkswagen?," a lay member asked. So they scaled back their building plans and borrowed money to rebuild twenty-six Guatemalan churches and twenty-eight homes. The decision recharged the life of the Wichita congregation and led to a global program that focuses on frontier missions. It includes Bible translation, literacy for Muslim women, work among the "Untouchables" in India, trips all over the world by various work teams and medical teams from the congregation, and an allocation of more than a third of its annual income to missions.

"On a more personal level, should we not be asking ourselves the same kind of question as did that lay member, and giving a similar type of response? After all, who are we, and what is our purpose in life?"

To this I say, Amen! We belong to Christ, and our purpose is to glorify Christ from everywhere to everyone -- and enjoy him forever.

The "Untouchables" mission in India is one of over 125 exciting PC(USA) frontier mission projects. Readers can contribute to this project online here at the PCUSA Web site.

-- Dave Hackett