"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