For those of you follow American discussions of missions , 9 Marks (put out by Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church) has an edition about missions- PDF version of the July/August eJournal. I have not, nor will I have time to read these articles in the near future. So, like many or the other things I post, please don’t take these links as a full endorsement of what is written in the articles. I’m posting them because I happened across them and think some of you might be interested in knowing about them and engaging them for yourselves.
For example, from an initial skim, the first article (Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere!) appears to me to be written by someone who is thinking about missions—not someone who is out in the field. (Don’t read too much into that statement the wrong way.). While I understand his concerns, I feel like he sets up several false dichotomies (either/or’s) including, for example, a dichotomy between “what works” and what is “biblical” (note a previous post about putting “biblical” in front of our arguments.) The more I learn about the cultural contexts that Acts and the letters of Paul were written in, the more I see them presenting a lot of “what works” in ways that fly in the face of the standard “biblical” interpretations of their own time (the Galatians controversies are but one example). Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the realities of engaging the Gospel in the real world forced them to rethink a lot of their scriptural and cultural paradigms. The second article: Putting Contextualization in its Place gets at some of this, but I would probably go further in the ways Paul challenges reigning “biblical interpretation”.
That’s not to say that I believe the Gospel message needs to be watered down, and I’m certainly not into the “easy numbers,” homogeneous unit principles, or glossing over clear differences. God does surprising things when we tell the Gospel story in bold and direct ways. It’s not so much that I would disagree specifically what Johnson writes as much as I’m concerned about the tone, trajectory, emphasis, and what he doesn’t say. Missionaries on the ground are often led by the Holy Spirit in ways that challenges them to see what’s written in God’s Word in new and surprising ways—ways that often make their mono-cultural churches back home nervous about their actions.
[End of disclaimer; draw your own conclusions.]
MISSIONS PARTNERSHIPS BETWEEN CHURCH AND FIELD
Missions Partnerships from the Home Church’s Perspective
HOW THREE CHURCHES PUT MISSIONS INTO PRACTICE
Sending Missionaries in Community
A MISSIONS TOOLKIT
**How American Christians Can Help Christians in Zambia (Conrad Mbewe)* [I was just thinking, so we have heard from all the white guys; do they know what the “recipients” of their missions think?] – see below for a couple of quotes.
Mbewa’s points How American Christians Can Help Christians in Zambia:
- Learn the local culture.
- Partner with the local church: “. . . I am not suggesting that there is no need for Western missionaries. We could do with many more hands! Rather, I am saying that if you plan with indigenous church leaders here the emphasis will certainly shift. . . ”
- Be accountable to and participate in the local churches
- Ensure equity in Christ’s body.
- Combat America’s chief and worst spiritual export—the prosperity gospel (TBN).
“Why is it that false teaching is often halfway around the globe before truth finishes tying its shoes?” I hope the readers of this article will, therefore, not just sit there but do something about it!”
RE cultural sensitivity:
. . . Sadly, we have far too many well-meaning Americans who climb off the plane for the first time wanting to correct everything they see. They don’t realize that the sensational view of Africa presented to the American people via CNN is often very superficial. A person needs to be on Zambian soil for some time, observing and asking questions about the presuppositions that make up African culture, before one can effectively minister here.
Space forbids me to apply this lesson to the huge area of modesty, decency, and propriety, especially when American young people are sent to Zambia on short-term mission trips. We often blush on your behalf!
However, let me say a little more about another area. Like most Africans, Zambians rarely want to give offence to anyone. Hence, when an American comes and appeals to his hearers to repeat a sinner’s prayer, many Zambians comply merely out of a desire not to offend him. The deceived evangelist goes back to America with glowing reports of the number of converts he has left behind on African soil. But the truth is that no sooner was he on the plane crossing the Atlantic than his “converts” went back to their life of sin. They were not converted at all!
If American Christians are really going to help Christians in Zambia, one other area that needs some serious thinking is the price that your books cost when they arrive on this side of the Atlantic. They cost an arm and a leg!
The biblical principle is that “he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little” (2 Cor. 8:15). That is certainly not what is happening. Books are priceless when it comes to the work of ministry, and Zambian pastors need books just as much as American pastors. Yet in addition to the discrepancy in salaries between pastors there and here, add in the cost of transportation and the books become too expensive for the average Zambian pastor.
I do not want to be unfair to book publishers and demand a pricing system that will put them out of business tomorrow. All I am saying is that there is need to implement the biblical principle of equity in Christ’s body if Christian books are not just to be a form of business but also a true spiritual ministry to the worldwide body of Christ.