Home » Posts tagged 'missionary'
Tag Archives: missionary
Cultivating Communities of Practice, by Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002), is one of several required books I read for Fuller Theological Seminary‘s MA in Global Leadership. The following are my reflections:
I have a great interest in how organizations, particularly those with Christian leadership, work and how they respond to change. This book is rich with practical insight as to how non-profit organizations, churches, and christian ministries may develop in a globalized society.
One trend I have observed helps me see the way forward. In recent years several international conferences, training courses, and outreaches have been convening around points of passion and global human need, like water, women’s issues, slavery, and children at risk. YWAM International and other Christian missions agencies have also begun to look at a new mapping paradigm for global strategy called Project 4K wherein the map is divided into about 4000 geographic units, Omega Zones, highlighting those areas still requiring engagement.
What appears to be needed is a new cross-platform, multi-disciplinary team approach to properly engage each of those geographic regions.
Through the Student Mobilization Centre‘s School of University Ministries & Missions, we are equipping field leaders who will be able to coordinate multi-disciplinary field project teams. During the past 15 months, we have presented this 12-week training program in India, USA, Korea, and Colombia. I leave today to teach on Missional Collaboration for the final week of the school. Participants in the SMC school learn how to collaborate with leaders and communities to harmonize outreach teams to serve broad-based long-term community development project goals while mobilizing students for field based learning.
YWAM’s University of the Nations operates according to what Wenger, et al conclude in Communities of Practice; that is, “useful knowledge is not a downloadable commodity.” It requires participation.
The best learning experiences are in the context of relationships, especially those experiences with others that at the same time unfamiliar and familiar. In my experience, students learn best when taken out of their familiar culture to serve and learn in a context that challenges their expectations and status quo learning experiences. They also learn best if put in a situation where they are challenged to work together with those who share their skill set, academic training, and/or missionary goals.
By cultivating these communities of learning and serving, I believe we will ourselves learn how to do world missions and how to participate as a global church in the twenty-first century. By developing this field project model of university ministry, placing students as interns into a wide array of community development projects with national leaders who require their service, we will all learn, we will become a community of practice.
By requiring students as part of their internship to research and write about their cross-cultural serving-learning experience, we will thereby share knowledge gained both with the field project leaders and with the universities and professors that sent the students. These project teams will help us steward and share the knowledge gained. These long-term community development field projects could serve as “laboratories” for curriculum development as well as cross-disciplinary field project leadership development.
By working together across cultures toward a big vision of collaborative ministries, leaders of missional communities, churches and organizations, will increase their ability and speed generating and implementing creative ideas for community development, evangelization, and training.
To accomplish this, we will need to form missional communities in university settings, and cross-platform, multi-disciplinary, communities of practice at field sites where internships may be hosted and field project staff leadership may be trained.
The most essential element of this field-based learning community is the authentic cross-cultural ministry that must be the foundational intent and the fruit of the project.
Where missional communities of practice exist, the witness of the Kingdom of God will be evident in a much greater way, both in the university and at that field projects’ community. These communities of learning and leadership equipping may in turn affect a change in the whole of the Christian missionary enterprise through an integrated development model of field ministry and leadership equipping.
This book is ‘salty’. I am thirsty for more with each page turned. Even more so, I am hungry for the practical outworking of this vision within the context of my own life and ministry. That is why I am developing a seminar and a 12-week course on Missional Collaboration. The challenge to me is to deliberately form communities of practice in my ministry context, the universities of the world.
Wikipedia strongly espouses verifiability and a neutral point of view, but critics of Wikipedia accuse it of “systemic bias and inconsistencies”. They say “favoring consensus over credentials gives undue weight to popular culture” in its editorial processes.
From a vantage point of a missionary, I see an important similarity here to the argument that laity, those lacking credentials from a church denomination or seminary, have no business leading a church plant or Missional community. The argument goes like this: “Those untrained leaders could lead their people into heresy or false doctrine.” That was a major concern of the early church.
If reliability and accuracy are really the issue, and not the status of “experts,” then it’s worth noting that “an investigation in Nature (scientific journal) found that the science articles they compared came close to the level of accuracy of Encyclopedia Britannica and had a similar rate of “serious errors”.” In this Nature article, Alex Bateman and Darren W. Logan write:
“Ten years ago, it would have been inconceivable that a free collaborative website, written and maintained by volunteers, would dominate the global provision of knowledge.”
So then, should an “untrained” leader draw together a group of Christ’s followers and attempt to demonstrate and declare the gospel of Jesus by making disciples from within their specific people group, their neighborhood, workplace, or school? Could such a group represent an authentic church gathering?
For centuries leadership of churches has been left to “experts”, those with credentials, degrees, and funny hats. Concern for this issue was pronounced during the recent post-colonial period, after WWII, when newly independent nations opened the opportunity for multiplied thousands of new independent churches which resulted in the greatest expansion of christianity in history, especially the Global South (see Inter-Varsity article). Many attempts to train the multitudes of new church leaders in Africa and China, through programs based mostly in the West, such as TEE (Theological Education by Extension), could not keep up the pace of church growth at the end of the 20th century. At issue: what would come of these “younger” churches? Would they slip into heresy and error?
Perhaps a little humility is required as we respond to these questions. The church in the West has not been without error, despite her theological “maturity.” The early church had error, the Medieval church had error, and the Protestant church has had error. Some error is difficult to perceive from a purely Western mindset. What could be wrong with promoting individual choices for Christ, reducing the gospel message to “three steps” or “four laws”? Well, getting “saved” for heaven is not the kingdom message Jesus preached. And it’s not the gospel message Paul preached. Salvation is much more comprehensive, and not just a private decision. The West has exported this erroneous gospel message through the modern missionary enterprise for more than a century.
Examining the laundry list of error in Western theology would require several other posts, so let’s just humble ourselves long enough to accept our brothers and sisters in the now Majority church of the Global South, not as immature “younger” churches, but as full fledged churches.
Like the world of Wikipedia, we now live in a new, “flat” and globalized world (See Thomas Friedman’s popular book, ‘The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century’), where information, correction of error and validation of facts now spread instantaneously around the world. Whether we are ready or not, it is time to consider our ways, to search the Scriptures for understanding the way to reach our new world.
Jesus did not make it complicated and neither should we. It is simple to experience community with those you already have an affinity, a similar culture. People who already share interest and time together are more likely to worship together and work together on a mission of Kingdom expansion.
This is the approach to missions and church planting in India put forth in the 1930s by Donald McGavran, the late missionary statesman who coined “Homogenous Unit Principle“, groups which can be a culture or language, a tribe or caste, a clan or geographical unit. McGavran was studied church growth, proposing a church which is not sending mission so much as it is itself sent. With so many different cultures in India, McGavran saw the need to encourage many cultural expressions of church. The different people groups should not be forced into one church cultural mold, like your neighborhood mega-church. Could it be that McGavran’s approach would also now be appropriate for churches in the Western world?
Lesslie Newbigin, another great missionary statesman, spent over 30 years living as a missionary working with the Church of South India. When he returned to England, Newbigin noticed something: the Western world had become as pluralistic as India, with new “faith” in materialism. (See Newbigin’s book: The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society.) The West, especially Europe with the USA not far behind, had already lost much of its “Christian” heritage. Once vital Church structures in England are now nightclubs with names like “Ministry of Sin.” Newbigin saw the need to not only continue to send missionaries around the world, but also to receive missionaries to re-evangelize the post-Christian West. He suggested the formation and structure of Western churches require a new reformation in order to reach our Western society with the gospel. He and many of the leaders in world missions today, contend that the Church in the West must again become primarily a missions station sponsoring Missional communities among the people groups in our cities. The Anglican Church is championing “Fresh Expressions” of church formation for the communities in which it has been established for many hundreds of years.
What am I proposing? Three things:
- First, I propose we learn humility, perhaps unlike or feeble attempts to humble ourselves in religious services, temporarily weeping at the altar and then returning to our comfortable lives behind our TVs, in our over-sized houses, and compressed lifestyles. We must humble ourselves, relinquishing our supposed rights to power, privilege, and too often prestige.
- Second, like Wikipedia, we should learn to trust every believer to gain access, participate, and contribute to theological conversations. We should trust those with a desire to be a witness to their community.
- Third, we should flatten our church hierarchies, eliminate the exclusivity of church “membership”, and commission believers to “go” into their world to plant simple church communities.
Imagine if Jesus could once again become the main focus of conversations and life in your neighborhood, your workplace, and on a your campus, perhaps it would also be possible for the message and works of Jesus to fill an entire city. No, I am not suggesting we merely “unite” churches (which tend to be organized in a competitive business model anyway). Unity is not something we create, it is something the apostle Paul exhorts us to “preserve”.
This vision for a new church-planting movement in our neighborhoods could only be realized if everyday believers, people like you and me, choose to go on mission in our sphere of influence, planting the church where you are through non-formal gatherings in homes, workplaces, and campus dorms. Of course, those with the status as “experts” may resist this missional movement for various reasons. But I am confident that the leaders whose hearts belong to Jesus will cheer ANY effort to reach our world with the good news.
The hard part is this: We have to renew our thinking, repent of our fixed cultural habits, and begin to walk worthy of this calling. Church is not just something you attend…it’s something you are. Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you; that’s true of every believer. The good news is within us.
We need break our individualistic mindset in order to see our world is not just one big community of individuals. It is hundreds of people groups, small communities put together to make up your city.
So I am proposing ‘simple churches’ or missional communities to be formed by two or more believers among these people groups. Missional communities are incarnational in that they arise out of and focus on the communities they desire to reach. Imagine multitudes of new small groups of believers in Chicago, LA, and New York, and in university campuses, businesses and suburbs in your area… Leaders need to find courage to once again be the church and release a new generation of churches in their most localized and organic form. This is what I propose: Form simple churches that are “Wiki-Missional.”
Reading the Gospel of Matthew is a journey into creative tension experienced by the author who understood the heart of a predominantly Jewish exiled community of the early church. In fact Matthew held out this tension, between the pastoral and the prophetic, “in the way in which he portrays the call to a mission to both Jews and Gentiles.” (see Transforming Mission, by David J. Bosch, p. 82)
The embattled and refugee community of Jewish followers of Jesus Christ mid-80 AD, probably living in Syria, were faced with internal and external pressures, a struggle for their identity and purpose. Pressure from Jews who did not believe the message that changed everything and that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah culminated in the extremely conservative Jewish 12th Benediction read aloud in synagogues (Temple worship had ended with its complete destruction) at the end of the first century: “Let the Nazarenes (Christians) and the heretics be destroyed in a moment…Let their names be expurgated from the Book of Life and not be entered with those of the just.” Pressures from within the Jewish Christian community involved questions of adherence to the Law and table fellowship with the growing numbers of Gentiles that had come to faith in Christ.
Matthew wades into this arena of controversy to communicate with pastoral encouragement to a community facing a serious identity crisis. Central to his message, however, is an over-arching missionary identity. Matthew encourages his fellow believers to see the opportunities for missionary witness and service in their context.
This first Gospel is written to a primarily Jewish audience. But Matthew instructs his community to no longer think of themselves as an isolated separate group of Jews; he tells them in no uncertain terms that they are the Church of Christ. (This is the only gospel in which we find the word ecclesia, “church.”) To communicate this identity however, Matthew again holds together a dynamic tension, presenting both a pastoral concern and a missionary outreach. Matthew employs Old Testament scriptures to redefine their community as the “true Israel” and to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.
Matthew combats the rabbinical teachings of the day with Jesus’ parables, such as the “Tenants”, declaring: “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” It appears, according to Bosch, that it is Matthew who first took up the “theme of the substitution of Israel by a new covenant people.” (62)
Though this approach may contribute to anti-Semite views, it’s clear Matthew is no anti-Semite. Instead, he is navigating tragic circumstances of his community, including Israel’s failure to be a light to the Gentiles, with his belief that God has and will continue to act in history.
Readers will notice the tension, especially how Matthew portrays Jesus’ repeated words of commitment go only “to the lost children of Israel” and his repeated actions reaching out to the Gentiles, such as the Centurian, the Syrophenecian, and the Samaritan. Matthew is a master at showing how to live amid the tension of historic change taking place in Christian community.
Matthew does not direct his people to cease their identity, either inwardly or outwardly, as children of Israel. However, Matthew’s gospel is infused with the missionary call of his community, and every believer, to make disciples of all nations.
Matthew indeed takes the notion of discipleship beyond the traditional preparation to become a “Rabbi”. To be a disciple of Jesus means to become a life-long follower of Jesus Christ, identifying with the “Twelve” in all our weaknesses and lack of faith. This “teaching” for followers is not merely the modern intellectual enterprise either; it’s an appeal to the will of the follower and a call to submit to God’s will. This teaching does not take place in a classroom, bowing down to a human teacher, and certainly not in a church pew a few hours a week. This teaching takes place as we “worship” (fall prostrate) before Jesus as followers and obey the mission to take this message and life-transforming love of neighbors to all the world. In other words, orthopraxis becomes the critical yardstick for orthodoxy. This “theme of discipleship is central to Matthew’s gospel and to Matthew’s understanding of church and mission.” (73)
Again, Matthew is presenting a message that is both pastoral and missionary. Pastorally, he holds up the first disciples, with all their blunders (“little faith”, “afraid”) as models for us to follow. His missionary message is urging us to “make disciples” that will follow their example.
Matthew writes this first gospel story a generation after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to clarify his community’s identity as a community on mission to both the Jews and the Gentiles. Christians find their true identity in the creative tension between Law and Spirit, Church and Mission, pastoral and missionary; the place and posture in which we may truly follow Christ in mission, in communicating to others a new way of life, including a way of following Jesus in a full surrender individually and witness corporately.
The letter to the Galatians may be Paul’s most important, representing the life and death struggle for the universal Church. It may have been followed by what may be the most important event in early church history, the Council of Jerusalem.
Paul also exhibits his most combative attitude in this letter. He does not open with any sense of gratitude for the church at Galatia, as was his custom. Paul, instead, must take on those other “teachers” who are presenting a “different gospel”, which undermines Paul’s gospel of justification by grace. Those other teachers were what Paul calls the “circumcision faction” (NRSV), who were demanding Gentile believers to observe the law of Moses, to become circumcised, which is to rely on Jewish Heritage.
Paul had met with Peter, had joined him at table fellowship with Gentiles, and later rebuked him for pulling away from that fellowship when those “Judaisers” arrived. Even Barnabas pulled back and joined in this “hypocrisy.” Paul calls into question the motives of those teachers; was it to avoid persecution or to gain some advantage?
It’s unclear exactly who those other teachers are that are putting Gentile believers under a “yoke of slavery,” but his words for them are as biting as ever. He claims they will “pay the penalty,” that they are “accursed,” and he wishes that they would “castrate themselves.”
Paul declares that the believers who have come under that “yoke” are “stupid” and “foolish.” They are by their actions denying the sufficiency of Christ, the gospel of Grace Paul preached to them. They are willing to “add” something, as if something more were necessary, to their simple trust in God.
Paul’s argument is that everyone, even Jews who do ‘works of the law’ in accordance to their heritage, must abandon their hope for a right relationship with God through trust in any other means, including Jewish Heritage. We must all find our hope and place our trust in Christ alone. Paul argues that Jewish heritage is more than adherence to Mosaic Law. Their father is Abraham, whose faith in God and not his adherence to any law. Therefore, Paul argues that reliance on law is finished for all Christians. The law does not and cannot foster the kind of faith and trust that leads to life. The Law was an imperfect agency, added as a kind of tutor, which identifies sin.
Followers of Christ are to emulate the trust of Abraham. The controversy called for the Council of Jerusalem. The consequences of this letter and this issue had divided churches, and if it had not been resolved, may never have allowed for Gentile believers without conversion to Judaism. The consequences would have dramatically hindered missionary efforts. The core of this issue may be the strong tendency of many Jews to place their trust in their ethnic and religious identity.
Paul’s letter to the Galatians calls us to eliminate all barriers to full religious participation based on race, sex, social status, etc. This is the challenge, I believe, for any cross-cultural transmission of the gospel. For that reason, if this controversy had not been sufficiently quelled, it would have done irreparable violence to the gospel of grace.
Jesus’ leadership is demonstrated in the incarnation through his integration of faith and commitment. Jesus warns “beware the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6, 11-12) whose influence, through Israel’s Temple and Torah, had become like pagan allegiance to principalities and powers (cf. Gal. 4:8-11; Rom. 5:20, 7:7-25). John’s audience, living within the Roman Empire, had witnessed idolatry taken to a new level, the deifying of the pagan state. Nero was the “symbol of political power that abuses its God-given authority.” Nero’s approach to leadership was the antithesis of Jesus, which is why he is characterized as the antichrist. Sadly, missionary endeavors at times have practiced variations of the conquest ethic of the Roman Empire, coercing conversion in the Name of Jesus!
What can we learn from Jesus’ leadership example and warnings to the churches in Revelation? While Paul encouraged churches to live in accord with civil law, John warns against becoming too comfortable. John’s churches appear therefore to be negotiating the margins of a corrupt society, seeking to avoid becoming “victims of social ostracism.” Christians today may also be ridiculed for their exclusivism and seduced into compromising their loyalty to Jesus. John’s churches may have been threatened with punishment for failure to participate in pagan idolatry, including sacrifice to Roman gods. The Nicolaitans, a religious sect with “Gnostic” tendencies in Ephesus and Pergamum, were denounced and “hated” for participating in syncretistic practices (cf. Rev. 2:6; 3:14-16; 3:20-24). How then should Christians follow Jesus’ lead in today’s society? Are Christians therefore to withdraw from trade guilds, dinner parties, legal transactions, political rallies, sporting events, and theatrical presentations? Was it openness to the surrounding Greco-Roman culture that Jesus rejected, or was it something else?
Participation, or lack of it, has profound impact on the character of a church’s witness. Perhaps Christians should witness to the servant-leadership of Jesus by demonstrating how it is possible to move with confidence through everyday life? Truth is “revealed supremely” in Jesus who was “obedient to the point of death” without considering his “equality with God something to be exploited” (Phil. 2:8, 6). John’s Revelation of Jesus has made plain the character of God who is willing to become a servant and die as a criminal in self-giving love.
See more at http://johnthenry.wordpress.com
Paul’s greatest contribution is his defense of the gospel for the Gentiles, most notably leading up to the Council of Jerusalem. Paul’s ethnic and educational background, his nationality, and his religious identity was useful, however he knew they also obstructed his vision and witness of Jesus. (Phil. 3:8) Paul found the center of Judaism in Jesus, who helped him interpret the Scriptures and discern points of dissent with his own and with every other culture. From his Mestizos vantage point he also understood the powerful forces at work dividing cultures and people. He was forthright at pointing out idol worship among the nations, which had also found its way into Judaism. (Acts 17:23, Rom. 1:25, Gal. 3:25) Rather than serve God’s purpose to unite all humanity (Gal. 3:26-28), humankind had erected dividing walls through the influence of invisible forces. Paul’s missionary task and the task he calls the church to undertake is to unmask the principalities and powers, exposing the cultural idols, false teachers, and elementary principles to proclaim in their place the gospel for every people. (Gal. 4:8-9) The Church is challenged to deal with these powerful forces holding people and cultures captive, blinded from seeing the gospel. (Eph. 3:10)
The notion of the “Cosmic Race,” popularized among Latinos by Mexican author Jose Vasconcelos, is a philosophical basis for pride in the mixture of races. González writes, there is “no single perspective or a single clue to ‘reading with Hispanic eyes.’” Therefore a people of varied backgrounds sharing a single identity is dubious. However, this is Paul’s vision and the message he preaches to the Gentiles. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul (or one of his disciples) writes that Jesus’ “purpose was to create in himself one new person.” He (or she) continues with the message of solidarity, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow-citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” (Eph. 2:15, 19 NIV) This “unity in the faith,” misunderstood by Paul’s contemporaries, has also been misinterpreted in every generation since.
Before meeting Jesus, Saul/Paul’s aim was to eliminate the threat that the new sect of Jesus followers represented to Judaism. Ethnic and religious purity, which was tied to the ultimate conquest of Israel’s Messiah over all nations, defined his worldview. Sadly Spanish missionary endeavors in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries interpreted the Scriptures envisioning a kind of religious purity through coerced conversion in Latin America, which appears to be an amalgamation of the purity ethic of Second Temple Judaism and the conquest ethic of the Roman Empire. Modern Protestant missionary endeavors continued a triumphalist interpretation, albeit separated from military coercion, by expanding into the “frontiers,” which implies redrawing the “borders” of Western civilization. Western individualism, informed by the Protestant Reformation’s doctrine of justification by faith, which possesses an important “supporting role” in Paul’s gospel, became the central understanding the expanding Protestant missionary enterprise. Today, when Westerners read the stories of Moses at the burning bush (Exo. 3:1-10) and the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:5-35), they read how the individual finds God, rather than a calling, “to go back to their people to do the work of God with and among them.” Westerners interpret the purpose of the Church (and of the Bible) to be a functionary agent to meet individual needs, rather than an expression of the gospel itself and a “foretaste of the kingdom.” This misinterpretation of the gospel message has resulted in a new form of “exile,” “a dislocation from the center,” as people are either left out, pushed out, or choose to remain outside the center.
I just read an article on leadership development in the church. The point of the article was that Jesus spent time with the few, as we read in Bob Coleman’s “Master Plan of Evangelism.” The important point I took away from the article is that developing leaders is done by modeling people to follow Christ’s example. The central act of Jesus is the cross; he modeled unrelenting surrender.
The “seed” Jesus refers to in John 12 is not only our willingness to die to our most favored activities; we must die to self, our egos. We must be willing to be of no reputation as we serve our pastor, Jesus.
The one thing to which leaders today need to die to is the image of the senior pastor. I am not a senior pastor. I am a missionary. Of course, Jesus is not only a pastor; he is also a missionary. Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, I send you.” We, the Church, are not only the sheep of his pasture; we are a sent people with a mission. God’s Church does not have a mission; God’s mission has a church.
The willingness to die to our reputations of churches led by a single senior pastor leader, a Jesus figure in the community, may be the most important breakthrough in the church, as a seed breaks under the earth, which is necessary to produce many new seeds for growth and release of leaders. This is the “way of Jesus,” modeling the way to bear much fruit.