I have been out of the country for a few weeks (seeing some AMAZING things) and have been getting “pinged” about a recent article by Justin Long on mission structures. At the same time, I was sent a report about mega-church involvement in missions and how organizations need to react to accommodate them. Finally, while abroad I traveled with an author who, at one point, said, “The big question is ‘what is the role of the Western missionary?’”
How many times will I have this conversation with people?
If I might be so bold, let me make 10 observations about Western missionaries:
- As long as there are unreached people groups there will be a role for Western missionaries.
- The role for any missionary, whether Western or not, is constantly in flux. This is both true globally and locally. The issue of change in the global missionary effort has little to do with the origin of the missionary.
- Agencies are temporal manifestations of how people are organizing to accomplish mission. Let’s not spiritualize them.
- The rise of the non-Western missionary force does nothing but create greater opportunities for Western missionaries. They are now able to be involved in a much broader range of roles and fields.
- Nationals can do the job cheaper, financially, in many cases. However, ‘Mercenary Missions’ (in which we pay other people to do what are obligated by scripture to do) is a great tool but no replacement for US churches sending out our best and brightest. These should be complementary strategies.
- Many nationals are ineffective in cross-cultural missions. This is particularly true in places where they become pastors and not missionaries (India is rife with this issue).
- Like any culture, American culture can make a unique contribution in the Great Commission. We are good at vision casting, logistics, resource management and training. We are not so good at sacrifice, disciple making, flexibility and following.
- Financial resources in the West should be freed to do missionary work. Western churches and missionaries should be assisting in this, not constantly fretting over the misappropriation of funds.
- We often overlook “culturally near” missionary strategies. Often, neighboring cultures that are already reached can be mobilized to extend the Gospel into cultures with no current witness.
- American churches are often ill equipped to understand and strategize appropriately in cross-cultural, unreached situations. They need Western missionaries’ expertise to increase their effectiveness.
Your thoughts? Feel free to disagree!