Frontier vs. Regular Missions Part II

August 11, 2010

Today continues a three part series of defining missions, and showing the priority for frontier missions over regular missions.

Last entry I gave a personal story as well as worked through some definitions and gave some statistics. I wanted to lend my thoughts on the implications of Frontier vs. Regular and what missions means.

I mentioned that the word missions is far too over used. I would go on to say that the word is so over used that it loses its meaning.  No one is going to say that their mission is useless and no one is going to condemn another when the generalized term is used.  Using the previous definitions and the knowledge of the state of the world we must re-gain our focus and really do missions (frontier missions).  All of those other “missions” are good, but in order to see that all peoples have a chance to hear and respond to the gospel, we must focus our efforts on those areas completely without access to the gospel.

The question is of strategy. Should we keep sending our resources (people, money, prayer, etc.) to places where the gospel is planted and where individuals have an opportunity to explore the scriptures and have someone walk with them the path of faith (regular missions)?  Or would it be best to send these resources to places that have no witness at all (frontier missions)? If I had a dirty house with 10 rooms, would I get together all of my friends and spend all of my money and our time just to clean 6 of those rooms over and over and over again, leaving the other 4 rooms dirty? NO, that would make me a bad steward of my house, and I wouldn’t be able to say the house as a whole was clean.

So too with missions. We put so many resources into certain areas, completely neglecting the need for Christ throughout the world. Evangelism is great. We are all supposed to be a part of it. There are not those who are called not to share their faith. Evangelism is not a special calling that you have but a gifting of the Holy Spirit from re-birth. Evangelism should not soften the word missions.

How many new followers to Christ are there everyday in America? In China, about 30,000 people are coming to Christ daily. Can you imagine the impact more resources would have on this place? There are still so many who have not been presented the gospel. Most people in America have heard the gospel; but world-wide, last year alone, 120 million people were presented the gospel for the first time ever. Can you believe that there are that many people today who have not heard the gospel, and that was just one year of first encounters with the Truth.  We need to pray and take care that we are good stewards of God’s Kingdom.  May we be like the men in the parable of the talents who expand their ruler’s kingdom (Matthew 25:14-30).

I leave you again with the words of the greatest missionary:

“thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
-Romans 15:20-21


Frontier vs. Regular Missions Part I

August 9, 2010

Today begins a three part series of defining missions, and showing the priority for frontier missions over regular missions.

Missions is a term that can be thrown around easily. Missions is now exchanged for the term “evangelism,” and “outreach”. Missions is a budget line item in the church that goes far too wide and far too shallow. Missions is not to be just a sector of ministry in the church. Missions IS the purpose of the church. As the church universal, the body of Christ, we are commanded to take the gospel to where it is currently not. The purpose of the church and the very reason it exists is to worship Christ with everything and bring more worshipers to Him. It is out of God’s passion for His glory that missions exists (read John Piper’s“Let the Nations Be Glad.” )

A few years back I had thought the only division was between lost and saved people. This included here and around the world, and the church just gets people to come to Him wherever they are. The first time I heard about Christ was when I was 15. I knew where churches were, I just wasn’t interested to find out what they were all about. I thought that is how it is all over, churches out there but individuals decide to go or not.

I never realized that there were whole groups of people separated from God, who have no access to His gospel. I found out that there were places where there were no churches. That there were places that people didn’t have the bible translated in their language; places where people are actively searching for someone to tell them the greatest story told, but no one around knows it. This changed everything.

Missiologists have termed this concept “reached” and “unreached.” Come to find out, there are whole sectors of culture termed people groups that are characterized by this reached and unreached zones.

Based on this, here are some definitions:
“missions” that is within our country is called evangelism
“missions” outside our country that is among reached peoples is called regular missions
“missions” outside our country that is among unreached peoples is called frontier missions

Here are some statistics to make things more real:

  • There are an estimated 24,000 people groups
  • 8,000 of these are considered unreached (most located in 10/40 window).
  • This 1/3 amount of people groups makes up 60% of the world population.
  • India alone contains 2,082 unreached people groups.
  • Of our mission personnel, 90% serve in regular missions while only 10% serve in frontier areas
  • Of our finances, 95% of our church dollars goes straight back to us, sending 5% out to missions outside of our country
    • Of that 5% missions budget, 90% goes to regular missions with only 10% going to frontier missions.
    • Totaled: 99.5% of our money goes to reached areas where people have access to the gospel while 0.5% goes to places that otherwise have no opportunity to hear.

I think the church needs to put a little more thought as to what missions is, and what our focus should be. Of course all of these areas are good targets for ministry, but if we are going to focus on missions lets truly and strategically put our efforts into completing the Great Commission. [Hint to part II].

I leave you with the words of the greatest missionary:

“thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”
-Romans 15:20-21

Missions Mobilization and Motivation

July 31, 2010

I have been reading some about motivations in missions, and having been thinking of applications in the realm of mobilization. How do followers of Christ who recognize the depth and meaning of the Great Commission and its place in our relationship with Jesus adequately inform, motivate, catalyze, move others towards the same biblical objectives. Unfortunately most pew-sitters in church don’t know about how the Great Commission relates to the 21st century and and don’t understand how they can have a role to play (even without a passport!)

There are two extremes people usually take with their motivation. These aren’t mutually exclusive and I think a bi-focal approach is most appropriate to see the Great Commission through.

The first is passion for God and going out based on relationship. This is where our understanding and appreciation for who God is and what he has done to bring us back to Him – impacts us so much that we must carry this same message to others. We are compelled to go because of an inner longing. One issue I subjectively see through my experience is that deep, passionate worship doesn’t always produce apostolic zeal. I know many people who are intimate in their relationship with God and have no concern for the external world. The major goal is to personally grow as much as possible. How do we help people see compassion for the world through their relationship with God?

The other side is duty. God’s word reveals to us that we shall go. The great Commission was given to all to participate in. We all may not go, but we are all called to have a part. The commander in chief has spoken so we must follow. The difficulty here is that people leaving under this banner often go without relying fully on the Holy Spirit. With this mindset, it is easy to forget that Christ goes before, Christ goes with us, and that ultimately it is his work we are doing as ambassadors of His kingdom.

So now you’ve read the two sides. Is there anything you think I left out? Where do you stand? How do you share your passion of Christ and HIS plan to save some from ALL ethnic groups with others? Where can the church do better at putting these issues at the forefront?

Strategic Value of Farmers in Mission

July 27, 2010

The strategic value of rural persons in missions.

FACT: Many little rural villages around the world have not heard the gospel.  There are many completely unreached.

Who better to reach these people: suburban, globalized individuals, or rural people familiar with dyadic community oriented societies?

People who know the earth, the dirt, who raised animals, who have tangible stories of seeing God’s tangible provision are well equipped to go and do likewise in places with no opportunity to hear the gospel message or see it lived out.  These people know what it is like to share resources and truly be a secure network of families that must depend on one another for survival.  They know what it is like to be on a team of committed members working towards the same goal.

These qualities and characteristics make rural peoples ripened for field work in rural villages.  I would argue that it would be beneficial to assign recruiters and mobilizers to the country side to petition for kingdom workers.  Who do you know from a strategic rural background that could be integral part of seeing the great commission completed in our generation?

Missiological Reflections of the Protestant Reformation

February 20, 2010

Considering the breath of Catholic Missions throughout their history, it is astonishing that Protestant Missions took centuries to really take off.  When a new form of religiosity centralized in scripture formed out of the Catholic tradition, why did they not take the desire to spread this new fervency outward?

First lets get a quick recap of the Catholic mission movement.  The outward focus was not pervasive but it was there.  The Celtic Mission Movement is most famous for spreading throughout Northern Europe.  St. Columba especially was fervent in taking the gospel forward.  Raymond Lull centuries later would profess the gospel to the saracens.  The major thrust of Catholic Missions comes through the sodalites of the Franciscans and Dominicans.  The monasteries were often planted in outlying areas of where the churches were and gave access to Christianity to the outside world.

Centuries before Hudson Taylor set said for China, Nestorian missionaries had brought the gospel multiple times.  It seemed like each time a dynasty fell, the rising rulers destroyed the church, often to eventually rebuild.  Throughout Persia, India and Asia tradesmen, monks and others had taken the message of Christ out.

The Catholics sent priests and monks out on explorations once the Americas were discovered.  The Spanish especially sent out Dominicans, Jesuits and others who brought Christ with them.  While many of these efforts were tainted by “Convert or die” political powers, with selfish power motives, the fact is that they put at least put the effort in.

So we get to the Protestant Reformation.  The history of how this movement came about is intriguing and complex, I’ll concentrate on the missiological reflections though.  The efforts of the new movements were abysmal in comparison to the Catholic counterparts.

There are exceptions.  Paul Pierson helps to point out the few successes in the early Protestant Missions Movement in his book “The Dynamics of Christian Mission”.  Check it out for more details.

So after covering the context we come to the main question: why did the Protestants not carry the missions fervor of the Catholics?  Why did it take centuries until Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann first launched their Moravian missions and William Carey popularized the Protestant Missionary Movement?

The theology of Predestination and election drained the new movement of theological reasons to spread outwards.  The thought pattern was basically, “God will bring to His Kingdom who he chooses and does not need our help.”  William Carey came across this as well.  When appealing to go to India, legend says he was told, “Young man, sit down; when God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your aid and mine.”

The other major theological hindrance was mis-interpreting the Great Commission passages.  Prominent Reformer Martin Luther among others also thought that the Great Commission was only given to the first century apostles.  This view was prevalent then and has lingered since.

The primary means through which Catholics did missions was through the missionary orders.  These sodalic structures gave a focus and an avenue for missions to happen.  Most monasteries were not the loner desert retreats but outposts for study and providing for the surrounding community.  They taught agriculture, took care of the orphans and poor and gave religious fervency to the towns that were built up around them.  When the Protestants restructured church, they lumped the monastic orders in with the corruption they were trying to escape.  We know Luther had a real problem with Tetzel the Dominican enforcer of indulgences in his German province.  It is possible that Luther made the mistake of generalizing his opinion on that specific group and threw out the concept of a separate mission structure because of the corruption he witnessed first hand.  The major Protestant Missions Movement started centuries later when sodalities were once again established with the formation of the Baptist Missions Society.

During the times of the Reformation Movement there was much internal struggle.  Different sects were coming out of different areas with often competing goals and theologies.  This added to the struggle with the Roman Catholic Church distracted their attention from the outward.  In a sense, they were distracted and lost focus

Connected to the political is the historical.  There is a trend for renewal movements and new movements to concentrate on their own concerns.  Another good example of this is the African American Missions Movement.  African Americans have been going since they have come to America (often returning back to Africa with the gospel after being freed).  As a whole though, they have had to battle other issues and properly give priority to overcoming the barriers they faced.  Decades after the Civil Rights Movement, we are now seeing growth in the number of missionaries being sent out, however the percentage of African American missionaries is still relatively low.  I suggest the same trend in the Protestant Missions Movement.  The Reformers were now concerned with running a new religious structure, a task many had not asked for (some wanted church to reform, not start another structure).  This large task focused their attention more locally and did not concentrate on expanding.


Further Reading

How does true heart faith contrast with faith based on religious and cultural traditions and assumptions? What are the differing results in individual lives as well as societies?

February 15, 2010

True heart faith contrasts greatly with faith based on religious and cultural traditions and assumptions.  The hard thing is, from the outside, one person can’t readily distinguish between the two by observation alone.  It is true that both of these cases a person can be acting in the same manner and doing the same things.  The root of the difference is the heart matter.  True heart faith (in Christ) is not about self or appearance but for the purpose of glorifying God, spreading His name and fighting evil.  It is not routine, out of duty alone or self-interest reasons that the person is participating in the action.  The motivation of the person is a primary distinction in the classification of their faith.

While individual scenarios can be difficult to distinguish without direct contact, society level differences are more obvious.  Communities of “God fearers” are difference makers.  They passionately engage in the kingdom of God taking active steps at relieving the root and results of evil in the world.  They energetically point others to the source of healing and redemption, Christ, both locally and globally.  Society level nominal believers again may engage in some community development activity, but it is with compassion (human driven) rather than God driven passion.  Often times those communities based on religious tradition fight change, while God fearing communities embrace change.

Insider Movements vs. C5 contextualization: is there a difference?

February 11, 2010

This post has been updated an expanded upon after a year of thinking upon this issue.  Please read the new post by clicking here.

NOTE: This is an objective article, not intended to share the opinions of the author concerning use of such strategies discussed.

There is a major issue I want to flush out and get to the bottom of.  It seems that amongst missiological circles and even published in major mission scholar journals that the terms Insider Movements and C5 contextualization are interchangeable.  I submit this humble treatise to argue that there is a crucial difference of the two, and request possible new terminology to represent such differences.

A few examples to note that combine the terms C5 and insider movements:

  • Bill Nikides’ article Evaluating “Insider Movements”: C5 (Messianic Muslims) where he reinterprets the original C1-C6 in light of insider movement terminology. (Nikides 2006)
  • John Stringer has a section titled C5: “Insider Movements” in his critique of contextualization. (Stringer 2007: 7)

Here are a few examples of those who are on target with these issues:

  • Timothy Tennent, who critics insider movements properly separates the two, “The growing emphasis on ‘insider movements’ often linked with ‘C-5’ strategy calls for continued discussion and reflection among mission leaders today.” (Tennent 2006:101)
  • H.L. Richard, a prominent Hindu scholar does a good job of separating the two. (Richard 2009: 175-176)
  • I will repost much of Rebecca Lewis’ Promoting Movements to Christ within Natural Communities (Lewis 2007: 74-75) who does a good job of teasing apart the two definitions.{Rebecca Lewis also separates the difference between ‘insider movement’ people movement’ and church planting movement’ in IJFM 26.1 (Lewis 2009: 16-19)}

According to a brilliant scholar and experienced worker, Rebecca Lewis,

“an ‘insider movement’ is any movement to faith in Christ where a) the gospel flows through pre-existing communities and social networks and where b) believing families, as valid expressions of the Body of Christ, remain inside their socio-religious communities, retaining their identity as members of that community while living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible.” (Lewis 2007: 75-76)

John Travis, who coined the C-scale describes points of the scale,

“By definition, C3 and C4 Christ-centered communities are attempts to stay and witness within one’s community of birth: in other words, to remain an ‘insider.’ Therefore, perhaps we need to find a better term like ‘cultural insider’ (for C3 and C4) and ‘religious’ or ‘socio-religious’ insider to describe C5.” (originally in Mission Frontiers 28:5 p.7, quoted from IJFM 24.1 [Corwin 2007: 15])

Travis agrees there is a difference in culture and religion as well as how these play into the C-scale.  He admits himself that “insider” is getting used too often (or as Heath & Heath say “semantic stretch” p.173).  C5 contextualization and Insider Movements are not mutually inclusive terms.

Biblical scholar and missiologist Rick Brown says, “so insider believers can be found across the C-spectrum of Christ-centered communities, although insider movements occur only in C4 and C5.” (Richard 2009:177).  I would change one word here: “only” and substitute it for “usually.”

One key difference I see is that the C-scale is is reporting how far along the scale believers are seeking God according to their indigenous culture forms, although it also looks at identity.  Insider Movements look at the identity of the believer, but more along the lines of familial and community networks.  Members of Insider Movements would answer yes to the following: do they hold the same social status as they did before encountering Christ or not?  Are the communities  allowed to remain in their previous network (as opposed to a conglomeration of individuals from various aspects of society)?

Two situations that may help picture this:

A gathering of Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) who come from different parts of the city, but are coming together for study and prayer.  They were strangers who met at this meeting.  They only see each other once a week although enjoy each other’s company.  The style may even look Islamic but when the individuals are pulled out of their network it ceases to become an ‘insider movement’.

Albeit unusual, I propose the following as a extreme point for contrast.  There is a C3 community where a village or sector in society have all become MBBs.  These groups of families are frustrated with Islam so leave their religious ways behind.  They still worship in their language, but it does not resemble Islam.  They may not even still call themselves Muslim.  The whole community/familiar network has decided to follow Jesus and have abandoned the ways of Islam.  Perhaps they even look Western (or Asian, African, or Latin American).  However since the entire network made a group decision, they are still Insiders.

It is more about the network and communal ties than the “religion”.  The most misleading situation is a house of religion (Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, etc.) that begins to follow Jesus as a whole, but is still made of people who randomly come together for worship (like we see in the West).  Insider Movements occur when the gospel takes over a web of dyadic living, regardless of what it looks like.

Confusing stuff?!?

Once again I will refer to Rebecca Lewis’ comments on this subject to end,

“In my view, ‘insider movements’ are distinct from the C-scale in that, regardless of how Western or non-Western their forms, all that matters is that no new communities (no ‘aggregate churches’) are formed to extract believers from their pre-existing families and networks, so that they naturally retain their former identity. As such, ‘insider movements’ can take place within any socioreligious context, Western or not (such as Russian Orthodox, Mormon, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Chinese Communist, etc.), as long as believers remain inside their families, networks and communities, retaining the socioreligious identity of that group. So, while their new spiritual identity is in following Jesus Christ, and they gladly identify themselves with Him, they remain in their birth family and community and retain the temporal identity of their familial socio-religious context. A C5 church might or might not have developed along the lines of natural social networks, and it might or might not be part of a movement and is therefore distinct from ‘insider movements.’ ‘Messianic synagogues,’ for example, though highly contextualized in forms to religious Judaism, are not an ‘insider movement’ because they are neither flowing through Jewish family networks nor have they succeeded in retaining an acceptably Jewish identity among Jews. Messianic mosques and messianic ashrams often suffer the same fate, following an aggregate model of fellowship formation instead of letting the gospel flow through pre-existing natural communities.” (Lewis 2007: 75-76)


For an unbiased approach, check out the wikipedia article.

Muslim Followers of Isa

February 8, 2010

Can people remain in their faith but follow Jesus?

Check out this video and let me know your reactions.

Mission Movements – Reflections from the 1200’s-1400’s

February 5, 2010

Thinking and reading about mission/renewal movements within the Catholic church pre-Reformation (another renewal movement with tremendous success.)

The following is Dr. Paul Pierson (Fuller Theological Seminary) through his book, Dynamics of Christian Mission

“new mission movements are nearly always initiated by key leaders – men or women who have gone dep in thier life iwth God and consequently felt His heartbeat for the world and then have communicated their vision to other” (p.108)

“mission and renewal movements virtually always arise on the periphery of the boarder Church.  Often, but not always, they are lead by laypersons.” (p.109)

“The historical reality is that every movement, no matter how it began, will become institutionalized and fall into the danger of losing its original vision and vitality.  None is exempt from that danger.” (p.109)

“Often a movement of renewal or mission makes theological rediscoveries … and are often accompanied by new patterns of leadership selection and training.” (p.112)

“a missiological entrepreneur is one whose vision goes beyond that of the dominant Church and mission structures of the time, and who consequently creates new movements to implement the vision.” (p.118)

Examples he gives: Peter Waldo, John Wycliffe, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic, Samuel Mills, Hudson Taylor, Cameron Townsend, Ralph Winter.  On top of his preceding list I would add: Donald McGavarn, the reformation leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as well as others.

Good stuff.  Continue the conversation with me.

Short Term Missions

January 28, 2010

Here is some of my recent thinking along the lines of short term missions.  Most of the comments apply to the majority STM trips taken by local churches.  For those going long term as career missionaries who take a scouting trip, different rules apply.  Allow me to summarize my thoughts at the onset: STM is happening, but we need to take steps back to determine the most effective steps forward.  When thinking through STM the ministry of the career missionary is the central, creative steps need to be taken to truly serve the people being ministered to (dependency a huge issue with STM).

When planning a STM trip, you really need to have a sense of what your purpose is for this trip and guide everything along those rails. The strategy of having an assortment of different activities and events may not benefit the nationals or the missionaries and it may not make lasting impact on the people you bring.  A lot of times STM takes the shotgun approach that accomplishes its goal but also destroys the growth surrounding the focal point of the STM.

If you really want to go and learn the culture, experience life in country and show the nationals you care for them, go and learn.  Sit still and don’t have an agenda of things “to-do”. You cannot run activities (that may come outside the cultural context) and expect to learn the culture and language at the same time. They are often dichotomous – choose either a work trip with little cultural exposure or a immersion trip with little doing. You can’t learn when you are busy doing.

The more people that go, the less each will learn. If you have a small group they will be forced to stay in the culture, learn language and participate with locals. The more people come the more the conversation will sink to the lowest denominator. I would ask the the host missionary how many they would like to have, and let them determine your group size. If you have more applicants than spots, it allows you to take the most dedicated individuals who will seek the most out of the trip and go the most. Short Term Missions is not an experience that automatically makes those going pray more, more concerned for the lost or poor, give more, or naturally develop a heart for missions and a calling to go. Those who put the most into their preparation and into the experience will receive the most benefit to themselves.

Know the possible complications that can arise with immaturity issues in middle schoolers. Also if parents go, the children may experience the trip through their lens and protection. Determine if this is what you want or not.

Here are a few websites I see as very helpful:

Question now, what is the most stated purpose of STM?  I usually hear that the experience is good for the people going, that their vision expands and they grow more with God.  I will confess that I am a skeptic, anecdotally I see many people who come back from STM just like those who go to a summer camp: “camp high.”  They turn spiritual for the first week they are back then return to their normal self.  I would love to see some research.  How many long term missionaries have been overseas on a short-term trip (especially before sensing God to call them as career missionaries)?  What percentage of the people who return from STMs do we see tangible evidences of growth: increased passion, increased giving, remain following Jesus (many more as well)?