Previous | Next

Spring 1994 · Vol. 23 No. 1 · pp. 86–88 

Can Mission Agencies Be Partners?

Response to “Internationalization” by Harold Ens 23/1 (1994): 82–85.

Valdemar Kroker

My comments on internationalization interact with Harold Ens’s article, and also introduce some new aspects into the discussion.

SEPARATION BETWEEN CULTURE AND CHRISTIANITY

Christianity has lately been better separated from the culture of the missionary who proclaims the gospel. A considerable change has taken place in the way today’s American missionaries are preaching the Good News to us in Brazil, when compared to the way missionaries of earlier decades preached it. But with the expansion of oriental religions in the west and especially with the revival of the Christian church in Asia and the consequent increase of sending missionaries to the world, we will need to be watchful to distinguish oriental culture from true spirituality in their message. And if the church in Brazil keeps increasing its number of missionaries to other countries and cultures, we will have to be careful to take the full gospel and as little as possible of our culture to other people.

Too many resources get lost in partnerships in which one partner is a missionary agency.

INTERDEPENDENCE OF YOUNGER AND OLDER CHURCHES

Warren Webster’s statement about the interdependence of younger and older churches rings {87} true. The older church has often lost the vision for “foreign” missions and has even lost the vision for its mission at home. Still such a church may have advantages: it may be a stable church, with well defined forms and ministries, and very often it has financial resources available for a mission project once its members have caught the vision.

The younger church, in many cases, is keen for missions direction. The desire of fulfilling the Lord’s command is alive in every heart. The church is flexible and can adapt rapidly to a fast changing world. The new wine has room to expand in the new skins. But very often not only are financial resources in short supply, but there is a deficiency also of well trained workers.

Now, should these two kinds of churches start working in partnership, both would benefit, and the Kingdom of God would grow much faster and more vigorously.

INTERNATIONAL TEAMS

A critical aspect in internationalization is the development of international teams. There are some crucial issues, which have to be discussed and agreed on for a team to function well.

Strategy. A team that wants to reach people in a specific geographical area has to agree on a strategy. This strategy has to be worked out by a group of leaders who represent the sending churches, the team workers and also specialists who know the specific needs of people in that particular area. Very often teams have not worked well because different strategies were employed by participants of the same team. The result then is much confusion and very little reconciliation of sinners with God.

Salaries. A well-defined policy for fair wages is necessary for good relationships to exist between members of a team. No matter how difficult this may be, an equation has to be found, by which missionaries who come from affluent sending churches will not live a lifestyle that is incompatible with that of a native worker on the same team, or with that of another missionary sent by a not-so-prosperous church.

Team Leadership. The issue of leadership in a team is of utmost importance. The sending churches need to work through this issue very clearly before a team moves into ministry. The best is probably to settle the issue already during the preparation of the team. In countries where there is a national worker on the team, that person should be the team leader. {88}

ROLE OF AGENCY AND SENDING CHURCHES

The missionary agency must always be the facilitator of sending a missionary team into a new area of ministry. An agency can specialize in working out matters of language training, acculturation, visas, matching churches for partnership and other technical issues. But it cannot send the missionaries.

The local church is the sending body in the New Testament. The local church calls, prepares, sends, supports (prays and pays) and follows up closely on the work and on the worker. And if one local church is too small for such an enterprise, it will get together with one or at the most two other churches, in order to send a missionary.

In internationalization, missionary partners can only be local churches, and not agencies. As said before, agencies can facilitate, but local churches have to put their hands on the same plow. Too much energy, personnel, and financial resources get lost in partnerships in which organizations like missionary agencies are the partners. Only a well-experienced worker of a local church can be sent overseas to preach the gospel and only his/her local home church can actually hold him/her accountable and help him/her to grow in personal spirituality and in a more effective ministry. Of course it will be more expensive in the short run, but such a procedure will be much more effective.

CHALLENGE FOR REVIVAL

As for “internationalization,” we need to experience an awakening for missions in Jerusalem. Then we can better answer the question: Where are those ends of the earth? Closer than we used to think. People at our next door are also at the ends of the earth. So, if we really want to become international in doing missions, we need to take a new step toward our neighbors and tell them how sorry we are for not having taken their spiritual lostness seriously; we can only cry for forgiveness for not having earlier offered this wonderful salvation to our friends, relatives and colleagues. The results of such an attitude and also of people coming to Christ through us and our local churches will push us anew to do global mission.

Valdemar Kroker is Pastor of Youth at Igreja Evangelica Irmaos Menonitas de Curitiba and Instructor in Old Testament and Biblical Theology at ISBIM in Curitiba, Brazil.

Previous | Next