Monday, July 7, 2008

Strategy (Missions Monday)

While on the Maasai Project I discovered something that put a bad taste in my mouth. We stayed at a missionary hostel a few days and I soon learned that some of the people that I had deemed as my heroes had very strong opinions that their way of evangelism was the best (and only way) to do it. It was during one of those conversations that a quote from college resurfaced in my mind, "the hardest thing about being a missionary is...other missionaries."

I personally like the fact that there are a variety of ways to reach people, however the most frightening thing to me was that it seemed that even on the mission field that many people had forgotten the value of listening and following the leading of the Holy Spirit. I am big on that being the driving source of any mission strategy. If John 10:27 is taken out of the mission strategy, then it is probably not a strategy worth pursuing. are a few mission strategy's being used from good ole' Wikipedia.

In modern missionary strategy, mission stations and/or Mission hospitals are deprecated, because they were historically ineffective. Mission stations normally created disaffected individual converts, often seen as an outcast by their family and culture. In many cases, the only source of converts to a mission station were the orphans raised in the station's orphanage. Also, many mission station's converts were so alienated from surrounding cultures that they were unable to get work outside the mission station, let alone act as cultural ambassadors for Christianity. In some cases, these paid "rice bowl Christians" actively impeded Christian conversion in the mission's schools and orphanages so that their own incomes would not be reduced as more Christians came to depend on the mission station.

Modern pioneering missionary doctrines now focus on inserting a culturally adapted seed of Christian doctrines into a self-selected, self-motivated group of native believers, without removing the natives from their culture in any way.

Modern mission techniques are sufficiently refined that within ten to fifteen years, most native churches are natively pastored, managed, taught, self-supporting and evangelizing. The process can be substantially faster if a preexisting translation of the Bible and higher pastoral education are already available, perhaps left-over from earlier, less effective missions.

A key approach is to let native cultural groups decide to adopt Christian doctrines and benefits, when (as in most cultures) such major decisions are normally made by groups. In this way, opinion leaders in the groups can persuade much or most of the groups to convert. When combined with training in church planting and other modern missionary doctrine, the result is an accelerating, self-propelled conversion of large portions of the culture.

The most crucial part of church planting is selection and training of leadership. Classically, leadership training required an expensive stay at a seminary, a Bible college. Modern church planters deprecate this because it substantially slows the growth of the church without much immediate benefit. Modern mission doctrines replace the seminary with programmed curricula or (even less expensive) books of discussion questions, and access to real theological books. The materials are usually made available in a major trading language in which most native leaders are likely to be fluent. In some cases, the materials can be adapted for oral use.

It turns out that new pastors' practical needs for theology are well addressed by a combination of practical procedures for church planting, discussion in small groups, and motivated Bible-based study from diverse theological texts. As a culture's church's wealth increases, it will naturally form classic seminaries on its own.

Another related mission is Bible translation. The above-mentioned literature has to be translated. Missionaries actively experiment with advanced linguistic techniques to speed translation and literacy. Bible translation not only speeds a church's growth by aiding self-training, but it also assures that Christian information becomes a permanent part of the native culture and literature. Some ministries also use modern recording techniques to reach groups with audio that could not be soon reached with literature.