Apr

09

2012

Jonathan K. Dodson|10:00 PM CT

Why the Missional Church Isn't Enough

The missional church in the United States is not missional enough. The local focus of mission is shortsighted. If we only make disciples who make disciples in our cities, thousands of unengaged, un-discipled peoples of the earth will not hear the gospel. To be sure, many ethnic groups are migrating to cities, which brings some of the nations right into the neighborhood. However, there remain many ethnic groups that do not migrate to Western cities. Western churches must send missionaries, not only across the street, but also across the world.

The State of Global Mission

Shockingly, 80 percent of deployed missionaries go to already evangelized areas. Consider these staggering statistics:

  • Roughly 30 percent of the global population is unevangelized and largely untargeted by so-called missional churches.
  • This amounts to about 1.6 billion people not hearing the gospel in 38 different nations. [1]
  • There are still at least 13,000 unreached people groups and millions of people who have not heard a first proclamation of the gospel. [2]

Thousands more do not have the Scriptures in their language. Add to that the incalculable corruption in many nations that fosters poverty, disease, crime, sex trafficking, and so on. Other frontiers of mission must not be lost in the missional movement of the West. We need churches that will be missional both locally and globally.

What if I'm in a Small Church?

The global task of mission can sound overwhelming to small churches and church plants. It is challenging enough get individualistic, consumer-oriented, image-conscious Christians on mission in America. In small churches, a tiny band of committed people does everything from (and in plants, from scratch!). The small church pastor wears multiple hats of pastor, apostle, counselor, strategist, small group leader, and much more.

Naturally, the immediate mission field is more pressing than the distant mission field. These leaders should be commended for attempting to fulfill part of the global mission of the church at a local level. They love their neighbor, transition consumers to missionaries, and build a church all at the same time, which is incredibly demanding. But because this task is so great, and resources are so small, engaging our global neighbor is almost unthinkable!

Four Phases of Progressive Global Mission

In my church-planting experience, I found it necessary to adopt a progressive approach to global mission. It is unreasonable to expect a small group to adopt an unreached people group in the Middle East or to support a missionary when they can't even support their pastor's salary. So how can a small church be globally minded?

Looking back, I now see four phases to our progressive approach to global mission. I have also noticed other churches follow a similar progression. The first phase was exposure. Early on we deliberately introduced the church to the global mission. We began at the core team phase by meeting missionaries, visiting Burmese refugees, and praying about the needs of the global church. We took a rather generic, shotgun approach.

The second phase was experimentation. As we grew, we tried out international student ministry, presented unreached peoples needs through sermons, and planned short-term, exploratory mission trips. We also focused more funding on global mission, still unsure where it would lead.

The third phase was decentralization. In addition to our missionary equipping for local mission, we wanted our church to support missionaries in other countries. As our missional communities multiplied, we created Adopt-a-Missionary profiles so they could pick a missionary to support. We encouraged each community to consider adopting a missionary whom they could support financially, relationally, and prayerfully. To this day, some missional communities don't participate; others are very active. We're okay with that because we're slowly growing into keeping the global in missional, while remaining focused on our immediate mission in Austin. Decentralization is an important part of becoming globally minded because it puts local missionaries face-to-face with global missionaries (sometimes through Skype). This decentralization helped us introduce global mission the basic level of church. It got it down to the level of DNA.

The fourth phase was strategic partnership. We forged a partnership with indigenous pastors in Uganda and took three trips over three years to learn and serve the Ugandan church. We also mobilized the whole church through Uganda Sundays, prayer cards, and updates. We looked for a strategic partnership, moved forward, then celebrated at home each time a team returned. To recap, the four phases were exposure, experimentation, decentralization, and strategic partnership.

We still have a long way to go. We are about to send our first long-term missionary to Hong Kong, where we hope to formalize a strategic partnership. Are we a top ten global mission church? No way. Are we getting global into missional? Slowly. Does our church understand missional is both local and global? I believe so. But if we rely on "phases of progressive global mission," we are doomed to failure. We're doomed because we neglect the motivation for mission. Why should we participate in the global mission of the church? How does our part fit into the larger, sweeping history of mission?

Advance and Retreat of the Church

Church historian Kenneth Latourette (1884-1963) noted that the church has a history of advance and retreat, what he called "the pulsations in the life of Christianity." Lautorette points out that the history of the church is a history of oscillating influence, spreading the gospel across the globe over the centuries. This has resulted in new expressions of the Christian faith over time and across cultures. It is amazing to consider the diversity and uniqueness of the gospel throughout space and time among the peoples of history! Today, expressions of the gospel are exploding in Africa and Asia.

These new expressions of Christian faith are more than intriguing. They are, in fact, an expansion of God's glory. You might think that God's glory un-expandable and already complete. Not according to Jonathan Edwards. In The History of Redemption, Edwards argues that God's glory is incomplete:

God looks on the communication of himself, and the emanation of the infinite glory and good that are in himself to belong to the fullness and completeness of himself, as though he were not in his most complete and glorious state without it. Thus the church of Christ is called the fullness of Christ: as though he were not in his complete state without her.

God's glory in an incomplete state? His glory is not full? Sounds awfully unorthodox. What is Edwards saying?

Full Expression of God's Glory

If Edwards is correct, the full expression of God's glory can only be completed through the history of redemption. The history of redemption cannot be completed until "the end has come," and the end will not come until "the gospel of the kingdom has been preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations" (Matt 24:14). God's glory is expanded when the gospel is translated into the many cultures of the world, entering new ethnicities, idioms, and habits. It will take the breadth of history to display the diversity of God's glory through the advance of the church.

However, the church also retreats. Our passion for mission wanes. Even with the resurgence of missional ecclesiology, we fail in sharing and showing the gospel in our own cultures. Clearly, the missional church is not enough, not only in its scope of mission, but also in its motivation for mission. When the motivation of the church is mission, we are destined to retreat, tire out, and fail. What, then, should we do? Throw up our arms in surrender and blend fully into our cultures with the hope of missional memory loss?

We need a greater, more captivating motivation than "missional church." When the motivation for mission is mission, people will revert to consumerism. However, if our missional endeavors are motivated by something greater, more certain, than our oscillating passion for the advance of the gospel, then there is hope. If the history of redemption will not come to a close until God's glory has been completed, then the assurance of mission starts and ends, not with the church, but with God! God's commitment to his own glorious expansion throughout space and time is the hope of the world. The hope of mission is not the church; it is Jesus committed to ushering his full, redemptive reign over all space and time, including every people.

As we bring missional failure and success to the feet of Jesus, we will be increasingly motivated for mission by his mercy and his might. We need to be increasingly captivated by the expanding glory and beauty of Christ among the nations. Missional church is not enough. We need Jesus' insistence on the spread of his redemption throughout history for his glory. We need his commitment to his complete glory breaking into history to complete the display of the riches of his grace.

In order to keep the global in missional, we must linger on God more than mission. We need the very same gospel we seek to advance in order to advance it. We need Jesus to carry us into the depths of God's character, beauty, and excellence where our imagination will be captivated and our affections thrilled. From this place of awe the mission of the church will advance and God's glory will be completed among the nations.


[1] Statistical data taken from David Barrett and Todd Johnson, World Christian Trends: Global Diagram 34 (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2001). See also: http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/globalchristianity/gd/gd34.pdf

[2] Todd Johnson and Peter Crossing, "Priority Peoples: A Customized Approach," Mission Frontiers Jan-Feb, 2005.

Jonathan Dodson (MDiv, ThM) is happy husband to Robie and proud father to Owen, Ellie, and Rosamund. He is also the lead pastor of Austin City Life church and a leader in The GCM Collective, PlantR, and GospelCenteredDiscipleship.com. Jonathan is also the author of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and writes regularly for The Resurgence, Boundless, and The High Calling. He blogs at jonathandodson.org.

  • sam ward

    Surely one of the essential qualities of a disciple is obedience. Therefore effective disciples will make obedient disciples that will follow God call to the least, lost and last from the bible belt to those without belts or bibles.

  • Dustin

    Jonathon, when you say this:

    "When the motivation for mission is mission, people will revert to consumerism. However, if our missional endeavors are motivated by something greater, more certain, than our oscillating passion for the advance of the gospel, then there is hope. If the history of redemption will not come to a close until God's glory has been completed, then the assurance of mission starts and ends, not with the church, but with God!"

    it seems like you are making a strong distinction between the ontology of the church and its purpose. Missional ecclesiology should and must consider its ontology as the physical manifestation of Christ in the world today. When you make a claim that the hope and purpose of the Church is grounded in "God" you are seperating ontology from purpose. This distinction is debilitating because it suggests that our abstract idea of "God" and his "Glory" will make things happen no matter what the church decides to act upon. This may be my big rub with ultra-Calvinist theology - the confusion caused when "God will do everything" meets the laws and commandments of God to call us to participate with him. (Yes, Christ has already fulfilled God's glory - in some sense - but it is not fully realized yet - The Now and Not Yet of the Kingdom). If GOD is the motivation (and means) by which mission exists --- why in the world did God call Abraham, or Christ command the Disciples? Why doesn't he just do everything Himself?

    • http://christianlythinkings.wordpress.com/ Stephen J. Higgins

      Well said Dustin. The missional church is more than just one local group and its focus has to be golocal (global and local) otherwise it does fall back quickly into consuming not Jesus mission focus of Go Make disciples. Connecting the Kingdom through relationships takes intentionality and energy. If then the non-missional model is maintenance (building – program driven budget – i.e. corporate) then while mission happens it is what we “do” instead of how we are connected to the Kingdom in such-in-such country. In such a limited forum I have jumped the gap without showing how to build across it, sorry. Our ultimate assurance is that in Jesus Christ on the cross to his death, burial, resurrection and is glorious ascension brought Fathers Spirit into our life and transformed us to know what reality is - a unity that is both indivisible and in creative tension with the road of our life journey’s to heaven which starts in this world. Immanentism while true cannot be separated from our living otherwise we are back to the transcendental dualism that has harmed the progress of the Kingdom into the darkness that lingers. Our conduct must be based on living harmless as doves and wise as serpents both comprise the ultimate certainty that Jesus (God) who was crucified in and outside this world. Both the missional church and the traditional western church need to not fall prey to pride, as Bonhoeffer said: “It is not good if the church boasts of its lowliness too hastily. It is equally bad if it boasts of its power and influence to hastily. It is only good if the church humbly acknowledges its sins, allows itself to be forgiven and acknowledge its Lord. Every day it must receive the will of God afresh from Christ. It receives it because of the presence of the Incarnate, Lowly and Exalted One. Every day this Christi one again become a stumbling block for its own hopes and wishes. Every day it comes anew to the sentence, “You will all be offended because of me’ (Matt 26:31), and every day it holds anew to the promise, ‘Blessed is he who in not offended in me (Matt. 11:6).” You might say so what… the base line is simple, no matter what “church” you are not your own you were bought with a price, get over yourself and serve the living Christ…because when the Son of Man comes will He find faith?

    • Brian C

      I'm sorry Dustin but I don't see that distinction you see in the referenced quote. Your point, as I read it, is that that we "must consider "its" (The Church's) ontology as the "physical manifestation of Christ in the world today." It seems you want to make this the mission of the Church what "it's" all about - sorry it's not. The point I see Jonathan making, correctly, is that "but with God!" there is no ontology, no continuing presence of Christ in the world, through the Church. Jonathan says that the redemptive history starts (ontology) and ends (epistemology) with God and so it does. You ask "why in the world did God call Abraham, or Christ command the Disciples?" For the glory of God. "Why doesn't he just do everything Himself?" For the glory of God. All that God does and allows is for His own glory. That God choses to use the Church to unfold redemptive history is because he loves us enought to allow us some share in that glory. The Church does not exist for its own glory and must never seek its own glory, which is the problem that Jonathan points out with the problem of making mission about mission. Jesus is the alpha and omega - everything else exists to serve His purpose, foremost the Church.

  • http://www.differenceclouds.com Dan Baker

    I don't agree with the statement "The local focus of mission is shortsighted." The whole point of so-called "missional" church is to take the concepts learned from global mission and apply them locally. That is: incarnational, embedded lives. In the post-christian West this will only become more important. To me this is the opposite of 'shortsighted.'

    I absolutely agree that global missions is extremely important, but not at the expense of local missions (and vice versa). I mean, they're not mutually exclusive are they? We're not talking about competing ecclesiologies; The church has always been "missional", whether it is sending next door or six time zones away. As the decline in the western church attests: the "mission" has become too insular. I thank God for moving the hearts of missional leaders to re-engage with the needs of local people.

    • MIke

      Hey Dan,
      Can you unpack what you mean by "incarnational?" I am beginning to see this term used to describe believers more and more and not just Christ clothing himself in humanity.
      A similar term that I hear is "living the gospel" but the gospel is what Christ has done and we are called to proclaim it. We definitely cannot "live the gospel" (we would add to Christ work it that was the case) as well as incarnate Christ. Not trying to be nit-picky, just trying to understand how this term is being used and how the meaning of it is being applied.
      Thanks,
      Mike

      • http://www.differenceclouds.com Dan Baker

        Brad Brisco's comment below (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/04/09/why-the-missional-church-isnt-enough/?comments#comment-27484) defines the term very clearly, better than I could have!

        • MIke

          Thanks Dan.
          That is what I thought; the term itself is being re-defined. I understand the use and what the user is getting at, but this new interpretation of the incarnation can be easily misunderstood. Both the new terminology of living the gospel and incarnating Christ could be easily seen as similar to the Roman Catholic perspective on meritorious works righteousness. Personally, I don’t want to utilize any terminology that would blur the lines between Christ finished work and anything I can do.
          Thanks for the reply back!
          Mike

          • http://www.missionalchurchnetwork.com Brad Brisco

            Mike, I don't think I am "re-defining" the term. The word "incarnation" literally means "in the flesh." It refers to the act of incredible love and humility whereby God took it upon himself to enter into the depths of our world so that the reconciliation between God and humanity may be brought about. The Incarnation is God’s ultimate missional participation in creation (John 3:16-17). When God entered into our world in and through the Person of Jesus, he came to live among us. “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14a, MSG).

            But the Incarnation not only qualifies God’s acts in the world, but it should qualify ours as well. If God’s central way of reaching his world was to incarnate himself in Jesus, then our way of reaching the world should likewise be incarnational. Now I understand that not everyone believes that the Incarnation should serve as a model of mission. Some believe that the phrase “incarnational ministry” is misleading or even dangerous. During a doctoral seminar I had a seminary professor who took great exception to the use of the word “incarnational” when describing a certain mode of ministry. He believed that the Incarnation was a unique historical and theological event that could not be emulated, and therefore, should not be connected in any way to human activity.

            There is absolutely no doubt that the Incarnation of Jesus was a special, unrepeatable event. Further, as we enter into the world of others we certainly cannot take on another’s identity in the fully integrated way that Jesus did. But SURELY we can make a distinction between the Incarnation with a capital “I” and incarnational ministry.

            Furthermore, obviously there is nothing wrong with inviting believers to model their lives after the life of Jesus. The Apostles encouraged Christians to imitate Christ as a way of identifying with him. Both Peter and Paul insisted that Jesus is to be the model for Christian living.

            “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

            “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

            Peter makes clear that Jesus’ life is to be our example. And Paul simply states that we can follow his way of life because he is so closely following the way of Jesus.

            I like the way Michael Frost elaborates on the theme of following Christ’s example from the book of Philippians:

            "Paul makes this point even more strongly in Philippians, in which he tells us that our “attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). We often assume that this passage then commends to us Jesus’ humility, which is clearly present in the text. But Jesus’ humility is commended to us insofar as it is expressed in his commitments to identification and relinquishment. First, to follow Jesus’ example means that we should share his profoundly humble identification with sinful humankind (Phil 2:7b-8a). Second, those of us who wish to emulate Jesus should be aware of his equally humble willingness to empty himself and make himself nothing for the sake of God’s redemptive purposes (Phil 2:6-7a). . . . To embrace an incarnational ministry, then, involves a willingness to relinquish our own desires and interests in the service of others."

            For further thought on the topic I would highly recommend an excellent little book by Darrell Guder, titled "The Incarnation and the Church's Witness."

            • MIke

              Hey Brad,
              Thanks for the further clarification you articulated it very clearly. Personally, I would agree with you prof. since the incarnation is a divine act of Christ, we should not intermix this beautiful understanding of God himself clothing himself in flesh with our own work. You mentioned, “If God’s central way of reaching his world was to incarnate himself in Jesus, then our way of reaching the world should likewise be incarnational” since we are not God and cannot take upon ourselves the glorious act of incarnation, to which alone belong to God, we should not attempt to intermix the language. Utilizing language of witnessing, pointing to Christ, living for Christ, displaying the love of Christ, or as you said, modeling after Christ… would be much safer and avoid the intermixing of terminology, which should be reserved for the Christ alone.

            • Brian C

              It seems to me that Mike is arguing about semantics. Jesus doesn't call us to simply be like Him, but to literally surrender our lives to be in the world as He was in the world. Furthermore, the word incarnation does not appear in the Scriptures but the word is used of a doctrine developed by man. To argue over words used for doctrines misses the point of Jesus' high priestly prayer (John 17:20-23), which both calls us to be in Christ as He was in the Father, and to be be in unity. Moreover, Jesus says in John 20:21, He was sending His followers into the world the same way He was sent. We are to be in the world as He was in the world. That can only be as our lives are buried in Christ, and it is no longer 'I' who live but Christ. Only then can we live incarnationally.

  • Peter Yi

    Thanks for the article. I am so happy first of all the GC website is finally posting more stories on global missions. They have been few and far in between. Though I absolutely love the GC, I feel it's way too North America focused (should I say American, minus the North).

    Reading your journey through the phases was like reading the biography of our church which also followed a very similar pattern. So I'm glad to see that perhaps many churches will need to go through a growing process to become more focused on global missions.

    What really helped our church get more on board with missions was adopting unreached people groups (UPG's). Before that, we too, had a scattered shot-gun approach to missions. We supported people we knew and names that came our way, but there was no strategy. That all changed w/ UPG adoption.

    From the churches I know that don't have any strategy for UPGs, they seem to just support the 'Jones'' in their church who want to go to (FILL IN COUNTRY/PEOPLE GROUP HERE, not necessarily a UPG). However, because they have no strategy for UPGs, as soon as the Jones come back home (and they all do come back home), then their support, concern and prayers for the country/people group begins to wane, and in many cases disappears altogether, until the next family decides to go to another country or people group. In this case, the dog is wagging the tail. Churches, IMHO, need to prayerfully see how God is leading them to adopt, support and strategically send and partner with the UPG they have adopted.

    That's been our experience and it's been a tremendous blessing.

    Visit joshuaproject.org and finishingthetask.com

  • Anar

    Pastor Dodson,

    Where you say:
    "...we must linger on God more than mission."

    It is a little confusing to me, because I'm wondering what is meant by 'linger'? To me, mission IS lingering on God. I think the awe you talk of comes through mission. Maybe it's a chicken and egg thing?

    Actually, I think I can answer my own confusion (and maybe some of what Dustin wrote) with these quotes from Os Guinness:

    "Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone."

    and

    "Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him"

  • http://matthenry.wordpress.com/ Matt Henry

    Several good points already made so I will only add that as a pastor of a missional church this article did not help me. I had to read it twice because I kept expecting him to acknowledge that not all missional churches have only a local focus, but I came up short. The implication that the missional church is retreating is again short-sighted and unfair. This whole article could easily be flipped around and used as a corrective to Mission churches and then assume that 'mission' churches are not concerned about local evangelism. The vision I cast at my church is both near and far, that all the nations might praise our Lord.

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    • http://matthenry.wordpress.com/ Matt Henry

      Really Justin? The beginning of this post is what is wrong with it? It assumes that my church, a missional church, is somehow not connected to the burden of the unreached people. Yet, that is what we are burdened with and seeking to reach--without forgetting the guy mowing his lawn next to me. So what does he say that is so important? I would argue that there is nothing new that has not been said hundreds of times over.

  • http://www.carrigalinebaptist.org Jonny Grant

    Thanks for the article.
    As a Pastor of a small church here in Ireland, I identify with the struggles of being involved in global mission, such as were mentioned. One way we have been helped is through (www.radstock.org)'Churches connected for global mission'. By partnering with like minded gospel churches we are able to do what we can't do on our own. It's meaningful, purposeful and above all it's helping to see churches planted and people reached.

  • http://www.missionalchurchnetwork.com Brad Brisco

    Jonathan, I know you to be a very intelligent, thoughtful and articulate person, that is why I find this post confusing. I wholeheartedly agree with your global perspective, but in my opinion, the way you get there is unfortunate. When people ask me what "missional church" is about (or how do you "define" missional) I say I have a short answer and a long answer. The short answer is that "missional" is simply the adjective form of the noun "missionary." So it is used to describe the church as a missionary entity. In other words, the church doesn't just send missionaries, the church IS the missionary.

    But the long answer, which I will only give the points and not the explanation, is that the missional church is about three key theological foundations.

    1.) The missional church is about the missionary nature of God and His church. The pont here is that God is a missionary/sending God, and the nature/essence of the church is a missionary/sending church. Because God is a missionary God, we are missionary people!

    2.) The missional church is about incarnational ministry/presence rather than attractional/extractional ministry. Where the word missional expresses the sending nature of the church, while “incarnational” represents the “embedding” of the gospel into a local context. In other words, “missional” speaks to our direction – we are sent; while being “incarnational” is more about how we go, and what we do as we go.

    3.) The missional church is about participation in the missio Dei, or mission of God. We in the church often wrongly assume that the primary activity of God is in the church, rather than recognizing that God’s primary activity is in the world, and the church is God’s instrument sent into the world to participate in His redemptive mission.

    Of course there is much more that could be said on each of these points, but I quickly share these three points because when rightly understood there is no way someone should see the missional conversation as being somehow "not enough." Now I understand you are arguing that an exclusive view of local "missions" is short-sighted, which I agree, but I wish you would clarify (since there is already a lot of misunderstanding around missional language) that missional involves much more than just reaching across your street.

    Appreciate your work!

    • http://www.jonathandodson.org Jonathan Dodson

      Hi Brad (& this should be helpful for other commenters),

      I appreciate your thoughtfulness in the whole area of missional ecclesiology also. Thanks for asking for clarification. I did not expect such a misunderstanding! I think I assumed that most readers would know that I affirm and practice a robust view of missional church, as you have described. Here are a couple points of clarification aimed at the whole thread:

      1. When I say that "the missional church is not enough" in the opening lines of the article, I am referring, not to the missional church in theory or theology, but to the missional church in practice in some quarters of the U.S. If you are engaged in local and global mission, then wonderful! There are many pastors, churches, and church planters that are using "missional" language to describe their churches without any attention to the peoples of the world that have no witnessing church to start with.

      2. In most instances, our neighbor does not fit the criteria as "unreached". As you know (but others on this thread may not), the term "unreached" is a technical missiological term that refers to ethno-linguistic groups of peoples who do not have a witnessing, reproducing church. See the official definition at the U.S. Center for World Mission (http://www.uscwm.org/index.php/resources/detail_page/people_groups/).

      3. The missional church (in theory) is enough if we practice a mission that is global in orientation and God-centered (missio Dei) in motivation, However, many of us get caught up in church-motivated local mission which puts the burden of mission on the church, not God, and restrict the focus of mission to already reached areas. I am not suggesting an either or but a both/and. Mission should happen everywhere where God is on mission, which includes all creation.

      I hope these clarifications are helpful for the readers and commenters.

      Kindly,

      Jonathan

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  • http://johnthereverend.com rev3j

    I don't understand how you wind up with this view of any disparity? In fact I find the opposite, if people are faithful in the little things, (their own neighborhoods), they will be faithful in the greater things, (the world at large). In addition, if we view Christ as our example, it is in the making of disciples that we find those that will bring the gospel to other nations and peoples. And even further, mission is more than just "conversion and discipleship" mission is extending the kingdom in works of social justice, and compassion as well.

    In my opinion, the problem is a narrow vision of mission. And in my experience, missional churches have a less narrow focus than others.

    john

  • John

    I my experience, the highly 'christianized' America is made up of alot of confused people, many who think they are Christians but based upon their confession of faith they are not. So America is still a huge mission field, and in some ways a harder nut to crack.

    I agree that world evangelism should be an ongoing focus until Christ returns. I think the best, not only, way is to work with established indigenous churches, equip and train and support them to reach the people across the border or in the next village rather than primarily transplanting white folks. By God's grace the latter is often effective - the gospel is unstoppable. However I prefer the former as a long term strategy.

    Also an effective, biblical means is Acts 8 '...and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles...now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word'. In the world today people get scattered all over the globe, sometimes temporarily others permanent. If we are equipped and prepared and desirous to preach the Word wherever we go and not leave it to the 'missionaries' the gospel will be spread widely by what you might call natural means.

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  • http://coeurdeberger.org J. Gary Ellison

    "Shockingly, 80 percent of deployed missionaries go to already evangelized areas."

    Even more shocking is the statistic that probably 99 percent of all American ministers stay in the USA. Perhaps there is a need. And maybe the state of the church in many countries of the world is such that missionaries are needed to bring erring churches back to the centrality of the gospel. There may be a legitimate reason that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus.

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  • Lee

    Despite agreeing with many of the things you have said here, I beg to differ as I am in part of a campus ministry. One of the big problems that I see being in a campus ministry is that we tend to focus so much on short term summer missions and have less concern for living out the Christlike lives (and witness) in everyday life. As you would also agree with me, I think that the emphasis of living that missionary lifestyle LOCALLY is as important as sending out missionaries (long term or short term) to other nations.

  • http://www.pioneers.org Blake McDaniel

    A very accurate and needed criticism of the U.S. / European / Austrialian missional church movement. Coupled with some practical, incremental steps toward moving a missional church plant toward expanding global engagement with the least reached.

  • dhatroit

    thanks for the article, esp the info from a small church point of view (where i am now)

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  • Brian C

    "If we only make disciples who make disciples in our cities, thousands of unengaged, un-discipled peoples of the earth will not hear the gospel." This is only true if we make disciples who do not understand Jesus' mandate for the "panta ta ethne." (Matthew 24:14, Matt 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). Additionally, many of the places that remain unengaged and unevangelized are areas of the world "closed" or "resistant" to the gospel, at least our gospel efforts to date. There are however three things that God is doing to bring about the completion of redemptive history - Globalization, Urbanization and Migration. Globalization has brought even the most difficult places of the world within reach. Urbanization over the past 100 years has brought many rural peoples to cities throughout the world, including the U.S. And Migration has people on the move like never before. God is at work in the world scattering and gathering rurals peoples (many from unreached and unengaged places) into global cities. Many of the unengaged peoples are coming to U.S. cities. Are there some remote places that rurals peoples are still untouched by the Diaspora movement taking place? Probably there are but the best way to reach those places might not be through U.S. anglo missionaries but through the Church of the global south, the Koreans, the Chinese, the Mongolians, etc. Let us not think that the job belongs to the American Church alone. But let us learn how to partner with others who do have access to some places white Americans cannot go. But by all means let us respond to what God is doing in bringing the Diaspora peoples of the world to our cities. The local focus of mission does not need to be shortsighted if we really grasp the potential for global missions in our backywards. Just today my waitress at lunch was a Thai, from an unreached people group in Northern Thailand, culturally Buddhist and Lao speaking. Cities have become the portal to the world, all for God's global glory. The IMB understand this which is why they have launched http://www.USAPeopleGroups.com. But let us live in such a way as to seek God's global glory, locally and globally. Remember, Jesus didn't see a dichotomy between local and foreign mission. To Him it was all world mission which is why "and" appears 4 times in Acts 1:8.