Monday, April 16, 2007

No Regrets...Future Focused

The evening I sent out my last post I was “chatting” with my brother in the states. He wanted to know if I was depressed or remorseful that prompted my writing about “Turning Back The Clock”? My brother knows me better than anyone else in this world (he preceded me in life by five minutes), and I do have moments of introspection. But my last post was not one of those times…it was in context with what I have been writing about as it relates to missions today as well as the future. If my brother misunderstood the meaning of the post, maybe others did as well.

The truth of the matter is, my generation of x-cultural workers is stuck in the institutional mission thinking. I believe most churches are stuck, or somehow can’t break out, of doing ministry as usual. I’m coming to the conclusion that church planting and church planters are part of the problem with the mission enterprise, and it has affected the national church around the world. The church planting paradigm necessitates structure, which includes formal theological studies, support for people to go out and plant (like a corn) churches, erect a meeting place, fill the building with church stuff (seats, pulpit, baptistery, sound systems, etc.), have small groups, build another theological school and-on-and-on-and-on. In the meantime one-third of the world has never heard the Savior’s Name and ninety percent of the worldwide outreach effort is doing missions with the old fashion way to one third of the population who have already heard the Gospel!

Having said all of that, I have a very strong belief in the Sovereignty of God. I believe He has used the efforts of the past, which I have played a role, as He is using the traditional Christendom today. My prayer is, however, that I personally won’t fossilize nor will I make sacred the methods of the past. I’d like to die thinking about how to serve Christ in the future rather than talk about the good old days of my past. The buzz trends of “saturation church planting,” “people group movements” and even “business as mission,” remains the brainchild of the institutions. Helpful, yes, but still tethered to program that is often cumbersome and limited.

Someone said to me, “Richard, don’t just give theories, people want answers, they want to know what to do.” Well, my last post was an attempt to do that; it wasn’t just an old guy regretting life.

If I were thirty years younger and just starting out on life’s journey I’d do things differently today. Sadly, most missionaries starting out today are stuck in yesterday’s model spurred on by the institutional church that is mired in tradition that demands structure. My point is, let’s keep pushing the edge even if it doesn’t quite fit into the old mold.