Friday, July 20, 2007

Breaking Through The Mission Maze

Malcolm from NY asked two excellent questions in a recent post,
Starting Mission Projects. Malcolm asks,

“[For] a church that desires to actively engage in cross-cultural ministry AND wants to begin making a primary focus on working with nationals in ministry, where does one begin and how do we find the research necessary to make informed decisions?”

Evaluating ministry is often subjective and a matter of preference. The best I can to do is tell you what I look for, which ministries do or do not impress me and what standards I look for in determining whether I will support or partner with a national ministry. Here it goes…

Research Tips

Find people in the country that can evaluate national ministries. In any
research I ask at least five people in my attempt to get the best information. If someone has a ministry in Egypt, or my church is interested in working in that part of the world, I would begin my research by getting a copy of the Mission Handbook ( I have never been to Egypt, no nothing about ministry there. I have the 18th edition (2001-2003) and count that there are 20 organizations working in that country. I would call those organizations listed and find the contact persons in that country as a starting point of my research.

Research is usually a long process, so be patient as you correspond with missionaries and other nationals. Once you have zeroed on a ministry of interest ask five people, from missionaries in different organizations and nationals living in the country what their assessment is of that ministry?

My view of missions, in some ways, is like the stock exchange. Long-standing effective ministries are blue chip stocks; they hare tried and true and worthy of investments. Startup companies are a risk; that may be the next greatest investment or they may be a shooting star that fizzles in the night sky. I'd recommend that you put most of your resources into those who have a track record of integrity and a sound ministry plan.

It is my belief, Malcolm, that if you are going to partner with national church leaders you will need to make, at some point, overseas trips to assess national ministries. I know of a foundation in New Zealand that only funds seminaries. They have a list of several recommended schools and visits them to determine their financial involvement. To me, this is the type of research that is vital if any church is going to have a quality program.

The critical issue for you, and others, is that you are equipped with the knowledge of how to do that assessment. This is true with all mission personal and organizations, not just nationals. However, national missionaries shouldn’t ’t get a pass on accountability. You might be accused of being paternalistic, even racist, but that’s okay as that is an indicator that perhaps you shouldn’t partner with them.

In a couple of days I will give you my opinion from your second question, “the role of the modern North American church in global missions.”