Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Church Based Missionary Training

Most of us in the U.S. are familiar with the Holiday Express commercials. A man enters the operating theater wearing the scrubs of a surgeon and dazzles the nursing staff with his expertise with a knife on the patient on the table. When asked about his credentials he confesses that he’s not a doctor, but he did sleep at a Holiday Express the night before. The commercial implies that if one gets a good nights sleep at the their hotel they will feel so good the next morning that they can perform any task.

Sometimes local Church Based Missions (CBM) reminds me of the Holiday Express commercials. Feeling good about taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth is not enough to qualify people to server cross-culturally. Surgeons need to be trained to cut open a body cavity, so too, does a missionary need training in presenting the message of Christ in a different cultural context.

For those who have read my book, The Journey of a Post Modern Missionary, you will remember my story that I entered the mission field without any cross-cultural training. I, like probably 95% of my colleagues, were trained in pastoral ministry, i.e. how to exegete the Scriptures, a few tips on evangelism (from a mono-cultural Western perspective), but with no idea of how to take that message and make it relevant to Hindu’s, Muslims or Animist’s. It is shocking to me that still today there are people sent out with little to no training in cross-cultural studies. If the trend is CBM, then there needs to be a concentration in Church Based Missionary Training (CBMT).

The standard questions of, Who, What, Where, Why and How is a good place to begin in this discussion of CBMT. We’ve briefly discussed the Why, now let’s look the other elements of CBMT.

WHO needs training? Everyone who is going overseas for a cross-cultural ministry. Whether a person is going for one week or as a career, everyone benefits from training. Obviously the longer time commitment for overseas work will necessitate more training, but even teen-agers and college students going out for two-week excursions need training.

WHAT should a training curriculum look like? Understanding culture, basics of cross-cultural communication, tips and taboos when going overseas should be the essentials. Other subjects, depending on the focus of the trip would include, the role of short-term missions, dynamics of religion, and interpersonal relations. For a church that is serious about training, a college level curriculum (semester or modules) can be developed which would include an in-depth study of social organization of a particular people group, epistemology and how to live overseas.

WHERE should training take place? Not all people want or need to attend seminary or Bible College. The time and expense of second-career people going to the few training missionary centers in the U.S. are often cost prohibitive. If a church is committed to CBM, they should also be committed to CBMT and need to develop a structure for equipping those they are launching into cross-cultural work.

HOW can it be done? Find the right people to do the training and create a budget to provide the needed training. Bring in experts in for a weekend, a week or two weeks for intensive training. It’s a great deal more cost efficient to find qualified teachers to do training in-house than require members to enroll in a program where the subjects are irrelevant or necessitates the family to leave their jobs and home for three months.

The main thing is DO SOMETHING in training for those going out from your local church. Missions is serious stuff and it requires more than sleeping in a Holiday Express to be qualified for the task.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great ideas. Looking forward to helping if we can.