Monday, August 18, 2008

Report? Inform? Inspire?

This past week I have been in California, speaking in churches and meeting with mission committees. At the conclusion of one meeting, which was primarily a report of our ministry, a woman came up to me and said she wished I had said more about what it means to work cross-culturally. A few days later at another church, I didn’t say much about anything we were doing but talked about mission trends and how their church could be more effective in their outreach program. In the midst of the meeting one of the members wondered if my ministry was merely short-term mission trips, which is a trend in missions. My message Sunday morning had little to do with either mission strategy or reporting, but a biblical message on faith.

The events of this past week were a reminder how difficult it is for missionaries in their role as communicators of global ministry. There just isn’t enough time to touch all the bases. On the one hand it is important to report on ministry activity. Churches pray and give financially so that the Great Commission might go to the entire world and, as a representative of their investment, it’s important that missionaries make known how their contribution is fulfilling that goal. It’s nearly impossible in a thirty-minute message for a missionary to educate or even to report on ministry activity. I have often felt the message of missions is more inspiration that information and as a result most church members have little understanding of the worldwide need for cross-cultural ministry, unreached people groups or what is or is not effective or strategic ministry. Missions is complex which requires concentrated and constant access to new information in a changing world.

So, what is the answer to this dilemma of reporting, information and inspiration of missions?

1. Churches need mission committees that are informed. Being on a missions committee should not be just for those who are just passionate about worldwide outreach, though that is obviously very important. Committee members should take classes in missions, read books and journals so they might be current on today’s mission issues.

I believe that the primary role of being on a mission committee is to motivate and inform others in the congregation on missions. They can only succeed in that role if they are fully informed themselves.

2. Be intentionally involved with what their missionaries are doing. Most missionaries send out a monthly or bi-monthly report. Many, like myself, have blogs and websites that give regular updates on ministry activity. For a supporting church to not know what I do is disheartening as is to many of my colleagues. I realize that trying to keep up with every missionary is nearly impossible, but the information is out there if people really are interested.

3. When a missionary visits your church, somehow in a limited amount of time, make them available to the broader church population so they can get to know those the church supports. Somehow create a forum that gives people information on what they do as well as the state of missions in the broader context. Hopefully through the process of giving information the inspiration of what God is doing throughout the world will be made known.