Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Who will be the new Missionaries?

I’ve just returned home after attending a WENSA (World Evangelisation Network of South Africa) mission conference over the last three days. (I’m still hoping that the name of this network will change so that it says Southern Africa instead of only South Africa. Eight people from our church in Swaziland attended the conference.)
On the first day, Pieter Tarantal (and if you’re not from South Africa, don’t try and pronounce that!) kicked off by speaking about The God of New Things. He shared some amazing statistics with the group. I did not try and verify each number, as I believe what he said is fairly close to the reality. According to him:

  • 114 people are coming to Christ every second
  • 44,000 new churches are established each year
  • In India, 15,000 people are baptised daily

In Africa:

  • There are 20,000 new converts every day
  • In 1900 there were 8 million believers
  • In 1990 there were 275 million believers
  • 396 million in 2000
  • 450 million in 2005
  • Today there are close to 500 million believers

The largest church in the West is found in the Ukraine and the leader of this church comes from Nigeria

I can’t remember where I read it, but apparently the nation with the greatest growth in Christianity at the moment is China.
Listening to these statistics and seeing what is happening to the church in the West (where most churches are becoming smaller at an alarming rate), I asked myself the question where missionaries will be coming from in the future?
And the answer, it seems to me, is that a new wave of missionaries are going to be sent into the world, not from Europe and the USA as in the past, but from Africa, Asia and Latin America.
And as I listened to this, I was wondering if we perhaps are seeing something of 1 Corinthians 1:21 coming true: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.” Might it be that the West has become so self-sufficient and so sure of themselves, that they have come to the point where many feel that they do not need God anymore? And is this perhaps the reason why the Gospel is spreading at such a rate through those countries that we had traditionally regarded as our missionary objects?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009 Posted by | Africa, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Evangelism, Indigenous church, Meetings, Mission, Missionary Organisations, Swaziland, Theology | 5 Comments

David Batstone: Not for Sale

While attending the Leadership Summit at Willow Creek in 2008, I had the privilege of listening to Gary Haugan, President and CEO of International Justice Mission. He inspired me to such an extent that, had I been a lawyer, I would probably have resigned from my regular job to join this group in fighting against modern slavery. His book, Just Courage, is a must-read. I wrote a review on this book which you can read here.
Although I love reading, I do find that my time is getting more and more restricted and a book that I would have read in a few days in the past is taking me weeks to finish. When I heard that David Batstone’s book, “Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade – and How We Can Fight It” was available in an audio format, I decided to venture on this new road of “reading”. I spend literally hours on the road every week and I decided that I might as well use this “dead” time to listen to someone else reading a book which I wanted to read. I downloaded the audio book from http://christianaudio.com, copied the MP3s to eight CDs and started listening to the book each time that I had to drive somewhere.
David Batstone’s book is not for the squeamish. On more than one occasion I didn’t know whether I wanted to cry or whether I wanted to vomit, when listening to real-life accounts of how people, mostly poor people, are being exploited in various ways. There’s stories of children being kidnapped and used as soldiers in Uganda. There’s stories of families, including four-year old children being used as slaves in rice mills in Asian countries. There’s stories of children abducted and used in the sex trade in various countries, such as Thailand and Cambodia. But there’s also stories of the very same things happening on our doorsteps, with examples from cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington DC.
But there’s also stories of hope. Organisations such as Gary Haugan’s International Justice Mission are discussed at length as well as many individuals who had made it their life vocation, in spite of death threats, to expose the criminals and syndicates involved in human trafficking and to get organisations such as the UN involved in speaking out against it. I was challenged to sign a petition on World Vision’s website to end child soldier use. The challenge was to get 1 million signatures in order to move Congress in the USA to adopt laws prohibiting the use of children as soldiers. When I entered the website I was pleasantly surprised to read: “Good News! Congress has passed the Child Soldier Prevention Act!” Although my signature won’t make a difference in this regard, I did join the cause on Facebook: Not for Sale.
It is said that at least 27 million people worldwide are living in slavery today. It is encouraging to hear how individual Christians, churches and other Christian organisations are also becoming involved in the fight against this crime against humanity.
Batstone’s book is highly recommended – in either regular book form or in audio format. The reader, Lloyd James, by the way, is excellent. I assume that not all audio books would be of the same quality as this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it – in spite of the distressing contents.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 Posted by | Book Review, Hope, Mission, Mission Sites, Missionary Organisations, Social issues, Theology | 2 Comments

When a missionary’s support falls away

Probably one of the most traumatic experiences a missionary can face, is to be informed that his or her support is going to be terminated. It is my guess that this will be happening again as the impact of the global financial crisis starts having greater effect on the income of missionary organisations and churches. Over the past week or so, I’ve received three messages from missionaries or mission support organisations, all mentioning that dark days may be lying ahead. Things like a global financial crisis or a depression are more or less out of the control of the church. I was reading a post today of someone who described how their church had kept on sharing their funds in spite of severely hard times that they went through. People who make faith decisions like this need to be honoured. It is also understandable that individuals who had supported missionaries in the past, may now be faced with the harsh reality that they need to decide whether they will continue with their support or not.
I do not know of a single missions organisation that do not need financial support. Long distances that need to be travelled, the harsh circumstances under which most missionaries are working amongst people who more often than not are themselves barely surviving, the lack of proper schooling, sicknesses and many other issues have the result that finances are needed to support those who are working as missionaries. When it comes to the point of support, I can think of a few things which need to be kept in mind if the work has to continue over an extended period of time.
First of all I think that it is not wise for one individual or one organisation to fund a missions project on their own. Supporters lose interest. Financial circumstances change. A variety of things may occur which makes it impossible for the individual or the organisation to continue with their support. What happens if the supporter dies unexpectedly? What happens if the supporter’s source of income falls away? If a potential supporter is convinced that a missions project is from God, then they need to discuss it with other partners and get them to invest financially in the project in order to establish some form of sustainable support.
Secondly, new projects need to be considered prayerfully and not emotionally. Now, this works both ways. I’ve seen many a project being started due to the convincing arguments given by a missionary. But if such a project is from God and the supporters are truly living in a relationship with God, then God himself can convince the supporters to fund the project. Gather people together to hear whether the new project is really from God. But the argument also has another side to it. I’ve seen many a missions project stopped because the supporters or supporting organisation used equally emotional arguments why the project could not be started. Sometimes a new project has to be started as a leap of faith. As long as we are convinced that it is what God wants us to do, we need not fear to take the next step.
Thirdly, supporters need to realise that they are working with people’s security when they make decisions about support. I once attended a meeting in advisory capacity where the future support of missionaries working in Asia was discussed. The congregation was not going through a particularly tough time, but they did need to do some renovations to their own property. They then suggested that the missionary’s support be cut by 50%. I had trouble to control myself, asking the meeting where they wanted the missionary and his family to cut on their own budget. Their rent was fixed. Water and electricity was fixed. School fees for the children were fixed. The only place where they could cut, was on their monthly groceries. By cutting their subsidy, this family was effectively being told to eat less if they wanted to remain in Asia. The sad news is that the cut was approved. The good news is that individuals then started supporting the family with even more than the reduction in the subsidy.
Financial support for missions is an extremely sensitive issue. I am aware that some missionaries misuse funds. But on the whole, most of them are stretching the funds to cover much more than would ever be possible on the home front. Whether you want to start supporting a missionary or whether you are starting to feel the pinch and considering to withdraw your support, don’t do it without seriously praying about this and discussing options with Christian friends you trust.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 Posted by | Church, Dependency, Giving, Mission, Mission Resources, Missionary Organisations, Partnership, Poverty, Prayer, Support teams, Sustainability, Tithing | 9 Comments

The Medical Situation in Swaziland

Yesterday was pretty hectic. A team from Luke Commission came to visit a school virtually across the road from our church at Dwaleni. We had invited them to come as part of our service to the community, taking care of the sick at their homes.
But I have to be honest that there were times yesterday when I had more questions than answers. After 24 years in Swaziland, I haven’t seen any real improvement in the health system of the country. This was a mobile clinic which we were part of and more than 800 people were attended to. Children were inspected for scabies and other diseases often found in children. Adults’ blood pressure was taken and recorded and those over fifty were also tested for diabetes, a disease which is becoming very common in Africa. All adults were also invited to be tested for HIV. The majority of those who were tested, tested negative. Although this sounds like extremely good news, the reason is most probably that those who are living promiscuously did not consent to be tested. Some of our home-based caregivers then counselled both those who tested negative as well as those who tested positive. Those who tested positive also had blood drawn in order to determine their CD4 count, which will indicate whether they are eligible to receive anti-retroviral medicine from the government. Many of those who had come also had their eyes tested and from tens of thousands pairs of glasses donated, and with the help of a really nifty machine and a huge database, all of those who needed glasses could be helped. On a lighter note, some of those who received glasses looked really strange as many of the frames had been worn in the USA as part of a fashion outfit. But in the end, to be able to see, is what really counts.
Two patients really touched me. One was a young woman with severe chest pains. In fact, she was crying most of the time because of the pain. The doctor told me that she was HIV-positive and they suspected that it might be TB which is causing the pain (one of the main diseases often associated with AIDS.) The sad news was that she had been to the health centre in Nhlangano, one of the main towns in Swaziland and they had given her pain killers and sent her back home. Then she went to Hlatikhulu, where one of Swaziland’s main hospitals are situated and they did the same. And then she came to us, in the hope that we could help her. But the doctor could do nothing for her without first seeing an X-ray. I eventually spoke to the girl’s father and told him to take his daughter to the clinic and insist that they do an X-ray to try and determine what is causing the pain. And then he told me that he could not take her, because he had no bus fare! Eventually I gave them bus fare and hope that they would have gone to the hospital today.
And then a schoolboy turned up. He was probably about thirteen or fourteen. During a football game he had broken his leg above the knee, about four weeks ago. He had gone for surgery and a metal rod was inserted to help with the healing of the bone. He came to us yesterday and his mother told us that almost since the operation he has been suffering from extreme pain. They had gone back to the clinic, but it does not seem as if much was done. The doctor then removed the bandage and we found that the metal rod was sticking at least three inches out of his leg! His body was busy rejecting the rod. His knee was swollen to at least twice its normal size and from the smell it was clear that there was extreme infection in the bone. I cannot even start to imagine the pain the poor boy had to go through.
Fortunately, the doctor could arrange for him to be admitted to a hospital where he is now on intravenous antibiotics. Whether it will be possible to save the leg remains to be seen.
I don’t have an answer to Swaziland (and the same can be said about most African countries’) health situation. I’m just wondering how many lives can be saved if the health system could improve.

Thursday, July 10, 2008 Posted by | Africa, AIDS, Cross-cultural experiences, Death, Health, HIV, HIV & AIDS, Mission, Missionary Organisations, Partnership, Poverty, Swaziland | 3 Comments

Working with Short-term Outreach Teams (2)

I’m still trying to determine what causes one short-term outreach team to “work” while another team seems to “fail”. Since the 10th of May, I’ve been hosting a short-term outreach team from the Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida (USA). This has possibly been one of the best groups I’ve ever had in Swaziland. However, if anyone should ask me why this team worked so well, I would not be able to give an exact answer. The team consisted of nine students, all female. This may have played some role in the group dynamics, as they slept in an old farmhouse on their own and had ample time to bond (and I think women may bond slightly easier than men.)
It also became clear to me that the students joining this outreach are carefully chosen. Which criteria are used, I don’t know, but it wasn’t merely a case that anyone wanting to join would be allowed. Although one should be careful not to restrict a mission outreach to an exclusive group of people, as if those people are on a higher spiritual level than others, having people in a group like this with too many unresolved personal issues, becomes a great burden to the rest of the team and inevitably hinders the work.
I spent a few hours with the group last night, doing some informal (or less formal) debriefing. What I heard was that great effort is made by their missions trip coordinator to prepare these groups for their cross-cultural encounters. Although I always spend time with a group upon their arrival to brief them about Swazi culture, to enlighten them about the reality of HIV and AIDS and to prepare them for what they can expect, I believe that the fact that they had already been properly prepared for something new before they came, played an extremely important role in the success of the group. And what definitely helped was that they were apparently told, over and over again, that the local people know better than they what needs to be done and therefore they have to submit themselves to the local authority (which they did!)
Instead of communicating with me directly, this group used Operation Mobilisation (OM) as go-between, them working with the office in the USA which communicated with the office in South Africa (with whom I already have a good personal relationship) and them communicating with me. It may sound as if this would make communication more difficult, but in effect it helped as OM has a lot of experience in handling international groups. Furthermore, being a parent myself, I can assume that for parents whose children want to go on a short-term outreach, it would be comforting to know that a large international organisation is also involved to ensure that their children will be safe.
But I think, if I have to say what caused this group to function so well, it would probably be because they were willing to learn from us. Previous groups very often came with the question: What can we do for you? Obviously, this is an important question to ask. This group came with the question: How can you use us? I believe there is an important difference between these two questions (or at least in the attitude behind the questions), but that would be the topic of a next post.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008 Posted by | Building relations, Church, Cross-cultural experiences, Culture, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Missionary Organisations, Partnership, Short-term outreaches, Swaziland | Leave a comment

Reconciling a budget with trust in the Lord

It seems to me that the Bible has two distinct viewpoints about money. On the one hand we are told in Luke 14:28: Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? On the other hand Jesus says in Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Churches and para-church organisations also seem to have two distinct ways in thinking about finances. Some will work on a strict budget where every project is planned for and budgeted for and never turning from the budget, neither to the left nor to the right. Others say that God will provide, praying for each need and trusting that the Lord will provide in time everything that is necessary to complete the project.
Both possibilities have their advantages and their disadvantages. I myself, being someone who is strongly focussed on detail (a 100% “C” on the DISC scale), naturally feel much more comfortable working within the strict boundaries of a budget. There’s a lot of safety in a budget. But there’s a definite downside to this way of working. When planning everything strictly according to a budget, I believe that we restrict ourselves not to be able to hear when God wants to do something new. A friend of mine came to visit me some time ago and I could just feel his frustration after their church council had approved such a strict budget. He was frustrated, because he felt that God wanted to take their church on a new road but due to a lack of trust in God’s provision, all funds not considered absolutely essential for the normal continuation of activities, were cut. I think we not only restrict ourselves but we also restrict God when we work in this way.
I have however also seen terrible things happening when missionaries (they seem to be notorious for doing this type of thing) claim that God had told them to start a new project, sometimes costing millions and eventually other people or churches have to save the project because the finances never came in. This is also wrong. But then, I have also seen and experienced myself how God does provide for unplanned things. The feeling of exhilaration when one had committed something to the Lord and then to see how He provides in every need, will seldom if ever be experienced by those only willing to work within a strict budget. The downside I’ve seen (mercifully not experienced) when always working “in faith” are peptic ulcers, stress and other psychosomatic illnesses (which I also believe is not to the glory of God.)
So what’s the solution? I think churches and para-church organisations have to implement both these methods. Draw up a budget and deviate from this only in extreme circumstances. This teaches us to be responsible in working with Kingdom finances and to plan in advance. Obviously part (a large part) of the budget should be used outside the boundaries of the congregation. This would be our mission budget. But then I believe that at least one project should be identified which is not on the budget and this is the project which the church council and the church members will have to pray for in order to get the finances to do what needs to be done.
As leaders in the church we expect our members to trust the Lord to care for them as they tithe. But then the church council needs to set the example, trusting the Lord for the finances in order to do something which falls outside the normal budget.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008 Posted by | Church, Faith Offerings, Giving, Meetings, Mission, Missionary Organisations, Prayer, Sustainability, Theology, Tithing | 1 Comment

Helping a church instead of only helping an individual

Two books I recently read and which I discussed shortly some time ago, Glenn Schwarz’s When Charity destroys Dignity and John Rowell’s To Give or not to Give? both refer to the importance of not helping an individual financially but rather helping the church as employer. I share that feeling, (although I think that there may be exceptions to this rule – to which I will come back later).
There are a number of reasons why I think that one should help a church rather than an individual. Helping an individual can so easily lead to jealousy amongst the church workers. If one is singled out (perhaps because of a more charismatic personality) and receives extra money while the others suffer, then the Holy Spirit will have to work overtime to prevent tension from coming between the workers.
A second reason is that the initiative is taken away from the church if a person is singled out to receive extra money. Those on the outside perceive a certain person to be the best worker and on those grounds decide that they are going to help this individual. Those on the inside may have better knowledge or other information about the worker and they may feel that the money should rather have been spent in another way. But because the initiative had been taken away from them, they have no further say in the matter. Even if that worker should come under church discipline, the help will still be continued from outside which makes it very difficult for the church to give advice to this person.
A third reason is that the greatest need may not be there where money is being asked for. Schwarz gives the example of a certain individual in southern Africa who requested help from him after three years of drought and then floods demolished everything within a certain community. Schwarz prayed about the matter and eventually gave money to the community instead of to the individual who had asked the money. In this way the help could be distributed fairly. I think that was a wise decision.
Although I consider this as a good rule-of-thumb, there may be times when exceptions can be made. We as family, together with a number of our friends are involved with a certain individual in Russia who runs the children’s ministry in Samara. Except for praying and showing interest in her ministry, we also pay her salary. How do we do this so that there will no tension between the workers in Samara and that the initiative remains in the hands of her church? First of all we have a personal relationship with this person. Many of us have met her in the past and she was also part of the team who visited us this past weekend. We know her and we know what work she is doing.
Secondly we went to the directors of the Bible school which normally pays her salary and asked them how we could contribute to her salary without running the risks mentioned above. After finding out how much she receives every month, we agreed to pay this exact amount into the account of the Bible school and they would then pay her salary as normal. She is therefore not getting a higher salary than her colleagues. In this way there can be no possibility of any jealousy or a feeling from the directors that something is happening behind their backs. But the advantage is that those who are giving the money have personal contact with the person receiving it, get feedback from her about her work and also have a personal interest in the children’s ministry in Samara.
Obviously, if she should leave the service of the Bible school in the future, then the help would have to be reconsidered (and in fact every year we sit down and discuss whether we should continue this assistance for another year, thus allowing for changes in the system), but for the moment this seems to work for us. But I would only advise giving help to an individual rather than the church or organisation employing that person if the long route of discussing potential problems with the employing body had been followed. Otherwise the best way remains to help the body, rather than just one individual.
I would like to hear how you feel about this.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 Posted by | Building relations, Church, Dependency, Dialogue, Giving, Indigenous church, Mission, Missionary Organisations, Partnership, Poverty, Prayer, Rowell, Schwarz, Support teams, Sustainability, Swaziland, Theology | Leave a comment

Mission Committee Meetings

In Swaziland we usually have two mission committee meetings every year – one in June and one in November. I can honestly say that I really look forward to these meetings. This is time well spent. At that time we meet with representatives from three supporting bodies of the church which started the work in Swaziland to discuss various aspects of the work. But those meetings were not always something to look forward to. There was a time, especially in the first few years after we came to Swaziland, that I jokingly told my wife that I had diarised a day of depression on the day following those meetings, after which I promised to rid myself of negative feelings and then go on with the work! Every meeting felt like doomsday approaching, because of things that were said during those meetings. (I really MUST post some of the things which happened during some of those meetings. Today we can fortunately also laugh about most of these.)
Many of you reading this blog will probably be part of some form of mission committee, possibly at your local church, in some form of mission organisation or perhaps even on a larger scale. Why is it that so many of these mission committee meetings feel like a total waste of time? Or even worse: why does it sometimes feel as though we are restricting the work and the power of the Lord at the very place where we should be thriving in the knowledge that God is in control and calling us to proclaim His saving grace over the entire world?
I can think of a number of reasons and I am sure you will be able to expand on this list. Firstly I think that the wrong people are on most of these committees. In my experience people are chosen to serve on such a committee when they reach the age where they are no longer able to serve the church on other committees. I know that we need older people with their wisdom on these committees, but they so often lack the physical and emotional strength to start with new projects. These people are wonderful prayer supporters but we need people on mission committees that have the physical and spiritual power to take on new challenges. But usually they are not there.
Mostly I’ve also experienced a near total lack of vision in these committees. I’ve sat on mission committee meetings where I’ve asked myself over and over again what we’re doing there. There seem to be little planning and no vision in many of these committees. In fact, the very thing that is probably the most essential need in missions, faith in the power of God, often seem to be lacking in most of these committees.
Another problem I’ve noticed is that churches tend to put their mission committees last on their budget. The painting of the church building, a new sound system, new offices and other luxuries all take priority over missions. And this just seem to break all enthusiasm that may still have existed. Nothing new can be done or planned, due to a lack of funds. In fact, I’ve found that the most time during many of these meetings is spent on how to get OUT of an existing commitment, rather than taking on NEW commitments.
I was once part of a mission committee in a congregation in South Africa, which I attended in advisory capacity, where things were different. Instead of the four or five people which normally attend these meetings, between 30 and 40 people would turn up (voluntarily). The chairman had tremendous vision for what God wanted to do through the church. He was a businessman and planned everything in detail, but he also had the faith that God would provide in their needs and in fact, he came to the point where he said that it was good to budget and plan this work, but that he wanted to build in a “faith factor” where a certain part of their work would be planned but not budgeted for. This made the missions committee an exciting place to be, because people attending came with an expectation that God was busy using them for things greater than they could think of.
If people expect miracles to happen in missions, shouldn’t this expectation be visible in the way in which mission meetings take place? Isn’t this the very place where the miracles should start?
What are your experience of mission meetings? What can be done to ensure that these meetings are really a meeting place with God?
Just a quick reminder that my latest Swaziland newsletter, including some photos, is available to read. Click on the link on the right or download it directly from http://www.swazimission.co.za/Documents/2007-08-Eng.pdf

Saturday, September 8, 2007 Posted by | Giving, Humour, Meetings, Mission, Missionary Organisations, Support teams, Swaziland | Leave a comment

Asking, begging or manipulating?

I, and I am sure most of you reading here, regularly receive newsletters from missionaries or missionary organisations. Almost universal in all these letters is a paragraph where an appeal is made for funds. OK, I still have to find a missionary or a mission organisation not in need of money. More funds enable them to do more work! A few years ago, after reading George Müller’s biography, I personally made the decision that I, as far as humanly possible, will not ask for money from people to support our ministry. I’m not saying that I will never ever do it. Especially with our AIDS ministry, it may become necessary to submit proposals to large organisations who want to support such projects, which in a certain sense boils down to asking and which I am still not always sure how to handle. But I trust that God will give me wisdom if and when I have to do this.
Yesterday I received a newsletter starting as follows: We are on our way to ****** for an indefinite time and will be leaving within 3 weeks. ****** may not be the easiest place to go to but we are prompted by the Holy Spirit to go there. Please agree with us in prayer that our financial needs will be met regarding the airfares, our stay, and outreaches…. We desire to fulfill the call of Mark 16:15 to “Go onto the entire world and preach the Gospel” and we also desire for you to fulfill that call as well. Your donation will aid us as we preach the Gospel in remote and unreached areas, impact others who will in turn impact others who will impact all generations worldwide with the truth and power of the Gospel. All gifts, great or small, will be appreciated.
Is this asking, begging or manipulating? I remember another occasion when I just got downright angry after receiving a letter from someone who felt led by the Lord to go to another country as missionary. In this letter the person wrote: If you do not respond to this letter by sending me a financial contribution, then you are being disobedient to God, because God wants me to go! Unnecessary to say, this letter ended in my “Outbox” – the one beneath my desk!
A few months ago I heard about a couple who had felt led by the Lord to move up into Africa to do missionary work throughout Africa and was going around asking / begging / manipulating people to support them. This led to great anger amongst some Christians I know, especially when it came out that they had told the people from whom they had asked funds that they were going for a year (what can you do in a year’s time in Africa????) and then returned after only a couple of weeks. People felt that they had sponsored them to go on a nice adventure holiday. Little wonder that people are reluctant to support missions when things like this happen.
I become increasingly uncomfortable when reading newsletters from missionaries and getting the idea that the letters are written mainly to manipulate their readers in donating money for their cause. And obviously, this forces me to look at my own motives when I send out my monthly newsletter. Am I perhaps doing the same thing, possibly without even realising it?
What are your experiences about missionaries asking / begging / manipulating others to get money?

Friday, August 31, 2007 Posted by | Giving, Mission, Missionary Organisations, Swaziland | 16 Comments

Whose task is missionary work?

There are many wonderful missionary organisations all over the world doing wonderful things. We are working fairly closely with Operation Mobilisation as they use our church in Swaziland as one of its training bases. But of course there are many others – many of them focussed on getting youth involved in missions.
In spite of having great appreciation for what these organisations are doing, there is always a bit of sadness when I see the success which many of them have in getting people involved in missions, because I believe that ultimately this should be the task of the church. Without wanting to take anything away from these organisations and without criticising them at all, in a certain sense I see these organisations as something which had to be created once the institutional church failed to do what God expected it to do. This is like using a spare wheel on a motorcar because the real tyre is no longer functioning as it should. One has to be thankful for the availability of the spare, but the real tyre has to be repaired and the spare put back into the boot where it belongs. But to be honest, I cannot foresee that this will happen in the near future. This is not a modern problem – it had been the case for many centuries (with the exception of a few futile attempts by the church to get mission under its control again – often not because they believed that this is what God wanted, but because the church liked to control things). Somehow the church seem unable to understand what God really wants it to do.
I will be first to admit that Christianity would never have expanded so rapidly without many of the mission organisations and therefore it would be childish to criticise what these organisations had done in the past and are still doing at present. These people are doing great work in many countries all over the world. Yet, I still have this uncomfortable feeling that the reason behind these organisations is the disobedience of the institutional church to send out missionaries into the world. The church has many reasons for this: lack of funds, lack of manpower, lack of facilities as some examples. But the mission organisations are doing it. They find funds. They find the people. The motivate the people to come for training and then send them out literally into the whole world and somehow it works.
And the question that keeps nagging at the back of my head is why the church is failing to do this. Is it a lack of faith, a lack of will or a lack of God’s vision that is keeping churches from obeying the great commission?

Monday, July 30, 2007 Posted by | Mission, Missionary Organisations, Theology | 2 Comments