John Stumbo Video Blog No. 32
March 12, 2016
Missions done well is incarnational. It opposes dependence on Western resources and supports the sustained ownership of the local, indigenous church in its effort to be self-supporting, self-governing, self-reproducing, and self-theologizing.
(The following is not an actual transcript but rather a manuscript of John Stumbo’s March Video Blog.)
I have three quick promos before I dive into today’s theme.
First, it’s not too late to get your youth signed up for Momentum—LIFE 2016. The single most significant event in my teenage years was the LIFE conference. Thousands of others through the years have said the same. Please, pastor, don’t let your youth miss out because they weren’t given the opportunity.
Second, let me tell you about SEEK. If you are within driving distance of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, join John Soper, Tim Crouch, Tim Meier, the Beers, and a joyful worship team from Community Alliance in Butler, Pennsylvania. The simple idea—in a non-Council year—is to gather the Alliance family for a regional event focusing on the deeper life and missions.
Our entire movement arose out of this kind of teaching—Jesus powerfully at work in our lives through the Holy Spirit, who then sends us with passion into the world. This is coming up in May, and all the information is on our Web site. I’d love to see you there.
Third, everyone, Great Commission Day materials will be arriving in your church soon. Alliance pastors are finding some creative and culturally appropriate ways to support Great Commission Fund (GCG) giving in their churches.
Frankly, some pastors don’t give their people a chance to give at all. I know that churches have different methods of handling finances—I respect that. But here’s my appeal: All Alliance pastors should give their congregations a chance to give directly to the worldwide work of The Christian and Missionary Alliance at least one time a year. (Many of you allow your people the chance to give every week, with the GCF having a prominent place on your offering envelopes or giving apps. Thank you!) But even if your church has a different giving system, I’m still asking you to grant your people an opportunity to give directly to the GCF at least once a year—and GC Day makes that simple for you.
Here’s the theme for the day and for next month as well. This will be a two-part video blog.
We can do missions well, or we can do it poorly.
Not everything done in the name of Jesus is equally as effective. We can do missions well, or we can do it poorly. Let’s talk about it.
Missions Done Poorly, Missions Done Well
I’ll give six specifics [in this two-part video blog]. You could add to the list.
- Missions done poorly doesn’t understand local context
- Mattresses story
- Flood/trauma—nursing mothers produce no milk
Missions done poorly doesn’t understand local context. Missions done well is incarnational, which includes knowledge of the language, culture, and people—it involves genuine relationships and is shaped by those relationships.
We give mattresses, heaters, and food too. Both our GCF-supported teams and CAMA staff have lived out this incarnational ministry among Syrian refugees. We can be proud of them.
Many times we have been told, “Thank you for sending the kind of people you are sending. They have experience before they come, and you give them time to learn our language and culture. They want to get to know us and work with us. It’s not like that with every agency. Please send us more.”
Believe me, I’d like to!
- Missions done poorly creates dependence (usually upon the West)
For example, a vacation Bible school was provided by a U.S. church every year—no offering was taken, no local leaders were trained, there was no ownership on the local level. This outside group raised well over $10,000 to have this shared experience and sweetly showed the love of Jesus with some personal sacrifice. What’s the long-term impact? That ministry needs to shift from “doing for” to “doing with.”
Another example is financially supporting national pastors—a “cheaper way to do missions.” It’s a strategy we left behind in the 1950s with good reason. Let me quickly suggest five problems with that approach.
Problem number 1: Unreached peoples have no pastors.
Number 2: When a local church is formed, outside support weakens the church—robbing the congregation of ownership. A church is not fully a church until it is owned by the people who make up the church. External support robs that ownership.
Number 3: The Western-supported national pastor has multiple “masters.” Who has the loudest voice in his priorities? Often it’s the one writing the check, who is typically not knowledgeable enough of the culture to wisely speak into it.
Number 4: Outside funding of local work creates rivalries in-county among the receivers and non-receivers. It doesn’t build into the DNA of the national church an ethic of working together but of competing for outside dollars.
Number 5: [Supporting a national pastor] limits growth.
There are approximately 30,000 Alliance national workers outside of the United States. If we continued to pay for their support—even at a modest $130/week (which none of us would want to live on)—it would equal $203 million a year—five times our current GCF [budget], not counting all the back-office support that would be required. Had L. L. King and his team decided differently decades ago, it would have placed a stranglehold on the worldwide growth of the C&MA.
Any missionary effort that more closely resembles Western imperialism than indigenous autonomy must be rejected—no matter how good it makes Americans feel.
Missions done poorly creates dependence. Meanwhile, missions done well creates sustaining local ownership and control.
I pray that every Alliance leader will clearly understand and value the significance of establishing networks of indigenous churches that are
- Self-reproducing; and
- Self-theologizing (Their understanding of Scripture and the gospel is not just a transplant of Western interpretation.).
We have a long history of establishing networks of churches that fund themselves, lead themselves, multiply themselves, and educate themselves.
This is not just good economics: this is good missiology.
Missions done well creates sustaining local ownership. For example:
In the Alliance church of Indonesia, the national church has the goal of planting 500 new churches among some of the world’s least-reached peoples (more on this in an upcoming video blog).
I already mentioned some 30,000 national workers are supported by their congregations. Currently, more than 10,000 students are in theological training as the next wave of Kingdom-minded servants arises across the globe.
A couple of decades ago the local Alliance church leaders in Hong Kong kindly said, in so many words, “We’re ready to do this on our own. We don’t really need you anymore. Why don’t you reposition your missionaries elsewhere?” We did. The Alliance is now one of the most significant denominations in Hong Kong—sending out some 140 missionaries to 10 nations or peoples.
In the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), which some of us remember as Zaire, entire networks of national churches run clinics and a university, as well as entire school districts entrusted to them by the federal government—1.5 million Alliance believers and growing. We wouldn’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t run all of that from the United States.
Missions done poorly creates dependence (instills weakness). Missions done well creates the strength of sustaining local ownership.
Missions done well understands local context and fosters local ownership.
Lord willing, I’ll add four more points next month. Meanwhile, thank you for being part of a team that is establishing the Church among some of the world’s least-reached peoples. Your prayers, encouragement—the next wave of workers—and giving to the Great Commission and CAMA Advance Funds are forwarding the gospel.
I’m honored to be teamed with you!