John Stumbo Video Blog No. 33
April 12, 2016
John Stumbo reminds us that missions isn’t about us getting to do something meaningful. The goal of missions is lasting fruit. “Missions done well” embraces a solid system of financial and strategic accountability; it establishes strong networks of reproducing local churches; and it is sustainable. The Alliance is committed to doing missions well until our King returns and our mission is complete.
(The following is not an actual transcript but rather a manuscript of John Stumbo’s April Video Blog.)
This is part two of a blog I started last month. Our theme is—we can do missions well, or we can do it poorly. Not everything done in the name of Jesus is equally effective.
If you haven’t watched March’s blog yet, you may want to do so before diving into this one.
First, as we said last month, missions done poorly doesn’t understand local context. Missions done well is incarnational—it fully enters the culture. Point two from last month is missions done poorly creates Western dependence. But missions done well creates sustaining local ownership.
Previously, I gave examples for those two points. Let’s pick it up from there with the next point.
3. Missions done poorly makes our engagement the goal.
Warning: This is a hot one!
As church leaders, we can easily perceive our role to be engaging as many people as possible in missions and make that the central goal. We feel really good when we get lots of people to go on a short-term experience. And we feel bad when we have to cancel the trip for lack of interest.
I get it. Missions engagement is a good thing! Missions won’t happen if no one is engaged.
This is one of the great things about being part of The Christian and Missionary Alliance. Most of our churches have a much higher level of engagement than other evangelical denominations. Money is only one measurement, but Alliance church-member giving to missions (although far from what it once was) still leads all evangelical denominations.
But, all that being said, missions isn’t about us doing something meaningful. It’s not about you. Leave it to the American church to make missions all about us!
The true goal of missions is lasting fruit: Souls, disciples—Jesus is being loved, worshiped, and obeyed by every tribe, tongue, language, and people. Networks of reproducing churches that become missionary-sending churches themselves. This is the goal of missions.
4. Missions done poorly has little or no accountability.
A new pastor came to an Alliance church and noticed the members were giving tens of thousands of dollars to a group he’d never heard of. He kept pressing them, asking “Shouldn’t we go see?” He kept prodding, and after a number of years he went with a few church leaders to do an accountability check to see where all their monies were going.
When they got there, they were stunned and saddened to see that this ministry wasn’t a ministry at all. The stories the missionary was telling were true, but they weren’t actually what that mission was doing. There was nothing that mission was doing other than recycling other ministries’ stories and raising a whole lot of money on that basis.
A church leader in a restrictive country in North Africa wept while in another country, when he went into a missions office and saw they were raising money for their mission on stories/work not of their doing. He wasn’t complaining or bitter. He was truly saddened. Here was an organization that didn’t have the credibility to report accurately. And he commended The Alliance as one of his few trusted partners.
Missions done well, on the other hand, has a solid system of accountability (including financial and missions strategy).
Workers from other organizations have expressed their gratitude to The Alliance when we have come to an area where they are attempting to reach unreached people. They found their way into this limited-access country, but it was more complicated than expected; they had limited support from their home office and hadn’t discovered a solid strategy to reach people. Upon our arrival and establishing our work, they came to us and said, “Can we join your work? We’ve been looking for something meaningful to do.” And, often we are able to utilize some of these godly people.
Every five years The Alliance has a strategic review for every Alliance team or field we’re a part of. Senior leadership, national leaders, and outside voices conduct a careful review of our work. As a result, some teams have been closed, [we’ve] restarted some efforts, and we’ve made major changes to what we are doing.
I’m not claiming that every work we have is humming along at maximum efficiency—is your church?—but I am claiming that our International Ministries leadership team is serious and intentional about solid strategy and accountability.
Financially, we meet the highest standards. Accountability is taken seriously by Alliance leadership.
5. Missions done poorly doesn’t establish a network of reproducing local churches.
Scattered acts of kindness are good. God uses them. But how much better when combined with the long-term impact that is created by a network of local churches!
As you remember, the collapse of the Soviet Union created an opportunity for missionaries to enter Russia. The Alliance was quick to respond. And we weren’t alone.
By 1995, there were more than 900 evangelical organizations with offices and/or ministries—just in Moscow alone. Tens of thousands of Christians from the West came. Hundreds of millions of dollars were raised. Missiologists suggest it was the greatest missionary “blitzkrieg” ever—pretty exciting.
Scores of campaigns of film-showing and literature distribution took place. Thousands came to faith, maybe more. Historic.
However, by the year 2000 more than 800 of these 900 organizations were no longer active in Russia. They left behind some literature and movies and believers—all good. But if we don’t leave behind a sustainable church, we’ve not completed the missionary work.
Missions done WELL establishes networks of reproducing local churches.
Meanwhile, in Russia our Alliance team was learning the language—incarnationally entering the culture, building relationships, and discovering ways to build the church through Russian leadership, insisting that every church plant have a Russian leader.
The Alliance wove its way into the fabric of the rebirth of the Russian church. And by 2002, 50 new churches had opened. Hundreds of leaders eventually graduated from the Bible college we helped establish. More than 50 key leaders completed master’s degrees through a program under the umbrella of the Alliance Theological Seminary (ATS). Today, these key leaders are known throughout Russia as some of the most innovative and impactful church planters.
Church planting continues today, largely in the hands of young Russian church planters being led by those in whom The Alliance invested through the decades.
This kind of story is being replayed in other nations. I’m pleased to remind us that the investment we made in decades past through the Great Commission Fund has reaped some awesome dividends.
The Alliance has now multiplied itself 55 times over, if you think in terms of peers that we have in other nations. Just like we have a U.S. Alliance, there are 55 other national churches that are part of the Alliance World Fellowship (AWF), five of whom are larger than the U.S. C&MA. And more than 20 of these AWF churches are missions-sending churches. Investment well made. And finally, as a result:
6. Missions done poorly is unsustainable, because it
a. Is not understanding of the local context;
b. Creates Western dependence;
c. Thinks it’s “all about us”;
d. Has little accountability; and
e. Does not establish a network of reproducing local churches.
Missions done poorly simply isn’t sustainable.
God will use the short bursts of enthusiasm for some global cause that many Christians view as missions.
But when the missionary leaves, will the fragrance of Jesus remain in that location? With the political upheaval of our world, we can’t assume we will get to work in the places where we are for the next 100 years. We have to leave behind something lasting.
You and I—teamed with the C&MA—are in the sustainability business, because we plant churches—networks of reproducing churches. Churches that survived the war in Vietnam, genocide in Congo, revolution in China, the Sandinistas of Colombia, Ebola in Guinea, civil wars in Côte d’Ivoire and Syria. (Yes, you have 18 sister churches still faithfully proclaiming Jesus in Syria. Pray for them!) Talk about a return on investment!
Missions done well is sustainable. Here’s the beautiful thing. You don’t need to go searching for some other organization to do missions well. You can make a difference in the world right here with the family you already are a part of.
We are the Church—a church-based, church-backed missions effort. And you can contribute to all that I’ve talked about through the Great Commission and CAMA Advance funds.
Alliance, we’re better together. We need each other.
Larger churches, you have the temptation to make up your own programs and operate independently. If you do, you’ll probably miss out on 130 years of sound missiological knowledge and experience.
This Alliance family needs you. And you need us. We want you to influence who the broader Alliance family becomes. You care about reaching the world for Jesus. And it’s the main reason I said “yes” to being president—because I care about the same.
Smaller churches, you can be tempted to feel like your contribution doesn’t amount to much, so why bother? Please don’t give in to that false thinking. We’re better together. You need to influence who we become as well.
Let’s keep working together—doing missions well until the King returns, announcing that our job is done. That’s when we know we’re finished. When He comes back and tells us we are. That day is coming.
Until that day, I’m honored and pleased to be teamed with you!