By a Christian Worker on the Field
We have to make one thing clear. We all share a commitment for the advance of the Gospel. We are heart broken by the simple idea that many have not heard of the message of salvation. Yet, I wonder how are we going to reach the millions upon millions who reside in countries that are considered hard to reach? These countries are known as Restricted Access Nations (RAN) because of the challenges in place for church planting. In these countries it is not possible to have a religious visa. They make it illegal to share the gospel with others. There are anti-proselytizing laws in place. There are also internal socio-political factors that add to the challenge of advancing the Gospel.
A quick overview of the distribution of missionaries among conservative mission boards will reveal that these countries have been neglected far too long. When I have asked “Why?” I have heard many reasons that reflect an underlying philosophy that has prevented our churches, in our movement, from being obedient to the Gospel call. We do obey the call to go and make disciples, yet we fail in the “all nations” part. If we were to visit all nations, we would meet many brothers and sisters from European countries, Asian countries and even from the so called “Third World” countries. They are ministering in the RANs, yet we are not. Why? Let me submit three simple reasons.
Model. Our commitment to our models of ministry undercuts our ability to carry out the message of our ministry. Mission boards have by the very nature of their structures and policies cut themselves off from being able to service the next generation of servants who want to serve in RANs. We have been doing the same thing for decades and are failing to adjust to changing times. Ask mission boards how they are doing in their recruiting efforts and you will find that the numbers are discouraging. Yet, talking to members of the next generation you find that there is no lack of desire. The willingness of the servants of tomorrow is met by an unwilling desire to change by traditional mission boards of today. We are not going to reach RANs by doing the same thing over and over again.
Philosophy. There is embedded in the thinking of many that a missionary must be “full-time” dedicated to Gospel work. Young adults are wanting to use their skills and abilities to serve in the marketplace as a means of Gospel outreach. I have heard countless pastors and mission board administrators ask “How can a person be a missionary when they work 40-50 hours in a secular job?” In their mind there is dissonance. Interestingly, for young adults it makes perfect sense. Some mission boards have been talking about “Business as Missions” (BAM) and “marketplace ministry” yet the policies they keep in place are a deterrent if not a complete obstacle to BAM. There is a very practical disconnect between these policies and the necessary activities that come with Business as Missions and marketplace ministry. While many talk about this “trend in missions” they are not on board, if not directly opposed to making the necessary structural changes in order to honestly be involved in BAM and marketplace ministry.
Bias. Many still view a missionary as having a Bible college degree along with a Masters in theology, and a few years of experience in a local church. This profile fits what is considered to be a proper religious professional. These are the people who should be missionaries they say. If a young adult with an MBA and an entrepreneurial bent wants to serve in a RAN then there is an internal disposition that concludes this person does not fit the proper profile of what a religious professional should be. This bias is not often articulated yet clearly seen by the actions of many. Ironically, it is the young entrepreneur who is bringing value to his community that is given an open door in a RAN setting and the traditional religious professional finds himself frustrated by all the “closed doors to ministry” that they encounter.
If we don’t seriously think through our models of ministry, our philosophy of ministry, and our bias regarding ministry we will continue this trend of not participating in reaching the restricted access nations of our world. Yet, I can guarantee that our young adults will not wait for us to change. They will
go ahead and forge their own paths. Because of this, I am not hopeless about their future. They will find a way - with or without our involvement. The gospel will be preached in the hard-to-reach places of our world, and souls will be gloriously saved. Do you want to be part of it?
The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.