A letter to a friend. “Congratulations on your 25 years in missions!”
The following e-mail was written to a good friend who is celebrating his 25th year in missions. I was stirred to write him this response. I sense this is not just for him but for a larger audience who are asking the question :what is church?” and the logical next question “what is missions?”
As always, we write from what God is saying to us, which is one side of it. Any comments and feedback are very welcome.
Yours for the Least in the Kingdom,
A letter to a friend.
Dear Mike (pseudonym), Congratulations on your 25 years in missions!
Maria and I know very well what an accomplishment that is and how you have “endured hardships as a soldier”! Well done. Fight on in the good fight of the faith. (Actually I am not that far behind you, having done my first missions trip in the summer on 1983 in Guatemala. It’s been a long and wonderful journey. )
You mentioned that “this marks some kind of transition in my responsibilities – not sure what this will mean yet…” That sentence struck me as we can really relate to it.
What started us on our “new season” was the nagging suspicion that “missions-as-we-knew-it” was broken and needed to be fixed. I guess that became most obvious during our 4 years in Kazjikganistan (pseudonym).
Ask yourself the simple question:
”Is the Muslim world any more reached today than it was 25 years ago?”
Is Yemen? Somalia? Or Morocco? Are countries like Iran, Turkey or Saudi Arabia any more reached today than they were 25 years ago? Is the country you live in? Is the country I live in?
“Is America any more reached today than it was 25 years ago?”
I think most people would – sadly – have to answer no to that last question.
Is Great Britain or Spain or France? Sooner or later we have to come to the conclusion that something is not working! This by no means lessens the “shining lights” of countries like China and India and Mozambique and Mongolia. Many awesome people have done, and are doing, a great work in those nations.
But until every country is a “shining light” our job is not done…
Who are we to say its not working?
Probably the most difficult situation we have ever found ourselves in is the current one. We have seen what is not working but have little, to nothing, to show for it! We see a way forward yet it seems too big for us and impossible to reach. We have been encouraged, however, by hearing the same message from men and women who have gone before us.
One of those guides is Sidney Clark (1862 – 1930). Clark was a layman who traveled extensively overseas as the owner of a lucrative British clothing business. He was also a “world Christian” and cared deeply for the mission fields of Asia. In 1905 he remarked: ”
If I conducted my business in the way missionary societies conduct theirs, I would be bankrupt.” What he saw as shortcomings in 1905 were the “lack of systematic planning and coordination of mission agencies, gross inefficiencies and wasted resources.” (Roland Allen: Pioneer, Priest, and Prophet p. 90)
The thought that someone would say that missions was bankrupt 100 years ago is very disturbing because it is so accurate yet we still find ourselves in many ways in the same condition. (BTW, Clark quit his business in 1907 and dedicated the rest of his life to the work of overseas missions.)
For Maria and I the answer was to simply quit.
To get some distance from missions so that God could speak to us about the next step. It has been very difficult and humbling. I would not recommend it to anyone. We used to once call “the world” our home. Now it is my “big-box Mart” job 14 miles from home.
About four months ago I felt the Lord tell me to start a Blog called: Until All Have Heard.
I did that.
We have started a house church in our house with another family.
We feel that the sickness in the church is the root of the problems on the mission field. Unless we can return to a New Testament framework for church, how can missions – the planting of churches where there are none – ever be successful? In reality, “church-as-we-know-it” is built more off an Old Testament model than a New Testament one. A Holy Man in a Holy Place performing a Holy Function on a Holy Day for a mass audience.
”That which has given birth to you is sick! Therefore what comes forth from you is sick. “
I guess I am saying all this to say: Join the cause!
Maybe the transition you are in right now is from the Lord to look at missions differently. You of all people would do it, not with a critical spirit, but with discernment and shrewdness. “Wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” Mtt 10:16
I cannot bear the thought that I will tell my children in 25 years that the Muslim world is still not as reached as it was in 2008. Maria and I have dedicated the rest of our lives to make sure this is not the case.
“Here we stand, we can do no other!”
With Much Love,
Jeff and Maria
P.S. If this strikes a chord anywhere with you I have written two blogs covering more of the same ground.