Local and Global


You may have noticed an exchange in the "How is it?" suggestions section about the absence of local mission from this site.  If not, I hope you take a look and offer your thoughts. At the risk of oversimplification I'll venture a few thoughts on the relation of local and global mission as a former pastor and a former missionary. 

It seems to me that global mission can be seen as an alternative to local mission.  We feel the need to participate in the Great Commission, but it is easier and safer to give a few dollars so that others can do the mission work for us. 

A second possibility is that global mission can be seen as a competitor to local mission.  In that case, the more we do of one, the less we can do of the other.  Each kind of mission has its advocates and there can be some tug-o-war between them.  I've seen this happen between missions committees and youth pastors who are raising money for short term trips as well. 

A third option is to see the two as synergistic partners.  If both are seen as flowing from a heart that beats after God's heart in concern for those who are suffering the ill effects of a fallen world, they shouldn't be competitors.  If our aim is to glorify God and love those made in His image, we cannot step over those nearest to us in order to focus on those far away.  At the same time, we shouldn't ignore the 1.5 billion people who have not experienced the Gospel incarnate in a culturally relevant way. 

Both local and global are vital.  And, due to immigration and other factors, local and global are becoming more similar.  What do you think?

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I like alikkel's "glocal" suggestion, but I'm afraid it may be hindered by its lack of being an actual word.

Great discussion here, though. To a certain extent, I think this conversation necessitates an acknowledgment of where we've erred in the past. So many false dichotomies have and still do exist in the CRC's mission efforts that complicate the question: Word vs. Deed (CRWM vs. CRWRC), Overseas vs. Local (CRWM vs. CRHM), the fact that missions is often understood as something you give money to rather than participate in and Steve's well-stated point that global missions has come to our back door here in North America (including them sending missionaries here).

Although we've made great strides at synergy and collaboration, people don't always get the connections. If this conversation were started in a vacuum, we could probably assume "Global Mission" includes all of the above (word and deed here and abroad). But we're not in a vacuum....we're dealing with real people that have really mixed up ideas when a phrase like "global mission" is thrown out there.

Personally, I think the worldwide Church is moving in the direction Bill Hybels stated: "the local church is the hope of the world". And, since the local church is flourishing in most places other than here, we ought to turn our thoughts towards how we, as the local church, can get our hands dirty in our own neighborhoods and communities.

Add to that the fact that "missional communities" (ie, evangelism and community transformation through small groups/house churches) are the newest buzz words amongst the micro and mega church world, I propose this tab on "The Network" be called simply "Mission" or "The Missional Church".

Hi Mark,
Thanks for your contribution. Back when I was a pastor, and before that an average church member, I didn't have much of a sense for the size and scope of the work the CRC does. Having been on the inside for a few years now, it is clear that if we got rid of the current structure, some new one would be necessary. There is a lot going on and it has to be organized somehow. That being said, there is a long history of silo operation by the various agenices. Fortunately, those barriers aren't nearly what they used to be. There is a long list of collaborative projects and warm working relationships across agency lines now.
I often do presentations in churches on the state of world missions and the remarkable growth of the church in many places over the last century. Of course, this movement has not affected every place and people group in the same way. There are still more than 10,000 people groups with little or no Christian presence. Over 1.5 billion people (about 27% of the world's population) live in groups where they are unlikely to hear the Gospel in a culturally intelligible way.

Hey Steve...

Sorry, I didn't see you'd replied to this thread. I was mostly just talking semantics of the word choice, but I think this is a great conversation.

I see a real interesting chicken-and-egg question here. Does a passion for local mission bloom into a passion for overseas missions in our people? I'm fairly certain, at least historically, that that was not the case. Or, put more directly, if you had a metaphorical gun to your head, and could only choose community impact or global missions financing for your congregation, which would you pick?

In our increasingly-congregational denomination, I think that paradigm is shifting.....but I'm not sure people really know what that means yet! I just finished a message series on missional living only to get asked 100 times, "I want to impact my community, but what does that look like?" I think we can resource THAT by showing examples of ongoing community impact ministries (like churches/small groups that do monthly service projects, etc.). I found it telling (about the CRC) that you didn't list viewing local missions as an alternative to global missions as an option above, but I think we may see that reality within my lifetime as this thing swings.

Mark, in Global and Local you said "I think it necessitates looking at where we erred in our history" (or to that effect). I'd like to mention one dimension of that that has marked the DNA of our denomination (and others, like the Presbyterians as well).
Humanly speaking I owe much of my initial missionary vision and calling to the "Women's Missionary Union" meetings of a generation ago. But later as I went around on the tours speaking to them, I realized that Union should never have come into being. It did because the male-run consistories never took on that responsibility, and "missions" became largely the domain of the ladies, bless them. They had the support of a minority of so-called "mission-minded" ministers, but the congregational leadership focused elsewhere: mostly internally.
It is hard to undo history, or, to use the other metaphor "get missions in your blood" when your DNA doesn't have it.
I'm very concerned that now in this generation so much of the vision and initiative is seemingly in the hands and actions of another fringe element: the youth group! Or worse, the young short-term enterpriser, off to save the world. It is now increasingly difficult to even find a "Missions Committee" in local churches that answers to the Council; often the deacons have to field the funding requests, knowing little about the plan or person (other than that she is so-and-so elder's niece and the letter she sent sound like they have a challenge)
The solution? If the CRWM Board hasn't found it, will it apprear in this Network discussion?
I'll be following the conversation. For now, this historical (sometimes histerical) reflection.

Hi Mark,
There is a great level of interest in PERSONAL involvement in mission whether local or global among younger adults especially. Of course, some kinds of mission, including some of the most vital, don't lend themselves to that very well. Short term teams visiting unreached Muslim people groups could unknowingly create a lot of havoc. I wonder if these pages could include some really good examples of churches that have found a way to engage personally but also strategically in mission.


Synergy is totally necessary. I'm with Mark and others in that getting people to think missional in their own backyards is invariably going to get more people thinking about and even participating in global mission. I remember being frustrated as a youth pastor when people supported youth who wanted to go on a YWAM DTS or a CRC short-term mission, but we could hardly get support to do ministry in the streets of our local communities. It made no sense to me at all, but certainly bore witness to the fact that people think about missions as about being, "over there" and not in my backyard.

I've witnessed first hand however in two churches, one I served and the current, where people who started serving local became more open to serving globally. We do a huge Serve project here and ongoing Communities in Service ministry. This past December three of our men went to Nicaragua with another group to drill a well. Now we're talking about going to Zambia in June 2011.

Missional starts at grass roots.

The synergistic possibilities are far greater than they used to be of course. Knowledge of Islam used to have a great deal of value overseas and very little in North America. Today Bosnians, Somalis and others from historically Muslim people groups are our neighbors and co-workers. Our missionaries who serve in Muslim context can provide a whole new function helping us understand and love Muslims into the Kingdom.