As we wrap up our efforts for 2012 and get ready to plunge into the new year of church mobilization, what is most urgent to accomplish? What can we do that will make the greatest long-term impact for global advance? I’m sharing my priority lists for churches and agency mobilizers and would love to hear what’s on yours.
The first item below I believe needs to be central in our thinking whether we serve in the church or agency context.
Will we confront creeping pluralism?
Why have so few alarm bells sounded over the invasion of pluralism into the core belief system of Western Christians? Evangelical believers of prior generations were clearly identified by their commitment to “Jesus is the only way.” But tolerance has become a central societal value in our increasingly multi-cultural environment. The conviction that there is one way of salvation is under bombardment from every direction, and a powerful change has quietly occurred.
A new normal
Millennials’ faith has been described by researcher Christian Smith as “moralistic, therapeutic deism.” This new form of faith represents the view of youth in the church as well as those outside. Theirs is a Christianity without a conviction of hell, much less a belief that God would send someone there based solely on their lack of faith in Jesus. And many of their
parents—Baby Boomers and Busters—also seem wobbly on their view of whether salvation is through Christ alone.
An enfeebled form of holistic ministry
In missions, this Teutonic shift can result in a slide toward a form of holistic ministry that is an end in itself rather than a context for transmitting an essential message. Our witness to the world should incorporate every aspect of holistic service, but we do not serve people’s needs in order to ram our truth propositions down their throats.
However, as we approach any type of missions, there is a theological watershed—Do we believe a person is lost without faith in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection? The answer to that question must dictate our ultimate goals.
Many formal and informal programs designed to lay a biblical foundation for missions are built on outdated assumptions about what audiences believe on this essential point. For younger generations, to accept that God wants to “bless” the nations through the church may be relatively easy if they do not have to confront the truth claims presented elsewhere in Scripture. But what are the implications of sidestepping this issue? We will recruit new generations of go-ers and senders
to missions with a radically different perspective of the end goal.
Do we see this invasive pluralistic worldview as a crucial issue for 2013? If so, what should we as individuals, as churches/agencies, and as a missions community as a whole do to address it?
Other 2013 priorities for churches to consider…
Create new categories of workers and funding
Opportunities are exploding around the world for high-impact, cross-cultural ministry developed within the context of international business placements, entrepreneurial endeavors, overseas professional contracts, cultural exchanges, long-distance mentoring/coaching, and a nearly endless list of other creative alternatives. Churches will need new categories for such workers or a revamped definition of “missionary” to utilize these God-given realities. New concepts of preparation, funding, on-field individual/family care, and accountability will also need to be developed and tested.
Set your 2013 priorities: Consider inaugurating a highly flexible “global worker” category to facilitate placing influential people in strategic global settings. These new roles may or may not include funding from your church, but they will include care and encouragement supplied by your congregation.
Make way for younger leaders
Does your church’s missions leadership team have a preponderance of folks over the age of 50, or even a majority over 65? If so, you may be asking, “How can we develop a program that attracts younger people?” Well, you probably can’t. But you can create space for younger leaders to shape new missions models that speak to their peers.
Set your 2013 priorities: Meet for coffee with a couple of sharp younger adults to find out what’s on their minds and hearts. Listen a lot and talk little. Find out what kind of service opportunities get them excited and what makes involvement difficult. Support them in launching some one-time events for their peers.
Reach the world from home
It’s gone—the era where it was logical to separate foreign (cross-cultural) and domestic (sameculture) missions. In 2013 the world has come to us, so churches will need to create simple steps to help believers intentionally build cross-cultural
Set your 2013 priorities: Consider creating an ad hoc task force to initiate ways your church could encourage cross-cultural friendship building. Make examples visible to the congregation.
What are some of your church's priorities in 2013? Please share in the comment section below!