Brad Buser, of Radius, submitted the following post. Radius trains cross cultural workers in the skills needed to start healthy, viable, and reproducing churches in the least reached areas of the world. For more info see https://radiusinternational.org/
The church of Jesus Christ has been sending thousands of workers and putting hundreds of millions of dollars each year towards ‘missions’. During the last 30 years alone with the amount of workers that have landed in various countries, the question must be asked… “Why haven’t we completed our task of seeing churches planted in every ‘tongue, tribe, and nation’?”
To oversimplify here would be unfair… and there are exceptions. The issue of missionary turnover and lack of success IS complex, but there are some common threads that continue to hamper efforts, hurt potential career missionaries, and dampen the focus and zeal of sending churches. When young couples that could have ‘changed the world’ come home broken or discouraged, it is difficult for local churches to send the next family into the fray.
So what are some of the current reasons we’re not making the progress we should?
1. Unrealistic expectations for families. The sacrifices and hardships that wives and children will endure must be acknowledged and prepared for! Family issues top any list when actual reasons for missionary turnover are tallied.
2. Workers are not ready for the extreme discipline of culture and language acquisition. Some gospel workers go to the field not even knowing phonetics and phonemics. How are they supposed to hear and mimic fine differentiations in sounds? How can they avoid being seen, AND HEARD, as outsiders? Some learn phonetics but have never mastered it in a live situation where they must start from scratch and go through the pain of being seen as a ‘slow awkward outsider’ for months.
3. Many workers have a deep-seated sense that they are NOT connecting with the people they are living among; they rightly wonder if the sacrifices they are enduring have a point to them.
4. Vague goals – “I want to minister in Mongolia”, “Make disciples in Syria”, or even “I want to plant a church in northern India” are not enough to guide the worker through the many complex choices ahead of them. The long-term missionary, lost in his business efforts, who occasionally has religious discussions, is becoming common.
5. Social Media/Internet… which provides a haven for the lonely, frustrated, bored missionary. This hidden cause is quietly allowing missionaries to ‘live’ overseas, without fully BEING in the country they live. (Often times families and supporters are complicit as they ask the missionary to ‘regularly connect’ with them; not realizing how much of a day is spent anticipating that small Skype session.)
6. ‘Diaspora’ work now draws many missionaries to stay right here in the USA! Such re-labeling masks a significant shift in missionary allocations happening in some agencies. Churches in Iowa end up funding missionaries working in Minneapolis while churches in Minneapolis fund missionaries going to India (or to a college campus right back in Iowa!). When Paul and Barnabas were commissioned and sent out in Acts 13 they did not head off to Jerusalem. Of course, other ethnic groups were present in Jerusalem… but there was also a church in the area.
Obviously, each of these areas has many nuances and complexities to them, but these 6 issues are the main components of what is hindering progress towards planting actual churches among those language groups still without the gospel.
What hindrances do you see to finishing Jesus’ assignment of reaching every people, language, nation and tribe for His glory?
There are a few current hindrances I see to finishing Jesus’ assignment of reaching every people, language, nation and tribe for His glory. That being said, I believe God is accelerating His global work, and that we truly can see Matthew 24:14 fulfilled in our generation.
One hindrance I see is the myth that those who mobilize, research, lead, teach, or provide supporting resources, are exempt from making disciples of lost people. We should never get so comfortable that we are not still practitioners and disciple-makers. How much would the conversation change, if we knew that all of us had in love, engaged lost people, witnessed to someone, and/or prayed for them in the last 24 hours?
I also see people in the Church spending a lot of time on things that do not make disciples of lost people (myself included, sinfully). We haven’t yet prioritized the least reached to the extent of enough people being willing to die (literally, and to themselves) in order to fulfill the global mission of God.
Lastly, one hindrance I see is sending missionaries to make disciples of lost people and planting churches who have not done this prior to appointment. I’m not saying this qualifies you to do this work, but I believe that if we seek to make disciples and see them gathered in healthy reproducing gospel-centered communities overseas in a second context, we should seek to do that here in our first context and learn by doing, instead of just learning by reading.
I’m excited what the Lord is doing around the world, as I think He is awakening His Bride to realize that we must think toward multiplying generational movements of believers, not mere addition. Acts 19:10 says that every resident of Asia heard the word of the Lord in 2 years and I believe Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and we will see similar and even greater results if we employ biblical principles and humbly change our model when it isn’t working. “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Thanks Patrick – encouraged by your blog. See you in October at the expo!
Both Brad article and Ross’s comment strike cords with what I have seen as well. More personally committed to this effort after reading this. Thank you.