Sunday, August 19, 2007

Some Thoughts on World Missions, Part One

Earlier this summer, I took the class that was developed by the US Center for World Missions called Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Years ago I wanted to take the class but told myself that the best place to take it would be at the US Center in Pasadena, but how would I ever do that.

Then, in 1999, God plopped me down eight miles from the USCWM.

One of the things that amazed me most was that I was the only Senior Pastor taking Perspectives course! Not only that, I was the third oldest person there!

So why did I take the class?

Well, I have been a “missions enthusiast” for years. It’s not like this was all new to me. I was mentored by the late J. Christy Wilson, Jr. back when I was at Gordon-Conwell in the early 80s. I’ve led the charge for missions giving and missions going. I even have the first edition of the big “Perspectives” reader!

I came to reenergize a personal commitment. It never hurts!

I came for “fresh ammunition” to teach and make the case for world missions.

I came because the key staff person at our church for missions has moved on (to become Dean of Students at San Diego Christian College). His approach was very much centered on missions trips (to the Navajo reservation, to Thailand and to Tijuana). I have the suspicion that that approach has run its course; we need a new approach and a fresh start.

I came because at this stage of life I am more and more concerned about passing things on. I want to be certified to coordinate the course.

I came because of a new era in our church connections. Our church was formerly part of the American Baptist Churches USA. Our region (formerly the ABC of the Pacific Southwest) voted last year to separate from the nation body. It’s now called Transformation Ministries. One reason I’m here is a burden to help steer TransMin in a new direction when it comes to missions. We are doing like most TransMin churches—continuing to support connections with ABC missionaries we have strong ties to (such as Mike Mann in Thailand). But eventually “something has to give.”

I came to network with people with a common vision, and to establish ties with the missions community here at the USCWM complex.

In this Biblical phase of the course, I found myself in 99% agreement with the interpretations emphases made by the speakers—and have often made them myself. One conviction that caught me early was that if missionaries are to be the “pathfinders” in world evangelization, what are US based pastors called to be? The world “pacesetters” comes to mind. I realized it’s been quite a while since I’ve been on the field (six years ago, in Mexico, and only briefly) and much longer since I lead a mission trip (1991 in the Dominican Republic).

I think we need a new policy, starting with me: all full time ministry staff must go to an international mission setting every two years, minimum. Such a policy will make it clear: this is a PRIORITY, the ultimate priority: making Christ known to all peoples.

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