Ministries in search of growth and more effective results often find themselves tweaking themselves endlessly. Tweaks are often needed to fine tune a ministry. But tweaks do not bring ministry breakthroughs. For that one needs to find the game changers.
Game changers are new ways of thinking or new ways of doing that significantly change the results that a ministry achieves - usually by significantly changing the way it goes about ministry in key ways.
The world of missions desperately needs game changers if it is going to meet the astonishing opportunities of reaching some 6 billion people with the gospel. Unfortunately many mission agencies are tweaking old paradigms rather than rethinking their strategies for how they do what they do. Here are some of the game changers that are making a major difference in missions today.
Partnering with others rather than doing missions in isolation. It is amazing how little cooperation there has historically been between mission agencies. Essentially instead of building the church each agency felt that it had to build its version of church - duplicating all the denominations from the United States to the global world. Jesus died for the church and not just our version of the church so any time we can partner with like minded ministries we leverage ourselves for greater ministry results.
Building the church, not simply our version of church. Here is a game changer for our mission - ReachGlobal. While we are the mission of the EFCA we are not intent on planting EFC churches globally. Yes we must have orthodox theology and we believe in the ethos of the EFCA. But, we are far more concerned that the churches we work with or initiate are healthy, interdependent, reproducing, self supporting and indigenous. What we are not concerned about is the name above the door. This means that we can come alongside multiple movements in a country, not just the ones that have the same name as us. This dramatically increases our spiritual influence. It has been a game changer.
Another game changer in missions is related to the previous one. Rather than simply assuming that one needs to start something new in an area of the world in which one is working, the first thing strategic missions do is to look around and see what God is already doing there and where possible, come alongside existing movements to help them multiply healthy churches. Where there are no local believers, evangelism and apostolic church planting is the work of the missionary. But where there are existing believers with a level of health, the first thing strategic missions do is to see if they can come alongside of them. Of course, this requires that the mission is not simply committed to building their brand of the church denominationally. Those that are limit themselves significantly.
Coming alongside existing believers to expand the church leads to another kind of game changer. Rather than simply focusing on what mission staff can do, the focus is now on developing, empowering and releasing indigenous workers for the harvest and therefore moving from addition (what I can do) to multiplication (what we can do). In this scenario, missionaries see themselves more as coaches of others as they work alongside and serve those they are partnering with.
This leads to a mindset game changer. If we are not simply building "our brand" and if we are empowering others and lifting them up we no longer own anything, control anything or count anything as ours. That is a massive mind set change for western missions and it represents a humility and service mindset rather than the "expert" and "in charge" mindset. It significantly changes how we are seen by those we partner with.
One of the ultimate game changers takes place when empowered and encouraged indigenous partners take on their own responsibility for sending missionaries. This has happened with our African movement partners who two years ago formed Reach Africa for the sending of their own missionaries and they are already training dozens of pastors and church planters in areas where the church is not yet present. ReachGlobal partners with Reach Africa as equals in the mission endeavor - a powerful combination.
One final game changer comes when Western mission agencies start to bring on their staff leaders from the parts of the world where they work in significant leadership positions. They bring with them a wealth of cultural understanding, strong understanding of the issues faced in their part of the world along with the very relationships the agency needs to increase their influence. In recent years we have grafted into our leadership Indonesian, Egyptian, Lebanese, and Kenyan leaders. They, and others to come are changing ReachGlobal in a wonderful way and are helping us be far more effective as a mission.
It is time for mission agencies to embrace a new paradigm and a new relationship with indigenous partners. It has never been easier to reach more people with the gospel than it is today. Whether we respond to that challenge is up to us. I don't want to settle for anything less. You?