Missions has changed significantly since I grew up as an MK in Hong Kong in the sixties. My parents would leave for a term of four to five years to a place they had never been to before. Instead of Skype and phone calls there would be a weekly letter home. Our supporting churches knew only what we told them as short term teams were not an option with the high cost of travel. The world was big, travel was expensive, and communication slow.
Missions was also very local as signified by the left hand circle above. It was local because it had to be local given the realities I just described. It was also very hands on with missionaries doing the hands on evangelism and church planting. In many places where they went there were few local believers to partner with. But we saw ourselves as the practitioners, the doers! We also replicated our own brands, Methodist, Free Church, Presbyterian, Covenant - all the brands we had in the west. Huge strides were made for the gospel in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
We live, however in a very different world today. Travel is cheap, communication instantaneous for much of the world: it is a small, flat interconnected world. Missions is accessible to even the smallest church, indigenous movements around the world are sending their own missionaries and missionaries from the west are increasingly coaches, mentors, and trainers as they develop, empower and release local leaders, pastors and church planters and serve as partners rather than the leaders.
With the rise of movements around the world, cheap travel and easy communication, there is a whole new opportunity for missions as represented by the right hand circle above. Here, we come alongside whole movements and movement leaders who may span countries or even continents, helping them do what they do, mentoring and training their leaders, partnering in whatever ways we can to see the gospel penetrate whole regions. Those who work in the right hand circle are servants who mentor, train and equip movement leaders. The potential impact is huge.
The goal of both circles is to see Acts 19 communities emerge where the gospel penetrates not just a neighborhood but a large region. Acts 19 is the story of the church in Ephesus which impacted a huge area around it. This is an intentional church planting strategy to see a saturation of churches planted. The goal is not to replicate a certain brand but to work with all evangelical partners to see His church replicated.
Often this will be in complex urban centers as the populations of the world move to the city. This requires the willingness to partner with those who are present already, to raise up local leaders from the start and to not need to own, control or count anything as ours. Paul did not, we should not.
The two circles with the intersection of Acts 19 communities was not possible in the pre globalized world. The globalization of our world allows us to move toward multiplication in a way never possible before. But it requires us to make some basic shifts in our thinking and practice:
- From being in charge to serving the global church
- From doing addition to working toward multiplication
- From replicating our brand to focusing on His brand
- From independence to interdependence
- From competition to cooperation
- From owning and controlling to counting nothing as ours
- From hands on to developing, empowering and releasing others
- From purely local to local and regional