• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

One little phrase

Sometimes when you’re reading an article, one little phrase seems to jump off the page at you. Such was the case when I read this little phrase recently in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Vol. 28, No. 3):  “I realized how few “traditional missionaries” are sent there by mission “agencies” (a horrible word, representing the disastrous shift from a closely bonded fellowship of fund-sharing teams to groups of independently-funded individuals for whom “agencies” are merely temporary flags of convenience.””  I felt the ‘sting’ of that comment and that criticism.

However, every criticism has elements of truth in it; otherwise it wouldn’t hurt so much.  That’s when I began to wonder how we as workers may have drifted from that ‘closely bonded fellowship’ to ‘independent subcontractors’, if you will.  In other words, have we become less of a ‘network of like-minded individuals’ and more of ‘convenient groups’ of workers who enjoy being with each other from time to time?

Kind of sobering to think that we may drifted more than we realize.  Let’s talk more in the coming days about why this might be the case, how it may have come about, and what we might do to restore an attitude of ‘bonded fellowship’.

 

8 Responses

  1. Sobering thoughts in light of our desire to truly become “global” in thinking. Working interdependently requires more time, more patience, and we want to be “nimble” – how do these factors weigh in? Furthermore, the “independent subcontractor” concept may still allow for God to be the central focus of the individual, but does not allow for God to be the central focus, the very center, of the overall corporate body. What attitudes, policies, foci, are important if we desire God to be at the center of our corporate body?

    • Thanks for commenting so quickly. It can ‘sound good’ to be an independent contractor because one is called of God to serve Him. The trouble, like you say, is that we become the center rather than God, and we lose the community focus and nature of the Christian journey. Your question is a good one: “What attitudes, policies, foci, are important if we desire God to be at the center of our corporate body?” More than anything, it’s an ethos or attitude issue. We need to choose to be other centered and ask others for help in life and ministry.

  2. The older I get, and hopefully the more mature too, the more I realize the importance of collegiality. The great missiologist Paul Hiebert taught us the significance of a “hermeneutical community” in the process of critical contextualization. I realize increasingly that I need community in everything.

    • This is something you have been modeling for us. And it might have be you that pointed me to this article. Our task is to discern ways to encourage collegiality within our community so that people can come to say like you that ‘they need community in everything.’

  3. It is interesting to me how the author equates sharing a pool of money with being interdependent. I don’t think it matters whether we have our own support base or share one, what matters is how we operate on the ground, either as a team or as a group of individuals. I know of organizations that serve as a “front” for people who just want to do their own thing, but I would not put World Team in that category. While we may not always attain a perfect interdependence on our teams, it is our aspirational value to do so. Of all the values we share, to allow someone in World Team to NOT be interdependent is the most destructive. The team I work on operates like a family, and when one member acts independently, everyone is hurt.

    • You said it well, Bryan, when you wrote: “While we may not always attain a perfect interdependence on our teams, it is our aspirational value to do so.” From my vantage point, I see more of the aspirational value than the lived out value. It’s not about pooled funding, but about actually ‘submitting to one another’, being accountable to one another and needing one another. My prayer is that WT can become more and more like that. Values always need to be reviewed and rehearsed. Thanks for your word!

  4. In WT we say that interdependence is one of our core values, but if we are independent in our attitudes and relationships we are denying this fundamental value.

    When I joined WIM in 1956 the mission practiced the pool approach in which all shared equally. This principle was abused by some who made little effort to raise support or maintain a healthy relationship with their supporters causing all to suffer. Dr. G. Allen Fleece, a board director at that time, proposed a change to what we have today, but not primarily because of this abuse only but more importantly because it was having an unintentional carry over into the churches planted in which some churches learned to live off off of the largest of the others making little effort to carry their own load. This was more caught than taught. The biblical principle is that everyone is to bear his own ordinary burden while we are to bare one another’s crushing burden. (Gal. 5: 25 – 6: 5) Therefore it has more to do with attitudes and our commitment to the body – the team, the church. When I served as US Director I was amazed by the the volume of support that went in circles around the mission –one missionary supporting another; therefore, the sharing of resources was voluntary rather than by corporate policy. Bonding is stronger when voluntary.

    I do not think that the problem is a question of the concept of “agency,” or financial structure, system or policy but one of having a spirit of independence rather than interdependence. To whom is the agency accountable? To whom is the missionary accountable? I think that we can derive some princes in answer to these questions and issues from Acts 13: 1 – 4 & 14: 26 – 28 and Rom. 12: 1 -16. Note the use of “apoluo” and “ekpempo” in Acts 13: 3 & 4. How does this work out practically as we work in partnership with Majority World churches, agencies, and missionaries?

    • You raise a lot of great questions for us to reflect upon: “To whom is the agency accountable? To whom is the missionary accountable? How does this work out practically as we work in partnership with Majority World churches, agencies, and missionaries?” You, like Bryan, are right to point out that it is not about the funding issue, but about the attitude or value held.

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