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The Missionary Headache: Why Evangelicals Need To Support The Missionaries Among Us

Adam sent me this article.  I have to share it.  Look, while this guy writes “tongue in cheek”, you need to read him and hear every point.  It is sooooo relevant!

Before you read this, consider the imperative that we stop thinking of the US as Christendom, where we have pastors but not missionaries.  Did you know… that the real Christian count is about 12-15% of the population, according to a Biblical definition of “Christian”, not culturally so?  Did you know that India’s % Christian population is almost that high?  Did you know that China’s % Christian population IS that high?  Did you know that South Korea’s % Christian population is double that!?  Did you know that in the urban centers of the US, especially along the coasts, where 80%+ live that the % Christian is about 4-6%?  Did you know that NOT ONE COUNTY/PARISH has increased the % of it’s Christian population to the general population by even ONE % in the past 55 years!?  Did you know that the Southern Baptists’ baptism rate is down more than 1/3 of what it was 10 years ago?  Did you know that 80% of the teen high school graduates that are in Christian churches leave the church, with VERY FEW ever returning!?

So, why do we N-E-E-D missionaries in the US?  More so, who is anyone to argue with God when He is raising up workers for the harvest?  He doesn’t care what the threatened institutions say, even if they will not support these sent ones, they are sent and willing to make the sacrifices to go – even without financial support.  Time will bear witness…

My greatest challenge is to get the church (churches) to get behind domestic missionaries – support and free them up – so they can do what they are sent to do!  My people almost all work at least part time, many full time because we cannot raise support…. because we’re not overseas.  It’s time that we recognize, as the entire church that we need domestic missionaries as the church is not able, or equipped to reach the majority of our population that simply will not engage them for a number of reasons.  Any given church has a culture – that reality limits it to identifying with no more than 2% of the population – that is anthropology and sociology (missiology to us missionaries) and can’t be argued…  it just is.  So, what are we to do?  Of the 308M people in the US, less than 40M will be in heaven… do the math.  It’s time for us to change.

Also, note the author’s comments about the church’s fear to embrace any change… well meaning intentions, but afraid of change…  I find this absolutely 100% accurate for almost every church I’ve ever worked with.

Okay – here is the article:

The Missionary Headache: Why Evangelicals Need To Support The Missionaries Among Us

It goes without saying that new ways of thinking rarely bring out the best in evangelicalism. Those dreaded “paradigm shifts” usually elicit lots of sermons on topics like “The Christian Worldview” and “The Threat of Relativistic New Age Contemplative Prayer.” No doubt, there are many times that the evangelical response to a new way of thinking is on target. But not always. Sometimes we’re just wrong. Sincere and God-loving, but wrong.

Maybe we are wrong in ways that can be corrected. There was a reformation, after all, and evangelicalism isn’t without a reverse gear or the ability to do a mid-course correction. (Check the SBC on racism.) On the other hand, sometimes our resistance to new ways of thinking is a resistance to the Spirit of God himself because we are simply loyal to and invested in the familiar more than we are sensitive to the Spirit. If the familiar is made up of what we’ve built with our own efforts, then we’re highly likely to polish it, dress it up and see no flaws in it. Our kids are always above average, good-looking and better than your kids at sports. Right?

I have a new way of thinking that evangelicals are confronting even as I type. This new way of thinking is going on all around us, and one need only look and listen to sense the trouble evangelicals are having as a result. With what you ask?

With the fact that there are now missionaries in America.

***Eye Roll*** ***Repeat***

There are supposed to be churches in America. We’re doing church. We train pastors and youth ministers and music guys to staff those churches. People come to church to worship. We have church. We grow church. We’re the church. You can drive by and see our building. You can read our ad. Our program is on television.

Apparently, there are some problems with this. Apparently there are large segments of America- and considerable sections of the population everywhere- that don’t “do church,” and if the Gospel is restricted to churches, the average church-going-type Christian or church culture in general, it’s not going to be heard by tens of millions of people. Soon, it will be hundreds of millions.

Want to know the saddest, worst part? I don’t think a lot of us really care. If this culture isn’t coming to church to hear the Gospel, then they can just do without. ***I’m offended*** Sorry.

Enter a lot of people who see themselves as missionaries to America. They are in truck stops, coffeeshops, campus ministries, new churches with weird names, creating art and music, filtering into secular callings, finding a place to do something they call “missional” ministry without doing traditional church.

They are, quite simply, missionaries to America and its secular, post-Christian culture.

Now in my home church, we used to have “Missions Week.” Missionaries would come in and talk about what they were doing. They would show slides. Some were starting churches, while some were working with existing churches that couldn’t afford help. We had “home” missionaries in those days. Some worked at race tracks. Some worked with the poor and homeless. And, of course, there were always foreign missionaries, starting a church in a hut, making do with what they had, teaching English or whatever, in order to make a foothold for the Gospel in new and difficult settings.

We always liked those people. I mean, we loved them. We listened, asked questions, took up money, prayed for them, wrote them letters, sent them packages of whatever they needed, and talked about out church’s connection to missions.

When I was a youth specialist, we did inner-city mission trips. We worked with a church that was built in a former dog kennel next door to a chop shop. We worked with a church that the City of Chicago utilized to work with the homeless, mentally ill and addict population downtown. This church was innovative. In fact, I’m not sure they always knew what they were doing, but they were definitely not trying to do church like we did back here in Kentucky. They seemed to wrap everything into the shape of their neighborhood and the people in it. It was our job, as “missionaries” for a week, to become like the community, to think new ways and do new things so the Gospel could be heard.

This church wanted to be a presence in the community, and they did a hundred things a month to make that happen. AA and NA meetings. SUpport groups. Meals. Alternative worship services for ethnic and language groups. MOPS for young moms. Distribution of medication. Offices for social workers. All kinds of programs, ministries and ways to be present in the form of a servant. All done with Jesus Christ at the center of worship, ministry and service.

Back in Kentucky, our church talked about being a “lighthouse” in our community, but we didn’t do any of those things. We didn’t have a meal for the homeless. We had a meal for the suburbanites, and we charged four bucks. We had a youth program to entertain- and evangelize- the teenagers of the church. But if I had suggested going to the projects or the hood and evangelizing down there, the excuses- “it’s dangerous!”- would have been forthcoming.

We had music programs so choirs could sing in our big sanctuary and the older people would be proud. We had huge holiday pageants so that the folks at church would have a meaningful Christmas. We gave lots of money to missionaries, and we had missions study groups for every age, but we didn’t do missions anything like the missionary church we visited in Chicago.

That church in Chicago really messed with the way I thought about church. They were being “missional” before anyone knew the word. They were the “new way of thinking” that is now going on all around us.

The difference is that we aren’t applauding or helping or praying for these new missionaries in America. A lot of evangelicals are scared to death of what they are doing and the thinking behind it. Some evangelicals believe these missionaries are the enemy. They are fisking their web sites, negatively reviewing their books and giving the snarky head-shake to their successes.

Increasingly, we are living, not in a country of churches, but in a country in need of missionaries. While evangelicals build their megachurches, the missionaries to America and the west are going a different direction. The critics may make fun of or denounce these missionary Christians, but they are not going away.

You see, the fields are white unto harvest, and the churches aren’t harvesting, or sending out enough workers. So someone has prayed, and the Lord of the Harvest- Bless His Name!- has sent out workers into the field.

They are missionaries to America. They are all around you. And there are more coming. God is sending them, because God isn’t invested in church culture, church staff or church buildings. The church of Jesus is a cross-cultural movement of church planting. It is a missional movement. For many of us, that is, sadly, new and unknown territory. We want to have our coffeehouse ministry in the church basement, where we know where everything is and everyone that will come in the door. That’s not going to do it anymore.

Let’s welcome these missionaries, encourage them, pray for them and become their allies. Adopt them. Be generous with them. Stop criticizing them because they aren’t like your “favorite pastors.” They are like Peter, Paul, Phillip, Barnabas, Apollos, Priscilla, Aquilla and Titus. They are missionary church planters. May God send them everywhere and give them the success we in our churches are not going to have with most of this culture.

Link to article:  http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-missionary-headache















Communitas 2012 – serving in four communities (3 in New Orleans, 1 outside of Chicago in Valparaiso)



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