“The only thing that is constant is change.” - Heraclitus
“We can’t control the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” - Anonymous
I doubt that the originator of the second quote was a GP m, but it could have been. GP as an organization is being pushed by megatrends over which we have no control, but we do control our response to them. We can try to stand against the winds of change, which ultimately is an act of self- destruction. History is replete of examples of businesses (and churches) that refused to change and eventually became obsolete and disappeared off the scene. Or we can adjust to those winds and use their energy to propel us forward.
Change is inevitable. A basic premise of Tom Steffen’s book (The Facilitator Era) is that the missions world is in the middle of a major paradigm shift – and mission agencies must adjust to the shift or else become increasingly irrelevant and eventually cease to exist. GP will either choose to try to battle the wind or will adjust its sails and embrace fresh ministry paradigms.
Over the coming weeks many of the Facilitator M blog posts will focus on specific “missions megashifts” that are part of a new paradigm. These posts will be part predictive and part prescriptive. They will be predictive in the sense that they will describe the direction the winds of change are pushing us and where we are likely to end up even if we resist those winds. They will be prescriptive in suggesting ways in which GP can “adjust our sails” to embrace a new paradigm for even greater missional impact.
“Missions” shifts; the “Mission” is constant.
The mission of the church as expressed in the Great Commission is to “make disciples of all nations”. By extension, that is the mission that drives the Wesleyan Church and Global Partners. That mission will remain the same until Christ returns regardless of whatever winds may blow.
GP’s stated mission of “amplifying local church mission for global transformation” seeks to define GP’s role within the overarching mission. That mission statement is subject to redefinition over time. Our current mission statement would not be how WWM/GP saw its role earlier in our history but reflects a changing paradigm and is more in line with where I believe GP will be in the coming era.
While the “mission” is constant, “missions” (the way we go about fulfilling the mission) must shift from time to time or else we are in danger of no longer being true to the mission itself.
Going back to the analogy of adjusting our sails - When setting sail, a navigator plots a course to the desired destination based on the unchanging points of the compass. Winds may blow from many directions and it becomes the task of the sailors to continually adjust the sails in order to stay on track. Technologies have changed (north star – compass – sextant – GPS) but the process of navigation is fundamentally unchanged – reaching one’s destination being guided by the constants and changing one’s tack as needed. Thus it is with the mission and missions. The mission is our guiding constant but how we do missions continually shifts as we seek to be true to the mission.
Subsequent Facilitator M blog posts will explore some of these shifts in greater detail, but to whet your appetite, here are some megashifts that I believe are and will be taking place (predictive), and that I believe that we need to embrace as we pursue the unchanging mission (prescriptive).
- From a denominational “arm” to a central focus;
- From an expansive bureaucratic structure to a streamlined functional entity;
- From a sending organization to a networking organization;
- From traditional fully supported m’s to mobile marketplace multipliers;
- From a control posture to a facilitative posture[i];
- From denominational expansion to kingdom building;
- From a Church Planting Movement (CPM) to a Disciple Making Movement (DMM);
- From North American administrative oversight of global church development and accountability to regional oversight of global church development and accountability;
- From foreign missions to diaspora missions[ii];
- From unicentric and unidirectional missions to polycentric and poly-directional missions[iii];
What are the biggest shifts you see us making as we “adjust our sails” to the winds of our changing time?
As we launch into an examination of the missions megashifts, I should make a couple of confessions.
Confession #1: I am a traditionalist through and through. I can make a strong case (biblically, theologically, practically) for continuing to do missions the way we used to. Some of the shifts I see coming our way make me extremely uncomfortable. It almost feels like I’m compromising or surrendering to heresy if I “adjust my sails” to the winds of change.
Confession #2: I am optimistic and excited about the trajectory for the global Wesleyan Church in the days ahead. What appear to be “contrary winds” right now may propel us into greater effectiveness in fulfilling the mission of making disciples of all nations than we’ve seen in the past 130 years.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” - C. S. Lewis
[i] Steffen, T. (2011). The facilitator era. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.
[ii] Tira, S. J. (2020). Scattered and gathered: A global compendium of diaspora missiology. Carlisle, UK: Langham Global Library.
[iii] Yeh, A. L. (2016). Polycentric missiology: Twenty first century mission from everyone to everywhere. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.