In a recent blog I suggested a possible metaphor for consideration as we move forward in developing a better plan for facilitating the work of missions. It was based on the idea of an electrical grid that interconnects systems. The word was interdependence. In an electrical grid these means if you are short on electricity then you can depend on me to help you from my supplies and vice versa.
The key word here is interdependence which is based on creating links and structures that allow all those connected to depend on each other easily and freely.
As I reflected on this word ‘interdependence’ I began to realize that it is an essential part of all that exists. Let me explain briefly.
God as trinity – Each depends on the other to complete their existence. Each has a defined identity and complete access to each. At the same time this interdependence does not diminish nor add to what each is within the trinity.
God and man – By choice God has made this an interdependent relationship. That may sound a bit egotistical but think about it. God has chosen to depend on us to carry out his plan. In doing so we are created to be dependent on him for resources, counsel and more. Obviously God can act outside of our involvement and does control all that is happening and yet at the same time his main channel of action is through us. He has created an interdependence by the vary nature of how he created us.
Jesus and Church – Again we see the fact that God has chosen to limit his action and depend on us to carry out the mission of the church. Jesus is the head and we are the body. He is dependent on us to carry out the plan and purpose of the church and we are dependent on him for direction and more. Along side of this is the idea of a body. All its parts are interdependent. It cannot function properly when this fails to function.
I realize that in some ways I may be oversimplifying this but that is the point. We need to get down the basics that allow creation to function, our relationship with God to function, the church to function, and the church as well.
Now let’s apply this to mission work, more specifically when a person from outside arrives to live and serve in a culture not their own.
From day one there is a need for the development of the structures that allow for this interdependence. There will be times when the flow is clearly more in one direction. That should not surprise us. When a person arrives they are highly dependent on those around them. They depend on the host people to help them learn language, learn culture, learn to live and so many other areas. But they do this in order to build the relationships and structures that will allow the dependence to shift and be able to supply what they have to their hosts.
Now is when things become hazy. There is a great danger that can develop. And unfortunately it happens all too often. The person who has come to share the good news begins to forget how dependent they were and allows the host to become more and more dependent on them. Sadly they forget that they are still dependent on their host in so many areas of life. They will always need help with language, culture, and planning. What happens though is that this becomes undervalued and of no importance to the mission. When in fact it should remain central.
If we lose sight of our dependence, it is possible that we will treat their help as something owed to us because we have more knowledge, more resources, more advanced skills, and so on. Suddenly we are in the world of ethnocentrism, and we may never let them stand on equal ground with us. This behavior and its impact will vary from place to place.
When we began to lose sight of our dependence is when things get complicated. The more the visitor rejects or ignores the local resources and undervalues its value the less likely there will be interdependence. So now when it comes to ministry and development all becomes dependent on the visitor with little concern for what the host may have of value that could be used to provide needed resources.
What development that does occur is to maintain what has been brought in from outside. This means local resources are disconnected and this creates a false view of what really can be done unless we have help from outside. In effect instead of using my power generator you buy your own and bring it to my country. On top of that your generator needs special fuel that is not available locally and so it must be brought in as well.
Now we find ourselves trapped and struggling to figure out how to facilitate the process of turning things over to them because we have not involved them in the process, not built connections to their world, and have no way of accessing what they have because there are no links, no adaptors, and no interest in connecting.
The only way forward will be to go back and maybe have everything dismantled and retooled before we can become interdependent correctly.
What we need to learn is how to build on and develop the dependence we had in the beginning so that it can be a key source in how to move forward. Instead of looking outside we look inside and let them do the work of looking outside. They have a better idea of what may function anyhow. Our task is to let them define how they want to be dependent on us as we learn how to continue to be dependent on them. Interdependence works that way, both working to access what the other has in a way that benefits both and grants the best level of access, the free flow of resources in both directions, that honors and respects what each has to offer.
We start out being dependent and then seek to be independent. This is wrong. Because it then forces them to become dependent on what we create. We need to learn how to continue to be dependent in a way that opens the door to interdependence.
There is so much more to explore in this. My hope is that I have not overly muddied the waters and that we can explore more fully how to become interdependent. How we can become a system or network that responds easily and quickly to each other to supply and receive in both directions the resources that will be needed to move forward in this new concept of world missions.