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Emotional Health and the Facilitator M

How could tools like the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (EHS) course benefit the Facilitator M?  Is it worth the effort as individual Ms and as the sending organization, Global Partners, to promote and offer the 8- or 9-week modules?  There are so many tools at our disposal today.  Individual Ms scour the internet looking for the latest missiological tools.  We attend seminars, listen to podcasts, take advantage of shared leaning opportunities, and conferences, along with reading or listening to the latest books.  So why take the time and invest the effort into committing to an 8-week course?  I would propose that we cannot afford to not make the investment of time and effort.  I also believe that we can garner a number of tools from EHS that apply directly to the idea of Facilitator M and that a number of the ideas, tools, and skills related to EHS make us better facilitators.  Passing on these tools to those we work alongside of may make our co-laborers better facilitators as well.

EHS allows us to take a look at ourselves and the true nature of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  It focuses on who we are, who God is, and the nature of His love for us.  So, how could that make us better facilitators, better missionaries, better friends and co-workers, better and more Christ centered children of The Father?  Let me propose a few ways EHS might help. 

It allows us to focus on that which is unseen.  It enumerates the top 10 symptoms of emotionally unhealthy spirituality and brings to light the emotional and relational luggage we bring into our new life in Christ from our own earthly family.   It helps bring to light how we deal with problems, criticism, confrontation, celebration, fear, anger, and many other emotions and circumstances as well as giving us insight into some of the why’s concerning how we react and respond to others and to situations and to how we view our own failures and successes.  It does more than just point out the problems by suggesting the pathway forward to emotionally healthy spirituality.  

In short this course asks us to 1)know ourselves so that we might know God better, 2)break the power of the past by looking backward in order to go forward, 3)move on through the walls that are holding us back in our emotional/spiritual lives by letting go of power and control, 4)accept/embrace grief and loss by surrendering to our limits, 5)discover the rhythms of daily office and sabbath in order to stop and breathe the air of eternity, 6) grow into an emotionally healthy adult, 6)develop and clarify our rule of life that is realized by loving Christ above all else. 

Within the areas of realizing and clarifying the problem, self-examination, and the pathway to emotional health we’ll discover  practical tools that help us see ourselves as God sees us, relate in love and communion with God through Christ, feel free to “be” instead of the constant need to “do” in order to earn or gain God’s love, act out of love and intention instead of react out of past experience, rest regularly in order to do more,  realize our love for Christ out of being with Him instead of doing for Him (the Mary/Martha principle), embrace God’s desire to see us grow and mature and actually move forward in this instead of entering a push forward then being thrown backward cycle.

You may say, “well that is all well and good, but how does that help us as facilitator Ms?”  First of all, being emotionally healthy and the day-to-day difference that would bring to many of us would be sufficient evidence that it would help us to be better facilitator missionaries.  But on top of that, in our facilitator M roles, we would be able to truly model rest in the Lord, Sabbath taking, healthy problem solving, dealing with disagreements head on and in healthy ways, faith in God and not in ourselves, delegation, giving away power and responsibility, not having to control or be tempted to retake control, allowing failure in order that true success may be achieved, and removing our ego from the ministry that God shares with us.  This allows us to really let God be God in our lives.  It allows me to decrease and Him to increase so that day by day we reflect more of Him and less of ourselves to those we serve and serve with.  It allows us to ask questions we don’t have the answers for and not be anxious that we may appear to be weak or not always right.  This allows us to truly say “how can WE?” and accept the answer, release the control, give away the responsibility, love the person, pass on the baton and in the end hear others ask the question “how can we?”.  Isn’t that what the facilitator M is all about?

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ALWAYS. JUICEBOX. FOREVER.

 

My son's Nicaraguan kindergarten teacher, a sweet Catholic nun that wasn't much taller than her students, smiled at me meekly as she gently pushed a small note with three words written in all caps into my hand. The bell rang and a flood of sweaty five year olds streamed out of the classroom into the open courtyard where mothers were waiting in what little shade they could find in the mid-day sun or under their brightly colored umbrellas. 

Abel rushed out and squeezed my side, his white uniform shirt untucked and stained with dirty fingerprints from playing in the dirt at recess. "Do the kids in your class all drink juice boxes?" I asked. "Yeah! All of them. Except me. The teacher buys me one every day. She's so nice." 

I sighed, a bit embarrassed. It was a small "mom fail" but it still was disheartening. Abel's teacher had her hands full with a student that didn't speak Spanish and a mother that didn't either. 

- - -

We were weaving our way through the snarling traffic of Managua, dodging horse carts, expensive Land Rovers, street vendors, and the constant swarm of motorcycles. 

Abel was bleeding profusely from a cut on his forehead and needed stitches. We hurried him into the ER but I struggled to communicate. How could I explain, with the few Spanish words that I had, that my son was running through the house in a Spider man costume that was too big for him and he had slipped on a pant leg and hit is head on the toilet? I couldn't. They stitched him up and we were on our way. He didn't need a major surgery but it was unsettling to know that I didn't have the vocabulary to clearly share my son's medical history with a doctor. 

- - -

"He won't write his name," Abel's teacher patiently explained to me in a slow but non-patronizing manner. We were back in the kindergarten room and I glanced down at some of his papers. "MAX" was scrawled on at least a dozen of them. 

I grinned. Abel adored the book "Where the Wild Things Are" which is about a boy named Max that loves to wear costumes, go on adventures, and make mischief. I often read him the book at night and sometimes we teased about how I knew a boy that also is very similar to Max.

I wanted to explain Abel: to demonstrate that he wasn't just being a naughty kid and show how he had a huge imagination and identifies deeply with a character in a book but my grammar level didn't allow for it. I said that I would talk to Abel and nodded. I knew how to solve the immediate problem with the teacher but couldn't solve Abel's (perhaps my?) problem of being misunderstood.

- - -

It's been nine years since those first challenging and overwhelming times that left me uncertain and vulnerable. Thankfully my Spanish has improved and I can go to parent teacher conferences and to doctors' visits with ease. Abel's Spanish is even better than my own and he has found his way. He's still imaginative and once in a while gets into mischief of one sort or another, but he has the cultural skills to explain himself. I am no longer shouldering the awkward and sometimes terrifying burden of having adult responsibilities with toddler level language skills.

But there have been times lately, maybe due to the pandemic, maybe due to raising four teenagers, maybe due to the isolation of being cut off from flights, teams, family, and friends, that I have felt the weight of having adult responsibilities but at times what has felt like toddler level faith. I have been pushed to new limits and it's uncomfortable. I need to grow and to learn but it's humbling and not in a way that is beautiful like being quiet at sunset and realizing how small we are in the universe, but in a way that's like being sunburned with skin that is peeling, raw, and ugly.

This Lenten season maybe you are like me, not exactly the poster of missionary parent perfection. Maybe you are shouldering adult responsibilities but with toddler level coping skills due to burnout, toddler level theology to deal with the profound suffering, political division, and angst around you, or toddler level patience due to having kids on Zoom classes in subjects that you never even took in high school. Maybe you were even too tired to acknowledge Lent let alone give something up. 

God is with us in our weariness. In our weakness. In our crankiness. We are understood and we'll come out of this season differently than when we entered it, hopefully deeper in our faith and love for each other. 

"We always come at Lent like we are going to shape God. Like we are going to tell him all about our willpower and our devotion to Him...God takes our plans and pushes them further this season. He pulls them apart and puts them back together. In so many ways, Lent is the season when Jesus shapes us." -Sarah Condon

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Asking Questions and Providing Information

A key role of a facilitator is to find a balance between these two activities. And their unique relation can make this challenging.

Questions grow out of two sources. One of these is the information that a person receives which creates in them questions. They want to understand the information better. They want to know how to apply and adapt it to their world.

Another is the desire to find information. There is an awareness that information is missing and the person asks questions with the purpose of filling in the blanks, to get the information they seek so they can ask more questions. And so they can evaluate what they know, what they have learned, and how it relates to their world.

Truthfully no question is formed in a vacuum. They are always formed based on what is known or what is not known. Children are famous for the latter when they start asking how and why and so on. They know there is information they need and they ask questions. At times so many questions a parent gets a little frustrated.  

Providing information then is the process of providing what is needed so that questions can be formed and answered. 

This is the aspect of questions from the side of the one seeking information.

Then there is the person who has information. They have several options, provide the information requested, provide some information and help the person find the rest, and ask questions to explore what the person already knows, what information they have, and to help process how to use what they know. This process can also help define what information needs to be provided for the process to continue.

There is a danger in the forming of questions. And both sides have to evaluate this issue. Both those involved have background, experience, knowledge and so on which will impact how they formulate their questions. This creates a context which is also deeply rooted in the culture and history of both parties.

The one seeking knowledge will formulate their questions from this context. The authority, the one being asked with do the same, no matter if it is in supplying the information or asking other questions. And the authority needs to be aware that even in asking questions they will reflect their preferences and concepts of what is needed. This cannot be avoided. It is not wrong. It is life. We never ask a question in this setting without some kind of background noise or expectation. The key is to not let it take control if the conversation goes down a different path than the one expected or desired by either party.

I have heard many talk about how Jesus was great at asking questions. And yes he was. But he was also very accomplished in providing information. The sermon on the mount is filled with information. He told parables and when the disciples asked him to explain he did so. One of those was his explanation of the sower. He also provided information on the kingdom of heaven. He also instructed the disciples in what to do when he sent them out on two occasions to proclaim the coming of the kingdom. Then later he revised that instruction related to how they should carry out the same task after his resurrection.

He was asked what the greatest commandment was and he answered that question and then added more information than was requested. When with the disciples for the last supper he provided extensive information for them to consider and remember.

Yes he asked questions and he also answered them. He also provided information that would open the door to the disciples asking questions which he often answered. Jesus was not afraid to provide the information which would create the background which opened the way for the disciples to ask questions. Often in areas they had not been thinking about.

One interesting one was when he was teaching on loving your neighbor and was asked who my neighbor is. He answered that question by telling a story and when he finished, he asked the person who the true neighbor in the story was. When the person answered Jesus then gave a further instruction to him to go and do the same. This combination of questions and information changed the concept of who my neighbor is.

To be honest I have lots of questions and I have received a lot of information over the years via, classes, books, seminar, conversations, and personal study. I don’t accept every answer at face value. But I am not afraid to receive answers so that I can think more clearly about how to answer the questions I was asking.

We need both. We need information to help get us going in forming and answering questions. And we need questions to help define the information needed to move forward in answering the question.

It I an important balance that must be developed each time we come together to do any planning and development. It is especially important as we look at the process of being facilitators. To learn to match information to questions and questions to information so both parties can grow and own the process of doing the best kingdom work possible.

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Does GP need a new model for sending M’s?

The Facilitator M blog has been engaging the conversation on global macrotrends and their impact on missions sending. This post continues that theme. Specifically, it is part 2 of a miniseries on Marketplace Multipliers, following Dr. Wayne Schmidt’s post.

Lately, I’ve been a part of several conversations that have led me to ask the question, “Does GP need a new model for sending M’s?” Here is a sampling, with names changed:

  • George and Erika were a couple mobilizing through GP. They were going to a creative access country to start a business that had the potential to be profitable, but would require some startup capital. They found it stressful to raise both their personal support and raise a large sum of project funds for their missional business. Also, if the business was wildly successful, it seemed to create a dilemma – would supporters question why they were providing missionary support so a couple running a successful business? Does the missionary support paradigm—which ensures a consistent salary—dilute the profit motive necessary for a small business entrepreneur to be successful? 
  • Tom was part of a small missions organization in Korea. He was a recent graduate of Wesley Seminary who wanted coaching and accountability. He wanted to join team GP. At present, the only way for him to join our team would have been for him to mobilize and raise his support. But, he already had his salary needs covered, so our current model didn’t really fit his scenario. 
  • Jack and Cindy wanted to go to another creative access country. Cindy was an ordained Wesleyan Pastor, and she wanted to join team GP wherever she landed. Jack worked for a multi-national tech firm, and he was confident his boss would honor his request to place him in this creative access country. However, once again, this couple would not fully fit the assumptions in our current mobilization pathway, because they would not need to raise support and only one spouse would be fully team GP (this has since been alleviated by the “Covenant Spouse” category). 
  • David had a successful background in the finance industry. He and his family were doing well financially when they decided to move to Rwanda to start an investment fund designed to promote kingdom businesses. David asked what it would take to join GP – he wanted the accountability of a network of missional thinkers. Once again, our current pathway didn’t fully scratch the itch for David’s situation.

There are a lot of things our current mobilization pathway does extremely well. The issue is not that our current model is not working; it’s that our current model is not designed to serve the broad kingdom force we want to platform. 

In order to see the Marketplace Multiplier movement reach its full potential—where both clergy and lay are living out their God-given purpose—we need an additional pathway. For the sake of this discussion, we’ll call the new proposed model the “Marketplace Multiplier” (MM) pathway.

 

Global Realities Calling for The Marketplace Multiplier Pathway

As we step back to consider global macrotrends that are impacting GP, there are several that suggest an additional sending pathway is in order. These realities include:

  • The majority of unreached people live in countries closed to our traditional pathways.
  • Religious worker visas are becoming increasingly rare. Most countries look more favorably on expats who contribute to the economy, create jobs, or meet an identified humanitarian need. Even countries without a history of hostility toward the gospel are making it harder for missionaries to obtain long-term visas.
  • The costs of sending long-term missionaries are increasing.
  • The number of missionaries deployed through GP’s current pathway is declining.
  • We are not positioned to optimally serve a growing market of people from a variety of vocations who want to engage in the global mission.
  • In the context of Everywhere to Everywhere (E2E), our traditional sending org model may seem unattainable and irreplicable for developing churches. As others posting in this series have mentioned, we need to help national leaders visualize what we mean when we encourage them to start sending missionaries. If there are

 

Proposed Solution: Create a new missionary-sending pathway, designed specifically for professionals and entrepreneurs.

The Marketplace Multiplier pathway would be available to those who are passionate about Global Partners' mission, but who do not fit our typical funding model.

The benefits to the Associate Missionary include support in preparation, mobilization, fundraising, leadership coaching and accountability, wellness services, and teamwork. The benefit to GP is that it moves us closer to having a transforming presence in every community.

This initiative could represent several positional shifts:

  • Revenue: GP operations funding would shift from fee-based to subscription-based.
  • Purpose: GP shifts from providing oversight to providing training and services.
  • Market: We shift from attracting ministry majors/vocations to a wide variety of vocation.
  • E2E: We position ourselves with more replicable model for new sending countries to emulate, or perhaps even franchise.

The above shifts are overly simplified generalities. We would in fact continue to invest most of our resources in supporting our current pathway. But I think it’s helpful to succinctly and clearly differentiate how the new model could look compared to our current model.

Examples of those who could be mobilized:

  • A well-financed entrepreneur from the US developing sustainable business in Africa
  • A recent college grad teaching in a developed country
  • A couple starting a Cross-Fit gym in a creative access country
  • An executive with a large software firm that gets a job placement offer in Asia
  • An independent Wesleyan minister seeking to join a larger team and leave a more lasting legacy

These are all people that see their work as missional and want some of the benefits we offer to missionaries. However, unlike most missionaries, they don’t need to raise their salary. Launching the Marketplace Multiplier pathway allows us to equip and engage a workforce we are currently not able to serve. This shift could provide structural and systematic support to our best intentions to launch a kingdom force of many different professions into cross-cultural missional engagement.

 

What are your initial reactions to the idea of a new Marketplace Multipliers pathway? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments.

 

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Mega Shifts - Marketplace Multipliers

I am thankful for every opportunity I get to learn from missionaries and the global Church.  The shifts in the practice of missions that you are now seeing, or anticipate seeing in the near future, are valuable for those of us serving in North America as well. Those shifts include the development of nontraditional sending pathways, and may include “mobile marketplace multipliers” (globally mobile Christ-followers) who are intentionally seeking to be kingdom multipliers in the workplace wherever they may be.

Over the past few years, and especially the past year, a “Marketplace Multipliers” (MM) movement is gaining momentum.  It is led by MM’s who every day seek to integrate their faith with their work and steward their influence in order to make disciples through workplace relationships.  You can sense their joy in each spiritual conversation, each opportunity to pray with someone, each open door to share the Gospel, and each investment in someone to deepen and strengthen their ability to “keep in step with the Spirit.”

The MM Strategy Team is truly a Kingdom Force – multigenerational, multiethnic, multieconomic, women and men, lay (with pastoral encouragement and “sending”), everywhere to everywhere. 

I’m privileged to work alongside them.  I grew up in the home of a “marketplace multiplier” – my dad was a blue collar craftsman who specialized in building custom cabinets for our family construction business.  I started working with him when I was 12 – and in the workplace watched him leverage his credibility developed through personal integrity and professional excellence to influence others to take a next step with Jesus. 

For over 36 years my accountability partner and I have met every other week.  Paul is definitely a white collar guy who owns a wealth management firm.  Conversations about money have a way of opening doors for spiritual conversations, since where your treasure is, there your heart is also.  He is as called to making disciples through workplace relationships as I am in the context of the Church.

So all my life I’ve seen the difference a person can make in the marketplace.  It’s a ministry approach at least as old as the book of Acts. 

Our MM movement is rooted in the local church.  A local church “chapter” meets quarterly, co-hosted by a pastor and a MM in the church.  We view it as an “Ezra-Nehemiah” partnership. An MM chapter includes people in all kinds of workplace contexts and roles, who with intentionality and creativity transform everyday places into ministry spaces.

As I write this blog we have 36 local church MM chapters – over 10% of them Spanish-language.  In their quarterly meetings they seek to “spur one another on to love and good deeds.”  They pray together; engage in peer learning opportunities related to integrating their faith with their work and stewarding their influence to make disciples; and fan the flames of their calling to make disciples beyond the walls of the church as they are “sent out” by their church.

The global spread is already happening.  Yaremi Acevedo (a global marketer with a large pharmaceutical firm) is connecting with Rev. Hector Perez in Colombia for the MM movement in Iberoamerica.  Earl McJett (who works for the U.S. government with a focus on IT access for those with disabilities) is connecting with Seema Justin in India. 

We’ve yet to “publicly launch.”  We refer to our present chapters and global relationships as our “launch team.”  The book Marketplace Multipliers: Stories of Faith and Influence in the Workplace with Dave Drury is 17 MM’s each telling their story to inspire others (available in English and Spanish).  A podcast featuring MM’s and including the affirmation of their pastors has released its first 10 episodes.  A webpage is morphing into a website (www.marketplacemultipliers.com) .  The North America “virtual launch event” is April 17, with international versions following shortly thereafter.  All accomplished by volunteers and donors believing God for a marketplace disciple-making movement.

I’m thankful Ben Ward will provide a follow up post to put it in a missions/global context.  Our MM’s love working and learning together with missionaries and nationals so that the MM movement might spread everywhere to everywhere.

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Mega Shifts - More About Polycentric Missions

Poly and Mono – sounds like a disease (I did it again. Changed the terminology. In this case from Uni to Mono. Works better for my illustrations but concept is similar, one)

It is not a disease or two forms of a disease. Well maybe for us it could be. It would be like two viruses. One with a single manner of attaching itself and so easier to control and the other with multiple avenues to attach and so more difficult to manage.

Before we go any further we do need to make something clear. Missions is a mono centric structure. There is only one head of all that we do no matter where we do it and that is the Lord. He is the head and coordinates all that happens. And the body of the church is a bit poly centric. Many pieces with their individual skills working together.

Now that we have that clear in our minds let us look at the idea of mono centric. In general, the concept here is a top-down structure where authority and decision making is in a centralized location. A mission agency directs the activities of missions in multiple countries and establishes protocols so that major decisions and actions are submitted up a chain of command type structure for approval.

This is how many missions have operated in the past. A church or denomination has a department of missions with a person as its head. And even the head in certain situations must seek the approval of the governing body for that organization. This department is the main or only source of missionaries to all the fields in which it works. They do teach local missions in the form of church planting but very little international or cross-cultural missions.

The idea of poly centric is to move this decision-making process, authority to act, and sending of missionaries to a number of bodies or structures. So instead of just the north American missions as the head we might have multiple regions or countries that all work independently and only come together when it relates to something that all must approve of or act on. So all are equal and all have equal input into any major denominational decisions.

But is there only one type of poly centric structure?

This is the obvious one, where each region or country functions independently of the others. Each working out its own vision, its own finances, and own training programs. Everyone has to duplicate everything in order to function.

Could there be another type of cooperative poly centric structure? One that allows those with key abilities to develop that area and then make it available for the use of others.

In this format multiple entities work together pooling their resources to accomplish a given goal. An example of this would be the Regional Conferences of Iberoamerica. Here 19 countries have come together to pool knowledge, resources, and people to accomplish what one country alone could not do. There is a central council and a central missions board to help coordinate the activity.

For my illustration I will use the missions board. The focus of this board is to facilitate the activity of missions in all of the countries of the conference to accomplish two central tasks. The first is to provide critical resources for all to use. All of the countries contribute to this and all benefit. This will allow the region to provide training from a central system that will be available to all. It also provides a guideline for preparation of cross-cultural workers inside and outside of the region.

Another aspect of this is the development of a new youth/adult camping program. The central idea is the teaching of missions and preparation of people to serve at home and outside of their country. Each country that adopts the idea is free to adapt it to their setting. And while there are different ways to do this, the vision is the same, preparing people for missions. The result is that a whole new generation is being exposed to missions.

It is also making possible uniting these many countries to send missionaries to places where the resources of one country is not enough. The current example is the plan to send missionaries to a Muslim country. There are two candidates from two countries being financed to go by the region.

The second aspect of this is to strengthen the ability of individual countries to do missions. There are multiple examples of this which involve work among indigenous groups to foreign missions. Locally Colombia is establishing training sites to aid in training people to work among Muslims and Indigenous groups. Brazil is planting a church in East Timor. Costa Rica and Nicaragua have combined to send missionaries to Honduras.

Another way this could play out is countries with resources working to help those that don’t have that resource and seek help in developing it. This takes the form of people from those countries visiting those wanting to establish or develop a specific area or ministry to improve their ability to do missions internally and externally. Or it could be summit events where key leaders come together to share their knowledge to help each other.

The point is the source of the activity is no longer mono centric but coming from multiple centers.

The poly centric can be everyone doing their thing. But I would prefer to see a poly centric structure that allows all to contribute to the central work of missions. A system that values the input of all and builds on that.

This idea could help us greatly in the areas of cross-cultural training, missions development, literature development, and theological education. There maybe other areas but these stand out.

We are seeing these types of structures develop in Iberoamerica and the Southern Africa region where a group of national churches have and are coming together to help each other carry out the E2E.

A key issue will be letting go of the mono centric concept of everything flows down from above and consider how everything can well up from below. Rain falls down but the source of rain is the process of the water evaporating from below to replenish what has been given. Maybe a poor analogy but that is the idea. No one functions without the input and help of the other.

Our task then would be to focus on helping more of them be able to stand on their own and be able to make contributions to the whole process involved in making this shift.

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Mega shifts - Moving Toward a Polycentric Mission Sending Model

In one unspecified Asian country (UAC), a Newer Sending Country (NSC1), recent indigenous mission sending activity traces its start as far back as to the beginnings of the 20th century. However, according to a review of published recent activity from this country, many mission sending difficulties remain. Numerous potential applicants for missionary service from this country have lacked competency in the language and culture of their target countries. Many lack the professional skills that they will need to establish a platform for service.2 Church leaders in the Middle East have stressed that future missionaries from this Asian country to their part of the world should first acquire some sort of professional status and have in-depth understanding of Islamic culture (Peter 2004, 7-8). However, the current state of readiness of some of these NSC missionary trainees fell well short of these ideals.

This writer’s personal observation with many … trainees was that they are mostly young people from 20 to 25 years of age with an average education of junior school to senior high school. Only a few have some college education. Most of them come from rural areas with little experience in city life, and almost none had any cross-culture experience outside of [UAC] prior their joining the program for training. Almost all lack any professional skill. Also almost all of them, though rich in church ministry experience, had virtually no experience in the secular work place (Chan 2009, 75).

He previously had recorded the following story:

A missionary has recently communicated with the writer that in Iraq he had encountered a group of [NSC] missionaries from rural [UAC]. To his surprise, these [NSC] missionaries have no knowledge about Iraq, certainly no language skill. Furthermore, these [NSC] missionaries are pig farmers, not the most welcoming profession in the Muslim world (Chan 2005, 74).

These NSC missionaries, though passionate Christians, have lacked cultural and linguistic competence. Though the church in this Asian country feels called to take the Gospel into the 10/40 Window, according to Kim-kwong Chan writing in 2009, “It will require a lot more serious missiological and spiritual groundwork before it (UAC) can become a credible and sustainable mission movement bearing impact on global Christianity” (2009, 78).

Growing Abilities of UAC Missionaries to Culturally Contextualize

I recently interviewed eleven UAC long-term missionaries exploring challenges experienced in the context of service. In these missionary conversations, I found evidence of a growing ability of these NSC missionaries to culturally contextualize, and a growing maturity of the mission sending movement from this Asian country.

Language and culture challenges NSC missionaries currently navigate are similar to challenges missionaries have faced throughout history (MI#2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,12). Interviewees possessed varying degrees of language proficiency and language learning aptitude, but generally functioned more highly in these areas than my literature review-based expectations. They were intentional in their language acquisition efforts, and their diligent study, whether in Arabic (MI#2), Khmer (MI#7), Indonesian (MI#5), or one of the minority ethnic UAC dialects (MI#3), bore fruit. The interviewed missionaries understood the nuances of local culture (e.g., worship styles, direction to face when praying), and implemented mature strategies to cross cultural boundaries (e.g., abstaining from pork) in order to build relationships (MI#3,4,6). One such challenge involved personal hygiene and the custom of UAC people to use slippers and toilet tissue when visiting the bathroom.

When we were in Indonesia, they just used the bathroom in bare feet… no slippers for the bathroom or for the kitchen, and then they wore nothing on their feet when they went back to the bedroom…I feel you should wear slippers to the bathroom. They don’t, so their feet are dirty. And no tissue is used in the bathroom, just hands and water. Oh, my! At the time I just could not accept this at all…so dirty, and then, using those same hands to eat! I couldn’t accept it at all- very painful. Really, I felt towards that culture and tradition…Sigh! My feet, later I looked at my feet… extremely dirty, you know? But everything was like this. Everything was like that, so I couldn’t be the exception. I could not draw attention to my culture nor could I make a point of showing how dignified I was or the kind of education I received. I couldn’t say those things. All you could do was adjust yourself, to change to be like them. (MI#5)

The interviewed missionaries endeavored to walk among and become like the people they served, eating and working with them, learning their special terminology, and becoming insiders in local language and culture in order to more effectively win a hearing for the Gospel message.

Intercultural studies were a strong component of the missionary training programs that some of the interviewees experienced. One missionary expounded,

When we eat, we do not want to just eat one course at a time. There must be a balance. We don’t just want to focus on the Bible and prayer only. We need to study the language and the culture. (MI#9)

Two missionaries studied at a special school tailored to the needs of UAC minority peoples (MI#4,12). Because the students represented so many different minority ethnicities, learners were able to gain first-hand practical experience with intercultural issues even while listening to didactic content. Formal teaching covered a wide variety of areas including how to preach to Muslims (MI#4), how to dress Malaysian style (MI#5), and how to eat unfamiliar food (MI#5). Passages from the Koran were read (MI#4). Literature on culture shock was examined (MI#8,9). One missionary training program placed missionary candidates among Buddhist people for six weeks (MI#6), later strategically relocating them in a predominantly Muslim area where they could again experience the discomfort of new surroundings. Candidates were required to make and visit friends, exchange phone numbers, etc. The instructors understood that intense culture shock experienced during training can help to avert more serious culture shock after a missionary goes abroad to begin long-term service (MI#6).

One NSC missionary stated that she used to think that just a passion for the Lord and prayerful proclamation of the Gospel were enough. Now she feels that knowledge needs to go hand in hand with a love for God (MI#5). She cited as an example Matteo Ricci and the way his science opened the Ming dynasty court to the Gospel. Jesus understood the problems of the fishermen. He answered questions posed by well-educated Pharisees. Without knowledge, it is possible to boldly preach the wrong thing. After completing theological studies in Singapore, she felt she understood why sustainability for missionary service from UAC was difficult to achieve. The UAC church needs to develop not only an indigenous UAC theology, but also an UAC slant on missiology that will sustainably carry these NSC missionaries into the world (MI#5).

In summary, among the interviewed missionaries, there is evidence of a more thorough training, greater language ability, and greater cultural sensitivity than what has been noted historically. These changes bode well for the UAC mission sending movement and hold out the potential of a possible more robust contribution by the UAC church to the cause of global Gospel advance. This kind of forward progress is encouraging as a prototype for what is happening and what can happen in other NSC as the global church moves toward a polycentric mission sending model (“Everywhere to Everywhere”).

_______________

[1] NSC (Newer Sending countries) is a term borrowed from the ReMAP study (World Evangelical Fellowship Missions Commission 1997). Newer sending countries, according to ReMAP, include: South Korea, Nigeria, Ghana, Brazil, Costa Rica, India, the Philippines, and Singapore. In this discussion, I use the term to designate those countries with relatively less experience in missionary sending, and do not limit the term only to these eight countries.

[1] Missionary candidate selection is a crucial factor in long term success on the mission field. Chan states, “The potential impact of the [NSC missionaries] on the Islamic world, at least in the immediate future, will be severely restricted by the limited availability of qualified candidates, rather than by the sheer quantity of missionaries sent” (2009, 75). 

 

References

Chan, Kim-Kwong. 2005. "Missiological Implications of Chinese Christianity in a Globalized Context." Quest: 55-74.

Chan, Kim-kwong. 2009. Mission Movement of the Christian Community in Mainland China: The Back to Jerusalem Movement (Draft).

edinburgh2010.oikoumene.org, http://www.edinburgh2010.org/fileadmin/files/edinburgh2010/files/pdf/Kim-Kwong%20Chan%202009-2-28.pdf.

Elkins, P., Lewis, J., and Van Meter, J. 2003. Three Part Missionary Tracking Guide. WEA: Missions Commission.

Peter, Brother. 2004. Interview from the Land of the Pharaohs. Back To Jerusalem Bulletin, December, 7-8.

World Evangelical Fellowship Missions Commission. 1997. Too Valuable to Lose: Exploring the Causes and Cures of Missionary Attrition. Edited by William D. Taylor, Globalization of Missions Series. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.

 

 

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Mega shifts – A word of caution

I would like to ask us to pause a moment and consider what this term means. I am not sure I am totally comfortable with the term or what it suggests.

If I am not mistaken it suggests a large shift from one place or concept to something different in a significant way. It also suggests polarity as if being on one side of the shift negates or excludes whatever of value was on the other side of the sift. It suggests switching from one thing to another and so leaving behind something. I don’t like these possible interpretations of the idea of a mega shift. A shift that is more than huge. I will stop here with my dislike for the term.

In some groups, the phrase used is a paradigm shift. The replacing of one conceptual model with another. I like this phrase better. It does not always involve replacing all the content with new content. A paradigm shift is about refocusing. It involves shifting the priorities of the content. And sometimes it does involve replacing old content with new or adding new to the old.

Think of a car in its basic function. Four wheels, motor, carriage, you know the basics. Then you can start adding and upgrading from there. The beauty is that you can modify this object in so many ways to adapt to so many situations and still it is a car. Enough of the analogy.

As we move forward, we are going to be discussing areas where we may need to shift our thinking. We may need new paradigms, ways in which we prioritize what must be done, how it should be done, and what will work best. It is not shifting from here to there but shifting things around so they function better in each setting. Think of furniture and the context of a house. You can use the same furniture in different houses, but put you may use or place it differently in each house depending on how the house is laid out. This may also mean adding and removing pieces based on that layout and size of the house.

We need to bring this concept to our discussion and allow ourselves to see the value of both aspects of the topics that will be covered.

This also leads me to one other concept I am not comfortable when we use the word shift. Shift suggests moving from here to there. It suggests a concept of either/or. This may not be a good concept for what we need to be processing. This is because both sides of the shift being discussed may contain concepts and ideas that are useful and necessary. In this case, we need to think of both/and as the guiding concept. Again the paradigm concept I am using of reorganizing and reprioritizing according to a given setting and context.

There are times when such shifts will be subtle and barely obvious and yet can have a great impact. There are other times when the shifts will be significant and will unsettle people as they are carried out. It all depends on where we are and what needs to happen for the shift to effectively accomplish what is needed.

Are you hearing my concerns? Mega shifts sound exciting but may actually not work or be beneficial because of what may be lost in moving in such a drastic and exclusive manner. Mega shifts may result in the loss of essential and critical truth if one is only focused on the need to change and not thinking carefully about just how much change is needed.

Finally, and I am probably repeating myself, we cannot assume that every topic we will discuss will apply equally to every situation. Even as every child is different and how we discipline and encourage them is different, every situation needs that same kind of attention and insight so that what shifts are made, and how great they are, match the reality of what exists and what is needed to move forward.

We have quite a challenge before us. We are being asked to evaluate what we have and think about what changes should/must be made for our organization to be truly effective going forward. I pray that what we learn as we process these topics and others will provide the guidance needed for our future growth and development as followers of Jesus.

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MISSIONS MEGASHIFTS

“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.

Missions Megashifts

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?

Confessions

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.

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Thoughts on Transition

When I hear the word transition, the first image that pops in my mind is that of delivering a baby.   When we were expecting our first child, we decided to be the brave “Natural Childbirth” folks.  After all, during those days it had become almost a test of one’s spirituality.  So of course, we needed to comply. 

Wayne and I faithfully attended the classes. I practiced the breathing exercises and he was the eager coach.  On about the 4th  class we began to hear about this thing  called “transition”.  It is the final part of the birth process.   The teacher did finally note that transition would be something different.  Using the word pain was against the rules.  But I began to read between the lines and realized this was going to be tough.  However, always assured that if I practiced the proper breathing, I would get through this and the joy of birth would outweigh this difficult time. 

Well, I would like to say I was a hero, and all was bliss.  I did not need anyone to announce to me that I had hit transition.  I knew and it was not as had been described.  I was exhaling when I should have been inhaling. I wanted to get up and run out of the room thinking that would make it all go away. I was losing control. I still wanted the power, but alas the baby won.    

There are a few principles I have observed and experienced over the years regarding transition that are not unlike that of having a baby.

1. Leaders not facing the reality of transition. In this state, many leaders ignore the future of transition.    They believe that somehow God will bring in the next person at that time.   But I have seen them blind to the leader God has provided and want to hang onto the power. 

 2. Leaders talking of transition too early.   Making it known that they are looking for someone to take their place.   This style causes a culture of tentativeness and even competition.  I have observed the vision being lost in something of a power struggle.

3. Leaders naming a replacement without a time frame. This creates several dilemmas.  The “leader in waiting” gets restless, starts critiquing systems and the leader starts getting his/her own following. 

4. Leaders naming a replacement privately with the selected person. As time moves along and the leader works with the person, it becomes apparent this person cannot be the replacement.  So the replacement is let go.  This creates friction, distrust, and division. 

However,  the next time around with childbirth transition was much easier.   I cooperated with the baby.  (the future)

There are some positive leadership transitions that are much like my second childbirth experience. 

1. Leaders consult those around him/her as to the future as they see it. For example, all cultures are changing and a leader for a certain time is not the leader for the future. It involves the community as opposed to a top-down decision.

2. This is followed by a “working group” of some type to determine needs of the future leader.

3. Some transitions consist of both the old and the new working together for a while. However, it is imperative that the old go on to something else after the transition  is complete and this arrangement is timely – Not to long – Trust is transferred.

I am hoping that the principles mentioned as well as the metaphor of childbirth will engage further creative conversation far beyond what I have written.  

OF COURSE, AT THE TOP OF ALL THIS IS THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  Listening and Submitting to our LORD.    I love how the Lord speaks through community.

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