Five Trends Changing the Future of Missions

Republished with permission from Baptist Bulletin July/Aug 2011. All rights reserved.

The year 1985 introduced the movie Back to the Future. In the 26 years since its debut, people have enjoyed the film, its sequels, and its spin-offs (an animated series, a theme park ride, a video game, and a website). The movie tells about young Marty McFly, who accidentally goes back in time, driving Doc Brown’s modified DeLorean sports car outfitted with the famed “flux capacitor.” The film’s somewhat predictable plot presents the idea that past decisions determine future trends.

Maybe believers can do more than just enjoy Back to the Future; maybe they can learn something from it! Maybe, just maybe, future trends are indeed the result of past realities.

Applying that idea to global missions requires the question, Could identifiable current realities change the future of how we do missions? A look at some of the tendencies in today’s culture can help identify major influences facing the future of missions and perhaps even ministry in general.

Here then are five predictable future trends based upon current influences.

The Growing Influence of Millennials

According to the United Nations, over one billion youth live in the world today; that means one person in five is between the ages of 15 and 24 (www.un.org/events/youth98/backinfo/yreport.htm). Another source puts it this way: “The world is experiencing a marked shift in demographics. High levels of population growth in developing regions such as Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean means countries here have rising proportions of youth (aged 0–14)” (http://blog.euromonitor.com/2008/11/special-report-global-youth-populati…).

Within 12 years, the total population of the world will have grown by a billion people.

The millennial generation will change things significantly, and the massive size of this generation will predictably change the way missions will operate for decades and decades to come. Historically, ministry trends always follow significant population growth, and that will also happen with the current demographic explosion. Not only will the size of the millennial generation change the way missions operates, but the basic mind-set of millennials is vastly different than that of previous generations. One author puts it this way: “We have to understand that millennials simply view the world differently from us” (Ron Alsop, quoting Rich Garcia in The Trophy Kids Grow Up).

Based upon these demographic trends, missionaries and ministry leaders around the world will undoubtedly need to make youth ministry and young adult ministry a renewed priority. It will also become increasingly imperative for mission boards (as well as churches, by the way) to actively recruit millennials for positions of influence and leadership and for ongoing impact as this generation grows into adulthood very soon.

The Decreasing Influence of Baby Boomers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, tens of millions of baby boomers will retire during the next decade. The American media has reiterated this statistic as it relates to the exploding number of retiring baby boomers that will soon exhaust this country’s Social Security system (Good Morning America, 1/27/2011). This generational transfer will certainly impact scores of missionary endeavors around the world as aging boomers retire from Christian service. It is imperative for churches and agencies alike to prepare now for a significant turnover in their workforce due to the coming retirement of this age group.

Baby boomers came of age during the confusion of the ’60s and ’70s and learned vicariously to “Have it your way” and “You deserve a break today.” This previously record-setting demographic segment has influenced missions methods and procedures for the past several decades with their way-of-doing-things mentality. It’s important to note that aging boomers, once the largest and most dominant generation in history, and Generation X, the generation that followed, will significantly lose their cultural influence very soon to the looming millennials. It will be critical for ministry leaders to anticipate and prepare for this coming change in modus operandi.

There are basically two seemingly contradictory ways to actively get ready for this impending scenario. One, boomers should position themselves to intentionally and effectively mentor younger leaders into growing positions of leadership; and, two, mission agencies and churches must prepare to utilize retiring boomers as a potential new ministry workforce. They are likely to have the personal, financial, and social resources to continue serving long past the traditional retirement age. In other words, retiring baby boomers can be actively recruited for “second-career” ministry positions.

The Expanding Influence of Mobile Technology

Only a generation ago, a young Bill Gates turned technological culture upside down by acting on his belief that people would want their own personal computers even though this contradicted the conventional wisdom of the day. His generation is currently witnessing another technological revolution that is drastically changing the future of global communication before their very eyes.

An unmistakable example of this reality took place during the recent political uprisings in Egypt. On Friday, Feb. 11, longtime Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stepped down from his governmental authority following several days of public uprisings. Many American news outlets reported that these protests were fueled by young people utilizing social media websites like Twitter and Facebook. It is important to note that the course of human history in Egypt was altered, not by soldiers with guns or even bureaucrats in offices with laptops, but in the streets by young people with cell phones.

The future of instant global communication is absolutely not tied to a desk. Ask any teenager or preteen. They’d much rather have a cell phone than a computer. They’re experts at texting and rarely or never use e-mail. Have you noticed? E-mail is so yesterday!

Ministry leaders already understand the absolute imperative nature of utilizing the Internet to make instant connections with their various constituencies. Already, more people locate information about churches and ministry organizations from websites than from any other source. However, to really move ahead toward the future, leadership teams will need to strategize about how to utilize mobile technology for effective ministry communication. The rising popularity of iPads and smartphones indicates that the future of the Internet will not be limited to a home, an office, or even a “hot spot.” This is a growing reality around the world. Ministries, perhaps not unlike the young revolutionaries in Egypt, can realize the vast potential of making instant personal technological connections with almost everyone directly to their handheld mobile device. What an amazing opportunity.

The Weakening Influence of Western Culture

A recent report from the Pew Research Center made a startling prediction: the world’s Muslim population is expected to increase by 35 percent in the next 20 years, rising from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030. “Globally, the Muslim population is forecast to grow at about twice the rate of the non-Muslim population over the next two decades,” the report says, and “if current trends continue, Muslims will make up 26.4% of the world’s total projected population of 8.3 billion in 2030” (http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1872/muslim-population-projections-worldwide…). This will certainly change the face of missions over the course of the next few years.

For the past several years the world has experienced a Western-leaning youth culture. According to Elissa Moses in The $100 Billion Allowance: Assessing the Global Teen Market, “The United States is cited more than any other country as the nation with the greatest influence on teen fashion and culture.” That American cultural influence may subside quickly with the extensive growth pattern forecasted for Muslims, and ministry leaders must soon prepare for this seismic shift in cultural influence.

However, today’s youth may be more prepared for the coming cultural shift than previous generations. Authors Thom and Jess Rainer say that about 70 percent of millennials are friends with someone from a different ethnic or racial background and that 87 percent of millennials are willing to marry someone outside their racial or ethnic group (The Millennials: Connecting to American’s Largest Generation).

Another United Nations report adds that the majority (about 85 percent) of the world’s youth live in developing countries, with 60 percent in Asia alone (www.un.org/events/youth98/backinfo/yreport).

These factors indicate that the approaching global influences may look much different in the future than they do today. At this moment, the majority of teenagers around the world are very much alike as consumers of a truly media-driven way of life. The rising crest of clout from the East (the seemingly ever-growing economies of countries like China and India), combined with the predicted population growth of Muslims, points toward a cultural swing that may impact missionary endeavors for years to come.

The Continuing Influence of God-centered “Reformation”

A movement in today’s Christian culture may also help forecast a change in global ministry, and that is the rising resurgence in Calvinism and reformed theology. Pastors Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City), John Piper (Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis), and Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church, Seattle) are currently some of the most popular and most downloaded speakers in today’s podcast universe.

One writer says, “Weary of churches that seek to entertain rather than teach, longing after the true meat of the Word, these young people are pursuing doctrine and are fast becoming new Calvinists” (Collin Hansen, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists).

It is not the purpose of this article to argue the validity of one theological interpretation over another. Bible scholars and theologians can certainly handle that task with much more acumen and expertise. However, it may be important to note that today’s younger generations of Christian leaders are in fact embracing a renewed God-centered reformation. Christianity may be experiencing a new generation that is fed up with entertainment and fluff. The days of a quick devotional tucked into the middle of an all-nighter or a weekend Christian rock festival may be over, replaced with a growing appetite for a serious study of Scripture. There seems to be a growing trend in some religious circles back toward liturgy and a high-church methodology. Perhaps the emerging generation will swing the ministry pendulum back toward a deeper and truly Biblical definition of discipleship.

Christian political pundit Chuck Colson made this observation: “If we want to see revival in the church, we need to be at least as serious as the Marines are about preparing men and women for battle. Perhaps we ought to rethink Sunday school, dust off the catechisms, and start teaching the Bible and theology to our young people again. If the theologically attuned young Reformed crowd is any indication, they can handle it. But it’s not just for Calvinists. Every successful Christian movement has embraced ways to effectively pass on the faith entrusted to the saints once for all” (“Doctrinal Boot Camp: Conforming to the Truth of the Faith Is Necessary for Survival,” Christianity Today).

New generations of young people seemingly crave the deeper, more serious things of Scripture and they appear to hunger for truth—for real answers to real questions. Author Gabe Lyons made this observation: “[Christians in the new generation] have rediscovered Scripture and immerse themselves in it in a way that differs from the practice of recent generations” (The Next Christians: How a New Generation Is Restoring the Faith). Christian leaders must make a renewed commitment to the truth of God’s Word presented in clear, creative, and complete ways that challenge the thoughts and lifestyles of a new generation.

My comments here are observations, not necessarily predictions. However, cultural change is coming at what seems to be warp speed. Believers must have their message and basic mandates for global outreach firmly grounded in the never-changing and always-relevant Word of God. Baptist missionary forefathers perhaps never anticipated current trends such as international jet travel, the Internet, or cell phones, yet I believe they would have enthusiastically embraced the ideas of easy, quick transportation and instant global communication.

Maybe a practical illustration can be found in the familiar Back to the Future tale. Maybe future trends can be identified by today’s current realities.


Mel Walker, president of Vision For Youth, an international network of youth ministries, is a lifelong youth ministry specialist who has led short-term missions trips to Germany, South Africa, and Italy. He also annually leads teams of high school students on missions trips to inner-city Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City. He and his wife, Peggy, have three children who serve full-time in vocational ministry. Mel and Peggy attend Heritage Baptist Church in Clarks Summit, Pa. Visit Mel’s blog.

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There are 48 Comments

Anne Sokol's picture

RPittman wrote:
In any field, there is a higher failure rate at entry level.
maybe it's not entry level. maybe it's just bizzare?

Smile

It used to be that entry level was going with no support promised. Maybe that was a better weeding out process?

RPittman's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:
RPittman wrote:
In any field, there is a higher failure rate at entry level.
maybe it's not entry level. maybe it's just bizzare?

Smile

It used to be that entry level was going with no support promised. Maybe that was a better weeding out process?

Yet, the Apostle Paul eloquently defends the right of the minister/missionary to be supported and to live of the ministry. Do you contradict this?

Does not time spent in working for one's own livelihood take away from time and energy spent in evangelizing and church planting on the mission field? It makes perfect sense to me that we in America give of our abundance to support the workers on the mission field. We see no problem with paying pastors full-time salaries in America; why not on the mission field? And Paul characterizes this as the abounding of our love and faithfulness, which is to our spiritual benefit. But, greed and selfism causes men to rationalize many specious arguments against what is plainly taught in Scripture.

wpittman's picture

I just want to thank Mr. Roland Pittman for standing up for us missionaries who had to go through deputation. When I think about the 6 years that my wife and I experienced on deputation it was a life changing experience.

For 3 years as a single man, I traveled up and down the east coast of America. Then in 2007, my wife and I traveled for 3 years on deputation. On many occasions we heard pastors say many things to us about things.

For us, deputation was a "boot camp" experience. We experienced our ups and downs. As we are now on the field here in Australia, I think back to the words of our pastor that exhorted us to "be strong in the power of His might."

Because of Calvary,
Wesley A. Pittman
God's Ambassador to Australia

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think I understand what you are saying, Anne. If deputation is being viewed as a 'boot camp' of sorts, it makes me wonder why people don't get credit, so to speak, if they have already accomplished some hard challenges in their lives, like earning a university degree with high marks, or owning/managing a successful business, or operating a large farm. I mean, I grew up on a farm with no indoor plumbing, so would I get 'credit' for already knowing how to live in an impoverished area? How would deputation teach me more character than I already have? And why isn't the home and the church enough of a boot camp to prepare young people for ministry? Exactly what aspects of deputation provide character training and testing that hasn't already taken place and couldn't be accomplished another way? To whom are these missionaries 'accountable' during this supposed training period, since they are in essence on their own, and there are few if any 'witnesses' to their methodologies or particular struggles?

Lots of interesting questions being tossed around. I agree http://sharperiron.org/comment/33239#comment-33239 ]with JG , that we shouldn't be so focused on creating a 'system' that 'works', but rather as to whether or not the status quo is truly consistent with Scripture and actually accomplishing that which it purports to set out to do.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

wpittman wrote:
I just want to thank Mr. Roland Pittman for standing up for us missionaries who had to go through deputation. When I think about the 6 years that my wife and I experienced on deputation it was a life changing experience.

It's OK to call him "Dad". Wink

Unless he requires you to call him Mr. Roland Pittman! http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-laughing003.gif[/img ]

Joel Shaffer's picture

As an urban missionary that has raised support throu gh a deputation process, I actually agree with most of Roland's assertions, except the first and last one.

Quote:
Prepares the missionary for the field by:
Experience in dealing with people of many different social, economic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds
Teaching faith and dependence upon God
Experience in preaching, teaching, and speaking in different venues with different audiences
Prepares the missionary in dealing with different foods, accommodations, etc.
Keeps the urgent need for missions before the local church and their hearts warm to the cause of missions
Encourages young people to consider the call to missions
Forms bonds between missionaries and the local assemblies
Missionaries often have a fruitful ministry to the local churches by encouraging the struggling pastors, challenging the members, etc.
Keeps the people's hearts warm to missions giving
Informs local congregations of specific fields and needs
Finally, it is a boot camp that weeds out those who are unsuitable, not committed, or lack the right stuff for mission work

Out of the 30 or so churches to whom I presented our ministry, all but one happened to be white, middle-class, suburban or rural in its culture. Now that may be because of my contacts, but as we see even here at Sharper Iron, most of fundamentalism happens to be monocultural.

As for deputation as a boot camp or a weeding out process for their mission field, it did not prepare me for what I experience in the inner-city. What deputation prepared me for was fundraising! Through deputation, I learned to develop relationships with people, share our ministry in a way that connects to people, and then ask for money.

In fact, I have had multiple friends that demonstrated endurance and commitment and the right stuff for deputation under the umbrella of a reputable missions agency, yet couldn't cut it overseas on the mission field in a cross-cultural environment. They had a relatively easy time adjusting to connecting with churches that were very much like themselves (which were all the churches that they presented their ministry to on deputation), but when it came to living in a completely different culture, where they had to deal with open sewage in the streets, buying food in the marketplace (which took a day to do, rather than an hour), and working through the language barriers while they learned the language as well as other communications barriers, they realized that cross-cultural missions wasn't where God had them......

I think a better boot camp would be a 6 month to a 2 year missionary internship where the aspiring missionary lives among the people that he will be ministering the gospel to under the mentorship of a godly, experienced missionary who then can determine whether they have the right stuff to become missionaries.

Yet the other reasons that Roland gives for doing deputation are essential for keeping missions on the front burner in the church. So actually I am for aspiring missionaries to do deputation before they go out onto the field........

Anne Sokol's picture

RPittman wrote:
Yet, the Apostle Paul eloquently defends the right of the minister/missionary to be supported and to live of the ministry. Do you contradict this?

Does not time spent in working for one's own livelihood take away from time and energy spent in evangelizing and church planting on the mission field? It makes perfect sense to me that we in America give of our abundance to support the workers on the mission field. We see no problem with paying pastors full-time salaries in America; why not on the mission field? And Paul characterizes this as the abounding of our love and faithfulness, which is to our spiritual benefit. But, greed and selfism causes men to rationalize many specious arguments against what is plainly taught in Scripture.

You can probably guess that I'm not against missionaries being supported. I would say that making retirement, education, team trips, vacation, etc. a part of that meaning, while not unbiblibcal, is going beyond what the Bible specifies and creates a salary standard based upon pretty much the wealthiest nation on earth.

I don't know, it's probably a choice between imperfections, and I guess I am glad my misison agency lets me choose the imperfections I want to deal with to a great extent. I know the stress of being"undersupported," but I know the helpfulness of it, too.

RPittman's picture

Anne Sokol wrote:
RPittman wrote:
Yet, the Apostle Paul eloquently defends the right of the minister/missionary to be supported and to live of the ministry. Do you contradict this?

Does not time spent in working for one's own livelihood take away from time and energy spent in evangelizing and church planting on the mission field? It makes perfect sense to me that we in America give of our abundance to support the workers on the mission field. We see no problem with paying pastors full-time salaries in America; why not on the mission field? And Paul characterizes this as the abounding of our love and faithfulness, which is to our spiritual benefit. But, greed and selfism causes men to rationalize many specious arguments against what is plainly taught in Scripture.

You can probably guess that I'm not against missionaries being supported. I would say that making retirement, education, team trips, vacation, etc. a part of that meaning, while not unbiblibcal, is going beyond what the Bible specifies and creates a salary standard based upon pretty much the wealthiest nation on earth.

I don't know, it's probably a choice between imperfections, and I guess I am glad my misison agency lets me choose the imperfections I want to deal with to a great extent. I know the stress of being"undersupported," but I know the helpfulness of it, too.

Yes, Anne, even serving with a mission board goes "beyond what the Bible specifies." Knowing "the stress of being 'undersupported,' can you not rejoice that some are well-supported? We ought to rejoice with our brothers and sisters in their blessings.

And yes, it was my Son, as Susan indicated, who posted a thank you to me earlier. He had a long, hard deputation experience with setbacks (e.g. USA dollar fell around 40% against the Australian dollar, etc.) And he with his wife went to the field undersupported because his mission board, a local church board, allows the missionary to make these decisions. Also, one of his major problems is that the Australian salary standard is higher than the comparable American standard. In this case (Australia), your "salary standard based upon pretty much the wealthiest nation on earth" is not an accurate representation (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index). Wesley and Erin work to supplement their lack of support. So, I am righteously irritated when affluent and comfortable Christians try to denigrate the means of supporting our workers on the mission field. One doesn't have to support missionaries with their own money but please don't try to be pious or self-justifying about it.

RPittman's picture

Susan R wrote:
I think I understand what you are saying, Anne. If deputation is being viewed as a 'boot camp' of sorts, it makes me wonder why people don't get credit, so to speak, if they have already accomplished some hard challenges in their lives, like earning a university degree with high marks, or owning/managing a successful business, or operating a large farm. I mean, I grew up on a farm with no indoor plumbing, so would I get 'credit' for already knowing how to live in an impoverished area? How would deputation teach me more character than I already have? And why isn't the home and the church enough of a boot camp to prepare young people for ministry? Exactly what aspects of deputation provide character training and testing that hasn't already taken place and couldn't be accomplished another way? To whom are these missionaries 'accountable' during this supposed training period, since they are in essence on their own, and there are few if any 'witnesses' to their methodologies or particular struggles?

Lots of interesting questions being tossed around. I agree http://sharperiron.org/comment/33239#comment-33239 ]with JG , that we shouldn't be so focused on creating a 'system' that 'works', but rather as to whether or not the status quo is truly consistent with Scripture and actually accomplishing that which it purports to set out to do.

Susan, life is not a series of intentionally planned experiences. From a human perspective, our lives and personalities are molded by meaningless and random experiences. For the Christian, our lives are sovereignly controlled by God. Although we know precious little of the process, we can envision it in terms of Joseph's words: "You intended it for evil but God intended it for good." God uses even the bad, unpleasant, and hard things to accomplish His will in us.

Deputation, although not a planned curriculum, is a learning experience but it is different for each one. I have learned more informally than I ever learned in college or grad school classrooms. Little did I realize that my working in construction and driving trucks in college were preparatory for future ministry in overseeing construction of buildings and driving buses. Growing up on a farm is not a bad preparation for ministry. It teaches duty, hardship, denial of wants, and frugality. Not having sat through a single finance class in college, my preparation for budgeting and spending millions of dollars was learned growing up in my Dad's household.

BTW, Susan, a lot of people must think like you "that we shouldn't be so focused on creating a 'system' that 'works'" because they definitely create systems that don't work. Do you prefer a system that doesn't work? Somewhere, I think the Bible admonishes us to be "fervent in business" and "not slothful in business." Doesn't this apply to the business aspect of the church and missions as well?

Furthermore, no one has denied my statement that the Apostle Paul passionately defends the right of religious workers to be supported by the church. So, what is the question about "whether or not the status quo is truly consistent with Scripture?"

And yes, it pretty accomplishes what it sets out to do. It is not just a "boot camp." You ignore all the other reasons I gave plus more that I didn't list. Of course, there are weaknesses and failures, especially in specific cases.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

That's just silly, Mr. Pittman, to suggest that I would prefer a system that doesn't work- the point is that we tend to be obsessed with creating 'systems', rather than responding to individual situations with spiritual discernment, creativity, and intelligence. Too often the answer to everything is "That's just the way we do it, and that's the way we've always done it".

The 'proving' aspect of deputation is problematic IMO because before a person commits to ministry, they should no longer be considered a novice. It seems to me that the deputation system assumes the person is a novice in need of a 'boot camp'. Spiritual training should take place in the home and in the church. If it isn't taking place in the home, and a person is gifted and called to ministry, then the church needs to step up and mentor them until they are fit. Sending novices out to stumble around for 3-5 years groveling for a paycheck doesn't sound like a solid proving ground or an 'efficient' system.

Joel Shaffer wrote:
I think a better boot camp would be a 6 month to a 2 year missionary internship where the aspiring missionary lives among the people that he will be ministering the gospel to under the mentorship of a godly, experienced missionary who then can determine whether they have the right stuff to become missionaries.

What he said.

As for 'ignoring' your reasons-

Quote:
Prepares the missionary for the field by:
Experience in dealing with people of many different social, economic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds

Do you have any evidence that this is true? Or is it just an assumption?
Quote:
Teaching faith and dependence upon God

This isn't learned in any other way?
Quote:
Experience in preaching, teaching, and speaking in different venues with different audiences

This can't be accomplished during a mentoring/training process under the supervision of a local church?
Quote:
Prepares the missionary in dealing with different foods, accommodations, etc.

Let's see- there's an Olive Garden, an Abuelo's, and a China Buffet just down the street. Do you need 3 years of deputation to learn to eat weird stuff?
Quote:
Keeps the urgent need for missions before the local church and their hearts warm to the cause of missions

Is that what happens? 'Cause it looks to me that half the church is snoozing, until someone starts singing "People Need the Lord" and everyone wakes up and looks properly moved.
Quote:
Encourages young people to consider the call to missions

This can't happen any other way?
Quote:
Forms bonds between missionaries and the local assemblies

How is this accomplished when the missionary shows up, shows slides, and is out the door in about 2 hours?
Quote:
Missionaries often have a fruitful ministry to the local churches by encouraging the struggling pastors, challenging the members, etc.

So do evangelists.
Quote:
Keeps the people's hearts warm to missions giving

Why are their hearts cold in the first place? Is that spiritual freezer going to truly be thawed by pictures of cute kids and and a stirring rendition of "Thank You for Giving to the Lord"?
Quote:
Informs local congregations of specific fields and needs

OK. But this can also be done via other means of communication.
Quote:
Finally, it is a boot camp that weeds out those who are unsuitable, not committed, or lack the right stuff for mission work

The bulk of the weeding out process needs to take place before deputation, not during.

from the OP wrote:
Christian political pundit Chuck Colson made this observation: “If we want to see revival in the church, we need to be at least as serious as the Marines are about preparing men and women for battle. Perhaps we ought to rethink Sunday school, dust off the catechisms, and start teaching the Bible and theology to our young people again. If the theologically attuned young Reformed crowd is any indication, they can handle it. But it’s not just for Calvinists. Every successful Christian movement has embraced ways to effectively pass on the faith entrusted to the saints once for all” (“Doctrinal Boot Camp: Conforming to the Truth of the Faith Is Necessary for Survival,” Christianity Today).

Yeah- that too.

JG's picture

RPittman wrote:
So, I am righteously irritated when affluent and comfortable Christians try to denigrate the means of supporting our workers on the mission field. One doesn't have to support missionaries with their own money but please don't try to be pious or self-justifying about it.

I'm not sure I see "righteous irritation" in the Bible anywhere, but I think I see illogical irritation on SI. Smile I say that with all due respect to someone whose contributions are often challenging and valuable.

1. This is not about denigrating missionaries (your son or anyone else).
2. This is not about denigrating those who give to support missionaries.
3. The deputation discussion IS about the means of connecting missionaries with those who give.
4. This is not about denigrating the faithfulness of those who have worked within the current "deputation" system. It was the system in place, and they worked within it to get to where they could serve in the place to which God called them. Praise the Lord for their faithfulness.
5. This IS about questioning whether the current extra-biblical system of "matching" missionaries with givers is the wisest and most in keeping with Biblical principles, or whether it should be tweaked, or whether a vastly different extra-biblical system should take its place.

So my recommendation is that you shelve your irritation, and ask your son if he, having gone through the process, can think of any ways it could possibly be improved. And then put your mind to the task of thinking of other ideas, whether modifying current processes or going completely outside the box, to improve the way we get missionaries to the field.

But don't say, "My son did it this way, and he was faithful even though it took a long time and a lot of hardship, so everyone else should just suck in their gut, get to work, and do it that way, too. And besides, it has benefits doing it that way."

The fact that deputation has benefits doesn't prove anything. Running a marathon in army boots has benefits, too, but that doesn't mean it is the best or wisest way to do it.

And by the way, Derek Jung is indeed a tent-maker, in answer to your earlier question.

The Scriptures clearly teach that both supported and tentmaking ministries are appropriate. The Scriptures give no clear direction on how to "connect" potential supported missionaries with potential supporters, and as Jim Peet suggested and more and more missionaries are concluding, in a rapidly changing world the old models need to be reevaluated. There ARE multiple Scriptural principles that should apply to that evaluation.

Anne Sokol's picture

RPittman wrote:
Yes, Anne, even serving with a mission board goes "beyond what the Bible specifies." Knowing "the stress of being 'undersupported,' can you not rejoice that some are well-supported? We ought to rejoice with our brothers and sisters in their blessings.

And yes, it was my Son, as Susan indicated, who posted a thank you to me earlier. He had a long, hard deputation experience with setbacks (e.g. USA dollar fell around 40% against the Australian dollar, etc.) And he with his wife went to the field undersupported because his mission board, a local church board, allows the missionary to make these decisions. Also, one of his major problems is that the Australian salary standard is higher than the comparable American standard. In this case (Australia), your "salary standard based upon pretty much the wealthiest nation on earth" is not an accurate representation (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index). Wesley and Erin work to supplement their lack of support. So, I am righteously irritated when affluent and comfortable Christians try to denigrate the means of supporting our workers on the mission field. One doesn't have to support missionaries with their own money but please don't try to be pious or self-justifying about it.


If it makes you feel any better, i don't mind how other missionaries are supported--who am I to do that? I have honestly had to struggle with not comparing my lifestyle to theirs, and I am happy for my american sisters that they can have some financial padding that makes the brink-of-insanity feeling maybe a little easier, although I think that they struggle with those moments just as much as I do. I think the initial brunt of the culture changes is padded by having more money to maintain a lifestyle they are more used to and get help/resources to make the stresses more bearable. I have some of that, too, and I'm very thankful for it--i have a vehicle to drive and I can afford cappuchinos Biggrin

Also, about tentmaking, it's a question in the sense that, in Australia, for example, someone could work decent hours and make a comparatively decent income. Here, if V or I worked Ukrainian jobs, we'd get maybe $100-$200/month working full time or more. It's just not worth it. Working for foreign-supported companies would have to be alternative in underdeveloped countries or choosing to live on that type of income with so little time for ministry.

We do personally support other missionaries, and I don't begrudge them their support, and I'm thankful for some of my american missionary friends who've helped fund our post-abortion seminars and summer camps.

Rob Fall's picture

And I agree with you too.

RPittman wrote:
Rob Fall wrote:
I agree such operations must be carefully planned and overseen. However, in many cases, they are viable alternatives to sending a church planting American missionary overseas. There are many ways contrary to popular belief to skin a cat.
Rob, I'm not arguing against other methods. One size doesn't fit all. My points have been directed toward a plurality of means including tent-making, associational support, training and supporting nationals, and DEPUTATION. We agree, I think. All these approaches have strengths and weaknesses. We should recognize the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. Then churches, mission agencies, and missionaries have to make their choices. However, what bothered me is some have tried to assume a superior position by claiming Biblical support that they didn't have. It seemed to me that this thread was on a roll against deputation without recognizing its advantages as well as it shortcomings. So, I pitched into the fray to balance the arguments.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

RPittman's picture

Susan wrote:
That's just silly, Mr. Pittman, to suggest that I would prefer a system that doesn't work- the point is that we tend to be obsessed with creating 'systems', rather than responding to individual situations with spiritual discernment, creativity, and intelligence. Too often the answer to everything is "That's just the way we do it, and that's the way we've always done it".
Yes, Susan, it was intended to be silly to show criticizing something simply because it is practical or what works is silly. I don't think that the deputation method began as a planned approach to missions support but it evolved as pieces came together and worked. However, it is very easy and sometimes trendy to criticize the status quo because the same old, same old becomes boring after awhile. People love change and many times they love change for change's sake. Unfortunately, change is often not for the better but for the worse. As one who is conservative in outlook, I do think we have learned things and have found what works and what does not over time. A conservative is not opposed to change but he believes that some things are good and holds to them meanwhile modifying and changing those things for which there is a better means or choice.

As I indicated earlier, the tent-making approach is one dear to my heart but I have no criticism for those who through necessity or preference use deputation. No one has presented any Biblical reasons why it ought not be used. The rest, IMHO, is human opinion, nothing more.

There is a very practical reason why I entered this fray. At the outset, it appeared that folks were jumping on the bandwagon of criticizing the deputation process and making it out to be an un-Biblical means. Because no one has risen to the occasion of presenting a Biblical case against deputation, this argument is now pretty much moot. My fear was that pastors or laymen reading this thread would be swayed or influenced in lessening their support of missionaries on deputation.

Throughout the history of the Church, there have been naysayers opposing missions. Such a one was Diotrephes in III John 1:5-10. William Carey faced exactly this sort of thing but he preserved. And modern missionaries find them in churches today.

IMHO, rather than arguing about methods and other things to no profit, I would like to hear ideas of how we can increase our giving and send more missionaries. If we expect faith, sacrifice, and effort on the part of missionaries, can we expect any less of ourselves?

RPittman's picture

JG wrote:
But don't say, "My son did it this way, and he was faithful even though it took a long time and a lot of hardship, so everyone else should just suck in their gut, get to work, and do it that way, too. And besides, it has benefits doing it that way."
This was purely a defensive maneuver. I didn't bring my son into this conversation because it really was not about him. It was about any missionary doing deputation. This was thrust upon me when it was pointed out that a poster was my son.

Now, here's what happened. There were kind of vibes that tent-making was the more spiritual means with missionaries who were more committed and dedicated than the deputation types who have steady support begged from hard-working folks in American churches. They are sort of missionary fat-cats. When it was revealed that my son was a missionary supported by deputation, it left open the door to questioning my credibility or portraying me with a vested interest. I tried to close that door with a few statements about my son's hardships, dedication, commitment, and work to support himself. I see nothing wrong with it and your paraphrase of my remarks do NOT give the same connotation as the original.

I seemed to have irritated you, friend, and you are intent on setting me straight. Smile

JG's picture

RPittman wrote:
I seemed to have irritated you, friend, and you are intent on setting me straight. Smile

Impossible. I said there's no such thing as righteous irritation, and I'm too self-righteous to let it happen to me. Bleah

Serious point:

Quote:
There were kind of vibes that tent-making was the more spiritual means with missionaries who were more committed and dedicated than the deputation types who have steady support begged from hard-working folks in American churches.

As far as I know, there was one post (from a tentmaker) who asserted that tentmaking was more Biblical. I hope (as a tentmaker myself) if I had seen posts asserting that we were more committed and dedicated that I'd have been more active than you in refuting it. I don't think I saw any kind of negativity towards supported missionaries coming through.

The only thing that even verged on that was regarding the question of whether deputation was good preparation/weeding out, and some have asserted that some missionaries weren't prepared. That was an illogical response to your argument, because no "weeding out" process is going to be perfect (see Demas, etc). But even that wasn't an attack against supported missionaries, it was simply arguing that deputation "weeding out" isn't working.

This is not a tentmaking vs. support discussion, generally. It certainly isn't a "supported missionaries aren't as spiritual or committed" discussion. It's a "support raised one way" vs. "can we find a better way to raise it" discussion. Your response has appeared to suggest that there is no better way and we shouldn't even be looking for a better one.

No one suggested you have less credibility because your son is a supported missionary. Presumably, you have more knowledge of the process than a lot of people. But statements like this are detrimental to discussion:

Quote:
Throughout the history of the Church, there have been naysayers opposing missions.

That falsely impugns motives. No one on this thread has remotely opposed missions.

Finally:

Quote:
IMHO, rather than arguing about methods and other things to no profit, I would like to hear ideas of how we can increase our giving and send more missionaries. If we expect faith, sacrifice, and effort on the part of missionaries, can we expect any less of ourselves?

I agree with this. I praise the Lord that we serve a God who gives His people all things richly to enjoy, but while they are enjoying, it would perhaps be better if they didn't also say, "It's too bad we don't have the money to send out more missionaries."

Some supported missionaries often feel hesitant to talk about it, but it can be really hard for them when they go back to the States and see the way people live, while on the field for them, any car breakdown or appliance failure is an immediate crisis. Since I'm a tentmaker, I don't have to feel so shy in talking about it. Smile When a mission board sets support levels low so they can tell supporters, "Our missionaries sacrifice," I cringe. It probably means their missionaries can't afford hospitality, or tracts, or something else.

But it's not an "either/or" discussion. We can talk about a renewed commitment to giving and sacrifice AND talk about which methods provide the best stewardship of the resources God provides.

Is there anything at all that you see could be improved in the deputation process, or do you think it is the best it could be?

Jim's picture

Brother Pittman,

I fear you are more " http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/tilting-at-windmills.html tilting at windmills " than defending turf

Brief and final responses:

RPittman wrote:
There were kind of vibes that tent-making was the more spiritual means with missionaries who were more committed and dedicated than the deputation types who have steady support begged from hard-working folks in American churches. They are sort of missionary fat-cats.

Response: Haven't seen these vibes! Unclear who the "fat-cats" are!

RPittman wrote:
Throughout the history of the Church, there have been naysayers opposing missions.

Response: Probably so but where on this thread have you seen such "naysayers "?

RPittman wrote:
Such a one was Diotrephes

Response: Are you saying that comments on this thread represent the spirit of Diotrephes?

RPittman wrote:
William Carey faced exactly this sort of thing but he preserved

Response: And http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Carey_%28missionary%29 ]how did Carey support himself ?

Quote:
During the first year in Calcutta, the missionaries sought means to support themselves and a place to establish their mission. They also began to learn the Bengali language to communicate with the natives. A friend of Thomas owned two indigo factories and needed managers, so Carey moved with his family north to Midnapore. During the six years that Carey managed the indigo plant, he completed the first revision of his Bengali New Testament and began formulating the principles upon which his missionary community would be formed, including communal living, financial self-reliance, and the training of indigenous ministers

RPittman's picture

Jim Peet wrote:
Brother Pittman,
RPittman wrote:
There were kind of vibes that tent-making was the more spiritual means with missionaries who were more committed and dedicated than the deputation types who have steady support begged from hard-working folks in American churches. They are sort of missionary fat-cats.

Response: Haven't seen these vibes! Unclear who the "fat-cats" are!
Jim, perhaps you don't feel the vibes from your own posts.

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