Sherrylee and I are leaving Seattle tomorrow for Malibu and the Pepperdine Bible Lectures. PBL is the last great Christian college lectureship among Churches of Christ. The main force behind the lectureship for almost three decades has been the director Dr. Jerry Rushford. This is his last lectureship; he has passed the baton to Mike Cope and Rick Gibson, who assume the responsibility for the future of PBL.
I think they will do a great job, but maintaining the quality while updating the format is a daunting challenge. As great leaders should, they have already begun asking and receiving input from a broad spectrum of people who have vested interest in the welfare of the lectures.
I pray they do well. We need this forum for our conversations.
On Wednesday, we will be discussing the current state of missions among Churches of Christ, and on Thursday, we will go forward to what Churches of Christ need to do to have effective mission efforts in the next fifty years. I think it will be an exhilarating conversation with these men who are passionate and informed about missions.
I hope to provide at least a summary of the two classes on Wednesday and Thursday for you to read—perhaps even an audio file for you to be able to listen, but today I thought I would give you a copy of the handout I will use on Wednesday. You’ll recognize it as a summary of the blog series I did on “Re-Thinking Mission Work.” If you want more explanation and detail to flesh out these thoughts, you can find that series in the side panel.
Even if you can’t come to the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, I hope you can enjoy a portion of it vicariously through these next posts.
Overview of ”Re-thinking Mission Work in Churches of Christ”
By Mark Woodward
The current model for sending, supporting, and overseeing missionaries from Churches of Christ needs to be re-thought for the following reasons:
- The selection process is mostly self-selection with only minimal help from experienced missionaries or those who have skills or information that could guide the selection process.
- The choice of mission sites too often is an uncoordinated, non-strategic choice with little input from experienced or engaged persons.
- The preparation for mission work, if any, is not readily available for most people who would like to become missionaries.
- The support gathering system among Churches of Christ not only discourages the vast majority of potential missionaries from even beginning, but also most of those who do attempt to work their way through it.
- The “sponsoring church” system neglects spiritual oversight, is occasionally about strategic oversight, and mostly about financial oversight.
- The role of either elders or general mission committees to oversee missionaries/mission churches puts the decisions about mission work too often into the hands of well-intentioned people who have little or no personal experience in missions, and little or only secondhand primary information about how to do missions.
- The relationship between the missionary and his/her overseers is generally an employer/employee relationship with financial arrangements being the most important control mechanism.
Some of the changes that I would like to suggest that Churches of Christ implement in order to change our paradigm for missions.
- Mission committees should be restructured to have as their sole responsibility, implementation of strategies for raising up and surfacing missionaries from their congregation.
- Hopeful missionaries should be expected to seek experienced and skilled help, either inside or outside of their home congregation, for making all of their First Decisions (Should I be a missionary? Where should I go? Who should I go with? How should I prepare?)
- Primary oversight of a missionary should be in the hands of Christians who know the person intimately and care about the proposed work, who likely are even personally involved.
- Every Missionary Hopeful should be expected to spend two years in an apprenticeship on the field with a Master Missionary before they are supported to work independently.
- Financial support and oversight control need to have more separation, so that both are in the hands of Christians who love the missionary and care about the work.
You can read the expanded blog articles on “Re-Thinking Mission Work” at www.markwoodward.org.