I was amused to read Eddie Arthur’s headline, “Five questions we’d rather not answer,” but the post made me thoughtfully reflect. These are interesting questions. Eddie’s attempted his answers. I’ll attempt mine.
1. Do we have too many mission agencies? Eddie thinks, “maybe yes,” because they “overlap in areas of interest and … are all struggling to raise support from a shrinking constituency.” He graphs shrinking Church of England weekly attendance and the rise in agencies.
I say “maybe not.” Here are my reasons:
a) falling attendance in the mainline church doesn’t necessarily correlate to shrinking interest in and support for mission agencies. I wonder. Are the people attending the C o E the most likely to support mission agencies?
b) there are a LOT of places in the world that needs workers, and agencies generally can only field so many. There can only be so many agencies sized 1,000 and above; a lot of agencies have just a few hundred or even a few dozen workers. My district survey is not yet complete, and I already have over 14,000 specific places that would require at least one strategy team, and many more than that. I’m not saying all of these should come from a Western agency, but I suspect 150 agencies X 10 workers each (=1,500 workers) is too low. They may overlap in interest without overlapping in places.
In any event, my thinking is: agencies inevitably have to compete for resources. I know, competition brings about some bad things, like two agencies neither of which get enough but if one were out of the picture the other might be fully funded. Competition also sharpens our abilities to communicate and our focus on our partners. I’m not sure how that might be changed, or even if it should, but I know we have to grapple with it.
2. What happened to proclamation? I have some other thoughts about this.
a) proclamation may no longer be the priority of short-term mission work, and short-term work is the big part of the pie these days.
b) many agencies may not view proclamation as their primary task, but rather the finding, equipping, and raising up of the local proclaimer. So in that sense, training is more the focus rather than front-line proclamation.
c) “relief of poverty, search for justice” etc. is more acceptable to the world (as opposed to proclaiming the Gospel, which is never particularly acceptable), and gets more splashy and more public press. Just because a thing is heard about does not mean that thing is the only thing done. There’s lots of regular run of the mill stuff that governments do, but come election time its the splashy things that get talked about.
3. Why East Africa? Christians tend to clump. We have to intentionally work against that. I’m fascinated by that in his case.
4. Why overseas mission? Because most of the “unreached” are not in our backyards. They are here.
5. How do we change? I don’t know. All I know is that, in much of the business literature I’ve read, they always say it doesn’t matter whether someone has the same idea as you for a business. Ideas are a dime a dozen, and there’s nothing new under the sun. What matters is excellent execution. You can have the best ideas, but if you don’t do them, or you do them poorly, you’re sunk.