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Friday, January 06, 2006

What's It Gonna Take?

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing someone from the IMB (usually it's someone in leadership) say, "What's it gonna take to get the job done?"

Now I've gone through my thoughts about the "Unfinished Task" in previous posts. As far as I can tell, "the Task" we're called to is nothing less than a step-by-step following of the Holy Spirit. But the IMB has scrapped that for something more practical. It's like we read the instructions Jesus gave in Matthew 28:18-20, and we say, "Ok boys, you heard Him. All nations. Let's get the job done!" It started in the 1976 with "Bold Mission Thrust," a massive campaign the IMB launched to "Evangelize the world by the year 2000." (Followed by "A Church for Every People by the Year 2000" in 1980, "Strategy to Every People" in 1984, "One million native missionaries" in 1986 and "Decade of Evangelism" in 1990.) Like all of the Y2K Doomsday Prophets, we don't really talk about this any more. These fund-raising campaigns (our strategies have proven that they were never really goals after all), did little to advance our overseas ministries, but they went a long way to giving Southern Baptists across the country a false understanding of missions.

All along we've set ourselves up as the missions experts, and told people that missions is about "reaching" people. We've developed mathmatical equasions for calculating a people group's "need." We ignore places in the world where God is working in ways we can't use to raise money. We plaster pictures of needy dark-skinned people in the "-stans," and tell the people in the pew that it all depends on us. We settle for evangelism because disciple-making (church planting) is too abstract and hard to measure. We worship missionaries as "super-Christians," perpetuating the lies of professional clergy and highter callings.

Now we've decided that God's goal is to "reach" every nation in the world (apparently not by the year 2000). We've gone to great lengths to develop strategies to get us to that end. We've even calculated how much money, how many people, and how long it's going to take the IMB to fulfill this task. The problem is that we've made a "goals and action plan" project of God's call to ongoing obedience.

What's it gonna take? Us admitting that our human-centered understanding of missions and our plans for doing it are prime examples of us getting ahead of God. If we want to be involved in what God is doing around the world, we're going to have to stop assuming we know what God is doing and that we know the best way to "get it done." It's going to take our churches (not our organization) sending people who are committed to going where God calls them and doing what God leads them to do, even if it doesn't seem to fit our strategy.

Finally, why aren't we suspicious of the extremely pragmatic nature of our question? Asking "What's it gonna take?" is focusing on the end, ignoring the means. I believe the same sort of thing happened when Jesus talked about His kingdom and Peter reached for his sword.

Can I get some feedback here?


Paul said...

I'm not as familiar with our ongoing missions strategies as you are (though I probably should be as an SBC pastor). From your description it appears that we are doing overseas pretty much what we are doing at home - working off of two faulty models: the corporate model, with all of its statistics and quantifications, not to mention its structure, and the pragmatic model with the base-line question being "what works."

That last one is a little tricky for me. I believe that the good news the end it is practical and pragmatic. But I think we place pragmatism at the wrong end of the spectrum. Pragmatism should naturally be found at the end of the spectrum. We place it at the beginning. It has become one of, if not the, first questions we ask: "What will work." Oddly, had people like Moses, Joshua, Gideon and Jesus put their instructions from God to the pragmatic test first they would have all done something different than what they finally did. I think that gets to your point that we should let God lead people, whoever they are, wherever he desires to send them, whether it meets our initial criteria or not, and sit back and see what God does.

But to do that we'd have to scrap the corporate model we now use.

stepchild said...

Thanks, Paul. I agree that in many ways, the overseas model isn't very different from the corporate model so common in the States. I do understand how difficult it is to articulate the "let God lead us step-by-step" sort of approach (hence, this blog). In our current thinking, it doesn't make sense. Without clear goals and an objective way to measure our progress, it can be frustrating.

Maybe we could make a formula for that...

Paul said...

That's funny!

drawnbylove said...

What's it gonna take? I think it's gonna take us falling on our faces before God and telling Him that we can't do it on our own. We need His Holy Spirit to guide us in everything we do, because only when we are weak is He strong and able to work through us. We need to confess that we know that God doesn't NEED us to do His job of drawing men and women to Himself. He invites us to JOIN him so that a) we can interact with Him and be involved in an intimate relationship with Him and b) we can interact with the people that He is wooing and be blessed by being a PART of His work.
We are to go and make DISCIPLES, not converts. Saving people is not our job, it's His.

ps...that was me that posted a comment on the "what is the gospel?" post...i'm still figuring out these blogs :)

stepchild said...

Well said, drawnbylove. Without that right perspective, we are bound to think too highly of ourselves. That God allows us to participate in what He is doing is an undeserved blessing. I'm glad someone else's eternity doesn't depend on me!