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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

"You Know What Your Problem Is?"

Don't you hate when someone starts a discussion with "You know what your problem is?" They should just say, "You've got a problem, and you obviously don't know what it is, so I'm going to tell you." Either way, everyone is a critic (even me).

Some of the IMB's most vocal critics are a group of folks within the SBC who are concerned about the theology of the Board and the missionaries it sends. Our president, they say, is too charismatic. ILC (MLC) training, they charge, is theologically weak. CPM, they claim, leaves too much room for heresy to sneak in. I'm not exactly sure who "They" are, but "They" are concerned that we've got a bunch of liberals in the mission field. That's why, even though the Board requires that all missionary candidates be members-in-good-standing of a Southern Baptist Church, and that career personnel have seminary training, we all had to sign the BFM 2000- to prove to "Them" we weren't liberals. Somehow, our signatures didn't help ease "Their" concerns, so "They" had the trustees adopt some new policies that would keep liberals out of the ranks. Now, Southeastern Seminary students are organizing to collect evidence against IMB personnel who might be labeled liberal. (Ok, so maybe I do know who "They" are.)

If you've read any of my posts here, you know that I, too, am concerned about the strategy and missiology of my coworkers. But I'm coming from a different direction. I'm not worried about chasing down liberalism, or defending the faith. Because they are in different cultural contexts, and because they are seeing God move in different ways, most of our personnel who have been overseas for very long would seem liberal to many of "Them." It might also have to do with the fact that most of our M's in the field don't get Fox News...

The churches that we are planting (or working to plant) are not drowning in watered-down theology. They are being suffocated by our models and worldview.

If you were to ask me (and yes, I realize that you didn't), the best thing that the IMB could do to further our church planting efforts would be to stop hiring and sending Missionaries. I'm not talking about slowing the flow of personnel to the field; we need all the businessmen and artists and chefs and computer programmers we can get. What we don't need is more Missionaries. Most of the people sent by the Board are pastors (who end up pastoring the churches they plant), youth ministers (who tend to build strong seeker-friendly youth groups instead of churches), or ministers of music/associate pastor types (who are all about new programs and events). It seems to me that the best way to avoid the influence of the American Christian religion and subculture on the churches we plant is to stop exporting it through our personnel.

I agree with those who say we need to rethink our understanding on missions and the church. We need to send people who are well-trained and qualified to plant churches. But the solution to our struggles isn't a liberalism witch hunt, it's in open dialogue.

Speaking of open dialogue, what do you think?

4 comments:

Joe Mish said...

Step, You have hit this one in dead centre. I love this quote:
"The churches that we are planting (or working to plant) are not drowning in watered-down theology. They are being suffocated by our models and worldview."
Also, great concept also about NOT sending anymore missionaries, but real people. And I must add that the Fide-O website makes me literally naseated.
When can we promote you to VP of IMB? (lol)

Joe M

David Rogers said...

My read on this is, whether our background is that of pastor/youth minister/music minister or businessman/artist/chef/computer programmer, we need to be distrusting of ourselves and constantly aware of our own cultural biases and limitations.

While it is true that sometimes as outsiders we are able to have insights into a culture that the locals somehow miss, I believe that far too often we fall into the rut on the other side: thinking we know better than the locals how to reach their own people.

stepchild said...

joe mish, thanks for your kind words. Unfortunately, it takes more than armchair quarterbacking to be a VP. Rules me out!

David, that's a good word. I guess I'm thinking that an American artist's influence would somehow be better than an American pastor's. I guess I see American culture as less of a threat to the wellbeing of the national churches than American Christian culture. (Though I'm sure they're both poison.)

I really expected more responses to this post, since so many (most) of us come from pastoring backgrounds. Or maybe all of the former pastors stopped reading my blog...

Outoftheshaker! said...

Step,
I agree with you comment completely. I'm neither seminary grad, college grad, just a high grad. Believe it or not (but you can probably tell by my grammar skills) I was a brick layer for 12 years before coming to the field as an associate. I feel blessed to be able to serve God where I'm at. I do see myself seeing how to reach the people a little different than some of my (now) other fellow workers. I just started a humorous blog. It is a good cultural relief for me. Thanks again for your comments.