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Friday, January 25, 2008

When You Can't Tell The Difference

When it comes to promoting missions and mobilizing missionaries, we rely on photos. In casting a vision for what God is doing around the world to bring people into right relationships with Himself, a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Or, in my case, about four blog posts.

It's unfortunate, but we often fall into the trap of resorting to stereotypes to illustrate our work. You've seen the photos; a thin, wrinkled old man, whose dark skin contrasts with his cotton beard, reaches for the Bible offered by a tall white fortysomething in khaki pants. A small group of smiling black ragamuffin children playfully hug a white lady with her hair in a bun.

I would love to see missional churches pay to send poor, inner-city believers from the States to minister to poor, inner-city families in other parts of the world.

I think that if we were serious about incarnation, it wouldn't be so easy to tell the difference between the "Missionary" and the "heathen" in a picture.

5 comments:

David Rogers said...

Or how about helping believers from a comparatively reached 3rd world context minister in a comparatively unreached 3rd world context?

stepchild said...

David,
Exactly. I guess I was thinking of ways for churches to connect locally and globally. It seems to me that Americans might be slightly more inclined to "send" people that they may see on a regular basis (i.e.: the "poor" people from the inner city).

Why is it always a tough sell to get people on board with sending people who are not like "us?"

Especially when there are willing people who are better suited for the job?

David Rogers said...

I think perhaps it has something to do with the conception of the church as only local congregations. Which leads us to view those who are not in our particular congregation as people we don't need to be concerned about. Thus, white, suburban, middle-class congregations will send white, suburban, middle-class missionaries. And poor congregations will have a much harder time sending their own missionaries.

stepchild said...

Okay, so slightly off topic, where does this over emphasis on the local church come from? Is it our heritage of lip service to the autonomy concept?

I've always wondered about this. It seems that focus on the church as a local body only has led to many problems:
-Landmarkism
-Shirking social responsibilities
-The CEO Pastor
-Turf Wars between churches
-Members plotting to oust leadership
-Building programs

And the list goes on...

David Rogers said...

Yes, I believe it comes from our Big B Baptist heritage, which is a legacy from the Landmark movement of the late 1800s.

I believe it is, in general, a good thing that, as Baptists, we are not subject to church hierarchies, at least, theoretically, on an inter-congregational level.

But we have done an overkill on being autonomous and independent. I think 'interdependent' is a more biblical way to think of the relationship between different congregations.