Our Missions Strategy: 3
(This is the 3rd installment of a working discussion I am having with myself on our church’s missions philosohpy. Today I want to consider how we see our relationship to the Southern Baptist Convention and other such parachurch organizations).
There seem to be two extremes when it comes to working with the Convention for the purpose of missions.
The first extreme is when churches depend on the agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to do church planting and missions for them.This is what I call "bad parachurchism." OK, yes, I totally made that term up. But
here’s what I mean: there is good parachurch and bad parachurch. GOOD
parachurch ministries FACILITATE the ministry of the church. A good
parachurch ministry attempts to be a resource to the local church
through which the church can do her ministry more effectively. BAD parachurch takes ministry from a local church and does it for her. Bad parachurch says, "Give us money and people and we’ll do ministry for you."
SBC was born out of the "good parachurch" model: the agencies of the
Convention facilitated the ministries of local churches. Local churches
led in the ministry, the Convention served the initiatives of those churches—
but it was the local churches that took the lead and got things done.
Over time, it appears that some parts of the SBC have shifted into ‘bad
parachurch’ mode. They expect the local churches to turn over resources
so the agencies can do the work. Burgeoning bureaucracies were created
that basically duplicated what was to be happening in the local church.
We, the local church, are to give our money and be happy with the
results, and scolded for not giving properly.
Churches are God’s vehicle for ministry. Jesus’ strategy for reaching and transforming the world was have His Apostles plant
churches in every community (this was Paul’s entire strategy!); the
local church has the potential to provide the most wholistic, community-loving, Gospel-preaching,
multi-generational community necessary for fully-orbed ministry.
Local churches are best suited to provide the resources, training, accountability and drive necessary to accomplish church planting. Churches plant churches. For any parachurch organization, including the National and State Baptist Conventions, taking this initiative out of the hands of the local church is surely doomed to failure. (to note, I am grateful for and in support of some parachurch ministries which, by my definition above, would be considered ‘not ideal’–i.e., ministries not directly tied to a local church. I am in support of them because they are doing things
that local churches are simply not doing yet. I am grateful for their
ministries, and personally contribute financially to them… I am also grateful that many of them are actively seeking ways to participate with
the local church. We have representatives of several of these ministries in our church, and I am VERY grateful for them.)
We, the Summit Church, don’t just recruit people to work for the International Mission Board (IMB) or take up money to give entirely to them. These church plants around the world are ours. But before I get ahead of myself, let me mention the opposite extreme:
The second extreme is when churches believe they can do it all by themselves and do not need the expert guidance of parachurch organizations like the International Mission Board. The blessing and curse of my
generation seems to be an independent, can-do spirit when it comes to
mission. I just finished reading Stephen Neill’s A History of Christian Missions,
and one of the points he makes is that though Protestants have
historically been extremely zealous for missions, we often have charged
into unreached areas like Lone Rangers with no sense of who else was
doing what for the cause of Christ there. Because of our lack of
cooperation, we have often repeated easily avoidable mistakes and
caused unnecessary chaos in the fields they we are trying to reach. The IMB has full time "experts" devoted to knowing the various fields, studying what methods work, and linking like minded movements together. They provide a wonderful organization through which to plant churches.
We try to avoid either extreme. We don’t just give money and recruits to the IMB and ask them to do our church planting for us. But neither do we charge out to it alone. Our church has chosen to cooperate missionally with the Southern
Baptist Convention because we believe unified effort between
Gospel-loving churches increases our effectiveness in church planting,
leadership training, and public witness.
The IMB’s massive resources (that are compiled from so many churches working together) make it so that our missionaries do not have to raise support. The IMB makes a great structure for technical training of our missionaries, ensuring their care while on the field, and giving strategic direction. But they are still "our" (the Summit’s) churches we are planting. The initiative lies with us; we use the IMB as the vehicle through which we plant churches. To note, the IMB has been great to work with in this regard.