Thursday, June 7, 2012

A New (Technological) Era in Mission: There are No Closed Countries

                 In one sense, the idea of a close country has never been a reality. The commission that Christ gave to the church to make disciples had no limitations. Christ’s command to take the Gospel into the entire world made no provisions for avoiding suffering and even death. In fact, the church is called to fill up the sufferings of Christ by risking all to meet the demands of making disciples. This will always be the case until Christ comes back. It is not a question of “if” we will make disciples but of “how.”
                There are still countries in which there no believers or so very few believers that there is no viable, operating church. There are a great number of countries in the Middle-East and Asia which have no Gospel witness. Many (but not all) of these countries have governments and organizations that are hostile to Christianity. In these cases, some will need to go to establish a “beach head.” Much like a military operation in WWII, someone will need to do the pioneering work to establish a “base of operations” from which missions can be launch. Missionaries will need to go into these countries and preach the Gospel. They will suffer and some will die. This is an unavoidable reality.
                In other countries there are fledgling churches. There are believers in some of the people-groups and they meet together as a church. Many of these churches have sparse resources. There is still very much evangelism work to be done in their people-group and country. In these cases, the established church should be working to equip and provide them with the skills, knowledge and materials to fulfill the call of Christ to make disciples. This is far more effective than pioneering work-not only financially but also practically. If (for example) the church in US undertakes pioneering work in countries where churches already exist they are building upon another’s foundation and stepping in front of the local church. However, the church in the US can and should be equipping the local church to mature and grow to be disciple-makers.                Once these local churches mature, they then can be missionary sending churches themselves. They are geographically closer to and culturally akin unreached people groups. They would be far less obstacles for them to overcome than for a missionary from the US. Logically, the church in America should be equipping and encouraging these fledgling churches where possible.  
                With the advent of technological advances, the church in the US can have an incredible impact upon un-reached and under-reached people groups around the world. In areas where fledgling churches exist, we can provide complete seminary educations, libraries and printable resources without having to build “brink and mortar” edifices. Now it can all be done electronically. For a few hundred dollars a student-pastor can get lectures, sermons and electronic resources that will feed him for the rest of his life.
                In many countries resources are simply not available. Even if a church had the financial resources available to buy materials the materials do not exist in their country. In some of these countries it would be impossible to smuggle in one Bible, much less and entire library. For the price of $10 a completely library can be placed on an SD card or jump drive and taken anywhere in the world. In the event that e-readers, tablet computers or lap-tops cannot be taken into a country, or money cannot be sent, it is possible to visit the country and purchase these items then give them to the local church.
                God has blessed the church in the US financially. We are, per person, the wealthiest nation in the world. Most churches give less than 10% of their income to missions.  Often times, 40-50% of that goes to administrative costs. What is left-over is spent on building projects, humanitarian aid and things that are not related to equipping ministers or to spreading the Gospel. Maybe it is time to rethink how we do missions and find ways to better use our resources to have more impact on the world.

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