How We Do Missions
With humbleness of heart and gratitude toward God, I want to thank all of you who have prayed for us during our mission trips to Ethiopia. In 1927 Roland Allen coined the term “the spontaneous expansion of the church.” God has allowed Becky and me to experience first-hand the realities of this expansion during our journeys. We work in what missiologists call the “Third Church” – the First Church being the Eastern Church of the first millennium, and the Second Church being the Western Church of the second millennium. The Third Church is the church of the new millennium, the church of the Southern Hemisphere. It is here that the center of gravity of global missions has shifted. With the decline of Christianity in the West, this shift will only become more perceptible in the years ahead.
Below is a brief summary of our mission philosophy. Please keep in mind that we are not professionals. We have sought to derive our mission philosophy as much as possible from the Book of Books. Of course, we are not infallible. Only God’s Word is. Yet we believe these principles are scriptural. They drive our missionary efforts.
First, we believe that no human book can teach us missions. We prefer to look instead to the writings of the New Testament itself as authoritative in a way that no man-produced book is authoritative. We seek to learn from Jesus, Paul, and the apostles not only why we should do missionary work but also how. We believe that both the mandate and the model for missions must be patterned after the example of Jesus Christ. Thus we seek to do missions Christ’s way – “as the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you.” In short, our desire as missionaries is simply to follow the Scriptures, which stress the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church – not organizations, methods, programs, or personalities. As a result, we seek to avoid the cult of personality or the emphasis today upon methods and programs. “This is the way the New Testament church did it” is for us more than a slogan. We have a deep conviction that the one essential for missions is prayer and sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We see ourselves involved in a faith-commitment that cannot be explained by merely human factors. We therefore seek to do missions “from below,” depending solely on the leadership of the Holy Spirit and seeking to work with other believers who are open to His prompting. Our efforts are not the result of large, well-financed organizations but the work of simple, everyday Christians who understand that the Christian mission today is the responsibility of the global church. We endeavor always to follow Jesus’ model and to practice humble dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, we have intentionally adopted a cooperative model of missions. We will gladly work with any Christ-centered evangelical church that is willing to answer Christ’s call to obedience and self-sacrificing love. We don’t have to see eye-to-eye on secondary issues to work hand-in-hand. John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace,” once wrote to a fellow pastor: “What will it profit a man if he gains his cause, and silences his adversaries, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender flame of the Spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?” We believe that the whole Body of Christ can and must submit itself its Head, the great Redeemer of mankind. This is the very heart of Christianity – disciples of Jesus following Him in obedience and love. In Him we are all one family in which each member is given a grace gift, a functional service to carry out for the good of all. We are all brothers in Christ, members of one spiritual family, parts of one spiritual Body. However, love must be balanced by biblical knowledge and discernment, as Paul reminds us (Phil. 1:9). We therefore reject teaching that emphasizes prosperity and well-being as concomitants of the Gospel. We also reject the spirit of lovelessness and strife that characterizes theological fundamentalism. We eschew the “church marketing” concept and the professionalizing of “the ministry.” We seek to avoid the pitfalls of missionary paternalism. For us, a lump in the throat is no excuse for a hole in the head.
Thirdly and finally, we are committed to evangelizing primarily where missionaries are not actively working. Thus far the Lord Jesus has appointed us to work in the regions of Burji and Alaba mainly because little mission effort exists in those places. Like Joseph in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and Nehemiah in Persia, we seek to become a blessing to the people of these tribes. Currently we are exploring opportunities to serve the Lord in northern Ethiopia. We sense that this may be precisely the right time in history to launch a new thrust (Gal. 4:4). We believe that the various evangelical churches in Gonder can be the source of new missionary efforts in the North Gonder Region, which is largely Orthodox. In most woredas (provinces) there are only three or four believers and no established churches. Our approach to evangelism among the Muslims of the south and the Orthodox of the north will always be to incorporate personal Christian discipleship with the constraining love of Christ.
So there you have it – our philosophy of missions in a nutshell: the Bible our textbook, the Spirit our Guide, and the neediest our harvest field. The Lord has commissioned Becky and me to be in the “Gospel business,” even though we are not professionals. He has blessed us more than we could ever deserve with the honor of representing Him in the darkest areas of Ethiopia. On our last trip we learned so much from the example of the believers. We went to serve them, but from the first day it was we who were served. We sought to lift their spirits, but it was we who were uplifted. In making us feel so welcome, so cared for, they were the hands of Christ on our behalf. Little wonder we love them so much!
If the Lord Jesus should lay Ethiopia on your hearts, we would love to partner with you in the work. Because Becky and I are completely self-supporting, every penny that is sent to us goes to meet the needs of the churches and evangelists in Ethiopia. May God bless you for your desire to see the Good News brought to the lost of Africa.
July 5, 2007
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.