For several years now I've been studying the missionary movement in North America. I believe we are on the cusp of an era when insourcing missions will become the strategy for achieving global evangelization. A strategy that depends on outsourcing the work to paid professionals is not going to get the job done. Outsourcing will be around for a while longer because it is what everyone is used to. But insourcing will require a wholly different mindset. It's not just about producing more missionaries. It's about creating a completely different kind of environment -- a collaborative environment in which everyday people like you and me are constantly thinking about how to generate towel and basin ministries both at home and around the globe.
When you start insourcing for more effective mission work, all kinds of good things begin to happen. For Becky and me, this has meant a deeper working relationship with Christians the world over. It has meant getting to work side by side with local churches in Ethiopia, where resources and manpower are most needed. It has meant streamlining efficiency as top-heavy bureaucracies are bypassed. It has meant more sustainable relationships between churches in the U.S. and churches in Africa. Moreover, the more you are seen as insourcing, the more people will want to get involved as they begin to realize that they too can play a part in global missions.
This is the dynamic that I, as a seminary professor, am tracking most closely. What strikes me the most about the new generation of seminary students is how ordinary they are. They are just everyday Christians who care deeply about the Great Commission and are willing to forego the American Dream in order to accomplish it. Moreover, they are beginning to realize that the church's greatest asset is the so-called laity, people at the grass roots who think missionally and globally. There are so many trends, so many hopeful signs, that I dare not predict how it will all play out. But getting this right is going to be critical for the church of the twenty-first century. The work is so difficult, and the stakes are so high, that we can't afford to sit in the fence any longer.
I will take it a step further and say that the greatest thing any local church could do for itself, for its people, and for the world is to publicly state its intention to place the Great Commission first in everything it does. The church's raison d'Ítre is utterly tied up with the process of getting Christians to live and act as salt and light in the world, as our Lord commanded. The church must be equipped to serve in the world precisely because it is not of this world. It is an upside-down kingdom that moves forward on its knees, casts down evil strongholds through sacrificial love, and opens closed doors. As never before, we need God's servants who are willing to risk life and limb to preach the uncompromising Word of God. Excuses won't do. None of us is too young or too old to learn the power of voluntary service for others in the name of Jesus. And when we have learned to embrace this attitude of self-denial, we will begin to experience the life described in the book of Acts.
How can the church in North America get to the place where we will launch out into action instead of merely talking about the millions of lost people all around us? The answer is very simple. There will be no change until we change our attitude from that of a hireling to that of a bondservant. We must turn our backs on all of our excuses and voluntarily live a life that is totally separated unto the Gospel. As the great British athlete C. T. Studd once put it, "Some want to live within the sound of a church or chapel bell. I want to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." It was because of His great love for people that Jesus deliberately reached out to the lost, sick, and dying people of His day. If we are truly born-again Christians, if we have truly come to grips with the terms of "costly discipleship" (Bonhoeffer), how can we possibly do anything less?
May 23, 2011
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.