Three Questions for Ministry
I have three questions, inspired by J.D. Payne’s latest book Pressure Points. They’ve been issues I’ve been wrestling with in some form for a couple of years.
One: Are we willing raise up missionaries as well as pastors for the West? I used to think that we need pastors in North America, and missionaries overseas. Payne writes:
As long as society has a large percentage of believers, a pastoral model may be sufficient for engaging the population. However, the boat of Western society has sailed deeply into post-Christian waters, so there is a need for both pastoral paradigms and a return to apostolic missionary teams. The church trying to operate with only one model is like a boat rowing against the tide with its anchor down.
We need pastoral models; we also need those who are not called to pastor the already-converted, or to maintain existing churches, but to plant new churches among those who have never heard the gospel.
Two: Are we willing to use simple, reproducible models? Payne writes:
As the gospel continues to spread and the church matures, infrastructures, organizations, and methods tend to become more and more complex. What began as missionary activity with a few elements beyond biblical simplicity develops into a highly structured paradigm for ministry and mission.
While complexity is not always bad, it does hinder reproducibility. We need reproducible missionary methods that can scale. “Jesus did the complicated part,” Payne writes. “Now the literate and illiterate, rich and poor, sick and healthy, urban and rural, educated and uneducated can serve him faithfully in HIs church.”
Are we willing to develop models of church that are less dependent on complex systems, and that can be easily reproduced, even with relatively young believers with few resources such as church buildings and budgets?
Three: are we willing to learn from successes and failures? Payne observes that we often wait until a ministry has succeeded before we learn from it, and by then it’s often years from when that ministry began to bear fruit. “We like to share the stories that reveal the thrill of victory, but we often fail to tell those that remember the agony of defeat.” What’s the alternative?
We must begin to communicate our stories now — both what is working well and what is not working so well. It is wise and healthy to say, “We don’t know the answer, but here is what we have tried.”
These three questions are exciting to me. I’m praying for a movement of people who see the West as a mission field; who are willing to use simple, reproducible models; and who are willing to share successes and failures as they serve on mission. I hope I’m among their number.