[anzac] The MISSIONARIES' SHOCK

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From: "REVIVAL List" <revival_list@...>
Date: Fri, 04 Aug 2006 13:25:35 -0500
The MISSIONARIES' SHOCK:

"Our analysis has concluded that Jesus is not the spiritual father
of our Evangelical culture."

"We discovered that... evangelicals have such a dominant consumer
orientation to 'church' that they quickly default to a focus on their
needs and their family's needs..." - MORE BELOW:


SPREADING "CONSUMER CHRISTIANITY" AROUND the EARTH?
-Fran Patt.

For the past 25 years I have ministered within church and mission
in North America. I have served as a staff person of a church, as
an elder, and (with my wife) as part of churchplanting teams. Most
everything we have attempted for many years has been connected
to recruiting, training and fielding the most effective missionaries 
possible.

We were launched into a new phase of ministry about 15 years ago
when we received a shocking letter from a close friend, whom we
had helped to recruit, train and deploy to an Asian field among
Muslims... our friend's letter said this about his team:

- We come from large, upper-middle-class churches with multiple
staff, large budgets, and large buildings.
- None of us was ever involved in a church plant prior to coming to
this Asian field.
- To be effective in the next phase of ministry, we will need to
understand how to establish the Church in home-sized fellowships.
- We have no experience or training that prepared us for this, and
our home church culture is of no help.
- Our primary mission here is to establish the Body of Christ in a
way that will be culturally relevant and able to survive and thrive
after we leave, but we are really not certain we know how to do
this, given the limitations we have communicated.

Soon after we received this letter, we debriefed with a highly-trusted
veteran missionary with over 35 years of service. His analysis
included another shock to us: in his estimation, two-thirds of all
the missionaries he had worked with (though, fortunately, not our
friends in Asia) should have been sent home because they were
ineffective and largely a detriment rather than a help. Part of his
analysis was that these missionaries had very few ministry skills,
no professional skills, and virtually no clue on how to work
effectively with nationals.

In the aftermath of this letter and debriefing we arrived at three
conclusions... Specifically, [our] set of new training modules needed
to be about what 'church' is and isn't, helping mission candidates
and other Christian workers learn how to unpack or deconstruct
their understanding of 'church.'

Since virtually all the missionary candidates we had worked with
were from churches that had never planted a church, there was
no way to make church-planting a natural pre-field part of their
learning experience unless we added it. So we embarked on what
we expected would be a wild and intense learning experience. We
worked with a church-planting team made up of some of our
missionary candidates and other committed Christians.

The next few years brought some significant surprises, prompting
us to change our entire ministry schematic, for again we found
ourselves facing unexpected problems.

The first issue is related to evangelical expectations of 'church'.
We discovered that even when there are mutually agreed-upon
outward goals for the 'church plant,' evangelicals have such a
dominant consumer orientation to 'church' that they quickly default
to a focus on their needs and their family's needs before the church
does anything else. So, through three successive church plants,
where the stated intentions were to focus on reaching the non-
Christian community, all three were hijacked to meet the needs
of the Christians involved, while very little was invested in reaching
the non-believing community in the first two years of these plants.

The second issue is related to the first. It is all about spiritual DNA:
who does the American evangelical look like? Does he or she
resemble Jesus in his focus, values, and mission? Our analysis
has concluded that Jesus is not the spiritual father of our Evangelical
culture. Our Evangelical world is more about our peculiar cultural
values and what we like and dislike rather than a reflection of Jesus.
If we take a hard, objective look at the Gospels, we will see a great
deal of similarity between our Evangelical values and the values of
the Pharisees rather than the values of Jesus.

The third issue is the logical outcome of the first two: we have a
very bad case of culture blindness. I don't mean that we cannot
distinguish cultural differences, but that we are blind to the
differences between what we are as cultural Christians and what
the Bible clearly articulates we should be. Our blindness will make
it very easy for us to go from culture to culture in our world, planting
churches that we think are representative of Paul's apostolic
ministry in the New Testament, when in reality our churchplanting
principles are a manifestation of our own culture and are not
gospel to anyone but us.

Dealing With Problems at Their Root

Fifteen years ago, when we responded to our missionary friend's
letter from Asia, we had no idea where this process would lead us.
As we began to address the problems, we naively believed the
answer was better training. We had no idea that the process of
following the leading of the Holy Spirit would take us to the very
root of who we are as a Christian people. Let me be clear: the
problem is not the institution of the church, but instead who we
have become as American Evangelical Christians. Yes, another
problem is that some churches foster or permit sub-biblical and
un-Christlike behavior, but our experience has been that most
churches and church plants with the best of intentions will end up
wrecked on the rocks of our self-centered cultural expectations
and inclinations.

It is obvious that missiological problems of church and culture need
to be addressed to adequately prepare men and women for cross-
cultural service, but it seems even more important to address and
correct the sources of these problems here in North America. We
will never be free of the problems that cultural Christianity breeds
unless we deal with these problems at their root. If we are content
to maintain and promote a mission strategy that accepts the status
quo in North American Christian culture, we can assume the strong
likelihood of either failure or recidivism in our training of missionaries.
It is likely that North American Evangelicalism will need to reinvest
or reinvent itself as a new people and a new culture for these
problems to be completely eradicated. Until that glorious day, you
will find us looking for a few teachable men and women willing to
walk along side very fallible but increasingly wiser teachers as we
invest our lives in bringing a supra-cultural Jesus to the nations.

[-To read the complete article, see "What DNA Are we (Really)
Reproducing?" by Fran Patt in the July-August 2006 'Mission
Frontiers' Magazine - AN EXCELLENT MAGAZINE - website:
http://www.missionfrontiers.org/ ].

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