Peter Schendzielorz reviews:
by Bruce Dipple. Sydney Missionary & Bible College 2011. ISBN 9780646562278
Bruce's wide ranging experience of missions (as a pastor and in serving and leading with SIM) and mission education (lecturing at SMBC and missions conferences) is well captured in his book Becoming Global. Whilst there's a depth of insight that could fill many books, the gems captured in its 138 pages are a firm foundation. Its particular focus is for churches to understand their role in God's global mission and be equipped to fulfil it by putting mission back at the core of church ministry.
One of the goals of the book is to help churches create a culture of mission, rather than just have it as an aspect alongside other ministries. In creating this culture, the church is then resourced to fulfil its mission to reach the whole world with the gospel, not just leaving it up to a select few. This change in culture also involves the church actively partnering with mission agencies, rather than relying on agencies to be the only ones on mission.
To ground its usefulness, three situations where this book would be especially useful are:
1. A church starting a missions committee;
2. A group that's planning a short term mission; and
3. A pastor seeking to equip and promote mission in their congregation.
At Curtin we've used Becoming Global to provide content for our theology of mission topic in student training. Of most use has been the extra practical resources provided by Bruce such that we didn't just explore ideas and theology, but also how to implement them.
The best part about this book is the practical resources that it provides. Rather than just raising ideas about mission education there are resources (books, outlines, websites, and talks) that can help - ranging from how to conduct a helpful missions interview in church; prepare a weekend church camp programme with a visiting missionary; to establishing a missions committee or training a short term mission group
Since it's a short book, and one that can be used widely across different churches or contexts, there's scope to extend the content as appropriate. In some cases to provide more supporting Biblical theology or exegesis, or to consult further with partner mission agencies to draw on the resources they have.
The final chapter closes with "a special note to pastors". In it Bruce emphasises the need to continue to preach and teach faithfully from the Bible, noting that if the Bible contains the story of God's missional work, then that needs to be reflected in how we expound, teach and apply the Bible to equip God's church. Well worth reading.
Peter Schendzielorz works with AFES at Curtin University in Perth, having previously worked with CMS WA and studied at SMBC. He is keen to see students equipped for life-long gospel ministry and mission.
Bishop Tony Nichols suggests ways in which parishes can better encourage and support Missions and Missionaries.
God has commanded that the Gospel of the Lord Jesus should be taken to all peoples (Luke 24:46-47; Romans 16:25-27). Whatever our particular calling or vocation, we are bound as Christians to recognize the priority of the Gospel, and to support its proclamation in our own neighborhood, and to the “gospel poor” in God’s world.
As a church we need to be challenged regularly to fulfill God’s command. We also need practical help from experienced practitioners and Christian leaders from other countries. Mission is now “from everywhere to everywhere”.
1. Look for ways to co-operate with other churches and not just do our own thing. There are many fine missionary organizations that enable us to do that.
2. As Anglicans, it is natural for us to support, in particular, the Church Missionary Society, which is Bible based and committed to training long term workers.
3. Make sure that the missionaries and organisations we support are known to the whole congregation and not just the leaders. Feature them regularly on notice boards and in the church intercessions.
4. Be disciplined and good stewards by supporting a few missionaries that we know well and are committed to – and prioritize them. It is helpful to distinguish our level of support by using terms such as “partners”, “friends” (or “affiliates”), and “short termers”.
5. Set aside money to help missionaries to visit us and to spend time with our congregation. This will benefit both them and us.
6. Consider sending out members on short term assignments with the goal of ultimately sending them out for the longer term. Such initiatives must have the support of national Christians and partners in the field, lest they are burdensome to their hosts or embarrassing “loose cannons”.
7. Encourage the congregation to grow the missions’ budget by teaching the Biblical principles of world mission partnership. A “Global Missions Month” with guest speakers from other cultures (including indigenous Australians) can be inspirational.
8. Give opportunity to non Anglo members of our congregation to tell their story and give us honest feedback.
9. Form a small Mission Committee to advise the Rector and Church Council and provide updates on mission partners. One member should liaise and co-ordinate dissemination of prayer material and monitor care of mission partners on furlough.
10. Fifty per cent of Perth’s population was born overseas. Many struggle in relating to the dominant Anglo culture or to the English language itself. Learn about the demography of your own suburb. See the ABS statistics. What groups are not represented in our church? Why? How can the church reach out to these people? What about overseas students?
11. ESL courses are an excellent form of outreach. But leaders need cross-cultural training and appropriate methodology and resources.
Bishop Tony Nichols has served as a University teacher in Indonesia, as Bishop of North-West Australia, Principal of Nungalinya College and of St Andrew' Hall.
Dale Appleby reviews a landmark book about mission giving:
To Give or not to Give? Rethinking dependency, Restoring generosity, & Redefining Sustainability by John Rowell, Biblica Publishing. 2006.
At one level this book challenges the "three-self" paradigm of modern mission practice (self-governing, self-supporting and self-propagating). But it does so in a global context in which the author describes rich western churches deciding not to give generously to new churches in poorer countries in case they become dependent. At another level it is about giving and generosity. The discussion is set in a mission context. The author has been working together with Bosnian Christians to see churches planted in that war-torn country.
Rowell traces the origins of the three-self paradigm back to the English Anglican Henry Venn, the leader of the Church Missionary Society from 1841. (His father was the pastor to William Wilberforce.) However Venn's concerns differed from today's discussions. He was concerned with the mission equivalent of colonialism, namely ecclesiastical imperialism. His concern was not dependency but domination. He wanted to bring an end to outside governance not outside giving.
One of the features of the book is the attempt to understand why western Christians have been so unwilling to give to the poorer churches. The author documents the development of ideas about giving to the poor in the history of the United States. He traces this development from what he calls Social Calvinism, a way of giving by persons to persons in their community but which distinguished between the "worthy poor" and the "wayward poor", through Social Darwinism (eliminating or allowing the unfit not to survive), through to Social Universalism which eliminated both personal giving (the government took over responsibility for welfare) and any distinctions about whether people actually needed welfare help. The result of the latter welfare programs was a cynicism that the public support programs didn't work. "Compassion fatigue" set in.
Rowell also documents the generally poor contributions of his home nation to the poorer nations. His claim is that both as a nation and as churches, 98% of all income is kept at home. He says that a mere 0.18 percent of church income goes to outreach ministries aimed at lost people living in already evangelised cultures, and only 0.02 percent goes annually to help reach truly un-reached peoples with the gospel.
His major plea is for western rich churches and Christians to work in covenant partnerships with churches in poorer nations as partners who contribute different things. He compares the Lend-Lease policy of the United States during World War II, and says that those with money can add it to those with human resources and expertise on the ground. Rather than fearing a welfare mentality he says we should be thinking of a warfare mentality in which we pool whatever resources we have for the good of the gospel.
He promotes the idea of compassionate conservatism, which is roughly a personal giving based on relationships, distinguishing between the worthy poor and the wayward poor, and setting a high value on the employment of heads of households. He outlines what he calls a Missionary Marshall Plan (modelled on the plan that helped re-establish the economies of some European nations after the second World War). This gives the primary responsibility for mission ministry to the local church not to outside donors. It also focuses efforts in areas where the Lord has opened doors to work.
One of the major themes running through the book is that Christians need to practice biblical generosity and not use the three-self paradigm as an excuse to withhold gifts to those in need. He has many strong things to say about the self-interest and greed of western churches and Christians, and also challenges the lifestyles of western missionaries who work among the poor. Rowell includes a helpful section on how Christians can help tackle poverty.
Overall the book is well thought out and practical. It comes from solid biblical study informed by personal experience and practice.
It should be read by church leaders, members of Church Councils, Boards of Deacons or Elders and those involved in mission outreach. It is an impassioned and challenging but practical book which has many important things to say to affluent western Christians.