The future of mission agencies?

This past Wednesday at All Nations we had our annual missions fair. Almost 30 mission agencies were present. The students were able to get a lot of information from the literature and by asking questions of the representatives. This is always an interesting time for them although they often feel overwhelmed.

It always interests me how mission reps view the role of their agency and agencies in general. I also, in conversation try and provoke discussion on the role of agencies in mission today.

An interesting piece of data I picked up is that agencies are getting smaller. They have fewer missionaries and some are attempting merge with other agencies. The reasons given were also interesting. Most blamed both fewer people going into mission, more short-term mission and direct sending from churches. We will come back to this.

Because was representing Latin Link a few people mentioned that they had seen fast growth in Latin Americans in mission. Somebody told me that in a missionary kids classroom over half the kids were Brazilian.

O what is the future of the mission agency? Since the end of the eighteenth century and the beginnings of the so-called "Modern Mission Movement" with the BMS, CMS and LMS, et, it was assumed that sending through an missio agency, as a middle-man between the church and the missionary overseas was the best way forward. This has been questioned in the past twenty to thirty years.

Large churches send their missionaries directly. Other models are being tried such as the Latin American mission agency that is a receiving body rather than a sending one. They receive, orientate and care for the "field" side of things and the church deals with sending of money and home-leave issues. This is not perfect but s questioning whether the traditional mission agency should be changing.


The Humanity of God

I taught a class yesterday on the En Route programme at All Nations and we were reflecting on the incredible nature of God who we know in Jesus Christ. When we read about him in the Gospels, we cannot help but be bowled over by the incredible person we are confronted by.

This is not simply an incredible man like Martin Luther King, or Gandhi, Christ is the humanity of God. Not simply God in a body, but God as human. This is the miracle of the incarnation. In Jesus Christ we see God as He is: born into as a tiny baby, in a country oppressed by a foreign power, pursued by a despot, working with his hands to make a living, associating himself with the poor, lame, immoral, and needy, walking dusty roads, being treated unjustly, being abandoned, and ultimately tried in a kangaroo court and executed as an innocent man.

That's God for you!


Of towers and false unities

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, ‘Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’ So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel– because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

Genesis 11 is a classic passage that we were taught in Sunday School. Humanity was getting way too big for its boots in building a tower and God decides to slap them down.

Jose Miguez Bonino, however, has a rather different and, in my opinion more coherent interpretation. Instead of the one language being the original human language, he proposes that this was an imposed language of Shinar, the forerunner of Babylon. The Incas and the Spanish used this policy of social control in Latin America. There was only one language allowed to be used and so people and things can be monitored.

The tower itself was a symbol of the power of the empire to dominate the peoples around. So when God comes down, first to look and then to mix up the languages, this is an act of liberation from the dominance of empire.

The language and the tower are false symbols of unity, which God destroys.

There are so many false unities in the world today. These false unities are things like capitalism, democracy or even the fight against "terror". In the church their are false unities such as denominations, traditions, styles of worship and conferences.

All true unity should be unity around that which liberates not that which enslaves. The true unity is Jesus Christ.