Next Generation Missions

Five People Wearing Clothes Behind Gray Wall

I remember when Megan and I were approved as second-generation World Baptist Fellowship missionaries 23 years ago.  At the time, we were “the next generation,” passionate to reach the world, but also challenging the status quo in many ways.  This was not in a spirit of rebellion, but in a zeal to do whatever was necessary to reach our generation with the Gospel, and the generations to come.  I remember being one of the first to move away from slides and slide projectors to a professionally edited video (on a VHS tape, of course!).  We carried around a massive, bulky projector into churches that were not equipped to display it or to handle the sound format.  Others at the time were challenging some of the expectations and requirements of wearing ties and dressing as formally as had been the custom and tradition.  Now, I look back at those “changes” and smile, because things have changed so much since then, and I am now the one watching the next generations come of age and enter vocational ministry, church planting and world missions.

Over the past years I have had a growing burden to challenge and equip the next generation of God’s servants, but that burden has only grown stronger now that it is my children who are stepping into vocational ministry and world missions.  It is thrilling to experience, but I admit that it is also challenging.  I have been forced to evaluate my assumptions, traditions, preferences and convictions to discern what truly is a Scriptural mandate or model, and what is personal judgment and discernment.  But I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

As I watch next generation missions unfolding in my own family and ministry, I have observed a few truths:

 

Without the next generation, the work cannot continue.  It has often been said that Christianity is always one generation away from extinction.  The same is true of every local church and of the cause of world missions.  If we fail to engage and mobilize the next generation, we fail in our mission.  The Great Commission is all about multiplication, reaching every generation, culture and community with the Gospel.  I believe God is still calling the next generation, but it is up to those of us in leadership to effectively engage them and equip them to reach their world.

 

Each generation challenges the status quo.  This is where things can get unpleasant.  We all have personal, cultural and historical perspectives, views and convictions.  When we are young, it drives us crazy when we ask questions and the answer we get is, “Because that’s the way it’s always been done.”  And yet, we often find ourselves giving the same answer to the next generation when they challenge our ways.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right?  Sadly, much of what we do in ministry today is broken and failing to accomplish our true mission in this generation.  But if we allow the questions and challenges to honestly drive us back to the timeless, unchanging, and cross-cultural truths of God’s Word, it will give us a solid foundation that can be passed on to the generations to come.

 

The next generation has much to teach us.  I am fascinated to see how the next generation has adapted to a world that is constantly changing.  Their world is changing much faster than ours did, and yet, for the most part, they are able to keep up and adjust to the latest trends and technology.  Even though the next generation is the largest generation in human history, and is far more unreached (in America) than any before, those in this generation who are committed to the Gospel are finding creative ways to use these changes as opportunities for evangelism, discipleship and world missions.  Yes, it often looks far different than how we have been trained to do ministry and missions, but I believe they have much to teach us.  When it comes to communicating with their generation and world, they “get it.”  My desire is to learn everything I can from the next generation (always filtered through the principles of God’s Word), so that I can be as effective as possible in the years that I have left to serve the Lord.

 

Next generation missions is exciting and challenging.  Not only do I look forward to what God is going to do through my own children, but I also look forward to seeing what God is doing to do through the next generation in the church that I pastor and in the churches of World Baptist Fellowship.

How Much Is Too Much?

Indigenous missions – the ultimate goal of the church-planting missionary.  Every missionary-in-training has learned to describe an indigenous church as self-governing, self-propagating, and self-supporting.  The question is not so much, “What is our goal?”  The question is, “How do we reach it?”  There are about as many answers to that question as there are missionaries.  In fact, how we answer that question will describe our philosophy of ministry.

If one of our primary goals is to establish a church that is self-supporting, how much resources should the foreign missionary provide?  There are missionaries who advocate no financial involvement whatsoever – the nationals should do it all.  The idea is that the nationals should learn to support the work and carry the full responsibility from the very beginning.  On the opposite end of the spectrum are missionaries who build an enormous enterprise of churches and/or national pastors, which relies almost exclusively on foreign funds (primarily from the United States).

Surely the answer lies, as in all areas of life and ministry, in a balance of both extremes.  Missionaries at times have misspent valuable years of ministry waiting for nationals to “learn” something they have been taught in principle (generosity, sacrifice, giving, faith), but have never seen or witnessed in their “pastor.”  At the same time, there have been large ministries that crumble when the foreign missionary and his funds are no longer present.

There are definitely no “pat answers” or rules that apply to every ministry, culture or circumstance regarding this issue.  So what do we do?  How should we approach our ministry?  When should we “pay the bill” and when should we abstain?  Here are some questions to consider as you seek to answer these questions in your ministry context:

  • What example am I setting to my church members (I Peter 5:3)?  King David sacrificed greatly and personally to build the Temple before asking the Israelites to take part and follow his example (I Chronicles 29:2-5).

  • What example am I setting to future national pastors?  The missionary is often the only example they have of personal sacrifice and commitment.

  • Does my involvement lead my church members to look to me or to God when they face a financial challenge (I Corinthians 2:3-5; II Corinthians 4:7)?

  • Am I just teaching about faith or am I demonstrating it (I Corinthians 11:1)?  Our greatest influence will be through what we model, not what we teach.

  • What would the long-term repercussions be if my financial support were no longer available?  The adjustment will always be difficult, but it should not cripple the work.

Only the LORD can help us answer these questions in our particular circumstance and ministry.  May He give each of His servants wisdom and discernment.  The indigenous work depends on it.

How have you faced these challenges?  What have you found to be a healthy balance?  Take a moment and share your thoughts in the comment section below.