I have been spending time this week reading, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes That Hinder It, by Roland Allen, which was written in 1927. And though, it is over 85 years old, in many ways it speaks to issues in modern missions more than ever before. Specifically what I want to look at today and in my next post is the section included on the missionary organization.
Allen's whole premise for including this section in his book was to warn of the dangers that mission organizations can produce along with the serious difficulties it can cause both at home and abroad. The first major thing that he points out is that it makes all the progress depend upon money, which in result is the antithesis of spontaneous expansion.
Allen further points out that in a sense there have always been mission organizations, but the original he refers to as the simple necessary one, being the local church itself. It was only later and in to today that the more complicated large mission organizations came to be. Basically what he is pointing out is that there was no such thing as an organization that did missions for the early church, but the church itself was sufficient for such cause; obviously allowing for a spontaneous expansion of the church as we read in the New Testament.
Here Allen says, "If we compare our modern missionary work with the missionary work of the Early Church, this is what differentiates them: with us missions are the special work of a special organization; in the Early Church missions were not a special work and there was no special organization."
The key thing that Allen has pointed out that I want us all to get here, is that by allowing the progress to depend upon money, we are failing at be faithful to the Great Commission. Yes, I know and realize that our global church planting efforts take money, but we should not allow the progress to depend upon money. For example, each year there is a huge campaign that not enough is given to the work of international missions within the organization I currently operate under. It is often said, "If we don't give than how will these people in this place ever here." I understand that statement and believe that there is a proper time for it, but part of the shortfall of money could be that individual churches are no longer operating fully under the modern missions organization but rather going back to the simple necessary one of the local church.
Along with this issue, there are churches that in a sense sit by and watch the work not progress as their people are delayed waiting for a spot, once enough dollars have been given. But if the local church was operating as the missions organization, and I may argue should be, it would allow for them to funnel their money from within to those willing to go. In other words the work is still progressing apart from the large missions organization.
Now, before I get myself into too much trouble here, I want to be clear that I am not necessarily against the modern day missions organization. In fact I have friends that work and operate under at least ten different organizations. And they have and will continue to do great things for the advance of the Kingdom of God. But I will point out that as my family was being assessed for an International Church Planting role we were told, "You are not being sent by your local church, but you are being sent by this organization." I am afraid that is a commonly held attitude within many of these organizations that is not healthy or biblical. And to be clear, we corrected his thinking by responding, "We are sent by our local church as they are the ones that recognize our calling/gifting and they equipped us to be sent out." Truthfully I wanted to add that it is churches like ours that pay his paycheck to begin with but the Holy Spirit helped me to bite my tongue on that one.
I don't believe that modern day mission organizations are going away nor should they, but I would like to see the local church take the lead role in our missionary efforts as did the Early Church. It is time to quit outsourcing missions to the large organizations and raise up and send out from within the local body, even operating within an organization.