Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The IMB's future according to Rankin

OK, so Jerry Rankin says he doesn't "have the ability to discern the future" in his latest blog, Trends, Trials and Triumph, but he does offer some insight into the IMB's, and missions in general, future.

Cuba will become more open to the world, at which time outside Christian entities will flow into the country claiming a piece of the action and destroy, through patronizing subsidy, one of the most spiritual, authentic movements to Christ we have seen in this generation.

You cannot travel to Central America without bumping into numerous short term mission groups in entry airports. When Cuba opens up, everyone will want to be there. It’s close, cheap, and great PR for mission entities. I’d say Rankin will be right on this and we will ruin it all.

The nature of missions will radically change. There will be increasing and widespread hostility toward a Christian witness. More sophisticated governments are recognizing Americans who venture overseas with presumed humanitarian motives have unwelcome evangelistic agendas. The future missionary must come out of a marketplace ministry; credible global platforms for medical work, education, technology and business consultation must become the channels for sharing the gospel and planting churches.

I’m not sure exactly what this means for the IMB, who does a lot of platform stuff overseas.

The IMB will move from being a missionary-sending agency that screens and vets those worthy of sharing the gospel overseas to become a facilitator for mobilizing the vast resources and potential of Southern Baptists to reach a lost world. The adoption of recommendations for a Great Commission Resurgence is just the beginning of new incentive for a changing denominational structure and revised priorities in the future. Churches will have a heart and commitment for missions as never before; we must serve them and assist them as they send out missionaries and engage the world or be marginalized in our relevance.

I’m not sure what this means either. Rankin blogged earlier about the IMB turning down missionary candidates for various reasons, often angering churches in the process. While I know that the IMB does partner with some large and megachurches on specific projects under certain circumstances, it’s hard for me to envision the IMB moving away from being a sending agency. I’d like to know more.

Will the IMB be in for "radical" change? I don't know.


J L Carver said...

I sometimes fear that our mission trips are like would be cowboys spending a week at a dude ranch. For a few days they look, sound, and act like real cowboys. Then they return home and leave the horses and cattle to be ridden and driven by some other would be cowboys. We need a way to evaluate the effectiveness of our mission trips to insure that our invested resources, both personnel and finances, reap the greatest spiritual benefit. Too many ten day mission trips are two to four days of travel, three or four days of ministry, and three days of sight seeing that leave our hosts tired, frustrated, and wondering if it was at all worth it. I'm not saying that we should not conduct church sponsored mission trips, but we do need to carefully evaluate our goals and objectives in going.

Norm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norm said...

Made a few "spellin'" and an organization correction to the deleted post. Here 'tis again:

That a group of people (say, Bolivians) would like to have a foreign-born (say, American), trained individual serve full-time in ministry is something that needs to be considered (by, say, SBC IMB), but why are foreign-born individuals (i.e., Americans) the preferred SBC way of doing full-time ministry in other lands (e.g., Bolivia)? Can we not train individuals from a particular area (say, Bolivia) to assume full-time ministry responsibilities (in, say, Bolivia) and have, then, US SBC personnel serve subordinately (if at all, but surely at the invitation of the indigenous people) to indigenous leadership once upon the field?

What is a core competency of SBC? It is, has been, and, I hope, will always be ministerial training. I see a two-wave strategy: 1) Enlist individuals with a particular expertise/skills that is/are needed by a foreign community to help it adequately function; these individuals will also be trained by SBC to provide religious instruction and programming, and will serve an indefinite amount of time, but surely are not to be considered permanent (theoretically) missionaries (however, they are full-time missionaries). In addition to the discharge of their expertise/skills, it is their aim to create processes and programs that lead to the identification and development of religious leadership and its eventual formal education and training. 2) Once the identified leadership has completed the requisite formal education and training, it then assumes responsibility for ministry to and identification and training (education and training with the help of SBC educational agencies) of leadership for the area. If said expertise/skills of the US SBC personnel is/are still needed in the area, it can be provided but said individuals are subordinate to the now trained and educated leadership that is indigenous to the area. If not needed, they move to other areas of need.

Although there will be some full-time ministry missionaries on some fields, all fields will have those with other expertise that can provide adequate religious instruction. With this model the need for short-term work will be related more to evangelism than to non-evangelistic concerns. It is more of a bottom-up approach to building community, religious and otherwise. The people will likely perceive the importance and excitement of lay involvement and its roots in the concept of the priesthood of all believers. It is my belief that this type of ministry approach will create more sustainable and dynamic communities, thus allowing the gospel to take a form that is more appropriate to and for the indigenous people.

William said...

J.L., I always ask any career IMB field mssys for their worst volunteer mission team anecdotes and I've heard some doozies from them. There is a place for short term stuff. I'm just not sure exactly how it can be managed overall.

Norm, I believe that many (I can't give a percentage) of IMB's overseas personnel already serve to some degree in the mode you describe. What I cannot envision is the IMB not being a sending agency for SBC churches. Guess we will learn more as time passes.

Norm said...

William: … personnel already serve to some degree in the mode you describe ….

Norm: Yes, they have for decades, but the difference here is that the preferred and primary mode of service is mostly non-ministerial, not ministerial, and that mission work is contingent not permanent; that is, full-time professional ministry personnel have less presence on the field than non-professional ministerial personnel, and that work is not open-ended once indigenous leadership is in place. Again, and as a difference, when indigenous, full-time ministerial leadership is identified, trained, and ready to serve (i.e., leading), remaining US SBC personnel take a subordinate role or simply move on to other fields (however such is open to negotiation). The community at this point re-visits its relationship with SBC and decides if and how it wishes to relate to the convention. I assume that between two responsible parties having a common interest, a negotiation will ensue; otherwise, the relationship will not be about mutuality but rather conformity and control.

William Thornton said...

What you describe is pretty much what is done in many SBC overseas assignments, Norm. You may be directing your comments to old SBC policies, some of which continue. At the moment both exist but I don't know the proportions.

I would like for Rankin to be more specific. Perhaps he will in future articles.

Norm said...

So you are saying, then, that non-professional ministry personnel (i.e., non seminary-degree) is the preferred and primary mode for SBC mission work?

William said...

Professional ministry personnel are and have served in the mode that you describe, and for some time.

Norm said...

Again, is the non seminary-degreed (but somewhat seminary-trained [say, one year of seminary study]), other occupation-based missionary the preferred and primary means for mission work?

Anonymous said...

Since couples are counted as two, and generally one is non-degreed, you have an odd mix. I don't know the proportions but I would seriously doubt that most (counting couples as one unit) are non-mdiv or other seminary degreed people. Rankin is saying that the movement will be in the direction of platforms, secular platforms, not primarily seminary degreed people.