Missionary statesman Dr George Forbes challenges:
After spending some forty years fully involved in world missions at a leadership level of two mission agencies, I am convinced that it is past time to rethink world missions.
It is urgent that churches and agencies become more strategic in fulfilling the Great Commission through church – planting movements.
Power shift – a biblical prospective
This will mean a ‘power shift where one group loses power and another group gains power.’ Alvin Tofler said this from a natural perspective in the context of a political uprising and the overthrow of a regime.
I say it from a biblical perspective and for the sake of nations where the gospel is still unknown. A power shift in the church is necessary to see the Great Commission of Christ completed.
Obedience to the Great Commission calls for partnerships with emerging national church planting movements. For leadership to change to those working on the frontline of the harvest, in these partnerships and for new levels of trust and empowerment.
‘World Missions’ used to be the ‘West to the Rest’ of the world; but now the majority of new missionaries are African, Asian or Latin American. The shift is away from the western business model to the power of service and partnership with national church planting movements.
Aligning with God and his power
We need to align ourselves with what God is doing and experience God’s power in mission in new ways in this 21 century. This calls for –
• Renewed obedience to the word of God
• Experiencing again the direct leading of the Holy Spirit
• New strategies focused on the cutting edge of the world harvest.
The Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 and other gospel passages says we are to make disciples of all peoples. This is the goal of missions.
Thank God for the missionaries who went out in the will of God to the ends of the earth. For the investment of their lives in the extension of the kingdom of God. However, today as one thinks of the multiplied activities that are called ‘missions’ that are not missions, we need to rethink. Let me explain. Western culture has taught us to look for immediate returns and results. As a result we want a big payoff for our missions’ investment. Most of us aren’t willing to wait.
Our culture has side-tracked many of us to the point where good pastors and churches have a ‘missions vision’ that is locked to business practice and investment results.
Too many local churches are asking and expecting measurable returns in short time frames. Consequently, as the great mission’s thinker Dr Ralph Winter said of many churches and agencies, prior to his call to be with Christ in 2009, their focus is ‘projects rather than process.’
He calculated that the funding of projects was running at a 10 to 1 ratio in fund raising for missions in the USA. For every 100 million dollars for church planting missions they were raising one billion dollars for projects and aid.
Returning to the cutting edge
We must return to the ‘cutting edge’ of the harvest where the ‘unreached peoples’ live. Where today there is a ripe harvest. At the risk of repetition of key points in my recent blogs I urge churches and missions agencies to focus more on the main harvest.
The ‘cutting edge’ of the global harvest is where the harvest is ripe and it’s reaping time. It’s where there are few or no churches yet – and where the Holy Spirit is moving among unreached nations.
God is calling us to:
• Realign our strategies
• Redirect our energies
• Partner globally in the unfinished harvest.
The church must support pioneer missionaries and national church planters who will go to the difficult places of the world and proclaim the gospel. Perhaps labouring for years before they see results.
If we don’t, we will never complete the Great Commission. That process begins with prayer and spiritual warfare on behalf of those who live in closed countries. It then progresses with willingness to move in obedience when God realigns our strategies and redirects our focus.
Paul’s openness to the power shift principle
Remember Paul’s experience when the Holy Spirit redirected his focus? (Acts 16: 7-9) “’When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”’
That was a ‘power shift’ for the apostle Paul. In the twenty-first century, we need to recognise that God has a plan for the evangelisation of the world. God has specific roles for every church and every individual believer and every mission’s agency.He has specific roles for the church in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and, for the church in Australia.
Missions is now ‘The Global Church in partnership.’ More missions’ workers are coming from Africa, Latin America and Asia than western countries. Call them missionaries, national workers, partners, or any other name. The name is not important; their ministry is all important to the completing of the global harvest.
God has a place for everyone!
Dr George Forbes is the former General Director of Assemblies of God World Missions in Australia. He served as head of this dynamic mission for thirty years, during which the mission grew from one field to thirty countries (1969-1999). He then served as founder-director of Mission Mobilisers International (2000 – 2014).
Internationally recognised as a missionary statesman with a heart for the lost of the nations, George Forbes is an able mission communicator with a wealth of missionary knowledge and the ability to communicate the global picture. He is widely known as the ‘story-teller.’ Link: firstname.lastname@example.org