Thursday, August 15, 2019
Working together. . .
On the one hand, we often get the impression that because of these connections we know the mission field well enough to presume what the folks want or need or face in their local setting. That is often a mistaken presumption. We know just enough to be dangerous. Whether we are talking about partner churches in places far away or missionaries on site, these are the folks who are better equipped to know the needs, wants, and challenges. We owe it to them and to ourselves to listen before we presume.
Another aspect of this is that we a half a world away are often gullible. We listen to earnest voices and we hear some dishonest voices and we are hard pressed to know the difference. The folks on the ground, those responsible for ecclesiastical training and supervision, are in a better position to judge where resources ought to be supplied and how the church might best be served in mission fields around the world.
We disrespect our partner churches and our mission partners when bypass them. How would we feel if another congregation set up a mission church across the street from our own parish? How would we react to a district deciding to plant a mission in another district? How would we respond to someone who had never set foot in our building telling us what we needed and then going ahead and purchasing these items without even telling us? These things happen all the time when well meaning folks with a desire to make a difference decide how what ought to be done and have the wallets filled with cash to make it happen.
In the end, foreign missions is one of those core activities of any church body and is the fruit of many people working together with those on the ground who have a clearer idea of what the needs are and how best to meet those needs. I know that is true of my church body. Working together the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod celebrated this year a 125th anniversary of foreign missions at a time when the work of the Synod is exploding with opportunity. Some of the places where mission work has waited for the right time find themselves now open to the work of missionaries speaking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have not heard. Some of the places where threats have prevented the people from entering the mission field now find themselves at peace so that the missionary can be welcomed. Some of the places where work had seemed to languish are now witnessing great fruit for the Kingdom where nothing seemed to be happening.
I am privileged to know a few of those who work on our behalf to direct this work and I am in awe of their dedication, their wisdom, and their resourcefulness. To those who think they know better, I please with you to ask some questions of the experts on the ground and to consider being prayer and financial partners with the foreign mission agencies of our church (and others).
We certainly do live at a time when people and parishes have the resources to act alone in the work of judging when, where, and how much to support mission work a world away. But, as the Scriptures have reminded, not all things possible are beneficial. Just because you can does not mean you should. For the members of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, now is the time to reconsider working alone and to consider how working together can bear greater fruit and better fruit. I have every confidence in the work of those associated with our Office of International Mission. They are dedicated and talented and will make sure that your desire becomes solid work and that this work endure. So here is my unashamed plug for giving hem a call before you consider acting arbitrarily or on your own.