5 Major Challenges for Mission Agencies: 1. Globalization

Posted: February 13, 2013 in Missions
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Sometimes it’s a dirty word (ask a French farmer), and sometimes it’s the economic lifeline for a third-world economy. Whether positive or negative, however, it is the new reality, the new world order. My Japanese laptop was made in China, possibly shipped on a Panamanian or Liberian freighter by a Danish company to the United States, where I bought it. In the church world, Hillsong, Rick Warren or Joyce Meyer have more influence here in Poland (and possibly in Indonesia, Brazil and Rwanda) than any Polish pastor or church (or the corresponding national leaders in other countries may have).

Urbanization is somewhat connected to globalization, and today’s cultural, political and economic centers – New York, London, Paris, Tokyo – are sometimes more important and influential to a small country than that country’s own capital city. Today’s modern mega-city is a globalized nation-state that at least partially integrates the entire world in a few square kilometers.

With the interdependency of economies comes the interaction of ideas and the interweaving of art and culture. Intermarriage between nationalities becomes the norm, not the exception, and even a remote church can begin to look (and sound) more international.

How do mission agencies deal with the internationality of Christianity, theology, and mission? How do we handle the internationality of the global mission force? Or, for  my organization, WorldVenture, how do we talk about mission “from everywhere, to everywhere” while still appointing only North Americans? Of course, our Poland field is an excellent example of the fact that we really are international, as we have had workers from New Zealand, England, and Poland as career missionaries. In addition, WorldVenture’s intentionality in creating nationally run mission agencies in Philippines and Brazil – and other countries – is worthy of emulation, because such a strategy truly does respect and value our non-American partners in ministry.

But, the world is growing smaller, and the Kansas schoolteacher may marry a Kenyan construction worker, and both may be called to evangelism through English in Tokyo. Recruitment and appointment are not the only issues for mission agencies to consider in a globalized world, either. They have to address finances, especially when workers are appointed from different economic backgrounds, and are supported by disparate economic realities; values, when cultures collide on a mission team; and missional practice, when what works in the United States is attempted by Brazilian missionaries in Shanghai.

In my opinion, flexibility and humility must be the guiding principles for us. A stiff policy manual may have worked in the past, but it will doom us in the future. Constant communication, especially of expectations and perceptions, is a must, as well. And perhaps the answer is in more small organizations that work closely together, rather than larger agglomerates that try to integrate everyone into an American pattern.

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