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Sunday, June 15, 2014

We Need Missionaries Because....

I believe in missions and missionaries. I was a short-term missionary for a year in Japan. I have served on and chaired the ECC Board of World Mission. I was part of the pool of candidates for the position of Executive Director of World Missions. I have traveled to a bunch of countries and supported, taught and preached to and for missionaries.
But today, Martha and I were invited to worship with the combined churches of Ales, France at the Ales Arena (built in 1896 for bull-fighting). Under the collaborative leadership of 6 or seven Protestant churches, about 1,000 christians gathered to celebrate God. All the pastors of the area participated in reading Scripture, the Apostles' Creed, prayers and benedictions. Combined choirs, hip-hop artists and youth, dancers and drama were all part of the two-hour festival.
This was healthy and indigenously driven. I asked the question to our hosts, "Why are missionaries needed here when there is such deep health?" That is NOT an evangelical question, but a "third-rail" topic. There was a long pause. Then my friend said "We need missionaries to help us where we have difficulty, like with youth ministry. We do not need missionaries to work alone, buy themselves, outside the church in their own silo."
So, I wonder if a question going forward for places like France, where there are strong and healthy churches, is this: where are you working with, supporting and participating with a local church? That question clearly carries over to the USA with all the great para-church ministries, who sometimes seem to stand alone as their own silos as a substitute for the local church. We pastors and mission committees should be asking the same question: where are you working with, supporting, worshiping with and belonging to local congregations?

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