Retooling: The Missionary Mentality


The 21st Century Retooling of the Church – Part VII


I have been on short-term missions trips.  We go into a country for a very short time, then leave it.  We might have had an immediate impact, but I question any long-term impact.  I remember the feeling I had in Jamaica seeing all the youth groups and short term mission teams at the airport who came to do mission work and vacation, yet Jamaica is still a poor country. The same with Haiti.

The way the church handles missionaries is despicable.  We send them out, patting them on their back for following The Great Commission, only to have them return in a couple of years to “beg for money”, ooops excuse me, “raise support” from the churches and people who originally sent them out. 

I went to a Mennonite Church Plant Seminar in the ‘80’s where they were preparing one or two couples to go out and “plant” new churches.  I know of a couple that followed through, only to abandon the project in five years because they became overwhelmed doing it alone.

Maybe we need to “retool” our mentality of how to prepare, support, and do missions.  The five fold model as described in my last blog may be an answer, for if it works at home, it could also work abroad.  If a diversely gifted five fold team seeks the Holy Spirit how to evangelize and develop an area for the Kingdom of God, they will probably get unique solutions due to being in a different culture with a different language and lifestyle with a different perspective than the way we see it. 

What is the most effective way “evangelize” in a Moslem nation when it is a crime to do so?  How do you show God’s unconditional love, mercy, and grace to a culture that has never received it before?  How do you “serve” those in a way their culture accepts your service without them being skeptical of your motives?  The discernment in a five fold team would be perfect for this endeavor.

We have to rethink how we teach in a different culture.  We need not build “Bible Schools”, but allow a person with a teaching passion to learn their culture and produce practical applications of kingdom principles to teach them gospel truths. Jesus modeled that with his twelve disciples.  He never started a rabbinical school of theology.  He just walked with them in their Jewish culture, teaching them principles through their culture.

A prophet would set the ground work for spiritual warfare, particularly in pagan cultures. “We wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities in high places.”  Prayer, worship, and discernment, and a need for intimacy in knowing the “heart of the Father”, the “will of the Father” is mandatory when invading a kingdom in darkness for the kingdom of Light.

How does the culture do “family”?  The shepherd would have to nurture the new converts to teach them how the “family of God” functions, body ministry.  This is a challenge if the culture permeates a dysfunctional, non-Biblical, family lifestyle.

Of course, the apostle would have to be aware of the culture where his team is present. He needs to encourage the evangelist to birth the endeavor in a sensitive, loving, with grace manor, not like a bull in a china closet approach that has often been done in evangelism that maybe won one soul, but turned of multitudes away. He would make sure the shepherding component was in place for when harvest began, that the teaching would make sense to those in the culture they are trying to reach, and join the prophet in the spiritual warfare needed to succeed.

Retooling missionary work to a five fold team work is an unique possibility that has the potential to not only evangelize an area, but build up and establish the Faith in that area.  If the team then “equips those saints in their culture for the work of the service,” they can leave to establish new church plants as Paul did in his missionary journeys, only to return to reinforce, and support those they have “equipped”. 

We need to break the old mentality that missionaries stay for life in the culture they once penetrated. The “natives” of the culture always look up to them, not as equals, but as icons on pedestals. The key to five fold ministry is “release”.  The missionary team needs to be “released” of their passions and points of views when they first come to minister, but then “equip” and  “release” their work on the believers of that culture who can effectively reach their own people for Jesus.