Monday, May 25, 2009

Urgent Need: Fundamental Baptist Missiologists

Think of all the church planting work being done by IFB's today. Now, think of the church planting ministry of the apostle Paul. Think of how quickly he moved from place to place, leaving behind autonomous local churches. Be honest. Do you sense a discrepancy between our methods and results, and his? I know I do. Is anything being done to bring us back to a Pauline model so that we can get more Pauline results? With just a few exceptions, I would have to say with sadness, "No."

How can this be realized? There are several things that need to be in place.
  1. Confession - Even saved sinners are prone to wonder from biblical principles. "Prone to wonder," don't you feel it? We are prone to form our own traditions and follow them as if they were Bible. This is just as true for our missionary methods as it is for which side of the church the organ should go on.
  2. Re-Evaluation - Confessing our bent, we turn to the Bible. Our beliefs, passions, strategies, and methods are re-evaluated in the light of Scripture.
  3. Repentance - Next, we flee from our traditions and embrace Scriptural principles, by faith.
  4. Repeat Continuously - Doing this once is not sufficient. Remember #1? It is necessary to continuously re-evaluate how we do missions, just as it is necessary to continuously re-evaluate all our lives.
So where do Fundamental Baptist Missiologists come in? 

First, what is a 'missiologist'? Simply put, he is one who is dedicated to the study of missions. 

Missiologists perform the task of continually re-evaluating modern missionary models. He is someone who continually works to bring us back in line with Scripture, being convinced that the Scriptures are sufficient to guide our methods. I believe pastors and current church planters world-wide ought to take the lead in this, just as they should be the driving force of our theology (not 'scholars', professors, etc.).

"But Debtor," you say, "where are we straying from the Bible in our mission endeavors?" That's a question too big (and touchy) to answer well in this post. I will just mention two things in passing. Seeing that we constantly claim to use Paul as a model missionary (which he ought to be): 
  • Do many go where he would go? Paul constantly pushed into the frontiers where no one else had preached Christ (Rom 15:20-21, 2 Cor 10:16). But in 2004 First Bible International reported that 30% of board-affiliated Independent Baptist missionaries were working in 5 countries, leaving 42% of the most unreached countries with no Independent Baptist missionary presence. Further, they report (p. 22) that only 2/10ths of 1% of our missions giving goes to work among unreached people groups. Paul's work was manifestly driven by God's passion for all to hear the Name of Christ. Is ours?
  • Do we plant like he planted? He was a church planter. He remained a church planter, never pastoring. He evangelized in previously unevangelized cities, gathered babtized believers into churches, spent a few months to (rarely) a few years among them, and then moved on to repeat the process over and over again. Mind you, not all missionaries should be Paul-type missionaries. Though I suspect that many more should. Yet we constantly refer to Paul to defend our own missionary practices. Do we really see many truly Paul-type church planters among IFB's? In the US or abroad? Honestly? No, not many at all.
Those were just two examples of our need for IFB missiologists. There are more. Who will begin the confession, the re-evaluation, the repentance?

I just finished reading Roland Allen's "Missionary Methods" for the second time. What Roland Allen noticed early in the 20th century was that current missionary methods were failing exactly where Paul's prevailed. The book's original intro author wrote, "The fact remains that, where St. Paul conspicuously succeeded, we have conspicuously failed. May it not be because we have worked upon widely different principles." I pray it is not true of us either. However, I'm afraid that we are still using much the same methods that were largely failing then.

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1 comment:

Debtor Paul said...

I'm leaving this comment as a footnote of sorts, to ward off any statistical misunderstandings. The First Bible stats do pose some problems. The stats concerning where IFB missionaries work include boards and missionaries that are not TR-Only and are not as local church as I am. This realization doesn't make the stats look better for us though. Second, I have tried in the past to verify the source of the giving stat with First Bible. They were not able to give me the source, though I was not able to verify directly with Bro. Keen who uses it. That being said, it is yet clear that most of our work is among people groups that have viable autonomous churches among them (even when they are in the 10/40 Window). Hope that clarifies some things for those who may be detail-oriented.