Me, the WEA and the Mission Commission

I work on the Leadership Team of the Mission Commission (MC) of the WEA — World Evangelical Alliance.  This is not a role I ever thought I would have, particularly given my perspective as a “critical insider” in the evangelical movement.  But I have been doing this, now, for about 2 years, part time.  I spend my time serving the rest of the MC team by focusing on strategies for communications and resourcing the work of the MC.  So it involves a lot of meetings and not a whole lot of the kinds of things that most of us would link to service in the way of Jesus.   My work in MC does not directly involve me in service to people in need, public speaking, or trying to get other people to follow Christ.   Sometimes that causes an identity crisis for me:  why not do something more directly engaged with the real problems of real people?   I deal with that crisis in two ways:  first, by engaging in my local community here through other things I do and, second, by understanding the full cycle of what the MC means.

For me, being in the MC is a unique vantage point from which to see how the world is changing. The most exciting changes are the ones that are fruit of the work of the Spirit of God.  The Spirit takes Jesus’ followers from everywhere and engages them in the lives of people they might otherwise avoid, and then calls both to adopt His love for “the other” as the basis for their way of living.  My friend, Paul McKaughan, from when I went to Brazil as a college student has said about the MC, “There is no more geographically or culturally diverse group of leaders than the Mission Commission of the WEA. This is a place where 2/3’world leaders help each other and interface with us in the West.”  It’s true.

Last week I was in Sweden for a small meeting of what we call network leaders.  A hugely diverse group of people from around the world shared a common table and tried to hear from God through each others’ lives during three days.

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As for what the MC means, I think this text, though rather long, captures some of it:

The Mission Commission (MC) is an intergenerational global community of mission leaders who aim to inspire, advocate and strengthen thousands of practitioners of God’s mission agenda around the world.

The 250 Mission Commission Associates (MCA’s)–leaders from 85 national movements who send and support 300,000+ missionaries from evangelical churches in over 100 countries–include mission leaders from both new old and new sending contexts.

Three basic strategic considerations guide  the MC Leadership Team,

  1. The gospel moves forward based on relationships.
  2. MCA’s catalyze national, regional and global mission movements and networks.
  3. The resulting new missions resources are for the global church.

Thus, when we gather as reflective practitioners in dependence upon the Spirit we address crucial mission issues, together–through research, gatherings, and cooperative projects–and for application to concrete ministry contexts.

The relation of MC to WEA

According to its 1951 charter from WEA, the MC should “promote closer coordination and cooperation between missionary societies in different countries where greatly needed.”  It was to be a fellowship, a missionary subset of the churches, denominations and national alliances affiliated with the WEA.

The southward shift in global Christianity made coordination and cooperation between existing missionary societies seem almost provincial.

New missions movements led by reflective-practitioners of mission are the source of new experiences and understandings of Biblical mission from diverse cultural contexts. They are resolving practical challenges for doing “mission from the margins” that are quite unlike the ones faced by missionary societies that grew out of the strong economic and geopolitical position European and American evangelicalism!

Rather than being a subset of the WEA, the MC seeks to mobilize leadership for the entire constituency of the WEA to engage in mission.  The MC attempts reflect the Spirit’s commitments to mission beyond the WEA constituency.

Brazil Trip

I leave tonight for Brazil.   I would appreciate you accompanying me with your prayers.

I am going to introduce a broad spectrum of church leaders there to the President of LAM and to two Board Members.  We are going to listen and to ask about the role of a 100 year old mission that was born to evangelize Latin America.  

What is our role in a Latin America that, increasingly is evangelizing the World?  

Brazil is a good place to explore this.  I have felt carried along by the Spirit and by the experiences and relations that God has given me since the first time Lake sent me to Brazil in 1970 and then as a new missionary couple in 1977. There is a pay off for having been at this so long.

The reason we are taking this trip is to better see a) the work that God has been doing in Brasil, b) the way the advance of the gospel in Brazil is producing leaders and c) what the mission of evangelicals in Brazil means for the world we live in.
We are motivated by these three purposes:

1.  We understand that the Sports events of 2014 and 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, will implicate the gospel in Brasil in several ways–it will give continuity to the process by which Brazilian evangelicals think about (and act)  more and more intentionally in relation to the world outside of Brasil.  One of  the things that the world might possibly learn about Brazil will be how extensive has been the move of God in Brazil and some of the impressive commitments His people have made (or maybe they won’t see it!) for improving the world we live in.  As a mission agency, in LAMwe are involved, in a small way, in the initiative of Brazilian evangelicals along these lines.  We are participating in a small way by providing personnel to the “Campaign against child and teen sexual tourism in Brazil” project.  Our perspective is international and, traditionally, this has meant international from the perspective of the North toward Latin America.  Now, it is meaning, increasingly, together with Latin America toward the rest of the world.  We want to follow the events related to 2014/16 as they unfold with the participation of Brazilian evangelicals so that we can better understand how God will open the world up to the Brazilian church and the Brazilian church to the world, and come to know whether we have a role to fulfill in that. 

2.  LAM was born, and has served, for nearly 100 years in a flow from North to South.  The gospel was in the North and the need was in the South.  Now things are not that way, and part of the development of a new reality is tied up in the developments in Brazil.  We are wanting to re-orient ourselves to continue to follow in the Lord’s footsteps as he leads us forward.  I am hoping that this trip, with LAM leaders, will help us capture a better idea of what God is doing in Brazil, the place of evangelicals in what He is doing, and take note of the level/quality of leaders that have been produced by this move of God.  We want to understand how these new realities will lead LAM to be different in the future.
3.  The role of Brazil in Latin America.  Brazil has never been a major area of efforts by LAM.  But with each day that goes by, the evangelicals of Brazil are participating more in the gospel in the rest of Latin America.  At times with the same kind of imperialism as the US, and at other times as companions, some times receiving from Spanish speaking Latin America, sometimes sending, and sometimes working side by side.  We understand that Brazil, and the leadership of Brazilians, has something to do with our future, and we are trying to understand what role Brazilians play in it.

WEA Mission Commission conducts 11th Global Consultation

The first two weeks of November I was in Germany.  Take a look at the pictures on my Facebook site.  I really enjoyed spending time with colleagues, and long-time friends from various parts of the world.  I also enjoyed thinking with them and others about the way God works in our world, and how he gets some people to live for the good of the World, and encourage people to follow Jesus.

Perhaps I will get a moment to blog about that.  But I didn’t want to put off any longer what I could have done in this last week or so:  give you the press release from the consultation.

Sent: Friday, November 18, 2011
Subject: WEA Mission Commission conducts 11th Global Consultation
News Release
November 18, 2011
The Mission Commission of the WEA, conducted its 11th Global Consultation, from November 6 to 11, with 203 mission practitioners from 42 countries at Schönblick Conference Center near Stuttgart, Germany.  The theme, God’s Disturbing Mission, emphasized the developing complexity and diversity in the practice of global mission today.  At the same time it recognized that mission belongs to God (Missio Dei).  The thought that God himself might be behind disturbances in the mission agenda proved to be an invitation to seek God, read His word, strengthen relationships across diversity, and bow in worship
The reality of constantly renewing leadership was enacted as younger leaders led the Consultation from the platform.  Their perspective drew attention to what is next.  Speakers from India, Lithuania, Russia, Brazil, USA, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Kenya, S. Korea, Sri Lanka, South Africa and the UK took part, reflecting the broad range of global perspectives.
Table groups met all week to discuss, pray and commit to paths of obedience as God spoke a fresh to move forward in mission. Afternoon “post-it” sessions identified and focused on shared concerns and explored ways of cooperation in mission practice.  The event ended around the Lord’s Table, an enactment of the global missional community gathered by Jesus from every nation, generation by generation, and sent out as the fruit of His sacrifice.  
Certain themes emerged: the challenge of developing adequate mission practice in and from contexts of complexity, uncertainty and change; and the reality of multiple approaches to mission and its practice.  
A palpable sense of mutuality and interdependence reminded all that any redefinition of ourselves and our mission must take place in a context of discipleship–of following Christ together.
The consultation was designed to shape the future of the MC itself.  The MC is governed by the Global Leadership Council (GLC), formed from its constituency.  Peter Tarantal of South Africa was elected as the new Chair. The GLC will meet in May 2012 and consider implications from the consultation for what comes next. Whatever the outcome, the consultation stands as a reminder that mission depends on God’s initiative and that he will use new and old senders to shape the future of Christian mission.  Bertil Ekström, Executive Director of the MC, looks to the future in this way: “We are on a journey together.”  
The WEA Mission Commission responds to the needs of national and regional mission movements around the globe. For the past 24 years, the MC has dedicated its energies to strengthening these continental and national entities, and promoting movements in nations that currently are not a significant part taking the Gospel from every nation to every nation. The MC is the only global platform that serves this important function.
The WEA is the most comprehensive and representative Evangelical body in the world today.  Established in 1846, the WEA is a movement of growing influence in the early 21st century by equipping, connecting and speaking on behalf of its global constituency.  WEA serves 129 national evangelical alliances, hundreds of associate member alliances, totaling over 600 million evangelical Christians, uniting all to transform the nations.

My thoughts about being a missionary

Over the last 35 years, I have been a missionary. During that time, I have learned not to lead from my missionary identity!  “Missionary” has always seemed full of possibilities for being misunderstood. 
This is why I like what we will be doing at the WEA Mission Commission (MC) Global Consultation in Swäbisch Gmünd, Germany, November 6-11. There, we will think about the missionary task while, at the same time, recognizing that missionaries ourselves might not fully understand God’s mission.  The name of the consultation–God’s Disturbing Mission–imagines God himself surprising missionaries, as we go about our business, with the question “Am I disturbing you?”  As God goes about His mission, it should be no surprise that he disrupts us and “our mission.”
This global consultation is a good place to recognize God behind the disruptions.  In part, the nature of the Mission Commission (MC) itself makes this possible. It is a global network of networks that focuses on “mission from” perhaps more than “missions to”. 
In the popular imagination, European and European-American missionaries have been the ones who go “overseas” to promote Christianity as a tool of the civilizational project.  But the MC’s “mission from” perspective informs a different imagining. It is a perspective that cannot ignore the huge shift in the geography of Christian belief during the twentieth century.  To Europeans, Christianity may seems like a religion of the past with prospects of further decline.  But, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Christianity is a young and growing faith, made up primarily of Africans, Latin Americans and Asians who look forward to a vital future.  
This simple fact means that Christianity is starting to spread from new sites, with different agendas. This is a huge disturbance to traditional missionary practice and thinking.  Now missionaries come from multiple sites and show a remarkable diversity in their way of imagining what missionaries do.  The shift is so radical that even the most creative new missionary initiatives, if they draw from the traditional sources of personnel and finances may prove to be of marginal importance. The same practices, if done with new technologies, better promotion and broader mobilization to more places are simply ploys to mask the bankruptcy of the where the practices come from.  
The “missions to” perspective is the one I started out from 35 years ago. On the one hand we thought of missions as from just a few places, to many.  The practices, programmes and ideas that we implemented were often produced around an image of a world that was guided from the “Global North.” That image placed people like me at the center of global power and influence, not just geopolitically, but in our missionary efforts as well.  Missions was about where we could go, and changes we could produce.  A kind of arrogance was hidden behind the thought that we already knew what other people needed and that all we needed was better methods to deliver it. 
Since God wants to call attention to Jesus, rather than to us, it makes sense that he would to disturb what we thought we were doing.  He would want us to “get over” the idea that we in the global north should shape how missions is done and decide what fruit it should produce.  
Don’t get me wrong.  We are not reaching the end of the missionary responsibility of Christians in the global north.  It just means that those of us who are from the north can now learn to follow others just as we have attempted to lead them.  As we discover, in practical ways, that it is God’s Mission we can also learn about following him from people and sites other than our own.  
A consultation like this might help me get over the complications of my own missionary identity.  I think it would be great if, at this consultation, some of us can adjust to the disturbance of being pushed aside.  And if the consultation results in new definitions of “missionary” shaped in new alliances between leaders far from so-called center, I think it will open many new paths for service in which all of us can follow, for the good of the world.  Then maybe all of us would misunderstand God–himself a missionary–a little less. 
The MC Consultation is a time and space to think about how God is disturbing our traditional ways of doing mission so that His mission can be fulfilled. 
Jeremiah 14:14  The prophets (missionaries) are prophesying lies (promoting failed mission programs) in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying (promoting) to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds. 

Where is Tim?

I will be away from home and the office from February 23 to March 13.  Ouch! 
If you need to contact me, the best way is to send me an e-mail. 
It is actually possible to phone me, but it costs me a lot to get your call.  You also need to adjust for the time difference.
If my phone is off, I will be checking my voice mail messages at the office.  You can leave me a message at +1(925)935-7640 and I should get it within a day or two. 
Here is where I will be.
February 24: In Guatemala visiting friends.  Ricardo and Elisa Hernández (Guatemalan serving in Senegal), Ciria Yela (fomerly PMI-USA, now living in San Cristobal, Alta Verapaz), Gerber López (Director of Agencia Misionera América Latina and sender of missionaries), David and Dora Amalia Ruiz (President of COMIBAM), Jorge Mario Ramirez (Administrator of the Church of God Center (IDEC) ).  Sleep at the home of Pedro Samuc from Santiago, Atitlán who promotes the use of the Scriptures in Mayan languages.
Costa Rica
February 25:  Fly to Costa Rica in the morning for a week with a short-term mission team from Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church who will be working at Roblealto Bible Home (for children), founded by the Strachans (founders of our mission, LAM) 75 years ago
February 26:  Preach at Iglesia Bíblica Nazareth in San José in the morning, Lunch with Cliff and Linda Holland, and preach at Iglesia Bautisa El Bosque in Zapote in the evening.
February 27 & 28:  Work with the Walnut Creek Presbyterian Church team at the Children’s Home
March 1:  Visit ESEPA and possibly teach a Perspectives Course.  Visit friends Pablo Mauger, Olman Montero
March 2:  Spend the Day at Roblealto.  Carlos & Yamileth Abarca (Latin America Coordinator for PMI) and Stan Jeter (CBN News/Mundo Cristiano should be joining us for lunch.
March 3:  Visit San José with WCPC team.
March 4:  Debriefing and departure for Guatamala 
March 4:  I spend the night at Hugo and Rhoda Morales’ home. 
March 5:  Travel to Granada, Spain via LAX and London.
Los Angeles
March 5:  Spend the day with Carlos España between flights.
March 6:  Arrive 12 noon at Heathrow and leave 16:15 from Stansted.  Arrive Granada around 8pm
Granada, Spain
March 7-9  Executive leadership team of PM Internacional, led by Allan Matamoros. 
March 10  Meetings with PMI friends and colleagues for discussing a variety of shared tasks.
March 11  Travel to London
March 11-12  Weekend with my friend Bertil Ekstrom, (World Evangelical Fellowship–WEA–Missions Commission and former President of COMIBAM), who is working on his doctorate at All Nations Christian College.
March 13 Fly home from London to San Francisco.  Finally!