Thursday, March 23, 2006

I am Encouraged

As I have had time to gather a bit more information and reflect upon that information, I personally am a lot more encouraged by the outcome of the Trustee meeting in Tampa than I was at first. It does indeed look like God is moving, and answering prayers! I know that some have expressed concern that what people like Wade Burleson and Rick Thompson are saying on their blogs has been "censored" in a great part by the new policy passed by the BoT regarding "trustee accountability". However, no one is obligating Wade and Rick to say the positive things they are saying about the meeting. As we all learned as children, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
At the same time, many are concerned, and I believe rightfully so, that the free flow of information not be cut off. In regards to this, I want to quote what I first wrote as a comment on Rick Thompson's blog a few days ago. The context of the quote is a conversation related to "where do southern baptists draw the line of expectation for missionaries that they fund?" and "the issue of what a new church plant will hold to doctrinally on essential and non-essential (but important) issues...if your partnering with GCC's who aren't Baptist in denomination or theology." Here's my quote...
Under IMB New Directions, our objective as missionaries has shifted from that of we ourselves planting new churches one by one to that of facilitating church planting movements, in which, God willing, the great majority of the churches eventually planted may never even know our names or see our faces. This makes it really tricky to keep up with statistics. But, in the long run, I believe gets us much further down the road towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

In a true denominational system, in which all the churches are doctrinally accountable to a centralized organization, it is much easier to keep up with and control what is being taught out there in the churches. But if you believe in the autonomy of the local church, there are always going to be some who "get out of hand". That's the "nature of the beast".

I believe the SBC is justified in expecting that those they fund truly represent the ideals of those doing the funding. The problem is that the great majority of those doing the funding are limited in their perspective of cross-cultural ministry. And their limitations of perspective sometimes lead to expectations which get in the way of doing things in a more effective and Christ-honoring way on the mission field.

That is why the IMB staff is made up primarily of people who have significant cross-cultural experience themselves. The Board of Trustees exists, as I understand it, as a liaison between the funders (The SBC churches) and the fundees (the missionaries, as represented by IMB staff).

All of this means that it is not as simple to sort through as some people would like it to be. One of the keys, in my opinion, is a good fluid relationship between the IMB staff and the Board of Trustees, in which each is able to communicate their concerns and feel they have been heard and understood by the other.

It is also of vital importance that the points of view of the missionaries in the field be taken into consideration, as well as those of the SBC church members "in the pews" who are giving their money to support the missionaries. In my opinion, all of the "controversy" related to the new policies, Wade, etc. has ended up doing a great service to the cause of missions in that it has opened up some very interesting new channels for communication (i.e. blogging) between many, who up till now, have not been able to communicate so freely.

In summary, yes, I feel that SBC churches have a right to know what the missionaries they send out and fund believe and are teaching on the field. But I also believe that we can do a better job at obeying God and working towards the fulfillment of the Great Commission through partnering with other "GCCs", even though they may not cross every "t" and dot every "i" just like us. And we all need to do a better job of communicating with each other, in order to help each other to understand why these things are so.
As I said at the beginning, I am encouraged by the results of the Trustee meeting in Tampa. At the same time, though, I think we all need to think creatively about how we can keep the channels of communication open between all the above-mentioned parties, and, just as importantly, not fall into the trap of "disparaging" one another in what we say.

2 comments:

Wade Burleson said...

David,

I believe your voice is of untold importance.

Thanks for keeping us informed from a missionary perspective.

I read your blog regularly and appreciate your grace and candor.

Our prayers are with you.

I too am beoming quite encouraged.

In His Grace,

Wade

Anonymous said...

David,
As a fellow M serving in a security 3 region, I want to thank you for exposing the tension that we experience between what it takes to reach our people groups (GCC and local partneships) and the responsibility that we all have to our constituency in planting baptistic churches.

In our work, we have found that it is far more beneficial to have influence with local churches rather than power over local churches.

It is also a blessing not to have to identify myself as an M to the local believers since M's are not allowed in the country where I serve. I am just a Christian business man who shares the same passion as other local believers to see the lost come to Christ through house churches starting house churches.

I'm fairly new to the blog community, but really excited to have this venue to run ideas by other M's and those leaders back in the states who are interested in cross-cultural church planting.

Thanks for starting your blog site!

Signed,
UPG SC