Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Desencuentro"

desencuentro

  1. Encuentro fallido o que no ha respondido a las expectativas.

Translation: A failed encounter, or one that has not measured up to expectations.

  1. Discrepancia, no coincidencia de opiniones.

Translation: Discrepancy, divergence of opinions.


One of the main concerns I have related to church planting ministry on the part of foreign missionaries in
Western Europe, both within my own organization (IMB) and others, in recent years, has been a tendency to work in isolation from the larger Body of Christ. At a recent gathering of national church leaders and missionaries in Spain, held in conjunction with the COMIBAM international missionary congress, Mariano Blázquez, Executive Secretary of FEREDE (The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities of Spain) and one of the most widely recognized leaders among Spanish evangelicals, expressed concern about a general across-the-board lack of cooperation and camaraderie (“desencuentro” in Spanish) between missionaries and local churches in Spain.

I am not exactly sure of the real causes behind this. Some may be tempted to blame it on closed-mindedness, elitism, and lack of missionary vision on the part of local leaders. Others may blame it more on cultural insensitivity and an independent mindset on the part of foreign missionaries. In the case of some missionaries, lack of fluency in the local language, and lack of intentional efforts to provide established channels of meaningful interchange and communication have left them in a virtual default mode of either working alone, or almost exclusively with other foreigners. There have been other factors, such as the withdrawal of the SBC from the Baptist World Alliance, in the specific case of us as Baptists, that have led to misunderstanding and even some degree of disillusionment and distrust on the part of some. Even the war in Iraq has been an excuse, no doubt, on the part of some, to distance themselves a little more from us as Americans, who are not always the most popular nationality on the scale of receptivity in many countries.

When “New Directions” was first introduced to us on the mission field back about eight years ago, one of the main concepts presented was the idea that reaching a “people group” for Christ was a “God-sized task,” requiring both miraculous divine intervention, as well as the unified cooperation of the entire Body of Christ, both in the area in which one is working, as well as around the world. I personally believe this idea was and is 100% on target. However, for some reason, in the ensuing application of this ideal, perhaps in the interest of breaking out of the box in which our traditional working agreement with our national partners had limited us, perhaps in the interest of exploring new horizons and new ways of doing things, in many cases, our relationships with national churches and leaders have languished.

The interesting thing I have observed, however, as alluded to above, is that this phenomenon has not been limited to us as IMB workers, but seems to have permeated, at the same time, the general ethos of many foreign workers of an assortment of different missionary organizations. Of course, there are some notable exceptions, both within the IMB as well as other groups. I cannot speak with any degree of authority regarding the situation in other parts of the world. Even as far as Western Europe is concerned, I am much more familiar with the evangelical context in Spain than that of other countries. However, as I have had opportunity to discuss these issues with various colleagues in other parts of the world, I have been alarmed to hear reports that lead me to think these trends are perhaps not quite as locally-based as I had once imagined.

I have observed, with interest, the news that Bobby Welch has recently been named as “Strategist for Global Evangelical Relations with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.” Morris Chapman said that Welch is to be “Southern Baptists’ ambassador to those leaders in other countries who are interested in building relationships as likeminded brothers and sisters in the Lord.”

I wish Dr. Welch all the success in the world in this new endeavour. However, I hope both he and those who have entrusted him with this responsibility realize how much he really has his work cut out for him. Also, that if the aim for which this position was created is really going to be accomplished, it will not just be due to the efforts of one man alone. I am convinced that, if we are really going to move forward, in terms of evangelizing the world, and church planting movements, we are all, as representatives of the SBC and of the Lord Jesus Christ, going to have to make some significant progress in our ability to work more closely with national churches and believers in the various countries in which we live and work.

8 comments:

GuyMuse said...

In regards to Bobby Welch being named Southern Baptist's ambassador to those leaders in other countries who are interested in building relationships as likeminded brothers and sisters in the Lord...

I too wish Bro. Bobby well. But I think some of the current things being done on a more local level will bear more permanent fruit than the idea of a roaming ambassador for S. Baptists at large. I don't know about other regions of the IMB world, but in our region, every country has an assigned IMB missionary who functions as a "missions mobilizer." Here in Ecuador this assignment includes being a link/contact person (ambassador) to the local convention. This past weekend our "mobilizer" travelled with convention leaders across the country making visits to a couple of associational meetings promoting our working closer together.

In addition to the "mobilizers", I have long sought to encourage our regional leadership team to be in closer personal contact with local leadership. This is being done now more than ever before and we are beginning to see the fruit of healing relationships coming from a more direct contact with current national leadership. There is now more involved interest in seeing what the convention/associations are doing and offering ways to help them achieve their goals that coincide with our own. For example, last weekend our regional leader and my strategy associate were invited to meet with convention leaders. One of the things our RLT offered was to provide them with our COSECHA materials tailored to convention specifications/modifications. In addition, the RLT also offered to be a channel for bringing in volunteer teams from the USA to work with their COSECHA projects. Again, this is just what I see happening locally, but would hope the same is taking place in other countries as well.

Alan Cross said...

Do we identify and train potential missionaries in how to network and build relationships? In my experience, some are better at this than others. Some have an ability to identify those that are good relational soil, work through the networks, and build relationships that advance the Kingdom. Others do not. I think that we have a lot of missionaries and administrators on the field that are not very good at that.

I don't think that Bobby Welch will help very much, in my opinion. It is a top down approach. Instead, every IMB missionary should function as an ambassador, when practicable, and help to formulate those relationships. Aren't there regional heads that could do this more permanently in their regions? It is as though we are creating the equivalent of a Secretary of State for the SBC. I have no criticism of Dr. Welch, but I do wonder if this is the most strategic approach.

David Rogers said...

Guy,

Thanks for the good news from S.A.

I had the privilege of meeting several of your mobilizers at the COMIBAM congress here in Spain in November. Great folks!

David Rogers said...

Alan,

Good points. Our regional leader, and regional leadership team, are doing what they can to shore up relationships. I am sure other regions are as well. However, as you astutely observe, to really make this work will depend on "every IMB missionary functioning as an ambassador."

At the same time, the same "pioneering spirit" that makes some folks good missionaries also makes some not so good at networking and cooperating with others. Networking and strategic alliance building is indeed a skill that some are more adept at than others. There is some training on this at a team leader/strategy coordinator level. A lot of us could use some improvement in our skills in this area, though.

Strider said...

Sometimes I think the 'God-size task' is not reaching the world for Christ but just maintaining inter-denominational relationships. It is exhausting but we have no choice in the matter. If our brothers are in need, or in the neighborhood, or whatever they deserve our help, our hospitality, or whatever is needed for them to succeed in what God has called them to. The enemy is hard at work trying to divide us. This speaks volumes as to how important it is for us to continue as one body. I do not tie my ministry efforts to local groups or associations but we put in the time to make sure that we are all loving each other well. The fruit of this has been awesome. We have had several mutually beneficial ministries with other groups in different areas and now we are poised to start a single- note single- Theological Institute to serve all the churches of Gondor. This takes work but the time and money it saves in not duplicating efforts and the witness of our unity to a very divided society is more powerful than I can rightly portray in a short comment.

Gary Snowden said...

David,

I'm glad to hear that in at least some regions the IMB is addressing in a positive way the question of relationships with national believers. My experience in Latin America with New Directions was that it was a major setback in terms of those relationships. Whereas previously missionaries had sat down with convention leadership to plan joint strategies and even to consider where new missionary personnel were needed, following New Directions the IMB took a much more unilateral approach to strategy planning and basically cut out the national convention from the process. Sadly, I have heard from too many other missionaries that a similar process occurred in their regions as well.

I too look with certain skepticism on Welch's ability to build (or perhaps to rebuild) relationships with national brethren. Without sacrificing a commitment to planting new churches and training leaders for these, I believe the IMB at every level of leadership needs to adopt a much more humble posture when it comes to relating to national Baptists and other Christians in order to work cooperatively with them. Clearly 5000+ missionaries cannot reach the world alone for Christ and we must engage with believers living among unreached people groups as co-equals, co-laborers in the harvest, rather than as their bosses, or equally incorrectly, by choosing to ignore them.

David Rogers said...

Strider,

My guess is that in "Gondor" denominational structures are not as highly developed as in some other places of the world. If such is the case, you have a great opportunity to lay some foundations for working in unity that would require undoing some structures already in existence in other parts of the world. Sounds like you are doing a great job of "joining God where He is already at work" there in Gondor! I pray you see some great blessings and advances for the Kingdom through the initiative of the Theological Institute there.

David Rogers said...

Gary,

Yeah, what you said.

In other words, Amen!