Category Archives: missions

Peter Greer of HOPE on “Broken Aid” & the Gospel

My friend Josh Good over at AEI’s fantastic Values & Capitalism project just sent around an interview with Peter Greer.  According to Values & Cap, Peter is President and CEO of HOPE International, a global non-profit organization focused on alleviating both physical and spiritual poverty through Christ-centered microfinance in some of the most challenging places around the world, including Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti.

If you like thinking about responsible, church-friendly, gospel-driven social justice work that is friendly to entrepreneurship and aware of the power of the market to affect health for individuals, this will be like catnip to you.  I found Greer’s answers manifestly biblical and helpful.  Here’s a snatch from the broader interview (and see these helpful thoughts on the D’Souza scandal):

What are the economic realities that shape the way that HOPE International conducts its work across the globe?

Aid is broken. Economist Bill Easterly writes that despite a massive increase in aid to Africa over the last 40 years—$568 billion—most African countries are not better off. In fact, many growth rates have plummeted.

We have sufficient data to know that the only way for an economy to grow is through the private sector.

The Brookings Institution reports that since 2005, 70 million people each year are escaping poverty. According to the 58: campaign, between 1981 and 2005, extreme global poverty was cut in half, from 52 to 26 percent. This progress is largely the result of investments and job creation.

Consider China. Thirty years ago, China had more people, percentagewise, living in poverty than every country except four. Today—through economic growth—poverty has been reduced from 84 to 16 percent, according to the World Bank.

Today even Africa is poised for change. Private investments have generated more than 1.7 million jobs (from 2003 to 2010)—bypassing the effect of aid, according to the 2011 report published by Business Action for Africa and Ernst & Young

Job creation and investments, not aid, is what will cause Africa to experience growth, development and a much brighter future.

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Rediscovering Adoniram Judson–and Zeal for the Gospel

Here’s a biography that’s just come out that is well worth your time, with the info appended from the Lifeway “New Academic” weekly email (good way to stay up on new books):

Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary, edited by Jason G. Duesing (B&H Academic. 9781433677656. Paperback. $24.99)

On February 19, 1812, Adoniram Judson, his wife Ann, and a few others set sail for the Far East from their American homeland. The launching of these missionaries by a newly formed outreach society
marked the beginning of Americans formally joining the modem missions movement.

With the advent of 2012 comes recognition of the bicentennial of Judson’s departure and official start of the American missionary enterprise. This volume seeks to honor the life and mission of Judson while retelling his story for a new generation. With the occasion of the 200-year anniversary of Judson’s departure as a fitting context for such a presentation, the his- torians, theologians, and missiologists writing here under the guidance of editor Jason G. Duesing have endeavored not only to serve as Judson’s biographers of past events, but also as his interpreters of what they hope will take place in the present and future.

Contributors to this needed volume on an extraordinary man include Paige Patterson, Michael A. G. Haykin, Robert Caldwell, Nathan A. Finn, Candi Finch, Keith E. Eitel, Gregory A. Wills, and Daniel L. Akin.  I hope that Jason Duesing’s good work on this project leads to renewed missionary zeal among younger evangelicals.  Church history is not for dry and dusty types–it’s for those who love the mission of the church, the gospel, and want faithful models by which to live and work for Christ.

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Were Fundamentalists Defeated in the 1930s and 1940s?

Nope.  At least not if you consider their amazing missions output in these decades.  This is my summary from Joel Carpenter’s marvelous Revive Us Again (Oxford, 1999), pages 28-29:

Modernism wrought devastating effects in the Northern Baptist Convention. It sent 845 staffers overseas in 1930; it sent 508 in 1940. From 1920 to 1936 the Northern Baptist budget for missions plummeted 45%. In 1936, no new missionaries were sent out from the Northern Baptists. In this same time, fundamentalists sent about 3000 missionaries to the field, and by the early 1950s had sent about 6000 of 19,000 total Protestant missionaries on the field. The China Inland Mission, for example, sent out about 700 new missionaries between 1930 and 1936. The Sudan Interior Mission had just 44 missionaries in 1920 but by 1945, it had 494 in active service. Between 1932 and 1942, at least 500 Moody Bible Institute alumni became missionaries, which brought the school’s total missionary production since its founding to about 2500 alumni.

If you want to understand the marginalization and building period of fundamentalism, get this book.

Carpenter’s text turns two ideas on their head: 1) that fundamentalists merely withdrew from culture (they were forcibly expelled as well) and 2) they fell into a state of senescence and defeat in the 1930s and ’40s.  Not true!  On the contrary, they began and strengthened many heroic and important works, as you can see above.

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Make Disciples of All Nations: March 2012 Credo Magazine

Along with the brand-new 9Marks eJournal, Credo magazine’s March 2012 issue just released online.  It’s on missions, and it looks terrific.

Here’s the blurb:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20) These words, spoken by Jesus after his resurrection, are famously known as The Great Commission. As disciples of Christ, it is our great joy to go and tell the nations about the good news of salvation for sinners through Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. The March issue of Credo Magazine will seek to ignite a passion for missions. And what better timing as this year marks the 200th anniversary of Adoniram and Ann Judson setting sail aboard the Caravan with to take the gospel to Burma. Contributors include: Ted Kluck, Jason Duesing, Nathan Finn, the Housley Family (missionaries in Papua New Guinea), Kenneth Stewart, Brian Vickers, David VanDrunen, Matt Williams, and many others.

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Ed Stetzer on DeYoung/Gilbert: Are Pastors Qualified to Speak on Theology of Mission?

The pastor-theologian is a subject of great interest to me, as my introduction to the book The Pastor as Scholar, the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry (Crossway, 2011) by John Piper and D. A. Carson  shows.  Because of this, my ears perked when, in the recent debate over the mission of the church, missiologist Ed Stetzer suggested that pastors Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert were not adequately prepared to do “careful theological thinking” on the topic du jour.

Here’s what Stetzer in the middle of his lengthy and stimulating Themelios review of What Is the Mission of the Church? (Crossway, 2011) by DeYoung and Gilbert (HT: JT):

Herein may be the book’s greatest challenge. The authors list the books they read to prepare for this response to the widening of the mission. Yet reading a couple dozen books is simply not adequate (or appropriate) to prepare themselves to stand against the careful theological thinking that has contributed to the widening of our understanding of mission and the prevailing view of evangelicals (if Lausanne’s Cape Town statement is a gauge).

At the conclusion, he had this to say in reference to the lack of “background and engagement” on the part of DeYoung and Gilbert:

However, I think it ultimately will not succeed at its task. Instead, it will have some people needlessly looking to parse terms when the mission instead is more about faithfulness. Those who read and share the book may very well be those who most need a stronger missional focus—the theologically minded who think deeply but engage weakly. Yet those who could benefit from the book will not read it because the authors lack the background and engagement to make the case to the missional and missiological community.

Read all of Stetzer’s review.

This review will not attempt to answer the question front and center in this debate; I have not finished the text by DeYoung and Gilbert, but am resonating deeply with it.  My review of Gabe Lyons’s Next Christians finds much sympathy with What Is the Mission of the Church?.  Nor am I taking on Ed Stetzer in this little blog post.  He’s a gifted thinker and leader, and I appreciate much of his scholarly and churchly program.  He is the go-to evangelical theologian on “missional” ministry, a churchman, and a Southern Baptist leader.

I would say, though, that Stetzer’s comments on the inadequate preparation of Kevin and Greg took me aback.  Merely reading books does not make someone an expert, it is true.  But that’s hardly all that these two young pastors–friends of mine–have done.  Kevin has an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  Greg has an MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and did PhD work at SBTS before taking up pastoral work.  If an MDiv is not adequate preparation for high-level theological thinking, many of us have wasted our money and hard-earned effort.  Both of these men have proven themselves, furthermore, to be gifted thinkers (In fact, I think both of them won “top graduate” awards or some such thing at their respective seminaries).

If only doctors in missiology can participate in missiological conversations, then we’re in trouble, because the group will be very small indeed.  Kevin and Greg have read widely to prepare themselves for the task before them in their missiology text, and they are most definitely up to said task.  Their extensive reading on the subject, coupled with their own preparation, fits them very well to speak into the subject.  Who is not a practitioner of “mission,” after all, if pastors are not?  Surely missionaries lead the front-lines challenge, but hasn’t the whole discussion on “missions” broadened in the last decade or two to include a wider scope of activity?  Isn’t a crucial part of the “missional” conversation that pastors are at the forefront of “missional” ministry?  Are not pastors like Mark Driscoll, Jeff Vandersteldt, and Tim Chester leading the way in “missional” strategy, whether through books, speaking, or practice?  Or am I missing something?

Pastors who lead their church members to support missions, pray for missions, go on missions trips, give their very lives to the missions cause, live evangelistically, reach out to the local community in myriad ways, and generally “be on mission” everyday seem to eminently possess the “background and engagement” necessary to comment on missions, particularly if these pastors have strong theological and biblical preparation and have acquitted themselves well in the evangelical public square.  Other than a missiologist or missionary, who is more prepared than a local church pastor to speak about the mission of the local church?  I’m baffled as to whom else we might call upon.

Let me push this a little further.  Mark Dever’s endorsement of the book references Kevin and Greg as “pastor-theologians.”  I think that’s exactly right.  I fear that at least part of Stetzer’s critique of the credentials of these men owes to an unhelpful divide between church and academy that has exploded the traditional model of the pastorate.  Pastors, goes the line, do ministry; academics, goes the line, think and write.  Sure, maybe pastors write books on practical spirituality or tithing or overcoming temptation.  But they can’t really step up to the plate and actually do theology.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  The historic Reformed model of the pastorate is that of the pastor-theologian.  Luther, Calvin, the Puritans, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones–these were pastors who wrote theology.  They knew no unhelpful divide between church and academy.  Neither do Kevin and Greg.  Their text is not published by Brill or T&T Clark, of course–it is aimed at pastors and thinkers.  But it is undoubtedly a work of theology.  The authors are undoubtedly pastor-theologians, agree with them or not.

We are in trouble if we assume that pastors–especially well-trained and widely published pastors–are not qualified to participate in theological conversation.  In all of this, by the way, I should not be read as critical of “missional” thinking.  I try to practice a form of it and appreciate it and have many friends and colleagues who feel the same way.

Now, Stetzer has qualified his position in a later post.  He’s backed off the remarks I quoted above and suggested that “an academic book review would be incomplete without asking if the authors were adequately prepared to make their case.”  I’m not sure that’s exactly what Ed was getting at; I think he actually seemed to be saying, pretty clearly, that Kevin and Greg frankly aren’t prepared for this conversation.  He went on to say in his response that “I think more preparation, experience, and conversations would have served them well.”  From my read of the Deyoung and Gilbert book, there’s a great deal of interaction with “missional” thinkers and writers.  The issue here is not really preparation or interaction, as I am able to piece things together, but agreement.  Kevin and Greg have plenty of preparation and outdid themselves in terms of interaction.  They just parse things a bit differently than Stetzer and some self-professed “missional” folks.

By the way, Stetzer references the “Cape Town Statement” of Lausanne 2010 as–unlike What Is the Mission of the Church?– a piece of careful theological thinking.  But if one thinks about the earlier Cape Town Statement of 1974, the foundational theological document of the Lausanne movement, was it not John Stott who essentially drafted it in 1974?  It seems it was.  What was Stott for much of his life?  A pastor.  And what was Stott when he drafted the Statement?  A pastor.

There is some irony, then, in Stetzer’s critique, which otherwise offers much food for thought.

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Mohler on the “Metacities” and Their Massive Implications for Missions

Theologian Al Mohler just wrote on the rise of “metacities”, stratospheric cities featuring around 20 million people with unvarying density, little infrastructure, and little sustained planning.  The trend is highly noteworthy.

Mohler comments as follows:

As Stewart Brand argues, we are becoming a “city planet.” Vast populations are moving into huge international cities, drawn by the hope of a better life. As Brand notes, cities have always been wealth creators, and the exploding populations of the largest cities draw even more inhabitants with the hope of securing an economic future. “At the current rate,” Brand writes, “humanity may well be 80 percent urban by mid-century. Every week there are 1.3 million new people in cities. That’s 70 million a year, decade after decade.”

This represents a truly incalculable transformation of human life.

The metacities include Lagos, Mumbai, Shanghai, and Mexico City.  Many are in the global South.  I learned from Mohler’s article that New York City, seemingly grand beyond scale, is actually already dwarfed by many of these cities.

Mohler highlights the missiological challenges of these sprawling environs:

These new metacities will shape the future and, by extension, all of us. The Financial Times produced this important report with primary concern for the future of the cities as engines of economic development and political innovation. Christians must look to this report with a sober acknowledgment that the church is falling further behind in the challenge of reaching the cities. The emergence of these vast new metacities will call for a revolution in missiology and ministry.

This much is clear — the cities are where the people are. In the course of less than 300 years, our world will have shifted from one in which only 3 percent of people live in cities, to one in which 80 percent are resident in urban areas.

Read the whole piece.

The call of Tim Keller of NYC’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and others to the cities of the world seems spot-on from this article, which as noted above is based on a recent Financial Times piece that is not available without subscription.  It’s encouraging that Redeemer’s church planting outfit–Redeemer City to City–targets not simply American cities, but global cities.  Much more work on this front is needed.  Tons more.  Many thousands of planters and missionaries more.

Can you imagine a 20-million person city?  Really?  Well, there are many of them.  That’s a mind-boggling reality.  There are serious challenges before the church of the twenty-first century–and, as Mohler and Keller point, serious opportunities.  Maybe church planters need to look beyond their hometown and their favorite locale to the massive metacities in which untold millions of people work and live and struggle.

These metacities, after all, are populated primarily not with slick young professionals but with men and women and children living subsistence lives.  In reading this piece, I really wonder if we are not seeing a massive transformation of missions.  Historic missions often have involved–at least as many of us think of them–modern people going to premodern settings.  Surely, much of the world still lives in such settings, but this is rapidly shifting.

In the future, if the Financial Times article is correct, missionaries and church planters who have a massive vision of God and His work in the world will need, perhaps, to prioritize the teeming global cities to which once agrarian people are flowing.  Tons of missionaries are still needed for agrarian, isolated settings, but many must go to the metacities–not to make a name for themselves, not so that they can fall in with the upwardly mobile, but so that they can minister to hordes of lost sinners who swarm into cities in search of  hope they cannot find without the gospel.

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New 9Marks eJournal: Business for Missions

missionaryThe latest version of the 9Marks ejournal is up (PDF here).  It’s all about missions, and there is a great deal of material to work through.  I found the following article, “How to Get Businesspeople into Missions”, quite interesting.

The article first outlines how many Christians think of missions:

“Most churches already understand how they can support missions through prayer and financial support. Yet many churches overlook how members can put their business skills to work for the sake of overseas missions. Not only that, but it’s the members with real business skills who may provide the best access for Christians to obtain access to closed or restricted countries.”

It then shows how Christians of diverse backgrounds can involve themselves with missions:

“Business-as-Missions (BAM) is about creating legitimate businesses that enable church planting in areas that would otherwise be closed to evangelism.

BAM is needed today because it is increasingly difficult for church planters to live and share the gospel in many countries around the world. Think places such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and China, where governments continue to crack down on mission work. If we make it our “ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named” (Rom. 15:20), then we need to help church planters find creative means for gaining access into these countries.”

Great stuff.  Read it and learn–and then support an exceptional business-as-missions group called Access Partners.  They do terrific work out of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, wedding stout theology with passionate work.

Readers also will be interested in a great article by missions pastor and strategist Andy Johnson of Capitol Hill Baptist Church on “evangelical missionary pragmatism”, Jonathan Leeman’s insightful editor’s note on the import/export relationship in missions, and another piece by an unnamed author on rightly conceiving of contextualization.

As usual with 9Marks, there’s much more to be had here, including a review by Patrick Schreiner of a recent Os Guinness text.  Read this stuff, pass it on, discuss it with a friend, and pray for an “evangelical missions renaissance” to counter “evangelical missionary pragmatism”.

I remember thinking about such things when in Hong Kong.  Unreached cultures are wholly dependent on the teaching of missionaries and thus bear the marks–for good or ill–of the teaching they have received.  How important it is that we ground foreign converts in permanent, strong, biblically faithful things so that their faith might not quickly fade into existing culture but persist until the day of Christ.

(Photo: YWAM website)

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