How Missions Have Changed Today

Welcome to our new podcast series, Asked and Answered,” a question and answer style session with Ron and Charis Pearce. Do you have a question you’d like to see answered? If so we would love to hear it. Simply go to askus@​ronpearce.​org to get in touch. Remember to check back often to see if your question has been answered. My name is Joy Kita and as always, I will be your host. Today we are answering the question, is missions different now than in the past? I think this is a great question! I mean, the world is different so it stands to reason that things certainly must have changed by now.

Ron- Oh, it has. Huge changes Joy, in the past 250 years in terms of what mission has done, how the Gospel is proclaimed around the world, technology, transportation, everything is different now than it was before. Availability of scripture which was not all that available back in the early days of missions is now everywhere. We’ve got the internet that’s taking the Gospel around the world and so yes, but let’s start at the beginning. The modern mission’s movement started somewhere around 1750 and that is when the earliest missionaries like the Adoniram Judson, Hudson Taylor, Livingstone, all of these went out to various parts of the world where there was complete darkness. They went on sailing ships, they didn’t take an airplane. And they go to these countries, set up shop, establish themselves, stayed there primarily for the rest of their lives, give their lives to it, and then for the first time to whole countries, bring the Gospel; the explanation of who is Jesus. That went on for a long period of time and more and more missionaries started to go out after following their footprint and go out to these various countries and there was a good force. But it was after the First World War and then again after the Second World War there was a great surge of missionary activity. That kept going after the two wars and they kept proliferating around the world until there was a very strong force somewhere in about the middle of the 1980s. There was a strong, well-funded missionary force, people going out from various countries of the world to these countries that were having very small national churches. So, that all changed around 1989 – 1991 and we trace it at Empower that there were three events that really sparked this off. One is , two is the fall of communism in Russia, and three is the Berlin Wall coming down. Those are the three things that happened, that it is noticeable how it affected the world.

Joy- They are still there?

Ron- They are still there being sent and everything like that. But here is the point that Empower tries to make. It’s not that we don’t think missionaries are good and valuable but in the right circumstances. For instance, there are many countries in the world today that do not have a national church, a strong national church. They don’t have the Gospel at all. I was in Kosovo years back and they had 240 Christians in Kosovo. This is a little country in Europe. There were something like 20 churches for the whole country! I’m sitting there thinking, these people need missionaries! They need people to go in there and plant the seeds of the national church in that country. But there are other countries at the same time such as China or Ethiopia or various other countries like that where the national church was blossoming, burgeoning, it was growing so quickly. Those are the countries where the Western missionaries had worked themselves out of a job in a good way and they really didn’t need to be around there. So, people think, oh you’re against Western missionaries. No, we are supportive of them in the right conditions, in the right places, at the right time. But the one thing we have learned over the years, and this is missions as a whole, is that when Western missionaries go out to do a job, they are only temporary help in a country to get it off the ground. Then they are going to turn the controls and the ministries over to the nationals, the people who live there. And then they have to have, at that time, an exit strategy. They have to go in knowing there is a day we are going to leave. That is difficult for most Western missionaries.

Charis- Tell them about the examples of the relationship between the missionaries and the people, like the family dynamic.

Ron- I remember this so well, Charis. I came home and probably sat everybody down because this was a revelation to me. It was in Burma, and the national church leader of the Assemblies of God, his name was Meo Chit, he has passed away now but, great guy, fantastic, understood fully what was going on. What he did, was he told me, there are three ways of looking at the national church, the role the Western missionary can have with the national church. Number one is the father-child relationship. This is where it began in the beginning where the father would tell, the Western missionary would be the father here, the child what to do and the child would run around doing exactly what dad said to do. So there was a domination involved and for a while that is okay, you grow into it and you learn it is necessary at a point. That wears thin after a while, especially when that child grows up. Then you get into the brother-brother relationship where you try to be equals and you try to work things out together but as you realize in families there is always tension with that sort of thing and it works for a while too, shorter period of time but it still works. Finally, you get to this, the grandfather-grandchild relationship. And this is fantastic. Grandfather sits in the bleachers, this is an illustration I use, he sits in the bleachers at the baseball game and he is looking at his grandson playing third base. Grandfather is looking down with such pride because there is the grandson who he has nurtured, loved, he provides for, he is the apple of his eye and he’s down there playing the game. He knows his days are numbered, he’ll be going up to see Jesus soon. But here he is in the stands cheering him on and here is the grandson in the field and he leans over to the shortstop and he says, That’s my granddad up there. He bought me my bat, he bought me my glove. He loves me.” And he looks with such fondness at the grandfather simply because the relationship is beautiful. One loves the other, provides for him, helps him to get going in life, and in this case, in ministry and the other recognizes the help and loves in return. That relationship can go on forever and there is never a stop to that.

Charis-And I think the cheering on and encouraging is such a key component to it in that it’s not just helping with just the physical needs but there is that relationship there.

Ron- Exactly, and you know, missionaries have told me this, Western missionaries, that they feel a bit like, well, we spent all our time here, and now they’re kicking us out, sort of like they don’t appreciate us. I think we have to be big enough to realize that there is a time when the kids need to go out on their own. It’s like, well Charis, when you left home, there was a time when I had to bite my lip and I had to say, Okay, she’s going out on her own.” I didn’t like it, but I knew it was inevitable.

Joy- It’s hard but you’ve got to do it!

Ron-And it’s in this time when we in missions have got to understand okay, what can we do before the Lord to be a benefit to the church, the Bride of Christ, around the world. The best thing we can do is equip the national ministries, church planting ministries with all the tools that they need. But we don’t need our name on it. We don’t need recognition in that way. We need to know that our children that we have given birth to through the missionaries, are out there doing their job and winning the lost. Winning the lost is all that matters. Not who gets the credit.

Joy- Wow! That is actually fantastic. I think everybody should hear that. Do you tell people that wherever you go, this grandfather idea? I love it! That is really, really great actually.

Ron- I do but not everybody wants to receive it, especially for some folks here at home that want to be missionaries and they want to go out somewhere in the world and they want adventure.

Joy- Well hey, I used to want to be a missionary and I totally understand that but there is something so powerful in what you are saying about that entire analogy with family and even more so with that idea of not having your names on it. I think that is a hard concept for a lot of people but it is so God-honoring and Kingdom building. It’s all right there.

Ron- Modern missionaries have to pick their spots. They have to pick their country, the situations, what they can do in that country, how they can be successful, and support the national church that is already there. There are so many factors to take into account now that weren’t there before. Therefore, it’s a new day in missions.

Charis- And I think too, the whole idea of success and what is success for missionaries? Success is being able to hand it over to the national church.

Ron- I know but our Western churches, as a whole, promote we are going to send our family to that country over there like we did 250 years ago.” Times have changed.

Joy- Well, that is fantastic! It’s a new day in missions, isn’t that exciting? This has been another episode of Asked and Answered” and again if you have a question that you would like Ron and Charis to answer, reach out to askus@​ronpearce.​org and maybe you will have your question answered. I’m Joy Kita, thanks for listening.

<p>Baseball bat and glove</p>
Grandfather is looking down with such pride because there is the grandson who he has nurtured, loved, he provides for, he is the apple of his eye and he’s down there playing the game.

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