You’re Not From Around Here Anymore

The biggest obstacle to a church truly becoming missional is a mistaken sense of citizenship. Missionaries to foreign lands understand quite well (and quickly!) that ministry among a different people requires them to change the way they see things- they learn language in order to communicate, they study culture in order to relate, they build relationships in order to love. This sort of immersion is fundamental to the establishment and growth of the Church among a people. Without it, the Way of Jesus remains just another imperialistic foreign religion.

Being missional is about applying missionary thinking to everyday life. It means giving up expectations (delusions?) of unearned social credibility, common morality, or programmatic attractional ministry. A church is missional when it actively and intentionally goes out into its surrounding community and engages people in redemptive relationships on the culture’s terms. The result of this ongoing activity is a truly indigenous church that is continually translating the gospel into the local context in word and deed.

What prevents churches from becoming missional is their inability to see themselves as foreigners (“strangers,” or “aliens”). When you live in the town you grew up in, when your best friends are the ones you’ve known since elementary school, when you don’t have an accent and everyone around you looks just like you, it’s difficult to see yourself as an outsider. When you have your own space (building, campus, etc.), when you enjoy favor with the government, when your neighbors automatically modify their behavior to conform to your values when they’re in your presence, it’s hard to be convinced that you don’t belong.

By grace, we are saved into God’s Kingdom. Our citizenship is transferred from the earthly place where we were born to the heavenly place where God rules. Our ongoing presence on earth means that we are now sent as ambassadors- representatives of Jesus to the unbelieving societies among which we live. Our physical location may not have changed, but our orientation certainly has.

When you’re an outsider in your own culture, you’re careful about being to comfortable in it. You immerse yourself in the human story in order to influence the people who are still slaves to it. You watch movies, eat food, play games, attend parties, read books– all for the sake of incarnation. Not that there isn’t much to enjoy (there is!), but that we enjoy this life because of our relationship with God, not because of our relationship with this world.

Mission is a fundamental part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. That part has been neglected by churches that do nothing to be on mission. It has been relegated to program by “mission trip” churches. It has been outsourced to “the professionals” by passively involved churches. By not developing the missional aspect of Christianity, the church has stunted its growth and sapped the power of its influence.

When the church sees itself as foreign, its perspective will change. It will rethink its methodologies, its public relations, and its structure. It will lose its sense of entitlement and its claim to rights. It will stop assuming or pursuing “home court advantage.” It will not overestimate its ability to influence people or speak into culture.

Only the church that sees itself as alien can truly be missional.

What are the Alternatives?

Sitting in one Starbucks, looking across the street at another.

Sitting in one Starbucks, looking across the street at another.

Most of the time, when people make decisions, they’re not really choosing from among all the options. Call the filters, call them limitations; but things like popularity, availability, accessibility, cost, visibility, availability, and ignorance all come into play- narrowing the field of choices to (usually) just a few. Many of us who would like to see things change find ourselves pointing out the problems of a broken system. But those who are involved in the system, especially those who are invested in it, tend to stick with it because they don’t see any alternatives. The current, broken system is better than nothing, right?

  • Why do so many churches treat missions as just another program of the church?
  • Why do we pile kids into a church van, drive to an Indian Reservation to do Backyard Bible Clubs and call it “missions?”
  • Why are so few churches actively and directly engaged in planting the gospel among people who don’t know and believe it?
  • Why do missionaries treat partner churches like volunteer labor or children to be babysat?
  • Why do some only consider ministry among “unreached” people groups to me missions?
  • What are the alternatives? In each of these cases, churches and individuals act according to what they’ve been taught. They do what others are doing, they do what they think they can. They go where they think finances, prudence, and church leadership will allow. They spend what they think they can afford. They act when they think it will help them. They don’t always even know why they do what they do (and don’t don what they don’t do.)

    We need alternatives. We need to know about churches the orient their entire existence around the mission. About the value of humanitarian trips to our obedience as believers. That the Great Commission is the church’s responsibility. How churches can do so much more than paint houses and prayerwalk. That the people groups of the world are not static, and that obedience is the best  strategy. If we don’t know, it’s unlikely that we’ll do anything different.

    The Eavesdroppers

    eavesdroppingMore often than not, the conversation isn’t just between you and me. Because it takes place over blogs, Twitter, conferences, and books the pubic nature of our dialog means that others are listening in. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. What better way for the nonbelievers around us to learn about Jesus than to witness the interaction between His followers?

    But we need to be conscious of the eavesdroppers. The problems start when one party to the discussion is aware that others are listening in while the other party isn’t. Missionaries run into this all the time. Knowing that nationals or government officials or bad guys might be reading their emails or tapping their phones, workers in many parts of the world are careful to choose their words wisely. Not only to they want to avoid persecution, they also want to let eavesdroppers hear the gospel in their sometimes obscure messages to supporters back home- a difficult balance, to be sure. The supporters, however, don’t always get it.

    “We used to support some missionaries somewhere in Asia,” a deacon in a small rural church once told me, “but he never told us what he was doing over there. Why, he hardly even talked about anything spiritual at all!” The church didn’t understand what the missionary knew- others were listening in.

    A quick perusal of the comments section of any of the popular evangelical blogs shows the same ignorance- Christians interacting with Christians in un-Christlike ways. Surely the name calling and mud-slinging wouldn’t be as common if both sides of every debate remembered that frustrated Christians and  non-believers were lurking.

    Brian McLaren, Jay Bakker, or Mark Driscoll are, each for different reasons, polemical figures in certain circles. Whether you agree with them or not, these guys are aware that people are listening in. They ask certain questions and avoid answering others. They each maintain a certain public persona that earns them an audience which they in turn influence heavily. They also have loyal detractors that follow them around waiting for them to do or say something heretical, controversial, or ridiculous that can be used to discredit everything else they say or do.

    In John 11, Jesus says a prayer in front of Lazarus’ tomb. It’s not a personal prayer, though;  So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” This prayer is for the eavesdroppers- the ones all around who were watching Jesus to see what He was all about. Of course He knew the Father heard His prayers- He wanted the crowds to understand that as well. Jesus never forgot that others were around, and he behaved accordingly.

    People are watching, and your witness is at stake. Don’t forget the eavesdroppers.

    The @#%&! Words We Use

    When I was a kid, the use of certain words would get my mouth washed out with soap. A mouthful of soap (usually a bar, the liquid kind in a pinch, and laundry detergent once) is a pretty effective deterrent, so I had to find creative news ways to express the same sentiments.

    My parents subscribed to the “dynamic equivalence” theory of vulgar language. “Damn,” of course, was out, but so were its more commonly accepted derivatives “darn” and “dang,” because those were just “different ways of saying the same thing.” Oddly enough, “shoot” was just fine.

    All my friends’ parents all had similar rules, but the banned vocabulary differed from household to household. Some kids  would “hell” and “crap” with impunity while others (like me) played it safe, reassigning stronger meanings to what we’d heard from Beaver Cleaver and Charlie Brown.

    Language is a dynamic, ever-changing thing. Words have meanings, but those meanings change from region to region, and generation to generation. New words are coined all the time. Every clique in high school has its favorite euphemisms. Remember when “bad” meant “good?” Gay used to mean “happy” (or so I’m told). Every day, words are borrowed and stolen, co-opted, branded, and misspelled (intentionally and otherwise).

    Culture assigns meaning to the words we use. Technically, it’s referred to as the “dysphemism treadmill;” a word or phrase can have multiple meanings, depending on the context. Consider U2 frontman Bono’s use of the grandaddy of all curse words on live television upon receiving a Golden Globe Award. Because the Irishman’s use of the F-word was not meant to be profane (he celebrated his receipt of the award by gleefully saying, “This is really, really f—ing brilliant!), the FCC deemed it acceptable. “Family Values” proponents everywhere (few of whom had obviously ever been to Ireland) were outraged. The rest of America yawned. They understood Bono’s meaning.

    Culture warriors are upset with Mark Driscoll over his language. He doesn’t understand “the distinction between strong language and obscene language,” they say. I say he’s a product of (and minister to) the Pacific Northwest, a region of the United States that uses language differently from, say, Kentucky. In order to communicate, one needs to be curt, direct. In Seattle, to be politely vague is not to communicate at all- people literally cannot get your meaning unless you speak frankly and directly. That’s why Pastor Mark doesn’t mince words. His culture values plain language. He provides it in order to clearly communicate the gospel (and its implications) to people who otherwise don’t hear it.

    I’m not advocating vulgarity or profanity here. I believe that words and meanings are important. I believe that Christians should not use unwholesome or filthy language. But I’ve been the foreigner and outsider enough to know that I can’t be the police of the world’s English. The problem with language is that obscenity doesn’t depend on a particular string of consonants and vowels, it’s all about the intent. Intent is a tricky (and dangerous) thing to judge.

    Contextualization

    Contextualization is the active work of translating the gospel into a culture that doesn’t have an indigenous expression of Christianity. The problem is that we all seem to be “contextualizing” for a culture that we don’t live in. We all look alike because we were all mentored by the same six guys (John, Rick, Mark, Brian, Tim, and Andy). We look like them because we know we don’t want to look like where we came from. We assume that if it seems new and cool and more biblically sound than whatever it is we’re reacting to, that it’s suitable for the context in which we minister.

    Slapping a new coat of paint on the same old conventions is not contextualization. We need to be sure we’re contextualizing for the context to which we’re called- the ones in which we find ourselves. It won’t do to make your church look like someone else’s. You can’t just steal somebody else’s sermon. You can’t pipe in a great speaker who doesn’t know your context. You must be an expert in the people to whom you minister.

    If you don’t do the missionary work of contextualization, you still can grow your church. But it won’t belong to the culture in which it’s planted. In order to be discipled in the foreign system you set up, people will have to first be converted to your culture- the one you imported from Grapevine, Texas, or Minneapolis, Minnesota, or Seattle, Washington. Then, you’ll find yourself having to train people to interact with the culture from which you’ve extracted them.

    Which is the point, really- contextualization should be worked into the essence of every expression of Christianity. It is the key to indigenous church, and it is the key to communicating the gospel in a way that connects with your audience.

    So you should wear cool glasses. If you have hair, you should either spike it up or grow it out. If you can handle a neckbeard, that’d be good. Do your best to squeeze into skinny jeans. Find a keffiyeh, and wear it even when it’s 90 degrees out. Watch Lost and 30 Rock. Talk about when Grey’s Anatomy jumped the shark. Become a vegan, or at least a part-time vegetarian. Listen to hip-hop, indie bands, alt-country, and  Drink fair trade coffee-with organic soy milk, of course. You also need to ride a fixed-gear bike, smoke a cigars, drink microbrewed beer, and play hours of video games. Get a Mac, and talk about how long it’s been since you even tried using a PC. Oh, and an iPhone. You definitely need an iPhone.

    Why? Contextualization, of course. But to which context?

    My point is this: contextualization isn’t looking like the culture; it’s having lived in the culture. It’s how you think and communicate after putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for a while. Knowing the way it feels. Understanding how people treat you when you’re one of them. The experience is what makes you able to translate the gospel into a (sub)culture in a way that makes sense to the people who live there.

    If you’re ministering to the homeless, you might try spending a night (or a month) on the street. If you’re in a community of Arabs, you should consider praying 5 times a day, seasoning your conversation with, “God willing,” and skipping the pulled-pork sandwich. Not to fool them into thinking you’re the same as them. You’re not. But until you’ve put yourself in their shoes, you really don’t have any idea what life it like for them- what’s important to them, what speaks to them, how they see you as an outsider.

    Lugging around a camera doesn’t make you an artist, but it might help you understand one. Understanding one is key to communicating with him. Communicating with him is the key to sharing the gospel with him in a way that he can understand and respond to.

    Syncretism

    Syncretism is a key missiological concept that refers to the all-too common practice of overlaying one set of beliefs with another, disparate one. People often go to great lengths to reconcile different, even opposing, belief systems in order to make sense of the world around them.

    When African tribes were (forcibly) “converted” to Christianity by imperialist missionaries in the 18th century, tribal leaders responded by adding the Holy Spirit to the collection of spirits they depended on to keep them safe. As the “Holy” Roman Empire expanded, nations were assumed into it by renaming their pagan gods, saints, and feasts after Christian ones.

    This kind of syncretism is bad because it ignores the transformative power of Christ. It creates a veneer of Christianity that is devoid of the character of the Most High. The result is a broad misunderstanding of what life in Christ truly ought to be. Jesus isn’t just another prophet. Mary isn’t analogous to “Mother Earth.”

    Of course, it isn’t always the pagans adopting Christian language and imagery; syncretism works both ways. December 25 was the date of a Roman pagan festival having to do with stars long before it was selected by the Church for the celebration of Christmas. Easter wasn’t always a holiday of remembrance of Christ’s resurrection- it began as a celebration of Spring, fertility, and an Anglo-Saxon goddess called ?ostre.

    syncretismThe problem with this “reverse” syncretism is that changing the name of a holiday doesn’t necessarily replace the object of worship with Jesus the Christ. Equating freedom in Christ with political freedom grossly understates the true meaning of freedom and makes too much of the worldly version.

    Adopting cultural forms and methodologies without retaining a prophetic voice is syncretistic mimicry. But interjecting the God narrative into the culture is different from syncretism.  As Christians engage the cultures in which they live, they retell the culture’s stories back to it from God’s perspective.

    The culture’s worship looks to the stars? We can’t say, “At least you’re looking up!”  We can say, “Let me tell you about the star that led wise men from the East to worship a baby in a feed trough.”

    The culture celebrates new beginnings? It isn’t enough to encourage that celebration- we must point people to Jesus, whose resurrection makes possible the ultimate new beginning for humanity and all of creation.

    Our culture values freedom? The Bill of Rights can only get you so far (and can be amended!). Only Jesus can make you truly free.

    Jesus did this with Jewish law in the “You have heard… but I say to you…” sayings of His Sermon on the Mount. Paul filled in the blanks of Athenian religion when he addressed the philosophers at the Aeropagus. It is the spiritual takeover of a worldly stronghold. This isn’t syncretism, it’s redemption; reclaiming the truth that can be found in all cultures as God’s truth.

    Image HT: Eric G. at Circular Thoughts

    If I Were Mark Driscoll

    Mark DriscollObviously, I’m not Mark Driscoll. I couldn’t be, even if I tried. The man is an amazing communicator, a fearless preacher of the scriptures. Through his sermons, interviews, debates, and seminars, Pastor Mark makes the Truth understandable, accessible, and applicable for thousands of people on a regular basis.

    Beyond the teachings of Mark Driscoll is the persona of Mark Driscoll. The dynamic pastor of Seattle-based Mars Hill Church doesn’t just set an example for young pastors across the country, he’s a role model. The regular-guy with working-class roots who’s cool but tries not to try too hard. He’s into music and art, pop culture, theology, and sports. In my interactions with pastors and church planters everywhere, I’ve met several who are Mark Driscoll fanboys, choker necklaces and all.

    While I could never build and maintain a megachurch like Mark has, I’d love to step into his role for just a day. For one day, instead of Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill (and the hundreds of churches it influences) would get me- a burnt-out former church planting missionary to Western Europe. For that one day, here’s what I’d do:

    I’d start the morning with a staff meeting. I have no idea what sort of leadership team Mars Hill has, but I’d call in all the elders and pastors to tell them the big news: Mars Hill is selling their building(s). The goal would be to sell or give away all of their properties by the end of the day. Why? Because Mars Hill has a vision of growing their church to 50,000 disciples by the year 2019, and getting rid of the walls and grounds that tie them down would really pave the way for that to happen. Buildings only create bottlenecks in the expansion of the kingdom. If they publicized the sell off/giveaway, they’d give instant credibility to their claim that the Church is the people, not the building.  Giving some of the locations away to local nonprofits and needy people would be another opportunity to put into action what they already believe about grace, compassion, and social justice.

    Next, I’d resign as pastor of Mars Hill Church. Not that Driscoll isn’t a good pastor or great communicator- he is. But that’s precisely why he should resign. For nearly ten years now, Driscoll has served an apostolic role in evangelical circles; writing, teaching, leading, and casting vision. He spends hours per week in study and sermon preparation, and it shows. If you  haven’t seen Mark field questions on the fly via SMS, you really need to. His wit, and wisdom, fueled by his knowledge of scripture (and what seems to be an inability to filter his thoughts before voicing them) are really nothing short of divine gifting.

    Which is why he should resign. Mark isn’t the pastor of Mars Hill Church. He’s a spiritual entrepreneur and visionary. He’s not a people person. I’ve never met him personally, but I suspect that Driscoll doesn’t care about your sick aunt or your new job. He’s probably not going to sit for hours by your side as you work through your marriage. No, Mark Driscoll needs to quit calling himself a “pastor” and reframe his role for what he is- an apostolic leader for the Church. Look at his aggressive expansion of Mars Hill through the opening of new campuses and video venues. Pastor Mark is a de facto elder of the Church at the city/region/nation-wide affinity/demographic level. He’s not trying to build an empire, he’s trying to be apostolic within the confines of his role as pastor.

    Mark could still draw a paycheck from Mars Hill, and I would hope the he would continue to teach and answer questions. So much of his identity is wrapped up in his being considered a pastor, letting go is control would be an extremely difficult thing to do. But his resignation would take loads of pressure off of young leaders across the country who struggle to fill the role of Pastor as Driscoll has practiced it. Conferences? The Acts 29 Network? Resurgence? Debates on ABC? Those aren’t pastoral things, they’re apostolic things.

    After resigning, I guess I’d go to lunch. But not without holding a press conference. On my way to Chili’s (or wherever Mark likes to eat), I’d meet with reporters, bloggers, protesters, and followers to ask for help. If the church suddenly doesn’t have the central location(s) in which to meet, they’re going to need somewhere else to go. As Mark Driscoll, I’d use my sizable influence to ask for hundreds (thousands) of places to meet in the Seattle are. Bars, theaters, coffee shops, living rooms, bowling alleys, high school gyms, Lion’s Club halls. These smaller meetings would spread Mars Hill church out into the community, rubbing Salt into Seattle’s mundane spaces and forcing parents and leaders to take spiritual responsibility for the few they meet with. To be pastors. Those are the people who I’d want to read my blog and listen to my podcast. As an apostle, my goal would be not to pastor the thousands of people who participate in Mars Hill, but to mentor and coach the pastors of small Mars Hill gatherings wherever they meet.

    As I wrote, I’m no Mark Driscoll. I’m just a hack missiologist. But I’ve been to America’s future in Western Europe, and I want the Church here to be prepared for it. I believe that Mark Driscoll is one of many leaders God can use to get us there, if only we can free them from the modern pragmatism that keeps them from being truly missional.

    The Counterintuitive Church (pt.7, Impractical Spaces)

    Previously: Impractical Worship

    Megachurches don’t just happen. And they’re certainly not the inevitable result of God’s blessing. They are the results of decisions throughout the lifetime of a church. Say a church plant starts out with three couples meeting in a living room. That’s six people meeting regularly to worship God and be a local expression of His body. Say that group, through evangelism, transfer, or gimmickry, grows to two dozen. Twenty-four people can fill a living room. Add kids or guests, and the space is full, right?

    Most churches that find themselves in this situation do what makes sense; they find a bigger place to meet. They rent a theater, they meet in a public school, they lease a storefront. This move brings a new set of challenges- the bigger space makes it harder to hear, so the growing  young church buys a sound system. As more people come, the church introduces a video projector (in case anyone doesn’t remember the words to “Lord I Lift Your Name On High,” and to show the scripture text for all those who forgot to bring their Bibles.) Staff members are hired to keep up with all of the people. Bylaws are written.

    The church grows, filling the space, and is faced with another decision. Naturally, they embark on a building program to raise money to buy some land in the suburbs and build a multi-use facility. This, of course, requires an upgraded sound system, an increase in staff, facilities maintenance, the Disneyfication of the children’s ministry area, and a logo for each of the church’s ministry programs. Then come the satellite campuses, video venues, and nationwide franchise networks.

    A series of decisions, each seeming quite sensible, that solve the “problems”that a church might face. But what if a church, at any point along this path, chooses otherwise? What if a church deliberately decides not to rent a bigger space? What if they refuse to go into debt? What if they wait to raise up leadership from within? What if they intentionally do the counterintuitive, impractical thing every step of the way?

    The Impractical Church doesn’t build a building. Ever. Instead, it meets wherever its people live- in their homes, hangouts, restaurants, parks, pubs, libraries, break rooms, basements, parking garages, and empty church buildings of dying congregations. They don’t pay to rent these spaces- they hardly even have to ask to use them. These are the spaces they move in every day. By paying taxes, punching time cards, and spending time and money, they’ve earned the right to use them. They find favor with the people who manage and own the spaces.

    They show up to the same neighborhood coffee shop every day for two years. They’ve taken spiritual responsibility for the others who use the space. They’re on a first name basis with the owners. They start to meet one-on-one in the corner. Next as a small group during a time when business is slow. Maybe a waiter gets involved. Soon, the manager is turning down the music so the group can hear one another. Next thing you know, the group is offered keys to the back door and invited to stay after hours so they can have some privacy.

    Call it the Friendly Takeover.

    The public nature of their meetings challenge the church to apply their faith to their everyday lives. They’re forced to be the Church in context of the local community. Their small size insures that they remain personal, relational, and free of the overhead that burdens other churches. This church is sustainable and truly local. It is indigenous to the neighborhood. They manage growth by planting more of these churches, each interconnected and accountable, but with its own leadership and the freedom to adjust the form and location.

    It takes time to expand the Kingdom by filling the impractical spaces, but taking shortcuts has cost us.

    NEXT: The Impractical Churches Among Us

    The Counterintuitive Church (pt.1)

    The first will be last,” Jesus said. “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” A quick perusal of Jesus’ words will turn up all sorts of instructions that don’t seem to line up with what we’d consider “common sense.” He told his followers to “Turn the other cheek” (didn’t He know about terrorism?) and to “Walk a second mile” when forced (by the government!) to walk just one.

    As He sent them out on a short-term mission trip, why did Jesus tell His disciples not to carry any extra clothes and not to greet anyone along the way? That doesn’t seem very practical, does it? What if they had a great opportunity to witness to the guy sitting next to them on a red-eye out of Denver? So much of what Jesus told His followers to do (and not to do) just doesn’t make sense in our world. It almost always runs counter to our understanding of what might be the best way to get things done.

    Yet most of what we do as believers tends to be determined by our pragmatism. We justify nearly all that we do with, “Hey, it’s working.” We consider efficiency and volume to be stewardship issues. From video-venue churches to mass marketing campaigns to building programs, churches are constantly searching for ways to make the biggest impact, to reach the greatest number of people, and to get the most bang for the buck. I believe that these are human values, not Kingdom ones. What if doing what seems to “work” in the short run is hurting us in the long run? What if giving away iPods and paying people to come to church has long-term negative effects for the church? What if our methods actually change our message?

    In the next few posts, I’m going to explore some of the ways that the (particularly Western) Church has traded in God’s best for “what works.” Specifically, I want to look at the way we practice being the church, our efforts at church planting, and our theology of mission.

    NEXT: The Gaps

    Reasons Humanitarian Trips Are Replacing Mission Trips

    Immediate. You can find and fund a small business in a developing nation in under five minutes on Kiva.org. Buy a pair of Tom’s Shoes, and a second pair is sent to a needy child in a developing nation (you can actually go on a “Shoe Drop” trip and deliver the shoes yourself). The action is (or, at least feels) immediate. Typical mission trips have been cast more as investments in the future. Nobody believes in the future anymore.

    Tangible. Extreme (American) pragmatism is always concerned with the bottom line. Value is determined by dividing the total cost of involvement by the measurable results. People want to know that their work is producing something. At the end of the day, people want to be able to point to the building they built, the people they fed, or the number of salvations and say, “This was worth it.”

    Socially acceptable. Everyone thinks (or, at least says they think) that it’s cool to support fair trade or finance micro-enterprises or buy shoes for the shoeless. If Bono, Coldplay, and all my Facebook friends are talking about it, it’s cool. No one gets ridiculed for wanting to save Darfur or free Tibet. Getting time off of work to help plant a church in Malaysia, however, can be difficult.

    Pendulum swing. After years of prayerwalking, backyard Bible clubs, and tract spamming on strictly “spiritual” trips, believers are looking for better ways to connect with people. The missions scene tends to go back and forth between social ministries (feeding the hungry, digging wells, medical missions) to a more decidedly “spiritual” focus (“reaching unreached people groups,” public gospel presentations, etc). Things now are trending toward social action.

    Platform. There are only a few places left in the world where a “missionary” is free to enter and do whatever he/she wants (and even in those places, it’s not wise to do so). Many believers realize that need-based humanitarian action is an ideal social access platform (reason to be in the country that is valued by the hosts).

    Marketing. Social non-profits do a better job of marketing. Their campaigns incite and inspire while creating a sense of identity for those involved. Just look at “To Write Love On Her Arms” or the “Junky Car Club.” They allow people to determine their own levels of participation, and they are adept at using social networking media to get their messages out. Missions sending agencies, on the other hand, are still pushing “Xtreme Missions” (seriously- goolge “xtreme missions”- with or without the “E”).

    Guilt. A generation (or two) of white, upper-middle class suburban Christians are starting to realize that not everyone in the world is born with the opportunities they enjoy. One trip to a developing nation will change one’s perspective on a multi-million dollar building campaign. Many believe that justice will require a sacrifice on our part.

    Missiology. An emerging generation has gone back to theological basics in many respects. The “missional” movement is an example of this sort of reconstruction. It seeks to balance the direct teachings of Jesus with Paul’s missionary example. The emerging missiology is holistic, relational, and service-oriented. It doesn’t distinguish between “humanitarianism” and “missions.”

    Experience. Many churchgoers have been on “mission trips,” and a great deal of those were not positive experiences. The process was too complex. They didn’t feel that their money was being used wisely, or they didn’t want anything to go to overhead/administrative fees. The hosting missionary didn’t seem to know what he was going. They didn’t feel useful.

    Awareness. In this noisy world we live in, it is less and less likely that a church member is going to even know about the many ministries in relatively obscure places. A ministry with a high-profile spokesperson has a much better chance of getting through to churchgoers than an organization with a four-color brochure and a homemade website.