Rick Warren on Missions

In my last post, I gave you the following quote from an individual whose identity I did not reveal at that time.

These problems, and the answers, are not new.  But the way we intend to tackle them using the small groups of local churches in large numbers is revolutionary.

The bottom line is that we intend to reinvent mission strategy in the 21st century.  This will be a new Reformation.  The First Reformation returned us to the message of the original church.  It was a reformation of doctrine – what the church BELIEVES.  This Second Reformation will return us to the mission of the original church.  It will be a reformation of purpose- what the church DOES in the world.

In the first century, mission strategy was always congregationally based.  The first missionaries were sent, supported, and accountable to local churches.  The church at Antioch was the first to do this.  There were no mission societies, mission boards, or parachurch organizations.  Local churches accepted the responsibility for Jesus’ Great Commission and his Great Commandment, and the growth of the church worldwide was explosive.

Today, most local churches are sidelined and uninvolved when it comes to missions.  The message from most mission and parachurch organizations to the local church is essentially “Pray, pay, and get out of the way.”  But in the 21st century . . . [We] intend to help thousands of other local churches move back to the frontline in missions, in compassion, and in providing the social services that historically the church provided.  I believe the proper role for all the great parachurch and relief organizations is to serve local churches in a supportive role, offering their expertise and knowledge, but allowing the local churches around the world to be central focus and the distribution centers.

I deeply believe that any organization that marginalized or minimizes the local congregation’s responsibility to “Go”, or bypasses the local church’s moral authority to fulfill the Great Commission,  is out of sync with the strategy God intended, and modeled in the book of Acts.

Rick Warren said that as he described the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, the specific quote is available here.  After the above quote Warren goes on to say, “We intend to leverage the attention that the Purpose Driven Life has garnered to bring about a whole new way of thinking and acting in the church about our responsibility in the world.  This is a stewardship we must be faithful to fulfill- with humility, generosity, and integrity.”

I think he has spoken with profound insight.  These parachurch organizations and mission societies/boards are, as he puts it, “out of sync with the strategy God intended.”  They are robbing the church of her responsibility.  Local churches must fulfill their responsibility and bearing the burden of fulfilling the Great Commission.  As a Southern Baptist, I am familiar with the structures within the Southern Baptist Convention and the typical mindset of “We gave to the cooperative program and are therefore fulfilling our responsibility to ‘go make disciples’” just does not cut it.  That is an unacceptable and unbiblical attitude.

Such a strategy also necessitates that churches be involved in the task of raising up, sending out, and empowering their best leaders.  The typical corporate ladder mindset of most American pastors is horrifically unbiblical.  Rather than our most skilled pastors continually seeking bigger churches and higher salaries, which is often a detriment to those churches, these pastors should employ their skill where it is needed most, the hard places and pioneer areas.  Sadly, I do not expect this to be the case as most pastors in America are more concerned with building their empire than God’s kingdom.

What do you all think?  Has the church lost her mission?  Do we need a second reformation that recovers what the church does?  Before we can do that I think we need a second reformation that recovers what the church is, but that is for another post.


16 thoughts on “Rick Warren on Missions

  1. Does that mean you’re no longer thinking of going with the IMB?

    I’ve written before about how it’s the natural order of things for 1. churches to get bigger rather than multiply, and 2. for like-minded groups (churches) to form franchises, and how the SBC is the greatest franchise model out there. Those are natural, not supernatural things. So, I definitely think it would take a miracle, hand-of-God act to change the natural order. Is that what you mean by reformation?

  2. Well, I should probably keep my comments to myself on this issue, but here we go. I have been privately struggling with Baptist life in general for several months. Though a lot of my struggles have nothing to do with what you are talking about specifically, one of my struggles has everything to do with the present discussion. The way in which we “do missions” is terribly troubling to me not necessarily because of our methodology, but because of the mindset our methodology produces. Our methodology (CP), as great as it is and as productive and life-changing as it has been over the last century, produces church members that believe as long as they give their tithe and support the Cooperative Program (assuming they actually know they are doing that with their tithe – something I do not think we can assume they are aware of anymore) that it is OK if they do not reach out to their neighborhoods, their schools, their places of employment. While I think it is amazing that we can put out as many missionaries as we do as Southern Baptists, the lasting impact among our “average” laypeople who will never set foot on the foreign or domestic mission fields is catastrophic. While I am not sure if I have an answer, I am in admiration of the manner in which the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) conducts their mission efforts. Typically, they support numerous missionaries through their local churches. This gives them a more personal touch to the mission field, not to mention the fact that most Presbyterians understand their mission in the world to bring about the Kingdom of God through the spiritual nature of both the visible and invisible church. This is not to say that there is not good that comes out of the CP, OBVIOUSLY there is. But I do think that in a way we have relegated the job of the church to the IMB and NAMB. Maybe not, but that is just my humble opinion.

    On the issue of pastors not going from church to church, I do not think that one can make a blanket statement that it is not biblical for pastors not to come from within their church. I also am not sure we can make a blanket statement that it is unbiblical for pastors to make a move from one church to another. Obviously, it is wrong if they are out to “build their own personal empire,” but how is that really able to be judged? That is a subjective statement that is rarely grounded in fact and most of the time is grounded in speculation by people doing precisely what we are doing here. Drawing conjectures based upon what we feel is the right thing to do. Do I think it is ideal for a pastor to come from within his own church, pay his dues and prove himself in various leadership roles, before becoming a pastor. Absolutely.

    Okay, I’m done. I miss this interaction by the way.

  3. JTapp,
    I still plan on going through either the IMB or NAMB; I would just lead whatever churches I am privaledged to plant in a direction that leads to direct missions involvement rather than the indirect involvement prevalent in many SBC churches.

    By “natural order” do you mean right and biblical or do you just mean the tendency that these things have?

    Your statement, “those are natural, not supernatural things” makes me believe that you are referring to the later. If that is the case then I agree. Sinful man tends to do those things, however, I would argue that man needs to resist those urges and strive to promote and employ a more biblical paradigm.

    For your first point, I think it is important to define growth and multiplication. By all standards, the church in the beginning of Acts was the first mega-church. We have discussed this before, however, I think it is reasonable to see larger churches in areas with higher populations. At the same time, it is Biblical for those churches to multiply to reach that population. In a city of 22,000,000, where 6% of the population is Christian, then you could expect to see 1,320 churches with 1,000 members in attendance. I just made up those figures so they are not important, but they illustrate the point that big is not bad if it is big and multiplying.

    For the second point, I do not see a problem, in fact I would encourage, churches to form relationships with other churches. I see no problem with forming these relationships along doctrinal affinities. I do see a problem when you create a McFranchise that pops out generic McChurches for the sheer sake of franchise propagation.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your first paragraph. I also agree that it is not necessarily bad for pastors to come from outside of the church; there are biblical examples of this, Timothy in Ephesus for example. I would argue, however, that this should not be the norm as churches must also fulfill their requirement to make disciples and train up leaders, a responsibility which they have forfeited to the seminary, a parachurch ministry. Glad to see that you are still out there . . . I will call you sometime . . . oh and you need to post something on your blog again :)

  4. I believe the CP is a great program. You have a bunch of like-minded churches banning together (SBC) and sending missionaries out across this world and supporting them 100% financially. I believe there is no better option out there at the moment.

    I also believe that the problem with church members thinking that as long as they have tithed and given to the CP then they have fulfilled the Great Commission then that is a pulpit problem not an SBC/CP problem. I for one have been a member of several different SBC churches and each has had an extremely healthy view of missions. The church I am currently working for has approx 20 short term trips planned for this year as we help full-time missionaries develop strategies to plant churches. We also support those missionaries financially through the CP. If we leave it up to single churches to support their own missionaries then in order for each church to support that missionary 100% they will have to come up with massive amounts of money and only be able to support a limited number of people. And what happens when that church goes through a rough year or two, do they have to pull that missionary out? I guess a few churches that are like-minded could partner together and support multiple missionaries….or wait…that is already what the SBC is doing!

    I am not saying that it is perfect, but it is an amazing assest that SB have used for years. We have missionaries all over the world that don’t have to worry about anything financially. If churches are simply giving to the CP and not sending their people on mission, then I believe that comes down to the pulpit and a problem there.

  5. Tim makes good points. One thing I like about the “Business as Missions” movement is that it encourages all laypeople to think about their jobs as their mission field. Christian entrepreneurs taking their businesses overseas are simply an extension of that mission mindset. Something to think about in transforming your congregation to think outwardly.

    Keith, you understood me correctly. It’s like when I talk about Spirit-led behavior (and churches) vs. rational behavior.

    My question:
    When do churches cross the line from “building relationships” based on similar beliefs, and forming denominational hierarchies and parachurch organizations that “rob the church of her responsibility”?

    Why I ask the question:
    Historically (the natural, rational model) groups grow larger until you have large structures, like what you’re decrying. The early church pretty quickly developed the Catholic church with its hierarchy from initially starting with scattered, individual churches. Governments grow larger, corporations merge, etc.
    In the book The Tipping Point, the author concludes from studies that once a group of people crosses 250 it begins to start developing these extra structures to support itself and loses its original intent.
    So, any time you have a large group of churches with similar mindset that decide to cooperate together, you’re going to get a governing bureaucracy and parachurch structures.

    Jonathan says something that I think actually supports Keith’s point:
    “We have missionaries all over the world that don’t have to worry about anything financially.”
    And they behave like it! The CP, IMB/NAMB is a bureaucracy that is hugely inefficient and loses a lot of money. Missionaries are no longer accountable to individual churches and donors, so it’s hard to keep track of where resources go. And all NAMB/IMB missionaries are essentially franchisees, McMissionaries, if you will. They are trained in certain methods, have to sign contracts agreeing to only believe certain things while employed, and any deviation from these things results in a loss of their franchise. That’s the way it has to be done when you have large organizations like the Boards and you try to run it efficiently. Also, like any bureaucracy, any attempts to try and change the strategy or tactics have to go through an arduous bureaucratic process.

    It’s no different than the Army. Our Army provides for the common defense, so it is a public good, and is therefore provided by the State and everyone pays for with their taxes (like a tithe). Our Army is highly effective. But, the Army loses billions of dollars every year due to the massive bureaucracy and lack of accountability. We read about it in the papers every year when the GAO puts out their reports. Any attempts to change the tactics and structure of the Army are very slow and complicated.

    I think it’s almost impossible (requires supernatural intervention) not to have cooperating like-minded churches to not build these type of denominational and parachurch structures.

    My real-life thought:
    Our current church is SBC, gives to the CP. But, the church itself funds missionaries from at least 100 different missions organizations. The church body, led by staff, made a commitment to lifestyle change in the area of finances that helps make this possible and God has blessed.

    Not all of these missionaries are 100% funded by Highland, but if we allow churches to cooperate why would any 1 church need to fund 100% for every missionary it sends out? (i disagree with Jonathan that without the CP an individual church would have to bankroll 100% every missionary from the congregation). There’s somewhat of an array of beliefs represented, and different churches (diff. denominations even) support them; they aren’t McMissionaries.

    Joni was on Missions Committee and heard testimony from dozens of missionaries needing support. But not many IMBers or NAMBers wanted to share testimony with the church. They didn’t need to because their testimony wasn’t going to change how much Highland gave to the CP.

    So, I agree with what Keith’s getting at, but I ask the questions: where do we draw the line, and what structures do we need/not need?

    It’s hard, but I’ll stop there… thanks for reading.

  6. Tapp,

    You said that if like-minded churches begin to cooperate together then they will be able to support missionaries together. I agree with that, but as you stated before that, it is almost “impossible” to have like-minded churches working together and not form some type of structure. When 5 or 6 churches (or even 2) begin to pull their money together they will have some means (structure) on how that money is used. It turns out to be a structure!

    In my opinion, when you have thousands of churches that are like-minded, ie. affirm the 2000 BF&M, then you NEED that structure to account for all the money that comes in. And don’t forget everything else the CP funds….LifeWay, 6 Seminaries (where we study), NAMB, IMB, and an array of other entities.

    Like I stated in my previous response, the CP is not perfect. If there isn’t accountability with missionaries and their funds then there needs to be. But I believe overall that the CP is a program that many men and women who have studied it and served overseas through, and are a lot smarter than we are, see it as a good thing. Does that make it right and perfect, NO! But I still think getting rid of it and telling churches to support their own missionaries will have a negative affect on SBC global missions and missions in general.

  7. Jonathan,
    Let me say that I totally agree with your statement that the pulpit in many churches is to blame for the deficient view of missions held by those in the pews. Though I think that the format somewhat contributes to this mindset, the lack of solid biblical preaching the stirs the souls of those in the congregation to reach their world for Christ is no doubt culpable to a very large extent. And this is a travesty of the highest order.

    In regards to where you minister and the example they are setting in terms of missions (a church that I happen to be very familiar with, as well), I would say that they are, and have been, on the cutting edge of missions involvement, both domestically and internationally, since Dr. Henard arrived. This goes back to prove the previous point, though. He is intentional and unapologetic about the biblical stance on missions and emphasizes that at every opportunity. You are lucky to be part of such a church.

  8. JTapp,
    I completely agree that the issue of accountability is a huge problem as is the loss of funds that are poured into fueling this bureaucracy. I am sure it is easy to find but I wonder what percentage of funds go into running the CP, the IMB, and NAMB and what percentage actually reaches the missionaries and their ministries. My guess would be that if churches were to skip the bureaucracy and directly support missionaries, assuming they were giving at the same rate, then far more missionaries could be provided for, as much of the money is spent on administrative tasks.

    I also think that funding missionaries 100% has several negative affects. As you mentioned a loss of accountability. I also think the loss of tent making as a missional strategy has led to the creation of a professional missionary class. We need to reexamine tent making as a missional strategy. Working a secular job provides bountiful interaction with individuals in the receptor culture. Furthermore, it provides a real life laboratory for the exegesis of culture. Our failure to view tent making as a missional strategy has led to the creation of a professional missionary class, which places an unnecessary burden on sending churches and removes a necessary burden from the missionary. Furthermore, the creation of such a class discourages laypersons from thinking missionaly. Thus, the church member who moves to China begins looking for a church that suits his liking rather than seeing this as God’s providence to send him as a bivocational missionary into China.

    As to your question “When do churches cross the line from ‘building relationships’ based on similar beliefs, and forming denominational hierarchies and parachurch organizations that ‘rob the church of her responsibility’?”

    Let me first address Jonathon’s comment that when any number of churches works together a structure, of some kind, comes into play. Yes, I agree. That requires a structure. However, we are not arguing against structure in the abstract but a particular kind of structure, namely the kind of structure that places the emphasis on the parachurch rather than the church. With that said, I think that is the line, the line between parachurch and church. When you cross the line to create parachurch organizations then you begin to “rob the church of her responsibility.” That is what parachurch organizations do; they rob the church of her responsibility. Whether it is LifeWay, the six SBC seminaries, NAMB, or the IMB you are ultimately creating institutions that rob the church of her responsibility. Most of these institutions are helpful; however, none are necessary.

    I think it is critical to define more of what I mean. I have no problem with LifeWay, aside from some stupid stuff that they sell. I have no huge problem with any of the other institutions I mentioned. I do however have a problem when individuals view these organizations as their primary focus of ministry. If at any point and on any level individuals in these institutions, or the institutions themselves, are seen as a primary ministry outlet then you are attempting to supplant the role of the church. Mohler was wise to point this out at the 2006 Together for the Gospel conference when he noted that the primary place for ministry training is the church and not the seminary, sadly the system we have created communicates the exact opposite. The same can be said of NAMB and the IMB the Great Commission and the responsibility of fulfilling it was given to the church not them. Despite my opening comment that more missionaries could be provided for if churches directly supported missionaries I am ultimately unconcerned with what the statistics say. Justifying the CP or any other parachurch organization that robs the church of her responsibility on the grounds of effectiveness is pragmatism.

    Jonathon and Tim,
    I too agree that this problem finds much of its support in our pulpits. I would also add that much of our church structure communicates this as well. If your church does not have structures in place to train men for ministry and to send individuals out on mission then that church is communicating to its congregation that such responsibility falls on the parachurch, while Scripture clearly says otherwise.

  9. I couldn’t agree more with your “tent making” paragraph. And, I agree with Tim that the “professional missionary” mindset is fostered by both the structure, and lack of Biblical preaching. But, therein lies a problem: if you have better preaching you still will have the structure undermining it.

    There’s the mindset overall that the highest thing you can aspire to is to be a preacher or a missionary–ie: professional clergy. Approving myths like “preaching is the highest form of worship” does nothing to help this.

    In terms of structure, I mean:
    1. In order to be a “career” SBC missionary you have to go to Seminary. In recent years the discussion has been about increasing these these requirements (from 30 hours to a full MDiv), rather than whether it’s a good idea or not.

    2. The structure imposes other requirements: You have to have a supernatural, emotionally-based “calling.” The interview process is akin to asking a Mormon “when did you get your ‘testimony'”? (ie: that “burning in the bosom”).

    3. The whole point of the CP funding for missionaries was to avoid tentmaking, and any discussions I’ve held with IMB missionaries about it have met with much frowning at me.

    These 3 things alone filter out any layperson from participating in going long-term.

    Keith– the $ figure of how much CP money makes it overseas is available, i don’t have it off-hand.

    But Keith, given your comments: “The same can be said of NAMB and the IMB the Great Commission and the responsibility of fulfilling it was given to the church not them…Justifying the CP or any other parachurch organization that robs the church of her responsibility on the grounds of effectiveness is pragmatism”
    I wonder why you would want to be a part of such organizations? I understand your desires to foster more local-church involvement in wherever you go, but I think there are better ways to do that than going with the IMB.

  10. JTapp,
    That is a good question. I actually have, as do others, the opportunity to function in what I would consider a paradigm-busting role by bivocationally planting churches in Canada. The Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists, soon to change its name to Canadian Baptist Convention to avoid being oxymoronic, has recognized the need for church planting in Canada, only 240 SBC churches there, and has realized that the only way to meet such a massive need is bivocationally planting reproducing churches. I am excited to see how the partnership between the CBC and NAMB works and hopefully leads to a paradigm shift in other SBC mission agencies as well. Furthermore, I think that the CBC is on the leading edge as far as raising indigeneous leaders to fill every leadership position in the CBC. While you still have much of the same structure that I am denouncing I think that their innovative thinking has the possibility of leading to massive paradigm shifts both methodologically and structurally.

    I also know of several churches that are SBC that do not give to the cooperative program and rather choose to directly support the missionaries, etcetera, that they want supported. Which I think is also a viable option to demonstrate that they affirm the basic doctrinal affirmations of the SBC while at the same time demonstrating the need for methodological and structural reform.

  11. JTapp,
    I have been thinking about your denouncing, “preaching is the highest form of worship” as a myth. I actually had the privilege of watching a video tonight on the persecuted church and one thing that greatly impressed me was the centrality of proclaiming and submitting to the Word of God. Does saying “preaching is the highest form of worship” affirm a professional clergy? I think it depends on how you define preaching and preacher. If you define preaching as the proclamation of God’s Word by an individual trained in seminary, then yes, this reinforces the professional clergy paradigm. If you define preaching as the proclamation of the Word of God by the man of God, then no, the credentials for preaching are dependent upon God and not academic achievement. As for me I would word it differently and think it better to say that “the highest form of worship is when the people of God gather together to submit to the proclaimed Word of God.” I would also add that the forms of communication found within your particular culture help to define proclamation and with that comes the understanding that most of the world does not preach like Americans do. However, it is a word spoken, a word proclaimed, this is especially clear since the primary word used for submission in the NT is a compound word created by combining the preposition “under” and the verb “to hear.” This results in the understanding that we are to place ourselves under the authority of the spoken word of God. John Piper preached a fantastic sermon on this in the 2006 Together for the Gospel conference.

  12. Keith,
    That was actually a surprisingly good answer. Hope you find what you’re looking for with the Canadian work, sounds like a great opportunity.

    While I like your definition of “highest form of worship” better, I have a problem anytime people come up with “highest form of…” It seems to me that the highest form of worship found in Scripture is the picture of heaven shown in Revelation. When we have new bodies, all tears are wiped away, all “ethnos” present and the elders lay their crowns at the feet of the Lamb. Anything done on this side of heaven is looking through a glass, darkly, and hardly anything I would call a “highest form.”

    I think the expression has been/is being used to affirm a professional clergy and create an “ecclesiological schism.”

  13. Keith,
    To my knowledge, it is impossible for a church to be part of the SBC and not contribute something to the CP. That is the very thing that makes an SBC church an SBC church. At least in terms of being recognized as such by the convention bureacracy. This is probably simply a matter of semantics, but it is important to note anyway.

    I think these are all good discussions to have within our churches, as they make us think about the “why” of the way we do things. We do not ask questions such as these nearly enough. I know that I, for one, for all my life have simply taken for granted that it was simply the most biblical way of doing things because it is the way I have always seen it done within the SBC. This is simply wrong on my part, though I doubt I am alone. We must ask these questions and not be afraid to say when we are wrong.

  14. I agree with Tim, let’s have the discussion.

    That’s why Jonathan’s comment made me wince:
    “I believe overall that the CP is a program that many men and women who have studied it and served overseas through, and are a lot smarter than we are, see it as a good thing.”

    That seems to be the attitude that most churches have: “If we’ve always done it this way, then it can’t be that bad.”

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