2008-10-06 The Brief

Culture
Missiology
  • Early last month Dr. David Sills, of SBTS, posted a fantastic article, entitled “The Brain Drain,” in which he looks at contemporary evangelicalism and how our desire to prepare missionaries has taught missions well but failed to model it and is in some sense counterproductive. From the article:
  • It is amazing to me that the most eloquent Bible expositors and scholars who exegete so beautifully the missionary journeys of Paul have often never been on one themselves. . . . They model a ministry that talks about the nations but does not walk among the nations.

    The brightest and best aspire to follow and emulate these godly teachers, preachers, Bible scholars, and theologians who unfortunately do not model missions as a worthy life investment. As much as young people want it to, missions does not seem to fit into any responsible, biblical expression of ministry because none of the leaders or inner circle members is missions focused in anything but talk. After a time of confused struggling, young people pack away their passion for missions as misguided zeal.

    I would love for you to read this article and then share your thoughts.

Theology

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7 thoughts on “2008-10-06 The Brief

  1. Read the Brain Drain post.
    To me, the real “brain drain” is seeing plenty of smart and talented tentmakers decide instead to become professional missionaries, pastors, etc. because they’ve bought into the much-propagated lie that you can’t glorify God nearly as much as a tentmaker as you can through professional preaching, teaching, or scholarship. That “preaching is the highest form of worship” or something else– and unless you’re doing that, you’re not worshipping to the fullest.

    Dr. Still’s post still smacks of this. Let’s “live dangerously” by going on at least 1 mission trip a year. What the crap?

    I got an email from a friend of mine who works with the IMB in Central Asia to set up for-profit businesses because humanitarians are no longer allowed. They (the IMB and my friend’s organization) are desperate for committed Christians who have business talents/experience but all they have are a bunch of MDivs who look down on business as secular activity that they’re unable to glorify God to His fullest through. That’s what they graduated seminary believing.

    The greatest evangelization taking place in China right now is through Christians who own factories and are able to demonstrate the Gospel through their actions and are rewarded with a freedom to share the Gospel with their mouths. It’s incredible.

    Christians just don’t take Jesus at His word. The least in the Kingdom of Heaven will be the professional pastors/theologians/preachers/missionaries that are on stage or heavily published. The greatest will be the people they looked down on.

  2. JTapp,
    I think his description of US educated foreigners in his introduction is a tragedy of modern missiology. In seeking to be theologically trained many move to the US and never return home to apply the training which they have received and honestly I have doubts as to how well such training will translate into their non-US context.

    “To me, the real ‘brain drain’ is seeing plenty of smart and talented tentmakers decide instead to become professional missionaries, pastors, etc. because they’ve bought into the much-propagated lie that you can’t glorify God nearly as much as a tentmaker as you can through professional preaching, teaching, or scholarship.”

    I agree and yet I think this thought needs to be taken further. The issue goes far beyond the false dichotomy of vocational and bi-vocational ministry even beyond the false dichotomy between laity and clergy. The real “brain drain” is far beyond an issue that involves individual pastors and missionaries. The real “brain drain” has resulted in the church denying something that is at the very core of her identity and purpose. The issue is not that talented tentmakers have decided to become professional missionaries and tentmakers; the issue is that the church has professionalized its pulpits and professionalized its mission.

    The church has gone far beyond plundering the treasures of Egypt to becoming Egyptian. We have seen the western education system and taken it for our own and thus imposing this modern understanding of education on II Timothy 2:2 so that it reads “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will establish institutions to teach others also.” We have seen the western business model and taken it for own so that pastoral search committees are formed to review candidates based upon their natural ability and scholastic achievement rather than spiritual qualifications and so that pastors hop from church to church as if each one is a new business venture and opportunity for advancement.

    Indeed that is where we have failed. If the church truly desires to reclaim a central tenet of its identity as a sent body and overcome the brain drain then we must return theological and missiological training to the place it belongs, in the church. I have no issue with seminaries, I have been to several; however, if the primary requirement to serve as a missionary or pastor is scholastic theological training and the primary means of training pastors and missionaries is in a scholastic institution then the church will continue to lose its identity and fail to carry out its mission. The church needs to stop professionalizing its officers, for lack of a better word, and reclaim responsibility for their training. Only then will the brain drain stop and the church truly be in a place where it can “live dangerously.”

    As for Dr. Sills’ mention of these pastors and conference speakers who “model a ministry that talks about the nations but does not walk among the nations.” If that is truly the case then they are ultimately poor examples of both missionaries but poor examples as pastors as well. After all Paul exhorts Timothy to “Watch [his] life and doctrine closely.” Are these pastors and conference speakers to be known only for their theology proclaimed or their theology lived out as well? Are short-term mission trips helpful? Yes. Do they give you a bigger picture of what God is doing in the world? Yes. Is a one week trip the necessary qualification that a pastor/missionary/conference speaker must meet in order to adequately equip a generation of young people to embrace the Missio Dei? Certainly not! My question for these individuals is do you spend your days living as a missionary in your context? Are you living the Missio Dei as you interact with your neighbors? A short-term trip is helpful, but like JTapp I think claiming that as “living dangerously” is ultimately a copout, if you are really living dangerously then the Missio Dei should have an overarching effect on the entire course of life, not merely a couple weeks. That is what I want to see from pastors, conference speakers, seminary professors, theologians, missionaries etcetera.

  3. I agree. Dr. Still’s opening paragraphs I take as a given. I mean, church planting training literature from 15 years ago were already denouncing extraction as a sure-fire way to kill a CPM. I hope that’s not a radical concept to Stills or his students.

    “As for Dr. Sills’ mention of these pastors and conference speakers who “model a ministry that talks about the nations but does not walk among the nations.” If that is truly the case then they are ultimately poor examples of both missionaries but poor examples as pastors as well.”

    I think being missional starts wherever you’re at currently. I like the Rich Mullins quote that true Spirituality isn’t found in reading books or going to conferences/concerts or having emotional epiphanies. “(true) Spirituality is raking your neighbors leaves because you know she’s too old to do it herself.” Being intentional with the Gospel is about demonstrating love and not demonstrating higher learning. Learning can help you better fathom the depths of His love but in doing so it should spur you to demonstrate love and purposeful service or else the learning was in vain. My 5 cents.

  4. I started to read the 9 Marks article but found it too long and cumbersome with the new Adobe reader. If I have to get 12 pages in to find the 9 marks this is bothersome. Props if you can sort out what is misinformation.

  5. I saw this quote the other day and it seemed relevant. It’s from the book Missions and Money by Toyohiko Kagawa:

    “If we go we must be prepared to go the way of self denial. We want to go, but we do not want to be mocked. Bishops, theologians and church leaders are prepared to go as long as their spiritual, intellectual and ecclesiastical prestige is safe.”

  6. Good discussion there. I have some issues with what he’s saying, to me he’s making an inherent contradiction. If I wasn’t busy with 100 other things right now I’d participate more there. The struggle of choosing what I want to know more of and what I need to know more of and what I am required to know more of.

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