Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Mission - Clarity Needed

Wade through the PCUSA web site and you will stumble across the mission co-workers main site called Mission Connections. Click on a country name and the user will be taken to a list of all mission co-workers in that country. Click on a name and it goes to a mission co-worker’s particular page (way cool). The page will give some background on the person and describe their work for the church. Starting with countries beginning with an “A” you would find:
  • Teaches at a Pentecostal seminary
  • Site coordinator for Young Adult Volunteer program
  • Health advisor
  • Bridge between partner churches and mission co-workers
  • Coordinators of congregational twinning projects
  • Facilitators for the Joining Hands Against Hunger Network
  • Seminary instructor
  • Professor
  • Planting churches
  • Trains and supports staff who care for children
  • Regional liaison and theological education consultant
  • Music professor at seminary
  • Seminary professor and works with planting churches
  • Seminary instructor
  • Seminary instructor (him), human rights lawyer (her)
  • PCUSA central Africa liaison
  • HIV/AIDS worker
  • College instructor
  • Human rights legal advisor
  • Computer science instructor at seminary
  • University instructor
  • The list goes on, and on, and on

I am positive that these folks are committed to the church and are excited about their work. The jobs that they do are important. I also know that their web pages cannot communicate everything that they do and say. Most of these people are not “missionaries” based on the information on the Mission Connections web site. Now I see why we call them “mission co-workers.”

Last weekend Fox News ran a special on Rick Warren and Saddleback’s ministry in Rwanda. His church is going to work with the President of Rwanda to battle HIV/AIDS, poverty, educational needs, hunger, health care concerns, etc. All of those efforts are backed by the upfront message that it is only in Jesus Christ that we find life and purpose. Everything they are doing in Rwanda has Jesus as the central message. My guess is that mission dollars will free flow into the Saddleback ministry effort in Rwanda.

The local church I serve has a “mission” component in its budget. People want to support mission. Our mission dollars given to the PCUSA go to support mission co-workers. If I showed the list of what our mission co-workers do to the session and congregation (and I plan on doing exactly that) there would be strong support to NOT give this mission money to the PCUSA. I do not consider a university instructor or professor a mission worker—he/she is a professor/instructor. The work is important; however, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary isn’t a missionary so why is one in Brazil? A health advisor is not necessarily a missionary. A human rights legal advisor isn’t a missionary. A HIV/AIDS worker isn’t necessarily a missionary. Can they be? Yes, they can. However, from their web pages it is difficult to tell.

The PCUSA needs clarity if it plans to be involved in the mission field. People will support mission work/activity that centers first and foremost on spreading the good news of Jesus. Until the PCUSA recognizes that there will be a shortage of mission dollars flowing to Louisville.


At 9:01 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any job can be a part of God's mission. Why not let God judge what a "missionary" is, instead of judging the positions available.

Many countries have had enough bible thumpers...they need someone with education and experience to actually HELP them in life, and that person along the way can point the local people to the TRUE life-giver...Christ.

At 10:02 AM , Blogger Xtrsk33r said...

Oh wow, it's been a while since I have heard the phrase "bible thumper".

I had the privelage of speaking to a woman who with her parents were missionaries in China before, during, and after the Boxer Rebellion. Her father was set for execution by beheading because he was (in your words) a "Bible Thumper". When the executioner's sword came down on his neck the blade had miraculously (by God's Will) switched to the dull edge sparing his life.

When I think of people willing, past and present, to give their life to spread God's Word I find it incredibly angering and ignorant to refer to them as "Bible Thumpers".

At 10:02 AM , Blogger Xtrsk33r said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:06 AM , Anonymous Larry said...

I thought I was the only one who had clicked on the missions connections website and then read the resumes of the missionaries. I got as far as the missionaries whose last name began with the letter D.

Like yourself, I found a lot of educators and what I would call "Peace Corps workers".

My Webster's dictionary defines a Missionary as follows:

"A ministry commissioned by a religious organization to propogate its faith or carry on humanitarian work"

What seems to be glaringly lacking in the PCUSA mission field are missionaries who propogate our Presbyterian faith.

I also note we have some folks who are political activists operating under the guise of being a missionary. One name particularly comes to mind. Nuhad Tomeh is a mission co-worker in Lebanon who works for the Middle East Council of Churches. Each time a group from the PCUSA visited with and said complimentary things about the Hezbollah terrorists, it was Nuhad Tomeh who had made the arrangements for those visits.

You are being a good "teaching elder" to show your "ruling elders" this information about the PCUSA ministers. I pray you will become an example for other churches to follow.

For too long the 11,000 churches in the PCUSA have sent money to Louisville in support of the mission program and have never asked any questions as to what the missionaries were specifically doing. I suspect most churches assumed the PCUSA missionaries were doing the work of the Lord as defined by Webster.

At 11:15 AM , Anonymous Matt Ferguson said...

I don't have anything against the Peace Corps. I would be happy if one of my sons went into the Peace Corps. My son would be a Christian in the Peace Corps but that is not what the vast majority of us would call mission work.

Part of being a missional Christian means we see all followers of Jesus to be missionaries wherever they are. I hope all the folks we send out, no matter what job they do are also finding ways to be about the task of proclaiming the Gospel and helping to make discipiles but unless that is spelled out in their job descriptions I find reason to doubt that it is being done and if it is not being done then they are not missionaries.

Add to that how few of our missionaries have as their primary purpose the proclaiming of the Gospel and making of disciples and you start to understand why Presbyterians are, as a group, the number one contributor to World Vision, Samaritans Purse, Campus Crusade, and on and on the list could go.

We are to give the cup of cold water in Jesus' name---in fact, we are to do all things in Jesus' name. I understand that to mean that we are sharing Jesus, telling about Jesus, inviting others to come to know Jesus and follow Him as we go about our living. That should be listed as job number 1 of every missionary no matter what other job they are being called into. When that is done then the mission money will again flow freely back into our denomination's mission work.

At 4:50 PM , Blogger Stacey said...


I like ready your blog... It gives me insite to the changes we can expect to see at Evergreen. Thanks for the prayers - they are with me all the way in China! Give everyone my best - I hope to see you all during the Christmas holiday.

At 5:01 AM , Anonymous ceem said...

If my memory of the process is correct the PCUSA sends the type of mission co-workers requested by the partner denominations.

If there are a lot of seminary professors then that is what is being requested by the partner churches around the world. I'd guess that means they have plenty of potnetial pastors but need help in training them.


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