Grab Part 1 and Part 2 Here on trends in missions.
Confession: I’ve never been that trendy of a person. (Maybe you could have guessed that from my regrettable personal trends in the last post?) I have never actually been cool. I have just been a person cool people liked.
But missions trends, see, aren’t on par with whether you listen to Maroon 5 or wear maroon skinny jeans.
I have no doubt future generations will have the opportunity to correct our generations’ mistaken trends in missions. Yet in general, trends like those we’ve been covering in these three posts are ways of loving better. Working smarter rather than harder. Better reflecting Jesus to a watching world.
Ready for more?
Technology as Missions
Technology, Christianity Today reports, facilitates connection, community, and discipleship around the world–and enables the Church’s mission.
Like money or art, it can be used as an instrument of either God’s glory and worship…or the opposite. (As digital technology radically expands our abilities to reach the world with the hope that we have, it’s still crucial to keep in mind the negative community, addictive, spiritual, and other factors inherent in tech.)
As the Christian Post estimates, “As much as 70 percent of the global population prefers non-literate forms of communication.” (Grab more ideas here about discipling oral learners.) Additionally, Facebook boasts 2 billion users (27% of the world population), and 50% of the world is now on the internet.
Operation World’s Patrick Johnstone reports,
one of our workers working on the edge of the Sahara desert, she works amongst nomads and she found a brilliant way of evangelizing Muslim nomads.
She’s got a number of mobile phones. She downloads the Jesus film and a number of other evangelistic resources and leaves the phones in different encampments. And all the young people rush there with their mobile phones and download everything she’s got on her mobile and watch the Jesus film or access the internet.
And the International Mission Board (IMB) reports,
SIM cards the size of a thumbnail can equip oral learners with audio recordings of Scripture. iPhone videos allow missionaries to hurdle language barriers with recorded testimonies in the local language. Facebook groups quietly connect believers with seekers and allow conversations to take place in a shared online environment. Innumerable digital resources are now available to extend a missionary’s reach.
What do tech trends in missions look like right now?
- Solar-powered Bibles are being used to reach remote South Asian tribes.
- Journey to Truth offers 8 animated videos to address some of Muslims’ most pressing questions about Isa al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah). It’s available in 12 languages!
- The Lumo Project offers moving, visual accounts of the 4 Gospels. Check it out on the YouVersion Bible App–in 23 languages.
- Literacy International “Shares the gift of reading and the gospel by teaching people how to read and write in their mother tongue using Bible-based materials in 260+ languages. Teacher-training classes are taught in English by live instructors using video calls and an online classroom.”
- Zume is a FREE online training platform. It’s currently offered in 27 languages, with more to come. The goal? Equipping participants in basic disciple-making and simple church planting multiplication principles, processes, and practices.
- Handheld projectors carrying SIM cards–alongside solar-powered A/V systems–help Gospel movies make their way to new people groups.
- And if you’re game, this course unleashes ways to use new media to reach the unreached.
We’re looking for missions that goes the distance. Sharing our faith is increasing its sustainability in more than one way.
Caring for our missionaries rather than burning through them.
Another happy addition to trends in missions: The Church is increasingly realizing our missionaries themselves, their education, experience, etc.–are more than tools for the Gospel.
The Gospel in our own lives as missionaries matters.
So are we living the reality that we are not what we do for God? That Christ’s work is sufficient? That we are loved and worthy apart for our accomplishments for God’s Kingdom? That God is sovereign and able to accomplish his work?
Emotionally-healthy missionaries hurt less (others, and within themselves). Help more. Love God from within their being, rather than as hollow shells of service (see Matthew 23:27-28).
Check out some of Go. Serve. Love’s best posts on emotionally-healthy missions:
- Emotionally-Healthy Missions: Could It Save Your Ministry?
- Choosing an Emotionally Healthy Missions Organization
- In praise of Sabbath: On letting go
- Embracing Limitations: When Moving Overseas Kicks Your Tail
- Never Forget: You are More than What You Do for God
- What Mindset Helps You Stay Overseas?
- Our Cultural “Icebergs” Series
- Simply Indispensable? On the Importance of Your Work (…Or Not)
- Help Your Marriage Thrive Overseas!: The Series
- 8 Ways to Help your Family Flourish Overseas!
Increasing national sustainability
Part 2 of this series mentioned the decrease of “the West to the Rest”–and maximizing our national partnerships. Many organizations are seeking ways to help their ministries sustain themselves apart from Western funding and control. (Business for Transformation and Business as Mission are great steps toward this goal.)
The idea? To allow Westerners to grow in placing leadership in the hands of nationals. Eventually, this allows national ministry to unhitch from the organization.
Additionally, this protects many national ministries from the very real temptations of corruption–a reality cementing developing nations in cycles of poverty.
Sustainability helps missions move beyond relief and Western discipleship. It builds empowerment and reproducing, national movements.
Yet trends in missions also mean we’re doing something even better as a Church: Applying the Gospel to the unique context of every culture.
Paul famously wrote in 1 Corinthians,
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews…To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (vv. 20, 23)
The book of Acts repeatedly shows Paul himself contextualizing: Addressing the concerns of Stoic and Epicurean philosophers in the Areopagus. Sharing his testimony in Aramaic to a horde of outraged Jews. Circumcising Timothy so as not to disturb the consciences of a Jewish audience.
And thankfully, as a Church, we’re getting better at this, too. Hope to increase your cross-cultural IQ? Check out posts like these.
- The Cultural “Icebergs” Series: What you Need to Know about Cross-Cultural Communication
- Just Different? Right, Wrong, and Flexibility in Crossing Cultures
- Why to Learn Their Heart-Language, Even if They Speak Yours
- Crossing Cultures: Adding More Pieces to Your God-Puzzle
- Does Christianity destroy culture?
The Author behind a lot of trends in missions is trending toward a purpose. It’s a telos of drawing every tongue, tribe, and nation loving the One their hearts were made for.
Thank God with us for the changing face of missions–and a God who’s deeply, intricately involved in pulling humanity toward himself.
Wondering how COVID-19 may affect global missions? Grab Missio Nexus’ podcast on Missions Trends in a Post-COVID-19 World.
We want to know.
What missions trends are you seeing–and inspired by?
Janel Breitenstein is an author, freelance writer, speaker, and senior editor for Go. Serve. Love. After five and a half years in East Africa, her family of six has returned to Colorado, where they continue to work on behalf of the poor with Engineering Ministries International.
Her book, Permanent Markers: Spiritual Life Skills for Work-in-Progress Families (Harvest House) releases in October 2021. You can find her—“The Awkward Mom”—having uncomfortable, important conversations at JanelBreitenstein.com, and on Instagram @janelbreit.