Have You Ever Thought About Mission Strategy? (+ 2018 Q2 Update)

Here’s a bit of what’s been happening since our last update and a look at what’s happening next:

Graduation

In May I graduated from Asbury Seminary with a ThM in World Mission and Evangelism.  My grandfather went to Asbury on the G.I. bill in the late 40’s, and my father taught here for over two decades.  So, it was a special day to share with family and friends.  However, since I’m still wrapping up my thesis, my day-to-day routine didn’t change much, and on Monday I went back to my office and picked up where I left off on Friday. :) More on that in a moment…

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Webinars

I’ve been offering regular webinars to our OCMC missionaries, and they’ve been going well.  My hope is that these will:

  • become a context for us to build the community that’s so vital in ministry.  
  • have a variety of presenters (myself, staff, missionaries, board members, and guests).  
  • deliver digestible and actionable content that supports our missionaries’ well-being and thriving for the long haul in a discussion-based format.

Here is the most recent webinar:

Kisumu and Mission Strategy

I want you to know about some new initiatives in Kisumu, Kenya, so you can be supporting this work in prayer and so that we can talk about something you may not have thought much about…mission strategy. Our missionary, Dr. Bill Black, is involved in planting a church and starting a Catechetical School in Kisumu, a city of about 1,000,000 people in Western Kenya. 

 

If you look at this brochure, you’ll see that the inaugural semester will offer four classes: Who is Jesus? (Christology); Missions and Evangelism; Canon Law for Christian Life; and Sm. Business for Self-Sufficiency.  

You might miss how significant this is if you are unfamiliar with mission strategy.

First, what is mission strategy?  Mission strategy is the human effort involved in joining God in His mission in the world. We believe that the ultimate aim of God’s mission is that radiant day when all creation will cry out, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  

Jesus and St. Paul both had ministries informed by mission strategy.  Remember Jesus’ instructions to the disciples about what to do and where to stay? Or the cities St. Paul focused on planting churches in, and the practical networks of support he built between them?  We see mission strategy in the stories of the missionary saints. And we see mission strategy in what’s starting up in Kisumu.  Let me explain:

Mission strategy is really about our synergy with God, and it has at least three components that I want to address:  

  1. The generational sustainability of the Church through discipleship and leadership development. 
  2. Awareness of and response to emerging social/cultural trends through strategic evangelism and church planting.
  3. Engaging in wholistic mission with compassion for the totality of human experience.  

Investing in future generations.  

In 1910, it was estimated that there were 8 million Christians in Africa.  A century later that number had grown exponentially to 350 million.  That’s right, today there are more Christians in Africa than people in America!  With the rapid growth of Christianity comes the need for discipleship and the training of church leaders.  Imagine—Where will the Church be in a generation without leaders capable of discipling new believers?  Can you see how essential this Catechetical School is, not just today but for generations to come?  

Location. Location. Location.

Another radical shift happened in this same period—urbanization.  In 1900, 14% of the world’s population lived in cities.  By 2008, the scales had tipped, and over 50% of people lived in cities.  It’s estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities in just 32 year (2050)!

So, Kisumu, with a population of over 1,000,000, is a strategic location for the planting of a parish and the establishment of a school that has the potential to impact all of Western Kenya.

Wholistic Mission

Mission strategy also must address what we can broadly call “Shalom,” or the reigning peace of God.  That is to say, our mission strategy must address the needs of the people and communities we serve. But wholistic mission is more than community service.  Wholistic mission seeks to alleviate suffering, such as poverty, while also confronting the structures of injustice that foster poverty.  But wholistic mission is more than activism.  Wholistic mission confronts injustice with the power of radical love that seeks the interest of others, restores dignity, and respects autonomy.  

Can you see how the Catechetical School, with its focus on business for self-sufficiency and the generosity of its enrollment for Orthodox and non-Orthodox, for men and women, is a practical expression of wholistic mission?

Mission Strategy is for All of Us.

I hope sharing about mission strategy will help you appreciate and prayerfully support this effort—as you might imagine, we ought to expect fierce opposition to anything so strategic.  But, mission strategy isn’t just for Kisumu—it’s just as important for where I live in Kentucky and for where you live.   We each can ask:

  • What are the social and cultural forces shaping my community?  
  • How is God inviting my church to join in wholistic mission to these forces?  
  • How can my church disciple and develop leaders for generations to come?

Missionary Care is a Keystone of Mission Strategy.

At the core of my motivation to devote my life to missionary care is mission strategy.  When we care for missionaries, we empower them to thrive for the long haul.  This is important, because God’s mission is not accomplished in three months, or three decades, but over generations.  Second, how we care for missionaries needs to respond to the forces that are shaping our context.  For example, building community on-line was just emerging as a possible when I began working in missions a decade ago—now it’s a major tool in the missionary care toolbox!   Finally, and most importantly, the ethos of missionary care is one of wholistic mission.  We care about missionaries because we love them.  Our concern is not for their “performance” but for them as persons—in the totality of their experience.  

Mission Strategy Requires Partnership.

Photo by noblige/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by noblige/iStock / Getty Images

edwoods only grow in groves.  That’s because the interweaving of their roots provides the stability they need to grow majestically tall and persevere for centuries.  I hope that this vision of mission strategy makes clear that nothing can be accomplished alone.  Our lives are mystically interwoven with one another.  

Dr. Bill could not help plant this parish and start this school without an interwoven team of support.  I’m honored to play a role on his team.  But, I can’t support Bill without my team of support, of which you are a part. So when you encourage, pray for, and/or donate to my work, you invest in the mission strategy in places like Kisumu.

This brings me to my research project.

Until November 16, I’m focusing most of my energy on finishing my research on missionary resiliency.  In case, you missed our last update, I launched a research project last September to better understand how missionaries become resilient.  My hope was that I’d receive 100 responses to the survey, interview a dozen missionaries, write it all up as an article, and move on with my life.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead, I received over 1,100 response to the survey and about 250 responses to the written interview.  To put that in perspective, the raw data spreadsheet has over a quarter of a million cells, and the written interview data would use more than a ream of paper to print.

Thankfully, I received a grant that allowed me to get some help.  So, this summer my research team and I have been busy analyzing the data, and I’ll be busy this fall writing it all up and finding ways to make it useful to missionaries around the world.

I’d be grateful for your prayers for this project and all who are involved and will benefit from the forthcoming results and resources.

This update is a bit longer than most—if you’ve read all the way to the end I hope it sparked some thoughts for you.  I’d love to be in dialogue about anything that’s resonating with you.  Leave a comment below!

With gratitude,

-Geoff