Global mission is in a time of change; while most of the resources are still held in the west the dynamic mission movements are increasingly non-western. We might anticipate that over the next decade sending from the UK will continue to reduce (except for short term visits), incoming mission into the UK will increase and the most common way that churches support global mission is by supporting non-western mission movements in other parts of the world.
If we accept that our engagment with global mission needs to change perhaps we need new mission agencies and different types of organisations to help us play a constructive part. But what would these new agencies look like?
- Helping churches send people. Rather than encouraging people to come and talk about their call, it would work with churches to help them send their people overseas. On occasion that might involve helping the church to connect with others overseas but often it would be about helping an existing partnership or link to develop further.
- Providing coaching and mentoring to those being sent. This would start early on in the process helping mission personnel to think through their preparation needs and get ready; it would then provide help as the person / family moved to a new area (via language learning) and started to settle in. And through ongoing relationships the agency would continue to encourage good practice and missiological reflection. Crucially, the agency wouldn’t provide many of the things themselves but signpost to others (eg: for pre departure training, health insurance….).
- Helping mission workers come to the UK. Working with churches overseas to send people to work with churches and church groups here. (Thus a large suburban church in Surrey might financially support mission workers from Brazil to work alongside churches in Tyneside).
- Helping churches to develop links with non-western missions. This might lead to sending people, but often will be developing relationships and encouraging resourcing of these global missions.
This is not to say that existing agencies are all doomed (though some of them maybe) but rather to acknowledge that things are changing. Some early mission organisations started when the East India Company was one of the largest organisations on the planet, accounting for half the world’s trade. It had private armies, government administration, shipping, etc*. Now we live in a world where the business model of Uber & Airbnb is taking over.
For a new style mission agency this might mean:
- Little management from the UK. As people work alongside local church leadership they should be responsible to this local leadership and their sending church(s). Good quality mentoring will help them reflect missiologically on what they are doing.
- Minimal agency structure. There is no need for a UK office, nor departments for finance, publicity, recruitment. The few people who work for the agency would do so remotely (and not necessarily in the UK).
- Church centred. While the agency would work to encourage mission and mobilise people it is not recruiting people but helping churches to be senders and supporters, receivers and partners with others.
* If you want a sense of how powerful the East India Company was and its influence take a look at this article in the Guardian East India Company original corporate raiders