Learning Missions and Growing


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“Passive acceptance of the teacher’s wisdom is easy to most boys and girls. It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favor of the teacher unless s/he is a very exceptional teacher. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes one to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.”  – Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)

While I certainly disagree with Bertrand Russell on many things, this is a good quote. In missions this is very true. It is amazing at how much disagreement and questionable teaching there exists in missions education. As one starts being trained in missions, one starts out simply soaking in the wisdom of others. However, as one progresses (especially as tempered by experience) one’s attitude should change to being more critical. I have come to greatly respect some missiologists, while have high doubt of some others… including some of the top missiologists within the Evangelical tradition. Does that mean that I am right and they are wrong? Of course not. In fact, I may find myself reversing myself later.

The point is not to always be right… but always seeking what is right… or at least the best among ambivalent options.

I guess, if I write down the missiologists (or ministry leaders/church leaders/theologians that speak to missiology) that speak to me in my understanding of mission– a snapshot of the moment– I would include:

          -John R. W. Stott

          -Roland Allen  (I used to feel otherwise… I changed my mind)

          -St. Barnabbas (the Barnabbas from the Bible)

          –David Bosch

          -Paul Hiebert

          -Glenn Schwartz

          -Reggie MacNeil

          -Bryant Myers

         -Stan Rowland

As time goes on, I am sure the list will grow, and will shrink. I won’t list those that I don’t feel have value… or those in which I feel have a more mixed record. That list very well may change as well. I feel like (living in the 2/3 world) and seeing the explosion of 2/3 world missions, that I should include missiologists who are not from the Western world. I really don’t have anyone yet (I guess I could add Samuel Escobar and Lamin Sanneh to my favorites list… maybe I should… they certainly have important things to say).  My tendency to focus on Western missiologists may be because of my missions training (which was done here in the Philippines but mostly using materials that came from the West). Some of it may come from the general lack of introspection and evaluation that I feel I see in 2/3 world missions (often repeating the mistakes made by Western missionaries 50 years ago). Maybe I am just biased (being a “Westerner”).

Regardless, I hope to not take my own views too seriously. I am one of my teachers for the future me. I should not fall so in love with my own views that I am not open to learn and grow.

No one should take me that seriously either……

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