I don’t have my finger on the pulse of Philippine Missions. As an independent missionary, I don’t go to a lot of missions meetings— especially those involving mission agencies or mobilizers. Nevertheless, it seems like there have been some changes lately in Philippine Missions… for the good.
I am part of a denomination that sends missionaries to the Philippines through one primary organization, the IMB (with a few exceptions such as my wife and I). And the denomination has a daughter/partner denomination here in the Philippines that sends out missionaries through one primary organization, the OSB. It seems like things are really entering a new age.
IMB. When I came to the Philippines in 2004, the IMB was, to a large extent, closing up shop in the Philippines. At the time, the IMB decided that the Philippines generally was a “Reached Country.” Many Evangelical mission strategists would make decisions apparently based on the belief that every person who calls himself (or herself) an Evangelical must be a “real” Christian, and every person who does not, must NOT be a “real” Christian. If a region is less than 2% Evangelical, it is treated as unreached and missionaries should be out evangelizing, discipling, and planting churches (actually, trying to establish church planting movements— CPMs). If a region is over 2% Evangelical, it is treated as reached, and the local churches should be doing pretty much all of that. It seemed like leader development, theological education, urban ministry, holistic ministry and so forth was shoved aside. Things, however, have really seemed to change in the Philippines. While there is still a strong emphasis on unreached people groups, leader development, theological education, and more has opened back up. And yet, this doesn’t seem to be a step backwards toward treating the Philippines like it is a missionary-receiving country. There are missionaries coming to the Philippines, but now in more of an activity of cross-pollination of the universal church. They are also moving away from “our way or the highway” and toward collaborative partnerships.
OSB. Perhaps the change here is even bigger. When we came to the Philippines in 2004, our denomination hardly had anything to do with sending Filipino missionaries out of the country. Yes, there were Overseas Foreign Workers who were “released” (far less than “sent”) by local churches with no support (they should be sending money home after all), or perhaps some pastors leaving to go to already established churches, or perhaps diaspora ministries in other countries. However, churches supporting Filipino missionaries (“holding the rope”) to go overseas was extremely rare. One of my friends did in 2007 but was supported by a different denomination. In the 2010s, my wife and I gave a training seminar on missionary member care that was described as “controversial” to churches in the Philippines. But it is different now. OSB was set up in the early 2000s and has grown. It now is involved in supporting and sending dozens of Filipino missionaries to many countries. They are focused on making sure support is adequate and is working to establish a better foundation for medical care and retirement. They have partnerships with many different organizations (including Bukal Life Care, Celia and my organization) to increase effectiveness through mission member care and counseling.
Back in the early 2000s many Filipino churches believed that the “ends of the earth” meant reaching out to people in their province. Today, they see the “ends of the earth” as Asia… and beyond.
Are there still changes that must happen? I am sure there are. The mission conference I attended still threw around the old rhetoric of the early Lausanne Movement (and in some things before), like UPGs, UUPGs and “finishing the task” (we are called to be faithful to the task, until God says it is finished). But I am excited to see how things are changing… for the better.