My Ambivalence Regarding “Faith Missions.” Part One


I have always had mixed feelings regarding what has been called “Faith Missions.” In fact probably my general feeling about it is actually more negative than positive. It is, however, hard to explain this even to myself since my family and I are involved in Faith Missions.

But first, I should explain what “Faith Missions” is, and then to what extent I am involved in Faith Missions.

History

While Faith Missions, arguably goes back to the first century church, as a modern movement it can be seen as coming from the words and activities of Anthony Norris Groves (1795-1853). Born in England, he felt a call to missions in 1820s and trained to be a missionary with CMS and the Church of England. However, he became disenchanted with them and became associated with the Plymouth Brethren until some sectarian controversies developed. He went off and served as a missionary in Baghdad and later in India.

He wrote a booklet in 1825 called “Christian Devotedness.” It recommended place one’s dependence on God to supply one’s need in ministry. This suggests that one serves God without waiting for support. Additionally, one should not go around asking for support from others.

George Muller was inspired by this booklet to practice this in his work with orphans. Hudson Taylor also used the work as a guide for China Inland Missions, which became known as the largest and most successful of the Faith Mission organizations.

Groves could be described as a Primitivist in that he believed that the New Testament provides guidance for ministry in greater detail than most would embrace. In other words, if Paul or Peter did things a certain way, we should do it, and do it the same way. And if Paul or Peter did not do something, we shouldn’t do it either. As Groves stated, “My earnest desire is to re-model the whole plan of missionary operations so as to bring them to the simple standard of God’s word.” Roland Allen, a couple of generations later, would argue a somewhat similar point in terms of missions methodology.

Years later, Corrie ten Boom embraced a similar stance when she stopped asking for support.

<It should be noted that not asking for support is not the same as keep needs secret or refusing support. More on this later.>

My Story

As I noted before, I look at Faith Missions rather negatively even though it is something we (my family and I) have, generally, practiced.

Back in 2003, my wife and I decided to go on missions. Although we did tell our church about this, we did not ask for support and we did not wait for them, or anyone else, to support us. They did help us out financially, and after around 3 years in the field, they actually increased their support to the level that we were fully supported by them (for about 8 or 9 years). Some time later we took a big drop in support and have been greatly undersupported since then. Despite this, we have been able to survive, and in some ways thrive. We have on a few occasions put out very half-hearted attempts to raise support that have been (again generally) unsuccessful. For the most part we have placed our trust in God that He would take care of us— and He has.

Based on this, you would think that I am whole-heartedly in support of Faith Missions— arguably I am living example of its validity. And yes, there are good things in Faith Missions that are exciting and important in Missions. But there are negative things as well, and these must be faced head on.

I will explore these in Part Two.

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