My Ambivalence Regarding “Faith Missions.” Part Two


This post really won’t make too much sense until you read PART ONE

Here are a few things regarding Faith Missions that I see as Good and Bad.

The Good.

1. Missionaries have long been charged with being in it for the money, so Faith Missions avoids that issue. We see it in many ways. In the Didache, warnings were given about apostles who visited churches for financial gain. The deputation process puts missionary candidates in an awkward position. Unfortunately, often the best fundraisers are not the best missionaries, and (arguably) the most valuable missions are not the ones that draw financial support. I remember a missionary’s website that looked like a fundraising machine… like what some televangelists have. Faith Missions is a good corrective for this.

2. Historically, all too often, the people who handle the checkbooks control the who, what, and where of missions. Faith Missions disempowers these people and institutions just a bit. My denomination’s primary mission arm, despite it’s many great qualities, has kept out good people due to questionable theology of the leadership, and has pulled people from the field due to equally questionable policy changes. Now that may be personal bias. But even if one agrees with the leaders, I still think it safe to say that we learn and grow more when there are innovators who exist outside of the system.

The Bad.

1. I noted before that Faith Missions opens up for innovation since it works around the primary power structures. On the other hand, often it does the opposite. That is because Faith Missions often can be linked to Primitivism (as it did for Groves). Primitivism suggests that what was done in the first century provides the boundaries for what is done today. Often, as Roland Allen has noted, some innovations and traditions that have developed over the centuries are not that good and need a return to the early church as a healthy corrective. But that should not be used to hinder adaptations to contemporary situations. We are not trying to recapture the 1st century church and 1st century missions. We are trying to discover and create the 21st century church and 21st century missions.

2. Although there are problems with mission institutions, there are value to them. I have seen people who really should not go into missions. If they followed the normal channels, they would have been stopped. Faith missions can be an unhealthy backdoor to allow unhealthy people to create problems without proper training and without proper oversight.

3. I really don’t like the terminology. I am not so sure that the “Faith Mission” model actually involves a greater amount of faith. Perhaps it can be, but I am not so sure that my wife and I had more faith than others. Working around the process can be laziness or fear (fear of the process or fear of being found an imposter) rather than faith.

4. Missionary Member Care is important, and Faith Missions does tend to involve jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. But Missions is a “Team Sport.” God created it that way from the beginning. Faith Missions is at its best when it finds ways to to build up a support system for missionaries.

All in all, as I am with most things, I am a Both/And person. “Faith Missions” may be poorly named, but it does have value as an alternative route to mission work. It is, however, not a superior way, just a different way— and a risky one.

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