21 November 2007

Pre-bird (or pre-pizza) blog post

by Frank Turk

Just as a pre-blogopalooza series of updates, my child is much better, thank you. We slept through the night last night (first night in 4 nights), the hives are almost all down and gone, spirits are pretty much high (thanks, prednisone), and I'm well-rested enough to blog this morning.

For those who are worried that you can't cook a turkey, my annual turkey recipe post at my blog is up, and it has ZERO unsatisfied users. Phil has, of course, never tried it, but for a guy who says he will eat anything he sure is a fussy eater.

And as a last sort of update and segue, last week when I posted on mistake #2 of the 12 mistake series, alert reader "MadTownGuy" pointed out that Ralph Winter --- the author of the list of 12 mistakes – has his own problems. MadTownGuy put it this way:
Ralph Winter’s “Kingdom on earth” is a defined term in the parlance of the promoters of the New Apostolic Reformation, and Ralph Winter‘s connection to that movement is clearly known. It is taken by him to mean a government, both in the ecclesiastical and political senses of the word, and it is the chief aim of Winter and his close associate from Fuller Seminary, C. Peter Wagner. So when he uses that term he means the establishment of a hierarchical structure of apostles in the church and in the marketplace, along with prophets who do vision casting and spiritual warriors à la Joel’s Army who will promote their agenda in each apostle’s territorial or professional sphere of influence. Their highest goal is not the salvation of souls but the transformation of society. The living out of Christ’s life in us is done only as a means to an end, to promote the establishment of the kingdom, without which (in their view) the end time revival, and the return of Christ, will be delayed. This is what drives their methods which include spiritual mapping, intercessory prayer (as they define it), city-church movements and calls to unity while disregarding, or overtly disrespecting, sound doctrine.
Now, while I wouldn’t deny any of that, here's what I'd say about that in the context of this blog and my posts about this list: until I read this list, I had no idea who Ralph Winter was. I had to Google the guy to get a bead on him, and I figured that most people are probably about as informed as I am – which, apparently, means "not very".

Ultimately, Winter's connection to the stuff MTG listed is "clearly known", or can be "clearly known" with only a little effort, but here's the thing: I think we can't let ourselves get flap-jacked by someone with, um, an over-realized eschatology. We can't let someone's wacky redefinition of terms push us off the scriptural ground in which those terms ought to be planted.

So, rather than make this an obscure series of posts about the quirks of Ralph Winter, I'm taking Winter's list at face value, reading standard theological meaning into the words, and asking the question whether these are mistakes or not. The more esoteric among you will find this off-putting. Let's be honest: I write as a pleb for the plebs.

So, that said, here's the so-called "third mistake":

The Mistake of Congregations Sending Missionaries, Not Using Mission Agencies

And you'll get right away why I think this mistake is incorrect because I'm the guy who thinks that the local church is God's plan, and maybe we should ourselves think a little more of it. But before I launch into my objection(s), let me properly issue the disclaimer that I am a, um, proud member of an SBC church and I am generally proud of the IMB and NAMB for the work they do or try to do in equipping and sending missionaries. One of the chief reasons my wife and I are SBC people is that we want to know that our church is rightly sending qualified missionaries to people who need the Gospel.

So, on the one hand, I think that it is possible to have a "mission agency" which effectively sends missionaries, and actually demonstrates a good kind of synergy among local churches – one which takes the limited resources of one body or another and multiplies them using what they call in the secular marketplace "economies of scale". "Mission agencies" can be good things.

But this is where the disclaimer as a member of an SBC church comes in: they are also not the be-all and end-all of missions work, and in fact we have to admit they are also not necessarily the biblically-mandated form of sending missionaries.

This is a big beef for me. The NT describes a church which is local, united, and discipling people toward two specific milestones: discipling toward personal maturity (cf. 1 Tim 1:5), and discipling toward making men into elders in the church (cf. Tit 1:5-9). That is, as Paul told Titus and Timothy, they were sent to preach the Gospel, teach it, exhort the people to live as an adornment of sound doctrine, and take the men who demonstrate this in life and practice and ordain them as elders.

Not to establish seminaries and mission agencies.

Now, while we can agree that seminaries and mission agencies can do good, and have done good, we also have to grapple with what Phil noted back in mistake #1, which is that institutions – especially Christian institutions – have a ridiculously-bad track record of fumbling confessional issues and sliding into (at best) syncretic habits. And the reason, I think, is that an institution is not a church.

Think about that a second: it's not a church. Now: why is that a critical distinction? For example, why is it important to realize that a bookstore is not a church? Isn't it because a bookstore is primarily a business which has as its chief end to pay the rent and all the employees, not to mention the owner?

That end doesn’t frankly square up to the end of the church – which Paul, btw, says plainly is not for monetary gain (cf. 2 Tim, if you don't know).

And while the chief end of a seminary, for example, may not be to make money, the sad fact is that institutions have self-preservation as an unstated goal. There's nobody who's going to take a seminary and turn a blind eye to its endowment or its enrollment or its ability to attract faculty even if its mission is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.

And the same can be, and ought to be, said about mission agencies: these are not churches. That doesn’t make them bad people, or people with nefarious self-interest wrapped up in some kind of holy: it makes them people who, like all of us, have divided interests and are prone to err on the side of practical.

For what it's worth, Paul defines the practicality of the church in this matter pretty plainly, like this:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
That is, I want you to insist on sound doctrine so that those who have a right faith will live out good works.

The doctrine comes first. And in that, institutions set up for pragmatic ends are prone to employ pragmatic means, thereby taking their eyes off the ball.

The brighter ones among you may want to apply that to the post I made in statement #1; that's what the meta is for.

Enjoy the gifts which you are about to receive from the bounty of the Lord, and be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day this week because He has made it easy for you to do so.


SolaMeanie said...

Two comments. First, I think your analysis is spot on here and deserves to be fleshed out in much more depth. I am part of two -- for lack of a better word -- parachurch organizations that exist to serve and equip the church as it proclaims the Gospel. Because I have been part of this parachurch world for so long, I can see how confusion can set in when trying to discern what roles each should play. Christian organizations are not churches, but each Christian in a Christian organization is part of the church universal and (hopefully) part of their own local fellowship. In the early church, the Gospel was proclaimed by individuals who went out and planted new fellowships of believers. These organizations of ours are a fairly modern convention, formed with the best of intentions as an effort to spread the Gospel more effectively. But outside of their proper bounds, the organizations end up getting more prominence than the church and that is very, very troubling.

Second, Ralph Winter is indeed known as a missiologist of note, but his theology and view of missions has apparently been evolving over the years and not for the better. And yes, this so-called modern "apostolic" movement is catching fire, mostly among charismatic churches for the time being. I find that very troubling and will probably have more to say on that down the road. There is indeed a biblical case to be made for small "a" apostles in the sense that they are messengers, but some of these guys seem to have the idea that they are large "A" apostles with the same authority as the original 12 plus Paul. Thus far, none of them are claiming to write new Scripture yet, but give them time.

Stefan said...

I'm sorry, did you write something after mentioning Thanksgiving pizza? Mmmm, pizza....

Thanks be to the Lord our God that your son is now recovering.

Points well taken on the difference between mission agencies and churches, but (as you implied with the SBC's mission boards) the need to find a balance between the two, especially for the sake of small churches that may not be able to afford sending missionaries on their own.

pastorbrianculver said...

I agree with you. I sometimes think that the governing board of different denominations seem to think that fulfilling the Great Commission is something that "other people" do. We are all called to that endeavor. I hope you all have a safe and blessed Thanksgiving tomorrow!
God bless

centuri0n said...


I cut myself off at 3 pages single-spaced in WORD. But I think you're right, that this topic deserves more consideration. There's a lot I left out -- let's see if I take the kind of flack I did for leaving out stuff because people ought to love the local church.

Rhology said...

If you've ever heard of the Perspectives on World Christian Movement, which is a pretty dang good class IMHO, Winter has a large role. He has quite a few articles in the textbook, and so it's making me think I might need to get ready to unlearn some of the things seen there.

Here's an example: One of the claims in one his articles is that the Reformers sent out virtually no missionaries, and that this became a weapon used against them by their Papist adversaries. A friend of mine, now at RTSeminary, who took the class as well, checked the documentation and discovered it was quoted from LaTourette's "History of Christianity" 2-vol series, which gives it, as it turns out, but a very brief mention.
Said friend then looked further and found that the Reformers did actually send out quite a few missionaries but didn't call them "missinonaries" but rather "pastors".

Just an interesting note.

Stefan said...

At the very heart of the Reformation world—Geneva at the time of Calvin—not only did Geneva send out 88 missionaries to France between 1555 and 1562, but in 1562, they even sent two missionaries to Brazil! (Source 1, Source 2)

Stefan said...

Correction: the Brazilian missionaries were sent out in 1556.

Hadassah said...

Could you clarify--do you consider the mission sending branch of a denomination as part of the church, or as an individual mission sending agency? If the mission sending branch is under the authority of a denomination, which provides oversight, do you think that is problematic?

Jerry said...

Hmmm. We used Ralph Winter's book in Justice Anderson's missiology class at SWBTS in the mid-80's.

Seems like Ralph took a wrong turn or two between then and now.

Rob Willmann said...

Spot on.

I work at the local rescue mission, and a fellow chaplain was discussing with me how local mission boards will often go into an area, and determine whether a church from THEIR DENOMINATION needs to be planted in that area, even when other solid, bible-believing churches exist on 3 of the 4 corners in this theoretical small town.

It seems that often as Christians our ideas and AGENDAS take precendence over walking with the Lord in an upright manner, and following Him even when it doesn't jive with the party line.

steve said...

Phil has, of course, never tried it, but for a guy who says he will eat anything he sure is a fussy eater.

I'll never forget hearing Phil, upon returning from the Philippines, share in gory detail (supplemented with pictures) about the eating of one of the premier delicacies there. Everyone's faces turned several shades of green and some of us lost our appetites for a while.

Phil may be a fussy eater, but he's got the stomach of a battleship.

Going on topic: That's an excellent post, Frank. Thank you.

Strong Tower said...

Happy to hear about your child.

Diverse means for diverse missions. I think you're right on this: the local church is the primary teaching arm. Seminaries are for professional training in more technical fields not necessarily available on the local level. Missions training is not one of those technical fields,, necessisarily, in my estimation. I don't, in fact, think that missionaries can be trained, they're called. Sounds to hyper-spiritual, I know. But, I just have to put my stock in what the Scripture says about callings.

That said, cooperative effort is necessary for a world missions effort, and for local missions. Remembering that Carey was funded and sent by an orgaization, of which he was in the course of events, its promotional founder. It was not a local church.

This was written by George Smith speaking of Carey: "So Carey projected the first organisation which England had seen for missions to all the human race outside of Christendom; and his project, while necessarily requiring a Society to carry it out, as coming from an "independent" Church, provided that every member of every congregation should take a part to the extent of fervent and united prayer, and of an average subscription of a penny a week."

Locate here:


with an outline of Carey's vision for a Missions Society.

Indeed Carey believed it to be the local Baptist Congregation's responsibility to send missionaries. At the same time he understood the need. It is more than the planting of a church, it is the planting of the Gospel ministry repleat with schools of all kinds for the edification of the discovered disciples.

If you step back out of the foreign mission field and look at your own church, the question then must be asked just how has it fulfilled the missionary vision of Carey. You see, your church is most likely the result of his efforts, as well as others. Have you fulfilled the vision of schools, full discipleship programs that will fully equip the disciples of Christ with all the life skills that are necessary for sending the next missionary out?

I think one of the greatest mistakes of the modern missions movement, is that it does not fully equip the local assembly. And, because of that, the local assembly doesn't think it is its job to equip its disciples to be missionaries. We send our money to the collective, but it is not necessarily sent back to us. But, we are the mission, and the progenitors of missionaries.

"14. As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places, and upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification."

The idea of mutual edification, our common union does not, and should not mean that sending churches or societies are some how greater than that which is founded. To the contrary, we should be looking to make that which was birthed as mature as the parent that conceived it. Parents save up for their children, and thereby, a wise man leaves an inheritance to his children's children.

Saint Christopher said...

Yes.. Yes..YES! I recently had a conversation with a friend who serves in a non-profit prison ministry. I told him that the reason I still couldn't serve in a chaplaincy role in a prison was because the minister is forced into the unbiblical pastoral role of trying to be everything to everyone. In order to accomodate prison rules you can't hardline any religions by name in the chapel... you have to accomodate even the most bizzare inmate requests for prayer beads, korans, majical indian pouches, whatever. The problem is always this though. The local church by and large fails to grasp the need for outreach pastoral ministry, and so fails to provide oversight, training, or accountability to those who belong to the church and go in there. We know what the problem is, but how is the local church addressing it? Even if I disagree with denominations like "church of Christ" (Southern version) at least they grasped the need for local church oversight of their non-profits.

eastendjim said...

Is it better stewardship for a church send 1 missionary from the west or use the same financial investment to assist the church body in foreign countries to send many of their own missionaries who already are part of the society that they are evangelizing?
And wouldn't mission agencies have a role to play in assisting that process?

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