The excellent Steve at Emergent Kiwi asked a few days ago whether there is a place for the mission agency. I think the question was, ‘is there a mission agency for the missional church?‘ That original post has been followed up by this one and this one.
This has provoked some interesting responses, not least from Jonny Baker, whose opinion is always worth hearing (in my experience) and whose blog is great.
Jonny seems a little defensive of his position as a mission agency worker, Steve felt that he was going to be got at by mission agency people for saying he doesnt think there is a place for the mission agency in mission.
Its interesting, especially for people like me, who are so called missionaries. I work for World Horizons, which is in a sense a mission agency, except that we arent.
We are a movement, a group of people who work together, from various different places around the world, and have a common cause, to bring the good news to the unreached, and most importantly to follow our God.
We are a distinct community within the church, as we share a common culture, (across denominational, national, ethnic and etc boundaries), but does that make us para church? I dont see how.
We are all part of the church, most of us are linked to at least one local fellowship, usually more than one. We generally work in the context of local fellowships, but we work beyond that too, we’re one with the global body of Christ.
Jonny’s agency, CMS, have been around a lot longer than us, (about ten times as long) and they have their own perhaps more distinct identity. But the way I look at it is this, in any fellowship I have been part of, no matter how small or large, there are always delegated tasks, someone to wash up, someone to write stuff down, someone who leads some prayer… etc.
I agree that the idea of an agency existing completely outside the church is dodgy, that’s a sect isnt it? but lets be clear, there arent many of them knocking about – I dont think anyhow.
Missions are more or less relational, WH is very relational, to the point where we’re somewhat inefficient. others are very efficient, some have lots of money, others none. Some like CMS pay people, others like WH dont pay anyone.
But the thing of it is, that we’re all in this task together, we as the church are in it. It makes sense to use specialist skills where they exist, and to consolidate things where we can. But its not good to consign as para church groups which exist as part of the church.
I dont think this is what Steve Taylor was doing by the way, my impression of him is that he is a great guy, who is pioneering a wonderfully missional fellowship in new Zealand. I am sure he uses resources from time to time in order to take their expression of mission forward, and those resources will be produced no doubt by specialist groups.
I must say though that both Steve and Jonny are much better versed in all this sort of thing, especially the language and meanings than I am, and I may have missed some vital points along the way… forgive me if I have. Just my two pennorth (never shy of giving that – ho hum.)