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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever
Jul-Aug 2009 | Subscribe Free!


A country can only export what it manufactures. That's a pretty basic principle. But now apply that principle to the topic of missions: if generations of American churches have been characterized by pragmatic church growth principles, what would you expect to see characterizing their overseas missions endeavors?

Okay, so maybe American missions work is driven by the same kind of pragmatism that characterizes so many American churches. Is that really such a big deal? Well, stop and consider the differences between planting pragmatically-driven churches in America versus planting them in most Majority World contexts. Such churches in America have the luxury of building themselves upon the foundations of a culture imbued with several hundred years of Christian influence and ethical norms. Fill a room with nominal Christians, as pragmatically-driven churches do, and you still have a dame that looks half way decent. She'll dress up alright.

Now build that same church with those same pragmatic principles, yielding once again a room filled with nominal Christians, but do it in a country with strong traditions in polygamy, or animal sacrifice, or ancestor worship, or Islamic chauvinism, or Hindu castes, or nepotistic social structures, or so on. Build it on the shoulders of leaders who didn't grow up in Sunday School and were not groomed in seminary classrooms with tall genealogical trees, where orthodoxy, even if it's doubted, has been defended in book after book after book. What should we expect of this church? I've been around the Majority World block enough times to suspect something very different, indeed.

Philip Jenkins and now others have checked the stats and told us that global Christianity is moving South and East. But are they talking about "Christians" saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone? Some would probably tell me that these questions are rooted in arrogant, West-centric assumptions. But am I allowed to raise questions?

Andy Johnson kicks off this 9Marks 9Marks Journal by pointing to the problem of pragmatism in missiology today, which is the primary concern we want to raise. The pseudonymous "Ed Roberts" and "Doug Coleman," both workers in sensitive contexts, review popular but problematically pragmatic resources. Yet another anonymous overseas worker thoughtfully engages the related subjects of contextualization and lying. Both of these articles are highly recommended.

More practical matters are described in the articles on partnerships and what three churches are actually doing. Really practical matters are provided in the tool kit. Conrad Mbewe's especially is a must read.

In all this, we pray that these articles and the recommended resources help your church more faithfully engage with God's work around the world.

  • Thinking Carefully About Missions

  • Pragmatism, Pragmatism Everywhere!

    You say you believe the Bible, but what’s your bottom line for missions: biblical faithfulness or whatever works? Read more >

  • Putting Contextualization in its Place

    A veteran missionary offers an in-depth synthesis of the biblical material on contextualization and then applies it to evangelism in the Muslim world. Read more >

  • Lying, Hostile Nations and the Great Commission

    Are you lying if you give some but not all your reasons for gaining access to a restricted nation? Read more >

  • Missions Partnerships Between Church and Field

  • Missions Partnerships from the Home Church's Perspective

    Not all partnerships benefit the supported workers. Here’s how one church tries to bless, not burden, their overseas partners. Read more >

  • Missions Partnerships from a Field Worker's Perspective

    Can two walk together unless they be agreed? A veteran missionary looks at how much agreement is needed between a local church and a team on the field. Read more >

  • How Three Churches Put Missions into Practice

  • Sending Overseas Missionaries in Community

    If the world knows we are his disciples by our love for one another, why not send a whole team of Christians overseas to plant a church? Read more >

  • Cultivating a Culture of Missions in a Small Church

    Faithfulness in global evangelism isn’t restricted to huge churches with huge budgets. Small churches, too, can cultivate a big commitment to missions. Read more >

  • Developing Missions Networks Without a Denomination

    Denominations aren’t the only missions-sending game in town. A church can build more flexible networks without them. Read more >

  • A Missions Toolkit

  • How American Christians Can Help Christians in Zambia

    An African pastor reminds American Christians who want to help to be a little quicker to listen and a little slower to speak. Read more >

  • How to Get Businesspeople into Missions

    As the window for non-profit work as a platform for missions is closing, a window for business as missions is opening. Read more >

  • Guidelines for Deciding Whom a Church Supports

    The following memorandum was unanimously affirmed by the elders of Capitol Hill Baptist Church as providing the criteria and "tiers" of support for CHBC church members who do overseas missions work. Our goal in thinking through the issue of "how much" our church will support our members who move overseas is not to discourage people from taking the gospel to other cultures. Rather, it results from the fact that our resources are not infinite as well as the positive desire to help church members view their relationship with the local church as a significant, even essential, part of what it means to be sent with the gospel. We want our members to think not merely about how they can take the gospel overseas, but how they can serve and support their local church in where, how, and when they go overseas. Read more >

  • A Church Questionnaire for Supported Missionaries

    In an effort to annually assess our missionary workers' needs and activities, Capitol Hill Baptist Church sends the following questionnaire to all of the workers it supports directly or indirectly through the International Missions Board. CHBC's overall evaluation of a missionary is based on lots of other factors, including our personal relationships with the workers. But this form helps inform us about special needs and changes in the workers' activities that we were not already aware of. Read more >

  • Recommended Missions Resources

  • Book Review: An Introduction to the Science of Missions

    The other night I told my wife I was going to begin this book review by asking the reader, "If you were going to be marooned alone on an island, what one book on missions would you take?" My wife, with her always-helpful, unfailing sense of logic, replied that a book on mission might not be the best thing to take if one were to be stuck alone on an island. Read more >

  • Book Review: Let the Nations Be Glad!

    Growing up in the United Kingdom, I always had an interest in what God was doing globally, yet I was fairly ignorant of the "missions world." For the last five years I have served cross-culturally in a local church in South Asia, and they have been real eye-opening. Read more >

  • Book Review: Window on the World

    One of the more worn-out books in our family library is Window on the World. For the past two years, we have read a few pages on Monday mornings to help our four young children (ages 3-9) and ourselves! It helps us think and pray less provincially and more globally. This book must be the result of a massive labour of love, compiling as it does information from missionaries around the world. It is packed with perks such as, Read more >

  • Miscellaneous Book Reviews

  • Book Review: God in the Dark

    Click here to listen to a 9Marks interview with with Os Guinness. Why write—or buy—a book about doubt? For one, I know of very few good books on doubt. In addition, everyone has moments of doubt. What exactly is doubt? How should we counsel someone who struggles with doubt? Should we be hard or soft on them? How did Jesus deal with doubt? These are the questions Os Guinness seeks to answer in God in the Dark.      Read more >

  • Book Review: Where Are All the Brothers?

    We have all heard the excuses. "The church is full of hypocrites." "The Bible is just a book." "I'm not into organized religion." Read more >

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