Intentional + Missional

The world as we know it has gone through some drastic changes over the past centuries. When reading the Bible, it is noticeable that the world Jesus walked in was an entirely different world from the one we know today. However distant it may seem, the core themes in the Bible remain true today; one of which is missions. With Asia being the largest continent in the world and home to some of the largest and most influential societies and religions known to mankind.

Contrary to popular belief that this concept of a “missional” perspective is only seen after the ascension, Missions has always been at the heart of God’s plans and thus present all throughout the Bible.

The Bible begins with God as the Creator of the universe, then with the earth, then Adam and mankind. It then discusses the fall of man and how this desire for autonomy left the world in its fallen state. The story then temporarily highlights to Abraham through which God planned to bless all families of the earth with. God promised him his descendants will be a great nation; not just limited to Jews but also the Gentiles. God also promised him land; which is not merely a man-made nation but a land that is made by God himself. Lastly, God promised him overflowing blessing that will reach even those outside his family. We know this today as Jesus who is the salvation for all; the ultimate blessing for mankind.

In light of these facts, we see how much Jesus was and is involved in the entire story even from the very start. It then becomes evident that God never intended to be a God only for the Jews; but for the world. Looking at the Old Testament through these lenses, It would all make sense. If God wanted to reach the world, he would need to call a nation, if He needed to call an entire nation He would need an entire clan, if He needed to call an entire clan He would need a family, and to call a family He needed to call a man.

Some time during the 70’s to mid 90’s, the missionary work was mostly done by Western missionaries who go to less developed countries in Asia. Nowadays however, it seems as though the tables have turned. The church is becoming less and less Westernized and more and more Asian and multi-cultural. It is now mostly Asians doing the missionary work within Asia and even to the West.[1] With that results the integration of Christianity with various cultures. We now have Christianity becoming indigenous to a specific Asian culture instead of a Christianity that imposes Western culture into Asian culture.[2] It is not necessarily a bad thing. Because in that way, Christianity will be introduced as it should be rather than introduced as an American religion. We can clearly see that this is indeed an Asian missionary generation. We now have majority of missionary work being fulfilled by Asians to both inside and outside Asia.[3]

Today we have Chinese reaching out throughout ethnic groups in China, Indians reaching India, South Koreans building hospitals and universities to neighbouring countries, and Filipinos going just about everywhere.

Nowadays tent making is the best strategy to do so, and who else would be fit to do tent making but Asians themselves? We see in the Bible that it has always had people who go do the mission work, and those who stay behind; but consistently support those who do missions. It should be the same today.[4] We usually have missionaries who do professional vocations but spread the Gospel alongside their routine activities. We see them support themselves and receive support from home churches. We see them partnering with fellow missionaries and other organisations of the same cause. And who else could do these better but Asians? Nowadays we have certain areas where we start planting churches and help expand it. We also have realised the potential of reaching out to urban communities. Nowadays, it doesn’t take a long drive to a rural community to reach a certain people group. We see rural residents migrating from rural areas to urban cities to find other means of earning.[5] Rural born people are as near to us in the cities now more than ever before.

During Hudson Taylor’s time, things were a lot different. He had to face trials of all kinds, especially financial trials. He had to live having less just so he could pay rent and survive with his daily necessities such as food and drink. He had to face sicknesses and disease and lived to see his friends die from these diseases. He’s had problems with people who have no idea how life was like in China. And most of all, he had to face most of these trials at such an early age all alone without a wife or family to back him up.[7]

In the Philippines, it is also different. It is evident how much years of being colonised has influenced the Philippine culture and mindset. While the other nations of the world were developing, the Philippines have been passed from one coloniser to another and has not had the chance to grow and mature as an individual country. Even today, the Philippine mindset has been forever haunted by its history and everyday struggle to earn a decent living. The country has been exposed to so much exploitation and criticisms from other countries that just add to the anxiety of the people. The country has been continuously labelled by other countries that a Filipino must come to a realisation that he must not listen to voices from other countries to define himself; and not everyone can do that.[8]

In South Korea, despite having to struggle to become what it is today is also playing a significant role in missionary work. With 25 percent of the population being Buddhists, 25 percent Christians, and 50 percent non-religious; the statistics are quite competitive. They are now on the ranks as one of the most influential countries to watch out in Asia when it comes to missions.

Asia in itself is rich in varying worldviews and philosophies that are available. These may seem irrelevant in the eyes of a Westerner but you’ll be surprised how far these worldviews go for an Asian individual. It defines who a person is and sometimes as far as to define what a country and culture should be. India’s caste system, ancestor-worship in the East, and cults are some examples to name a few.[9]

As the largest continent in the planet, Asia holds the largest body of people than any other continent. It is also home to the world’s largest bodies of worldviews and the most influential religions and philosophies that shaped the planet. In Asia alone we get Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Confucianism, and many more to name a few. Unlike in other parts of the globe where you deal with people who either believe or do not believe in God; in Asia, you deal with people who can easily believe in God. The only question would be; which one? At a glance it seems all of them claim exclusivity, but a little study will show us that each are very distinct from the other.

Which is exactly why successful leaders should not just teach but also train their future successors. Without competent successors, the future of any ministry or any organisation, will be left handicapped. In training successors we must train them with regards to their character, commitment, competency, and content. Character is backed up by years of perseverance, commitment is built by a clear call from God, competency is built by hands-on experiences with ministers in ministry, and content in our academic training must be aimed at producing effective ministers in the field and not merely high grades.

Discipline and academic competence is definitely good. Since God is serious about our lives we must in turn be serious with His call. We need to make sure that we impart practical skills ministers will need in the field. Things like fund raising, networking, and the like. These things cannot be taught in a classroom lecture, they are acquired by actually doing what should be done alongside with guidance from real ministers who are active in the field. Sad to say, many young seminary graduates have had little or no chance of doing these tasks during their stay in seminary. It is sad to hear of zealous young ministers who later resort to non-ministry related vocations because of financial issues.

In light of that, it also brings us into a realisation of how vital it is that we train our students to have an understanding of how much commitment it will take and how much character is to be refined when one is in ministry. Again, discipline and academic competence is good. It molds us to be better and it promises that as long as we are faithful to the end, we are secure in Christ.

We can clearly see how much missionary work is vital in spreading the Gospel. The times have changed tremendously since the time when the Apostles’ did missionary work. With the world at its peak in technology, business, communication, and the like; the world can be as reachable now as it was before. In a time when various philosophies have developed over time, Asians stand out as the most influential people on the planet, and also the ones who need to be reached the most.

The call to reach those who have not heard is louder now as ever before. The challenges have increased, the risks have become deadlier, the trials a lot harder, but this should not be a hindrance to missionary work. Missionary work is not just an overseas trip to a foreign land only to come back with fancy photographs. The risks are real and the mission has to be fulfilled.

Our missionaries need our support, especially our prayers and financial support. What they do is a huge sacrifice for the Gospel and their families. Indeed this will be a historical event for Christianity and the world; and I believe that Asians will play a huge part in spreading the Gospel throughout the world.

*This entry is part of my revision series. An introspective project revisiting and re-imagining entries I wrote years back.
[1] Paul E. Pierson, “The New Context of Christian Mission: Challenges and Opportunities for the Asian Church.” Asian Church and God’s Mission (2003): 11-18.
[2] Melba Padilla Maggay, “Early Protestant Missionary Efforts in the Philipppines: Some Intercultural Issues.” Asian Church and God’s Mission (2003): 29-30.
[3] Elizabeth Ruth Peeve,“Asian Missionaries and Tentmaking.” Asian Church and God’s Mission (2003): 257-259.
[4] Ibid., 259-260.
[5] Byung-yoon Kim, “Issues in the Short-term Missionary Strategy.” Asian Church ad God’s Mission (2003): 181-183. and, Pierson, “The New Context of Christian Mission,” 16.
[6] Paul Hattaway, The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun. (Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2002), 33.
[7] Janet & Geoff Benge. Hudson Taylor: Deep in the Heart of China. (Manila: OMF Literature Inc., 2000).
[8] Melba Maggay. “Towards Contextualization from Within” Doing Theology in the Philippines (2006): 49-50.
[9] James W. Sire. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog 4th edition. (USA: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 244-250.
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