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BOOK REVIEW: Eastern Voices, Vol. I: Insights, Perspectives, Visions from Kingdom Leaders in Asia

This is an important journal that must be read by all who are concerned for the evangelization of Asia, the largest continent (more than 60% of world population) yet still the least evangelized continent in the world. It contains 14 testimonials of Asian church leaders who have courageously envisioned and launched ministries that overcame traditional barriers to developing new models of ministry in their respective contexts.
These are big leaps forward in the realization of contextualized theologizing and evangelizing beyond traditional (read: denominational) church-planting and church growth paradigms which they inherited from westernized Christendom. They grappled with the pluralistic challenges that face anyone who wants to serve the Kingdom of God in Asia.
Among the cultural issues that they specifically experienced and found answers for were: shame and honor in Myanmar (Chap. 2), hierarchy and patriarchy in Bangladesh (Chap. 6), Western worship styles in Sri Lanka (Chap. 7), as well as top-down and intellectualized methodologies in Japan (Chaps. 4 and 10), in Bangladesh (Chap. 8) and in Cambodia (Chap. 9). Most of them struggle with transmitting successful contextualization in rural villages into urban settings (esp. Chaps. 3, 13 and 14), thereby highlighting the challenge of doing effective ministry among the urban poor in Asia.
Gladly in this same volume are five “models of hope” – one each in Japan (Chap. 4), in Bangladesh (Chap. 6), and most especially in Myanmar (Chaps. 2 and 5), as well as two in India (Chaps. 11 and 12, and 14) — which can serve as inspiration and direction for what churches in Asia should aspire to become, including in urban contexts. Rather than perpetuate the church planting approach of forming converts to Christ in Western-shaped denominational or independent congregations, these five community development ministries showcase the effective and strategic results of forming Christ-followers (and potential converts) into multi-purpose ministry centers which serve the contextual needs of the poor and marginalized in their neighborhoods. This is how Asia will be effectively evangelized and transformed for Christ.
With the need to reach Asia’s two billion plus unevangelized populations for Jesus, the urgent challenge is how to multiply these five models rapidly across the continent without compromising the indigenous principles of the best practices which made them succeed in the first place. Perhaps their replicability will be enhanced through fully discarding the practices and structures of uncontextualized Christendom that these models continue to use and maintain? Perhaps the churches in Asia should be discipling each member to act like shepherd boy David who boldly overcame Goliath with his simple slingshot without Saul’s armor? Or like Peter who transformed Jerusalem by telling a crippled man, “Silver and gold I have none. But what I have I give to you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk”? May God use ordinary believers to simply touch their ordinary neighbors, including government officials (like in Chap. 15), with God’s love – across Asia and beyond.

On my further reflection, this journal issues a call for full socio-cultural indigenization. There is a huge gap between Westernized Christianity and the indigenous cultural expressions for the “churches” in Asia (as was in Africa, until recently with the emergence of African Independent Churches that will soon make Africa the continent with 50% of all Christians by 2030). There has been a massive cultural colonization of the indigenous churches in Asia. Asian Christianity is just another name for Western religious culture and needs to be addressed just as Judaizing circumcisers had to be dealt with by Paul in the New Testament times. It is not necessary to be called “Christian” and to go to church to connect with God. Hindu and Muslim followers of Christ will be in heaven while maintaining their cultural identity. Our goal must be to incarnate Christ in the hearts of people in their own heart language and cultural heritage.
Reaching the unreached requires a completely different approach than what is used in most Asian Christian circles today. Westernized Christianity has been isolating new believers from their socio-cultural moorings. To precipitate exponential growth among the Jews, Paul circumcised Timothy (cf. 1 Cor. 7:17-24) and soon “the churches were strengthened in faith and grew in numbers daily” (Acts 16:1-5); he made himself a “slave” by “becoming all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:19-23). For qualitative and quantitative growth, we need to deconstruct church subcultures and reconstruct “churches” in which local Jesus-followers can develop their own unique spirituality, morality and identity.
Moreover, contextualization applies to the gospel message itself: to find the “redemptive analogies” and make known the “Unknown God,” just as Paul did in Athens, so that cultural values, themes and beliefs are used as bridges to reach people of other faiths. Paul did not take Christ to Athens; He was already there in their sacred texts, poems, stories and culture (Acts 17). Paul seems to have done no miracles, no baptisms and no church planting in Athens, but he catalyzed a disciple multiplication movement (DMM) (cf. Acts 19:1-10; Rom. 15:18-20) that in due course, that city became one of the centers of eastern Christendom.

Available from “Asian Access” website:// http://easternvoices.org
or Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/Amazon-smile-EV-listing


“Are there needs and possibility to have a strategic mission-minded NGO?” The Bible and the present reality demand the needs and possibility of a missional NGO. In this paper, we will look at the Bible’s concerns for the salvation of soul, and the transformation of the whole being and its necessity and possibility to have a missional NGO to bring synergy for missions.

The Bible shows that God is concerned for the holistic salvation of human beings. The Lausanne Covenant which was accepted by most Evangelical Christians and the Cape Town Confession of Faith and Action point out to the following perspective:

A. Lausanne Covenant
In Section 5, the Lausanne Covenant affirms of the Christian Social Responsibility.

“We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all. We therefore should share His concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, colour, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and humankind, our love for our neighbour and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.”
(Acts 17:26,31; Genesis 18:25; Isaiah 1:17; Psalm 45:7; Genesis 1:26,27; James 3:9; Leviticus 19:18; Luke 6:27,35; James 2:14-26; John 3:3,5; Matthew 5:20; 6:33; 2 Corinthians 3:18; James 2:20)

Although, historically, the Evangelical Christians had concerns on social action, their mission activities and missionaries have shown strong adherence to separate evangelism from social concerns during the 20th century. The Lausanne Covenant emphasizes that “we express penitence for neglecting our Christian responsibility and for polarizing evangelism and social concern.”

B. Cape Town 2010
The Third Lausanne Conference was held in Cape Town in 2010 and created the Cape Town Commitment that confessed as…

“We respond to our high calling as disciples of Jesus Christ to see people of other faiths as our neighbours in the biblical sense. They are human beings created in God’s image, whom God loves and for whose sins Christ died. We strive not only to see them as neighbours, but to obey Christ’s teaching by being neighbours to them. We are called to be gentle, but not naïve; to be discerning and not gullible; to be alert to whatever threats we may face, but not ruled by fear”
“We long for God to raise up more men and women of grace who will make long-term commitments to live, love and serve in tough places dominated by other religions, to bring the smell and taste of the grace of Jesus Christ into cultures where it is unwelcomed and dangerous to do so. This takes patience and endurance, sometimes for a whole life-time, sometimes unto death.”

C. Love is Proven Itself Through Real Fruits
The Lausanne Covenant and Cape Town Confession are accepted by most Evangelical Christians including Global Partners as guidelines for action. We should not divide evangelism and social responsibility. Rather we should encourage others to bring more efforts to share the gospel in holistic ways to prove God’s love through our acts of love in real life.

The world is changing rapidly. The external and internal environments of mission are changing constantly. We are responsible to apply the unchanging truth in the changing world.
A. External Environment of Mission is Changing rapidly
i. Creative Access is required in many regions
Some frontier mission fields require more creative access than others in spite of recent changes that minimize the difference between the sending countries and the receiving countries. According to recent research, about half of Global Partners’ missionaries are not serving as missionaries in the fields, but as businessmen or students. They do this to maintain an acceptable alien status in the country where a missionary is not allowed. There is an increasing need for an acceptable legal status in the mission field.
1) NGOs have better chance of getting legal status than traditional mission organizations. Being a NGO worker stands better in getting legal status because of the need for NGO activities in many countries. Although there are many differences between countries, it is much easier to get legal status as a NGO worker than a missionary. Surely, it is not guaranteed that NGO workers earn the right to stay, but it is one of the better options to take. Currently, in China and many Arabic countries, do not allow NGO works in their countries. But many other developing countries welcome NGO projects and activities. It is easier to prove ones identity as a NGO worker compared with students or businessmen. While missionaries bring the Gospel to communities through education, training and community work, NGO workers can do these ministries legally and openly , such as, education, social works, and community development except direct mass evangelism and church planting ministries. But it is possible to have individual sharing of the gospel in private spaces in creative access regions.
2) NGO can increase the accessibility of the Gospel to grassroots people. One of the best approaches in doing ministries in creative access countries is to increase ones accessibility to meet the felt needs of the locales. Having natural means in approaching people and serving them openly would build up trust and confidence in missionaries and Gospel workers.
A missionary in Country A possesses a student visa and moved to a new city to expand the ministry, and realized that he has hesitation to approach a community as a student. So he requested for a NGO status to show his identity in the community. It is strange for a student or a businessman to come to a community and start a learning center without other purpose. But as a NGO worker, it is natural to open a community learning center and approach people for participation. There should be many ways to increase accessibility of the gospel in a community, but we need wisdom to select the most natural way to be accepted by the people. If one wants to have campus ministry, being a student or a teacher will be more natural to start the ministry. If one wants to share the gospel with a community, we can do it through NGO activities which is more natural to approach people as strategic influence.
ii. There are more needs for various professionals
As societies become more diversified, mission works need various professionals with trained and specialized skills in different fields. Even if missionaries are exceptionally capable persons, some do not fit well in areas where specific skills are needed. Mixing these specialized individuals with missionaries into a group, will allow them to function effectively and accomplish goals within a shorter period of time.
1) More needs for Lay Professionals in the Mission Field. The current mission fields require more and deeper involvement of lay professionals, like teachers, administrators, engineers, lawyers, community and health workers. According to GP statistics, about 25% of its members in the mission fields are lay people and the ratio is still increasing. That’s why it is very important to recognize the important roles of each other and find appropriate ministries for lay members and theologically trained missionaries. Theologically trained members usually are not equipped to start a business for mission. On the other hand, the lay professionals are not equipped to do church planting and leadership development. Both should recognize each other and their callings. The calling to be a lay professional in the mission field is important as much as the pastoral calling for missions. We should avoid putting people in categories to separate the so called “priestly ministry” from the lay professional ministry. Both types of service in the mission field are considered mission service and sacrifice of a missionary. We are all missionaries in equal status with different roles and responsibilities. Therefore, we should encourage more lay professionals to keep their original calling to work as a professional in the mission field, nothing less than the priestly ministry of theologically trained person. The universal priesthood of all believers should not be just a written code, but should be put to action, to be practiced, especially in the mission fields.
2) More Needs for Various Professionals in the Ministry. Societies are becoming more complex and demanding for more skilled professionals in various areas. Missions are concerned with all areas of life and thus missionaries are facing all kinds of problems. A team of professionals can accomplish more work, professionally and more efficiently. Those who are trained to lead Bible studies do not need to learn how to construct a building and spend much more time doing tasks beyond their abilities. Rather they can work with professionally trained engineers, architects, and contractors as a team and accomplish tasks both physically and spiritually..

iii. More needs for Specialized Missions
Modern missions require more specialization. There are more needs for specialized fields in addition to relief, development and community transformation.
1) Relief works for disasters, call for more professional approaches. Natural disasters occur practically in every country and are reported almost constantly around the world. This is the current situation of the world and the damages brought by these disasters both natural and man-made. Disasters are continually reported from those countries where GP missionaries are working. Most missionaries never had experienced those disasters and are not prepared for the crisis when it happens. Most of the time when a disaster arises, missionaries are also victims and are not capable to assist local survivors from the after effect of the disaster. They do not know how to handle the situation. That’s why there is a desperate need of a NGO that can professionally handle relief works in those times. Although there are Christian relief organizations, there are needs of more missional NGO that can understand the long term missional effects and work with the missionaries and local Christians if possible. Those NGOs should be prepared to respond to the disasters with long term mission in mind.
Relief works in disaster-stricken areas can lead to a new mission field and open the minds of the local people towards God and His Words. There are international guidelines for relief works, like not to be partial to the people of different religions, race, and any other reasons. Sometimes missionaries do not know those guidelines and show partiality in supporting Christians and churches first. But those actions give rise to side effects on the spread of the gospel and give rather bad impressions to others. The missionaries should understand that disasters can be a golden opportunity to show the love of God and real Christian practice by attending to the needs of the victims of other religions more than their own needs and Christians’ needs. Christians and missionaries should not interpret natural disasters as God’s punishment to people of other religions, even if God sometimes works that way. Rather it should be understood as a golden opportunity that opened up to share the love of God with the usually unreachable people in an ordinary circumstance. Then the disaster can become the most memorable opportunity for the missionary to be a true testimony of God’s love.
2) Community Development, call for more professional approaches. In spite of the strong wave of globalization and urbanization, there is and increasing need for professional community development. More than 50% of the world do have characteristics of community despite the rapid urbanization of the world. An African proverb says, “it requires a village to raise a kid.” This proverb tells us the importance of community. When we want to share the holistic message of the gospel to a person, family or the community, we should use more professional ways to bring in life-changing circumstances more professionally with the gospel. NGOs can share their experiences with the missionaries about community development and people transformation.
The principles of community development can help in the mission fields to develop people. For missionaries working in the field, there are two different fields for missions work: one is open and the other closed for mission work. In the open field, the missionaries can do direct evangelism, church planting and theological education. So the missionaries in the open field are usually not interested in community development. On the other hand, in the closed field, the missionaries do not want to be exposed to the public so that they do not want to be involved in community development.
These reasons interfere with the ministries. Most missionaries are only involved in spiritual realms which are not in the felt needs of the people. These can cause for the church to become irrelevant to the society in the long run and create Christians as a new “caste” like in some countries.
The missionaries should be monitoring whether the planted churches become more relevant entities to the society and serve as light and salt to its members. Especially in the closed field, the principles of community development can show how to deal with the realistic needs of the people effectively.
3) Increasing Needs of Strategic Partnership. The father of modern mission, William Carey, was a very special multi-talented person who had accomplished so much. He was a biblical scholar, evangelist, scientist, entrepreneur, educator and facilitator. He served as a unique person to begin the works. But we are living in a generation of strategic partnership. The Lord gave different gifts to different individuals. The different gifts were given to be an apostle, an evangelist, a pastor-teacher, an administrator, a church planter and many others. So every gift should be honored and respected by each other. Some should serve as an area or country specialist and some should be able to serve as community developer and assistant to national planning.
The most important thing is to recognize that we all need each other. Those who dream the expansion of the glorious kingdom of God should emphasize the unity of the body in Christ, and respect others and dream, work together and rejoice together.

B. Support for the Changing Environment of Missions
As the rapid changes happen in the external environment of missions, the seed bed of missions are also being changed. Statistics of the reports on mission tell of negative changes. In this situation, a missional NGO can be expected to gain more impacts in the mission fields now and in the future.
i. Limited Mission Resources of the Local Churches
Korean churches are currrently facing a reduction of mission resources after the explosive growth of the Korean church in the world. According to Kidokgongbo, a Christian Newspaper, of the representative Presbyterian denomination, there is an increasing difficulty of sending new missionaries because of the reduced mission budget in churches or denominations. Annually, the Korean church has sent out more than 1,000 missionaries even during the most difficult economic crisis from 1997, the so called IMF crisis until 2014. In 2015, the number of missionaries sent by churches decreased to almost half of its annual number, a first time in 30 years. Most missionary training centers face a severe decrease of missionary candidates while seminary graduates are saying that it is extremely difficult to plant a new church.
However, there are more prospects who want to work for the areas of international development and for NGOs with emphasis on international development. This trend shows that there are growing interest on “missions for international development”, both for donors and volunteers. But for the traditional mission organizations, because of fund raising pressures, there is a decreased interest from churches and individuals.

ii. Possibility of Increasing Support Basis
There are increasing opportunities to raise supports and funds from indirect sources for community development projects, while direct supports from the church is decreasing. There are possibilities in ODA fund and/or CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) fund for others to use for disaster relief operations and community transformation activities.
1) Christians can show how ODA fund can be used in the most effective ways (ODA-Official Development Assistance). As an example, the ODA fund of the Korean government was increased to support the developing countries. Christian organizations can utilize the fund with careful and critical judgment and evaluation. Korean government promised to spend more ODA fund as a member of OECD countries. UN suggests that OECD countries should give 0.7% of GNI to support the developing countries, but Korea has used only 0.13% in 2015.
A missional NGO can utilize funds to develop a proper program for national development and increase accessibility to communities by showing the most efficient and effective ways of planning, budgeting, execution and evaluation. NGOs cannot share the gospel directly to the people, but NGO workers can share their lives with the people in genuine ways so people can hear the gospel and learn from Christian presence naturally.
2) Christians can guide how the corporations can perform their social responsibility. More and more corporations are committing to social responsibility. A missional NGO can serve those corporations in various ways by guiding how they can participate in meaningful contributions to the society and the world. There are many Christians who are working for the corporations and looking for responsible organizations, but hesitating to donate to the religious organizations directly because of various reasons. Christian-based NGO can be the best candidate for this corporate partnership.
It is very important for a missional-NGO to have the guiding principle of fund raising and usage of it before receiving funds from profit making organizations. A missional NGO should avoid to be used for promoting and propagating their corporate agenda.
3) NGO can encourage individual’s responsible use of their wealth. There is a growing movement to encourage super rich individuals to donate their wealth to the society instead of giving them to their children. The Giving Pledge was signed by 125 individuals including Warren Buffet by 2014. There are many more individuals who want to use their wealth in significant ways to find meaning and valuable fruits from their hard-earned income. A missional NGO can guide not only the rich people, but also more individuals towards the right ways to donate and use their money to help and assist poor communities in disaster effected and poverty stricken countries.

iii. Need of a Missional NGO for sharing the same purpose and know-how in missions
There are many Christian based NGOs. But not all of them are operated on the basis of Christian principles. They significantly contribute in missions while they keep their identity as a NGO. We can distinguish them into three categories of NGO related to missions.
The first model is a making of NGO. A mission organization is using NGO as a mask to earn rights of NGO-presence in a closed country. Usually they use this as a name and for getting privileges, for visa purposes and other benefits. In the early mission work in Central Asia, there were many such cases and later when discovered, they were expelled by the governments. Those NGOs only used the name and privilege to plant churches and train Christian workers as their priority. It shows that NGO broke the law and their own promise as a non-partial and non-religious organization.
The second model shows the Christ-less humanitarian organization. They raise fund by telling their works are mission and related to the church, but most of the fund is used for their own stability and organizational maintenance. Usually they are not interested in the eternal wellbeing of the people, but the objectives of the organization is to show off. Sometimes, non-Christians or non-committed Christian workers who are working in the local unit faithfully are deeply involved in the operation of the organization and lost the missional purpose. They are no longer interested in the missional goals such as reaching the unreached people, but only for developing and carrying out profitable projects to maintain the organization on the basis of economic principles.
Third model is a Missional NGO. A missional NGO is a proper NGO doing 100% NGO -related work at the same time with missional goals. From setting goals to operational methods, everything is done the missional way. Any work can begin with the felt needs of the people, but the approach is always done with the missional purpose in mind. They begin working with strategic perspectives to reach more creative access areas as priority. They are utilizing all the advantages of NGO at the same time it is associated with missional effectiveness. Any project is not based on the economic principle, but carried out on the basis of missional purpose. However, a missional NGO does faithfully what the local people and the receiving government expect a NGO should do for them to deliver the results and earn the right to be heard and be trusted by the people. A missional NGO must be a capable and trustworthy NGO from the perspective of the people. That’s why a missional NGO should work to keep the balance between a proper and good NGO and a missional organization.

C. NGO can contribute to increase effectiveness and financial accountability of fund
There are increasing calls on financial accountability in missions. When we analyze the use of finance, we can evaluate the ministry. Most missionaries are doing their best to use small funds for bearing the most results. But sometimes there are misunderstandings due to financial transparency or inefficient usage of the fund.

i. More Financial Accountability and Transparency
The standards for financial accountability of NGOs can be adopted by mission organizations.

ii. More Efficient Usage of Finance
Probably the most distinguishable difference in finance between NGO and a mission organization is the way of evaluation. Generally there is lack of proper planning and evaluation of finance in mission organizations. Because of its long term nature, a mission organization and missionaries cannot evaluate their effectiveness, there are too many reports on the irresponsible usage of mission funds and lack of evaluation. The supporters of mission usually do not ask the effectiveness of the work, nor requires any evaluation. But It is more difficult for NGO to use any fund without proper evaluation because it is directly related to the fund raising activity.
Sometimes there are reports on the reckless management of NGOs. They usually handle bigger funds and use much more to maintain the organization and sometimes lavishly for personal usage of the staff. When compared with missionaries, executive members and staff of international NGOs receive much more than the missionaries. Missionaries are responsible to raise their own living allowance and projects and live more sacrificially. If we can combine the financial accountability of NGO and the sacrificial spirit of the missionary, there should be much more fruits in the mission field.

This is the time to work together! Real partnership is needed. We should apply the unchanging truth in the changing world to bear the fruits of sacrificial missionary works. There are greater needs to find creative ways to gain access to closed countries. There is a clear limitation to keep the traditional ways of direct evangelism, church planting and leadership development through theological education to create more accessibility and increase credibility in many areas. If we adopt the advantages and disadvantages of both sides, we can make a missional community to accomplish a lot more than what we are doing now.
We have to keep the spirit of sacrifice from the missionaries and at the same time we should pursue the rationality of NGO. Faith is not rational, but rationality on the basis of faith must serve well in missions. No other persons can replace the sacrificial services of the missionaries. The staff of NGO should learn from the missionaries who serve without adequate compensation only for the glory of God. Christian NGO staff with the missionary spirit are needed. At the same time, we need missionaries who can think rationally and work on the basis obedience to God’s command.

Dr. Yong J. Cho is the General Secretary of Korea World Missions Association. He is also the Founder and the International Director of Global Hope which is based in Seoul, Korea and also in California with branches in Kyrgystan, Myanmar, Vietnam, the Philippines and India. Global Hope is the NGO arm of Global Partners Missions Organization. He was the Chairman of Tokyo Global Mission Consultation 2010 and Former International Director and US Director of Global Partners. Dr. Cho received his Ph.D from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He was first assigned as a missionary to the Philippines in 1989 and finished his term in 1994. As a missionary in the Philippines, he pioneered missions in Samar and Leyte and started missions research in Manila.


Church partnerships in missions are nothing new. For example, the U.S. churches and organizations have continued to work with the Haitian church (and other organizations) for many years, most recently following the devastating earthquake in 2010. Many churches actively support missions, particularly through short-term teams. After all, sending people on short-term trips to support churches in such areas is a good thing, right?[1] However, is sending short-term teams the primary function of U.S. based churches in support of the work of the Church in other locations? What about the relationship of local churches with both international churches and supported missionaries? How do these fit into an overall philosophy of missions for a church and does the current context and emphasis within U.S. based churches mean that a shift is necessary?
Obviously, there are U.S. based churches that have a broader view of their role and responsibility. In fact, over the last century or more, evangelical churches have emphasized sending missionaries to other contexts to spread the gospel. These churches have committed significant financial and human resources to this end. However, even with this historic emphasis, the role of the local church in this enterprise seems to have dwindled over time. In fact, while many churches continue to provide substantial financial support for vocational missionaries and short-term teams there are fewer who have a clear understanding about the type of relationship they should continue to have with both the vocational missionaries they support and those to whom they are ministering in other parts of the world.
This dual role is worth exploring as it seems to be the relationship that Paul had with churches who supported him financially. In Philippians 4:10-17, Paul indicates that it wasn’t simply financial support the church was sending but they were actually sharing their lives with him and were benefiting as a result of the gifts they were giving. He closes by telling the Philippian believers that, as a result of their gift, “I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (v. 17). Is it possible that God created the church so our collective partnership together as believers located in different areas of the world benefits both and not just the one who received the financial support or the missionary?
This concept of mutual benefit juxtaposes the idea of “supporting churches” vs. “sending churches.” This distinction is common and has been used extensively to indicate the different type of relationships that churches may have with missionaries and work they support. For purposes of this paper, supporting churches are those whose primary connection to the ministry context is by providing financial support. Sending churches, on the other hand, are those that have an ongoing relationship with (1) those workers sent to do ministry in another context and (2) those living in that ministry context. The primary difference between supporting churches and sending churches is the ongoing relational component that characterizes the ministry and connection of the church to the ministry context.
This case study will explore a church that has undergone a transformation from being a supporting church to one that develops and maintains relationships with the vocational missionaries supported financially by the church. In addition, the church now emphasizes short-term teams that participate in the ministry contexts of their supported vocational missionaries so that ongoing relationships can be developed and deepened over time. Wan’s Relational Paradigm[2] will be used as a tool to consider the resultant changes and what this might mean for future church-to-church partnerships.

The Church Up to 2010

Grace Baptist Church (GBC) is a member of CB Northwest, an association of Conservative Baptist churches in the Northwest U.S. It is a medium-sized congregation with around 250-300 members and regular attenders. The church was started in the late 19th century in Newberg, OR (under a different name, eventually changed to Grace Baptist), and has had a historic emphasis on missions and missions support. In fact, the Missions Committee is one of only two standing committees specified the church’s by-laws in addition to the church board. The current mission statement of GBC is as follows: Worship – Responding to God’s Love, Growth – Learning from His Word, Fellowship – Living in Covenant Community, Ministry – Serving Others.[3] The aspect of “Ministry” has been the element of the church’s mission under which missions outreach has been subsumed.
The Missions Committee developed policies over time that codified the practices of how the church was to interact with currently supported missionaries, evaluate new missionaries for potential financial support, and conduct short-term missions opportunities.[4] These were developed in order to help maintain consistency, primarily in the application of funds allocated to missionaries and short-term opportunities. While the committee regularly met and prayed for their supported missionaries and even invited as many as were able to be present at the annual church missions conference, much of the activities of the committee centered around communication updates and updates on status of the committee’s funds, most of which were allocated to supported missionaries such that only minor changes were made in funding. In addition, the committee would consider occasional requests from individuals for financial support for various short-term opportunities though this was limited. In short, most of these activities focused on management of the relationships with the churches missionaries, missions opportunities, and available funds.
The youth of the church also had a number of years of successful short-term trips, primarily to Mexico but also to some domestic contexts with high financial needs. However, these trips were abandoned around 2006 in favor of emphasis by the youth on serving local needs in partnership with local non-profits serving residents of the surrounding community in need. At this point in GBC’s history, the youth trips were some of the only outreach efforts of the church though there were still a few church members who participated individually in work projects with a handful of the church’s supported missionaries.
For all of these updates and requests, the missions policy document was used to govern the appropriate response and criteria for evaluation. However, this policy document had grown and become formalized such that it was 12 pages long, single spaced. In fact, this document was larger and even more formal than policies that applied to the church staff or even the church’s by-laws. Much of this document emphasized the type of activities in which both the committee and missionaries should engage (evaluation, communication, educating the congregation) but none of the elements addressed the type and quality of the relationships the church was to foster with the supported missionaries. Instead, the purpose statement included the following list of objectives to be accomplished by the committee as it carried out its duties:
[The committee] “shall perform the following watch care, management and oversight duties, on behalf of the Church:

  • Setting goals and priorities for its missionary outreach
  • Establishing a comprehensive missions plan
  • Praying regularly for its missionaries
  • Communicating regularly with its missionaries
  • Encouraging others to pray and communicate, likewise
  • Educating its congregation about the Church’s mission outreach
  • Introducing its supported missionaries and their fields of service
  • Managing its financial resources for missionary outreach
  • Equipping those individuals considering missionary service
  • Evaluating its existing missionary outreach and policies
  • Seeking and developing new missionary outreach opportunities” [5]

In 2010 and early 2011, several different events occurred that began a shift in how the church approached missions and missions opportunities. First, there was a change in senior pastoral leadership in which the new senior pastor began to emphasize the mission of the church, particularly the fourth component of ministry under which community outreach and international missions was a focus. As part of this effort, one of the part-time church staff members and his wife attended the Leadership ConneXion event in January 2011 in Portland, OR. Following that meeting, they met and shared with the senior pastor what they had learned about church supported missions and utilizing short-term teams to galvanize a church on what God was doing around the world. It was also at this Leadership ConneXion event that the concept of supporting versus sending church was presented. This too was shared with the pastor as a useful way to consider the church’s current status as primarily a supporting church that “pays our missionaries to do the work of missions on our behalf” and the desire to change this perspective to instead be one of a “sending church.”

Haiti Connection
The same part-time staff member who attended the Leadership ConneXion event noted above had the prior year been involved in a life-changing event that set the stage for the next phase of the church’s development. He had responded following the devastating earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, on January 12, 2010 and was in-country a week or so later. This man had spent several adolescent years in Haiti while his father served as a manufacturing engineer in the 80s. He had then received medical training as a Navy corpsman and was now being trained as a helicopter pilot with the intention of flying helicopters in support of missions efforts in the future. He had been in Haiti for about a week and was intermittently communicating with his family and the church as he was able during that turmoil. Having originally intended to fly to transport supplies, his medical skills were needed more and he began handling patients and doing triage at a makeshift orphanage-turned-clinic. His wife joined him about a week later and the two of them remained in Haiti for several more weeks serving the injured.
During their time there, they became acquainted with a young Haitian man who was translating for them. This man had a dream of coming to the U.S. and being trained as a nurse to return one day to serve the Haitian people. It just so happens that this young man’s father was a pastor and led several churches in the capital city and had trained a number of other church planters throughout the country. The couple expressed their desire to help the pastor’s son to come to the U.S. and began a relationship with their family. It took several months but the couple was able to help the young man visit the U.S. on a tourist visa and he got to know others at GBC, including sharing his vision for his education. Several members of GBC also caught that vision and determined to support his education, he was admitted, and began his nursing studies in a Portland college later that year.
Meanwhile, the vision for this young man’s education extended to others at the church hearing about the ministry of his father and the needs of the country. This became fully developed in January 2011 and the idea of a short-term trip to Haiti with a team selected to help “jump start” a shift in missions emphasis for the church was born. This coincided with a greater than normal annual funding carryover and the decision to fund such a trip by the church (including congregational support) led to the development of such a team and a visit by a number of key church leaders to Haiti in mid-2011. Another unique aspect of the initial trip was the potential to connect a different GBC missionary with the Haitian pastor for future short term opportunities with his organization—cross-agency collaboration.
During this time, the senior pastor joined the Missions Committee to talk about the church’s philosophy of missions and also consider how to evaluate the effectiveness of the committee’s efforts regarding missions. The committee began a process to consider which missionaries the church supported, what kind of relationship they had with the church, and the degree to which their ministry focus was congruent with the church’s own stated mission. Many of the current Missions Committee members had served in the capacity for a number of years and significantly supported missions work at GBC in the past or had themselves been involved in missions (several had served on the field as missionaries or were children of missionaries). The committee had a desire to see missions promoted with the rest of the church beyond the few times a year through formal activities including the annual missions conference.
The evaluation process emphasized not only congruence of ministry focus between GBC and the missionary but also considered some tangible aspects of the relationship between the church and the missionary including responsiveness to the church’s communication and whether their context allowed GBC to send a team to participate with them on the field. In addition, the committee considered the percentage of funding provided by GBC toward the missionary’s total needs as a representation of the church’s importance to the missionary’s ministry (a higher degree of funding indicating a greater depth of relationship and importance). Many of these evaluative elements had a decidedly relational emphasis that tended to flow from another of the church’s aspects of its mission statement—Fellowship – living in covenant community.
The church sponsored several short-term trips over the next few years and even was able to provide resources to further the Haitian pastor’s vision to purchase property that could be leveraged as a base of operations from which ministry could be launched to other parts of the country. This has continued such that individuals or teams from GBC have now visited Haiti to work with this pastor eight times since Spring 2011 and the pastor and his wife have visited GBC twice in the same time period. In addition, their son continues his nursing preparation, resides now with a different member of the church (who happened to be a member of the initial short-term team in 2011), and has been brought on as a “missionary-in-training” by GBC; several members of GBC are serving in a mentoring capacity to this young man.
One limitation and indication that this change for GBC was a work in progress was reflected in projects that were initiated in Haiti that either weren’t sustainable or were repurposed after a short amount of time. One example was physical improvements done to the pastor’s home to enable him to better serve members of the congregation. Some of those improvements weren’t used by the pastor’s family following work trips and even were reported to have caused resentment from other members of the pastor’s extended family and even his congregation. Future trips involved much more communication with the pastor to try to listen to his needs and ask how proposed solutions or ministry opportunities would be perceived by others.

GBC Post-Haiti
Following the initial work in Haiti from 2011-12, GBC experienced a change in pastoral leadership. While this significantly affected the church as a whole, interestingly, the Missions Committee was relatively stable through the changes and even added a few new members, many of whom were present on the initial Haiti trip in 2011. In fact, the committee continued its own development of relationships with supported missionaries and has since scheduled and administered 1-2 short term trips to Haiti or other field contexts every summer since 2011. Additional team leaders have been recruited to lead some of these teams and the committee has also been instrumental in developing a rotating, monthly presentation of the work of supported missionaries before the congregation.
In addition, the committee developed and initiated a review of all supported missionaries based on a list of values that emerged from the church’s own mission statement and list of values. The first test of this process when it was determined some of the missionaries who had been supported for a number of years didn’t match the qualities the committee was seeking, either lack of communication and reciprocity in the relationship or a difference in ministry focus that didn’t provide opportunity for GBC members to participate on the fields with the missionary. After much deliberation and prayer, the committee decided to recommend reallocation of funding to other missionaries who did align more closely with the values. The church board and congregation agreed with the recommended funding changes and they were communicated to the missionaries. While such a decision was difficult, the reality was the funding levels provided by GBC of the missionaries whose support was dropped was much lower than was the financial support of the missionaries whose values were more congruent with the church. This then allowed the church to reallocate funds to these missionaries and further increase the level of support and relationship with them.
Within this same time frame, the church had two missionaries who emerged from within the congregation who were seeking to be sent to the field—one family and one single. In fact, the family was the same couple who initially established the relationship with the young Haitian man and his father, the Haitian pastor, who had been instrumental in developing a continual relationship with GBC and the Haitian church. This reallocation of funding enabled GBC to fund these missionaries significantly, which has provided a further connection between the church and missionaries in the field.
A representation of the shift in perspective by the church has been made from the pulpit several times that “We believe our missionaries are an extension of our church staff,” extending the church’s mission and global outreach into other areas where church members can’t be regular participants. Several supported missionaries have commented to church leaders that this statement is reflective of a deepening relationship they feel with the church and is somewhat unique among their supporting churches. This emphasis is still growing among church leaders but has been represented tangibly over the past four years when salary increases provided to church staff have also been represented through equivalent increases in missions support (which the committee then allocates among the current missionaries or any new missionaries to be supported).
Recently, the GBC Missions Committee requested some information from all supported missionaries in order to better understand their context and needs. In response to the question, “In what way might you benefit from individuals or work teams from GBC spending time with you in the field?” the pastor of the Haitian church mentioned the following:

. . . it would be greatly appreciated if different faces come to see for themselves the work that we are doing in Haiti. Work teams could help as well with summer camps, training leaders, construction and preaching. I believe this will not only strengthen the trustworthy relationship that has been built between GBC and I but also more work would be done more efficiently.[6]

In response to another question, “What would you change about the way GBC communicates with you?” he answered,

What I would change is the means of communication. I understand it’s very easy to send an email but I would love to build a deeper friendship with GBC. For example, once in a while I could do a Skype video with some members just so we could pray for each other or about anything else. It doesn’t have to be money related. I guess what I’m trying to say, “I want to be a brother to GBC not just this missionary who is supported by the church.”[7]

Finally, a response to the question, “What would you change about the way GBC supports you beyond financial assistance?” was as follows:

That means a lot for us when our relationship becomes closer and closer with GBC. GBC realized that our work is the most important task on earth to support us beyond our financial needs. This question relates to the one above. I want to add GBC to my family list. I’m more interested in building a deeper relationship in Christ with the church than anything else. I do have this type of relationship with few of GBC members, but I want to tell GBC that anyone else is always welcome to be a part of the family (emphasis added).[8]

As can be seen, there is still relational growth desired on the part of the Haitian pastor but the reality has changed much in the past five years. This has even been represented in a shift in local outreach among church members, something that was very limited back in 2010. While still a work in progress as with many churches, the outreach mindset was reflected recently in a sermon by the senior pastor in which he indicated that CB churches have done well teaching theology but can tend to neglect outreach. Both are necessary. A purpose of the church is to help each person “develop a depth of faith so you can feel confident to share your faith.”[9]

Certainly, not all churches that might be considered “supporting churches” would overtly say they “pay their missionaries to do the work of missions for us.” However, this can be a pragmatic by-product of an approach in which there isn’t the depth of personal relationships between the missionaries and the church. Practically speaking, in GBC’s case prior to 2011 this was occurring since the church wasn’t engaged in local missions and evangelism at that point; the primary outreach mechanism was its supported missionaries (as noted, even the short-term teams had been reduced and had almost stopped completely).
In addition, the perspective of the Missions Committee appears to have devolved into what has been called “managerial missiology.”[10] While this approach may have emanated from a sincere desire to better accomplish the work of the Great Commission, the tension between efficiency and effectiveness that is often discussed in organizational decision making was displayed in a shift toward efficient methods of operation in favor of achieving outcomes. This could be seen in the very nature of the Missions Committee policies that tended to emphasize specific practices and not the qualities of effective relationships with missionaries.
There was an obvious shift in relational focus by GBC starting with the initial trip to Haiti in 2011 that appears to have been sustained and growing since then. This relational focus has affected not only continued relationships between GBC and the Haitian church but also the relationships GBC has with its other supported missionaries. This has also been reflected in the manner in which two new missionaries have been sent from GBC since 2011 and who provided an example to the congregation for the type of relationships the church should attempt to maintain with the rest of its missionaries, something that hadn’t been emphasized in the past.
Another aspect of GBC’s developing perspective was highlighted in the initial trips to Haiti where there was a U.S. centric planning process for both work projects and ministry activities. This too seems to be a natural outgrowth of the managerial missiology framework in which the supporting church can see their solutions as preferred without considering that the receiving church has a much better understand of the ministry context. In future ministry opportunities, this was remedied by active listening that could even be characterized as mutual submission on the part of both churches.
As can be seen through the comments made recently by the Haitian pastor in response to the Missions Committee questionnaire, there is still a desire for a growing familial relationship. The questions the committee is asking of its supported missionaries reflect a qualitative difference in the types of interactions the committee was seeking from missionaries back in 2010. None of the former evaluation mechanisms promoted in the former policy manual had a relational emphasis whereas multiple responses were requested recently that were relationally focused. It appears such a shift in emphasis has been a welcome change for both the Haitian pastor and other missionaries supported by GBC.

As noted in the introduction, the Apostle Paul considered his work a partnership between himself and the churches who were supporting him in the work of the gospel. Just about every one of Paul’s letters addresses the relational component of the ministry he had with the churches to which he wrote. Paul also writes of the manner in which we as believers are supposed to support one another for our mutual benefit. In Eph 5:21, Paul indicates in his section on the life of the church we are to be “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This statement precedes not only his admonitions for husbands and wives in the following verses but all familial relationships in the following chapter. In fact, this aspect of mutual submission is what is expected to characterize relationships among believers and is modeled in the relationship among the members of the Godhead. As noted in the relational paradigm, “God is” which defines all other reality for us (who we “are”, what we “know”, and how we “do”). That we have been made in his image (Gen 1:26-27) is a declaration that we too should reflect this same relational reality in all of our relationships.
These are just a few examples of Scripture that speak to the relational nature of God and we, as human beings and the vital importance for us to be in proper vertical relationship with God and proper horizontal relationships with other believers and other human beings. This has implications for how we approach missions. As noted above, the former approach of GBC was reflective of managerial missiology. Wan addresses the Managerial Missiology Paradigm (MMP)[11] and the differences between this approach and that of the “relational paradigm” (reflected as the Diaspora Missiology Paradigm). A key distinction is the MMP seems to emerge from a functional approach to accomplishing desired outcomes as opposed to a relational approach to gospel proclamation and transformation. Indeed, this functional versus relational approach is similar to what has been addressed in the domain of leadership studies as far back as Douglas McGregor’s development of Theory X and Theory Y or the task versus people approach to management of the mid-20th century.[12]
Finally, this case reflects the tendency when operating bound by the MMP for U.S. based churches to be Americentric in function, effectively declaring, “we have something to offer you.” The relational paradigm instead would promote a “transnational and global” perspective[13] in which there is mutual learning and growth. The former approach has gradually given way to the realization that the U.S. partners must be submissive to their international brothers and sisters who can often minister more effectively in their own contexts. In addition, U.S. partners can learn something about humanity, and often God himself, by taking the posture of “submitting to one another.” This is another implication of the relational paradigm Wan calls “Missions ‘with’ the diaspora”[14] as opposed to missions “to” or “beside” those in another context.

Church leaders should be aware of the relational paradigm at work in missions relationships with other churches around the world. However, this reality is not only something that should be considered for practice but it actually defines the nature of our relationships within the church itself. Given our tendency (and that of the world around us) to take a functional approach which can devolve into what can a person “do,” we must combat this tendency by emphasizing relationships. As noted in the relational paradigm, a right relationship with God re-orients us as human beings to then engage in healthy relationships with others.
The positive outcome seen in this case, however, is that positive relationships with other believers can also help reorient our relationship with God. This was reflected in the impact the Haitian church had on GBC and the reorientation of missions philosophy and, ultimately, God’s plan for the church. In the process, the church became properly oriented to God’s plan and purpose which in turn has enabled the church to minster more effectively to those in need outside the church and more effectively disciple church members.
In the words of organizational theorists, Argyris and Schön, we can find hope by raising before people what are our “theories in use” (ways we actually operate) versus our “espoused theories” (the ways we say we operate),[15] presenting how they differ and the need for change to be congruent in our belief and our practice. In doing so, our churches can grow and change to better reflect God’s intended purpose, better serve our brothers and sisters around the world, and more effectively declare the good news to those who need to hear.

Argyris, Chris, and Donald A. Schön. Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.
Corbett, Steve, and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself. New edition. Moody Publishers, 2014.
Escobar, Samuel. “Managerial Missiology.” In Dictionary of Mission Theology: Evangelical Foundations, edited by John Corrie, Juan F. Martinez, and Simon Chan, 216–218. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007.
Fitch, Adam. “The Christians” presented at the Worship Service, Grace Baptist Church, March 13, 2016.
“GBC Missions Policy.” Grace Baptist Church Missions Committee, September 15, 2007.
“Grace Baptist Church – Our Vision and Values.” Grace Baptist Church. Accessed March 25, 2016. https://fbcnewberg.radiantwebtools.com/who-we-are/our-vision-and-values/.
McGregor, Douglas. The Human Side of Enterprise. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960.
Wan, Enoch. Diaspora Missiology: Theory, Methodology, and Practice. Portland, OR: Institute of Diaspora Studies – USA, 2012.
______. “Relational Theology and Relational Missiology.” Occasional Bulletin 21, no. 1. Evangelical Missiological Society (2007): 1–8.
_______. “The Paradigm of ‘Relational Realism.’” Occasional Bulletin 19, no. 2. Evangelical Missiological Society (2006): 1–4.

[1] Some have questioned if this practice is really of greatest benefit and rightly so. Cf. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor . . . and Yourself, New edition. (Moody Publishers, 2014).
[2] Wan, Enoch. “The Paradigm of ‘Relational Realism.’” Occasional Bulletin 19, no. 2. Evangelical Missiological Society (2006): 1–4.; Wan, Enoch. “Relational Theology and Relational Missiology.” Occasional Bulletin 21, no. 1. Evangelical Missiological Society (2007): 1–8.
[3] “Grace Baptist Church – Our Vision and Values.” Grace Baptist Church. Accessed March 25, 2016. https://fbcnewberg.radiantwebtools.com/who-we-are/our-vision-and-values/.
[4] “GBC Missions Policy.” Grace Baptist Church Missions Committee, September 15, 2007.
[5] “GBC Missions Policy.” Grace Baptist Church Missions Committee, September 15, 2007, 1.
[6]Personal communication, February 17, 2016.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Adam Fitch, “The Christians” (presented at the Worship Service, Grace Baptist Church, March 13, 2016).Samuel Escobar, “Managerial Missiology,” in Dictionary of Mission Theology: Evangelical Foundations, ed. John Corrie, Juan F. Martinez, and Simon Chan (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007), 216–218.
[10] Samuel Escobar, “Managerial Missiology,” in Dictionary of Mission Theology: Evangelical Foundations, ed. John Corrie, Juan F. Martinez, and Simon Chan (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2007), 216–218.
[11] See chapter 7 of Enoch Wan, “Managerial Missiology – The Popular Paradigm,” in Diaspora Missiology: Theory, Methodology, and Practice (Portland, OR: Institute of Diaspora Studies – USA, 2012), 111–121.
[12] Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1960).
[13] Enoch Wan, Diaspora Missiology: Theory, Methodology, and Practice (Portland, OR: Institute of Diaspora Studies – USA, 2012), 128.
[14]Wan, Diaspora Missiology, 133.
[15] Chris Argyris and Donald A. Schön, Theory in Practice: Increasing Professional Effectiveness (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992).

*This paper was presented at the Northwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society, April 2, 2016 and was featured at Global Missiology Vol. 4, No. 14, July, 2017 (http://www.globalmissiology.org/) Published with permission.
Dr. Reid Kisling currently serves as Dean of Student Development and Registrar at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon (USA) and also teaches courses on leadership and education in the institution’s intercultural studies and doctor of ministry programs. He also serves as President for ARM Ministries (armmin.org), a missions organization with a desire to support the church’s role in missions work around the world. Reid is a former pastor and now serves on a church planting team in the Portland area. Reid has a Master of Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and a PhD from Regent University (VA) in Organizational Leadership.


This paper asks the question: What does Jesus Christ give to Ru (Confucian) leaders that enables these leaders to re-envision, reform and revive their role as stewards of the Chinese people and to exercise their important responsibility of bringing the people’s concerns to the awareness of those working at the political center who establish and promulgate instruction/policy for every sphere of human life?
To answer this question well, we must think within Chinese categories without blindly imposing Western categories and terms on the Chinese people. Thus, in section one of this essay, three critiques of Western modern thinking about religion suggest that the Western term religion is not necessarily helpful in answering the above question. The essay’s second section presents an overview of the developing complexity of human worship traditions, which lends support to the view that Jewish and Ru (Confucianism) traditions, among others, are better understood as reform movements within already well-established worship traditions. The third section presents significant parallels between monotheistic moral reform in ancient Israel and in ancient China in order to provide a shared context for appreciating what Jesus Christ brings to reformers of both these ancient heritages. The final section illumines what actually happens when Jesus Christ is received into the lives of those of Ru moral cultivation: enhancing their ability to lead as minister-advisors, on behalf of the people, to political centers today.[1]
Roman Polytheism and Latin Religio:[2] The modern expressions religions (in the plural), world religions, and religions of the world, which Western people have been using for only the last two centuries, bear three, not-often-recognized, connotations of polytheism, secular humanism, and nation-state rivalry/war.
First, within the ancient Roman polytheistic context, the term religio referred to ritual observances or worship owed to different deities. Obligatory rituals were performed either to get or not to get something from a deity (to get success in war, cure of illness, birth of a child; or not to get a flood, pestilence, drought). In this polytheistic context, humans make offerings to deities from the best humans have in order to get something even better back from a deity. In short, obligatory rituals or worship take place within a context of pragmatic exchange between human beings and a deity, with the human purpose of requesting a favor from a deity.
Second, as modern European peoples explored and colonized vast parts of Asia, Africa, and the Americas, they found groups of people engaging in worship in ways both similar and different from Christian ways of worship. To bring great pluralities of worship practices under some kind of rational control as they colonized, Europeans fabricated names like “Hinduism,” “Buddhism”, “Mohammedanism”, and “Confucianism.” For example, the Western, fabricated label of Hinduism refers to vastly different ways people of India worship 330 million deities. The term Buddhism refers to one path of yoga among many different paths of yoga practiced by people of India for release from the cycle of death and re-birth. The label “Mohammedanism” was fabricated and modeled on the name “Christian”: just as Christians follow Jesus, so also Mohammedans were presumed to follow Mohammad. Similarly, the term Confucianism is the Western, fabricated name for those who follow Confucius (Chinese: Kong Fuzi).[3]
These Western, fabricated names became popular during the Western Enlightenment period (late 18th and of 19th centuries). However, those whom Westerners have labeled with their fabricated names have their own names for themselves―names that are quite different in meaning from those Westerners have imposed.
Moreover, just as there is enormous variety among Christians, so also is there enormous variety among those labeled Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and Confucian. Thus, to speak about Hinduism or Buddhism or Confucianism as a single religion or single anything is not only a Western colonial thing to do, it is also an enormously misguided thing to do. Thus, we need to be greatly cautious when we engage Western names for so-called “world religions.” Third, the Western colonial tendency to fabricate and to impose often misleading names on others went side-by-side with the Western, modern movement to lift up human reason as universally able to solve all human problems. As reason was promoted, obligatory ritual (worship) offered in exchange for favor from a deity has been gradually demoted, with four negative consequences:

  1. Whole worship-centered ways of living were reduced to mere belief systems and deemed illogical;
  2. Second, as universal reason was deemed to govern the public square, mere belief systems were pushed to the margins, to what people think privately, not publicly;
  3. Third, mere belief systems were linked with ethnic groups and as ethnic groups come into conflict, conflicting mere belief systems are blamed. In other words, mere belief systems cause war.[4]
  4. Fourth, since mere belief systems are linked with ethnic groups, just as one cannot change one’s ethnicity, so also voluntarily changing one’s mere belief systems makes no sense. So also mission to convert others to one’s mere belief systems makes no sense.

To summarize, in the past two-hundred years, the coined expressions “religions,” “world religions,” as well as the individual names for each religion all bear connotations of being: 1) non-rational belief systems, 2) private, non-public, 3) the cause of war, and 4) missional for the sake of political/economic colonization.
Unfortunately, it was precisely with this polytheistic, illogical, contentious, colonizing understanding of the modern term religion, with Christianity as one of many world religions, that Western, Christian missionaries took passage aboard European ships, setting sail for the four corners of the world. Adopting this new Western, modern understanding of religion, many missionaries set out to promote Christianity as “the one true religion” (all other religions labeled false), rather than to offer Jesus Christ,[5] who would not harm a bruised reed,[6] as the “wounded healer”[7] and humble servant of every person in the world.
If we are to fathom God’s intentions in Jesus Christ who comes to every worshipful people, we must move beyond Western, modern ways of thinking about religion, world religions, and Christianity as one of many world religions.

Among modern scholars of religion(s), many have sought to describe discrete stages in the origin and development of religion. Some have affirmed linear progress. Others have affirmed that spiritual evolution runs ahead and informs material evolution.[8] Others have affirmed that material evolution will ultimately out run religion as the rational mind solves all problems.[9]
By way of example, I list my own discernment of four significant moments in the developing complexity of “worship” (a term I use instead of “religion”) and correlate (not causally) these moments with methods of subsistence and social organization.[10]

  1. Paleolithic age, half a million years ago up to 10,000 BCE: Evidence of ritual treatment of skulls, of various burial practices, and of cave paintings suggests that ancestors of family clans/tribes in small groups were associated with animal power. Hunting and gathering are the main means of human subsistence.
  2. Neolithic age, starting 10,000 BCE: Worship of the sky and patterns of the stars takes place alongside worship of clan/tribal ancestors of people living in larger groups. There is also worship of local rivers and mountains. Subsistence depends more upon agriculture.
  3. Age of town civilizations, beginning circa 3,500 BCE: As different people groups gather in towns, deities/spirits associated with these groups become ranked in a hierarchy that mirrors the political hierarchy among groups. Worship is aided by specially trained priests, sometimes kings serving as priests. The invention of writing gives more permanent record to worship practices involving mythic story enacted in rituals, among other practices. Existential questions as to the meaning of life and suffering emerge. Subsistence is aided by inventions, notably the plough, metals, and sturdy wheels for travel.
  4. Age of Reform, beginning circa 11th century to 6th BCE: Within already established worship traditions, monotheistic moral reform of polytheism takes centuries, even millennia, with the following results:
    Not only priests or kings but individual persons have direct access to divine or transcendent power;
    Access to divine or transcendental power is not only for the purpose of securing favor from a deity, including good life BEYOND this world, but also for the purpose of acting morally now IN this world;
    Access to divine or transcendental power of one group is opened out to others of other groups.
    From these reform movements have come what modern Westerners label world religions: Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam (formerly Mohammedanism), among others. Moreover, by continued focus on the above three aspects of monotheistic moral reform, these reform movements themselves have undergone continuous reform over 2,500 years.
    Trade, through increased means of travel, increases as greater numbers of people migrate from place to place looking for better means of survival. Towns and cities greatly expand and are occupied by a growing diversity of clans/tribes. Bloody war also marks this period as military power gathered feudal towns into unifying states, states into unifying alliances, and alliances into unifying empires.

Ancient Israel and Reform of Leadership by Primogeniture: As the Torah, prophets, and wisdom books of ancient Israel narrate, God takes initiative, through Abraham, to inform humanity about who God really is. God of Abraham is not to be considered one of many gods. Nor is he to be worshipped in the manner of worshipping many gods, by offering expensive sacrifices in order to request some favor in return from a god. Instead, God of Abraham affirms the later concept of “I am who I am”, and that relationship to God is not about what humans will ask God to do for them, but rather about what God is asking humanity to do for God. Put simply, God of Abraham is asking humanity to represent God, to be God’s ambassador here in the world. How? “By loving one another as God loves us”, by taking the interests of others as important as one’s own, by taking care of widows, orphans, and anyone marginalized, by releasing captives and redeeming the enslaved, by loving justice, showing mercy, and walking humbly with God.[12]
In asking humanity to love like God, to serve as God’s ambassador of love here in the world, God of Abraham was calling for a massive reform of polytheism, ancestor worship, and leadership based on blood-line patriarchy as follows:
God affirms there is but one God over all peoples and the earth and, thereby rejects polytheistic worship of ancestors and nature spirits;
God builds a trans-tribal unity, by asking all peoples under God to love those of other tribes as though they are of one’s own tribe;
God gives preference to the second son over the first-born son, and, thereby rejects leadership by primogeniture (right of succession to the first-born male child).
We now examine carefully each of these three reforms.
First, to affirm God over all peoples and all the earth, God of Abraham gives new understanding to an ancient, pre-Israel, political practice called “covenant”. Contemporary Jewish scholar, David Novak, in his book entitled Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory,[13] cogently expresses this new understanding of “covenant” as follows:

  1. God of Abraham creates and sustains just, right, and life-supporting order of the world. [35-39]
  2. As creator and sustainer, God has claim over every person and thing He creates. [77]
  3. God gives power to created persons and things, enabling them to respond to God’s claim upon them. [40-41, 45]
  4. God’s claims on humans and human claims upon God constitute an interactive covenant relationship that is rational, moral, and freely chosen. [73-84, 100].
  5. Like the covenant relationship between God and humans, covenant relationship between human persons also involves claims of persons on other persons who are created with power enough to respond to these claims.[84]
  6. In covenant relationships, under God’s created, just, right, and life-supporting order, there is one basic claim: love your neighbor as yourself. God has empowered all human persons with ability to respond to this claim. [117, 152]
  7. Covenant relationships are broken in two ways: a) first, when a person does not respond to a claim that God or another human person makes upon a person, even though that person has God-given ability to respond to that claim and b) second, when a person claims from God or other persons that which God has not intentionally established in the just, right, and life-supporting order of the created world. [40-45, 75-76]

Importantly, the ontological ground of all covenant relationships is God’s creating and sustaining just, right, and life-supporting order here in the world. [101, 116]
Second, God’s just, right, and life-supporting order requires all groups/tribes to recognize each other as equally under God, equally without privileged access to God, and equally enabled to love others. To build a trans-tribal unity under one God, as those of one tribe learn to love those of other tribes, God requests his people to establish in Canaan, a union of tribes, sometimes called a “confederation”, wherein no one tribe is to dominate over the others (Exodus). To lead this confederation of tribes, all in some sense equal under God, God sends leaders, known as judges (see Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra), whose decisions in governing the contentious tribes result in prosperity.
Third, to uphold this new moral understanding of covenant that privileges no one by bloodline birthright to lead God’s people known as Israel, God of Abraham, in a series of exemplary God-human interactions privileges the second or a younger son to lead, rather than the first-son, who would have become leader based on bloodline birthright. Consider the story of God preferring Abel’s offering to that of Cain (Gen. 4). Consider Abraham’s relating to Ishmael and Isaac, wherein the covenant of Abraham is passed not to Ishmael the first-born (as the Muslims understand it) but to Isaac (Gen. 16-17). Consider Isaac’s blessing going to Jacob (later named Israel), not to Esau, the first-born (Gen. 25-27). Consider the story of Joseph, Jacob’s younger son, who is sold into slavery in Egypt where he rises to become second in power (Gen. 37). Like Jacob himself, blessing is given to Joseph’s second son Ephraim, not Manasseh, Joseph’s first-born (Gen. 47). In all of these biblical stories, God of Abraham overturns leadership by bloodline birthright that privileges the eldest son. In so doing, by side-effect, God puts an end to ancestor worship.
Covenantal reform of the whole of life was difficult. Over time God’s people abandoned covenant relationship and the confederation of tribes; they reverted back to bloodline right to lead, primogeniture, ancestor worship, and polytheism. God’s people asked for a king, and God gave them a succession of kings, who in pursuit of self-interest did not lead the people well, until finally all were led captive to Babylon (587 BCE). In captivity, with the help of teachers who give instruction in God’s law, the remnant of Israel, God’s people, endeavored to live in accordance with God’s law. But in time, right relationship with God and neighbor − motivated by love, justice, and mercy in one’s heart – was replaced by ritualistic legalism, rigid hierarchy, and increasing, privileged access to God.
Into such ritualistic legalism came Jesus of Nazareth, like judges and prophets before him, to lead God’s people back to right relationship between God and neighbor by loving others as God loves us and to serving as ambassadors of God’s love here in the world. But there is something new with Jesus, who is unlike other teachers of the law. For by what Jesus does, he offers two free gifts of grace by which alone humanity is put in right relationship with God and neighbor and able to lead, not by relying on one’s own power and works, but by relying on God’s grace in these two free gifts.
We shall return to Jesus’ two free gifts and to Christian leadership on the basis of these two free gifts shortly. For the moment, we turn to a reform movement in ancient China that, in parallel ways to ancient Israel, moves in a similar direction of affirming leadership based on care and concern for others, not primogeniture, and upon loving others beyond those of one’s own group. This reform movement over 1000 years will give rise to what modern Western scholars have labeled “Confucianism” (the English term that translates the Chinese term “Ru”).[14]
Ancient China and Reform of Leadership Determined by Primogeniture: To understand Ru (Confucian) teachings, we need first an understanding of Chinese “family-ism”, the glue that holds all of Chinese society together. The Chinese family has always been ordered by xiao, sometimes translated as “filial piety”, but better translated as “rightly ordered family-clan affection.” When a person is born into a Chinese family, he or she is born into a vast array of relationships ordered in accordance with one principle: in each relationship, one person (the older or the male or both) is in the upper (superior) role and the other person is in the lower (inferior) role. The person in the upper role has responsibility to provide food, clothing, shelter, and education to the person in the lower role. The person in the lower role has responsibility to be obedient, loyal, and grateful in response to receiving what the person in the upper role has provided. In every interaction, given that particular circumstance, each person must make careful discernment of and take action in accordance with one of the two roles. For over five millennia, learning role discernment and appropriate action accordingly has been the most important learning of any child.
There are five paradigmatic interactions between persons in these two roles:

  1. Parents (upper role) and children (lower role);
  2. Husband (upper role) and wife (lower role);
  3. Older brother (upper role) and younger brother (lower role);
  4. A friend who is older or male (upper role) and a friend who is younger or female (lower role); and
  5. The leader, like a parent (upper role) and the people, like children (lower role).

Today, leaders of China, like parents, have responsibility to provide food, clothing, shelter and education for 1.4 billion people and the people who receive these provisions are to be obedient, loyal, and grateful in return.
The above-described family-ism is at the core of Ru, but Chinese family-ism existed long before Kongzi (Confucius) (551-479) walked the earth. What Kongzi brought to this tradition of family-ism was increased focus on moral innovative changes that began with the founding of the Zhou dynasty (circa 1025 BCE), roughly the time of God’s call to Abraham.
Zhou innovative changes moved away from leadership based family-ism and primogeniture towards leadership based on moral character. The first of these Zhou innovative changes argued for the right to lead the people based not on bloodline, but on cultivating “illustrious de (a power that can accrue through beneficial acts on behalf of others).” The second Zhou innovative change inverted the hierarchical family order by allowing a teacher in the role of minister-advisor to serve in the upper role giving instruction to the political leader at the center of power in the lower role. A third Zhou innovative change involved extending care and concern for others beyond one’s own family. These three innovative changes of the Zhou that affirm moral character as the basis of leadership, not on primogeniture, are the distinguishing characteristics of the Ru tradition, not family-ism. We now detail each of these three Zhou innovative changes.
As to the first innovative change, namely, leadership based on moral character not bloodline, towards the end of the 12th century BCE, the Zhou Ji clan waged battle against the last degenerate ruler of the Shang Zu clan and won. The Zhou Ji clan claimed the victory was the victory of Tian (Heaven), which –having seen the plight of the people under the last oppressive Shang rulers, who were given to liquor and wasting of the people’s labors in useless wars– moved its mandate (ming) to lead from the Shang Zu clan to the Zhou Ji clan. The Zhou Ji clan had already demonstrated its care and concern for the people 1) by ordering of the people’s labors in accordance with Heaven’s seasons, 2) in restrained use of wine, 3) in provision for widows and orphans, and 4) in light use of punishment. In these benevolent acts, the Zhou Ji clan had rendered its “illustrious and bright” its de, which wafted up to Heaven as though a sweet fragrant offering. Although King Wen died in battle, his son, King Wu took victory, as Tian removed its mandate to lead from the Shang house and gave it to the Zhou house, as the records of the Zhou house carefully describe.[15]
The second innovative change, which inverts the normal family/hierarchical order by allowing a minister-advisor to take the upper role as teacher over the center of political power (in lower role), is paradigmatically portrayed in the relationship the Duke of Zhou had over King Wu’s son, King Cheng, who, at the age of eight or nine, succeeded his father as king. At the time of King Cheng’s succession, the remnant of the overthrown Shang Zu clan had initiated a counter-rebellion. The Duke of Zhou, brother to King Wu, serving as regent (minister advisor) to the young King Cheng, gave instruction to the young King Cheng as to how to quell the rebellion. The Duke of Zhou’s advising of young King Cheng in suppressing the rebellion was so decisive that some feared the Duke of Zhou was perhaps seeking to take hold of political power for himself. To these concerns expressed by the Duke of Shao, another brother in the clan, the Duke of Zhou responded as follows:

Now it rests with me, the little child Tan. I am as if floating on a great stream. I shall go and together with you, Shih, cross it. I, the little child, am just the same as when not yet in high position. Do not request me to retire, without encouragement I shall not succeed. If men who are old and of illustrious de do not condescend to help, to us of the Zhou then no singing bird will make itself heard; how much the less shall we be able to succeed…. The mandate which we have received, limitless is its beauty, but great are its difficulties…. You should brightly exert yourself to be a helpmate to the king and to the utmost carry on this great mandate. …I thereby exert myself for Heaven and the people. (Shujing [Book of Documents,” section entitled “Zhun shi”)[16]

The Duke of Zhou’s defense of his actions bears important themes for later Ru:

  1. Tian (Heaven) is transcendent/immanent order that is good, right, peaceful, harmonious, life-supporting, and provides for the people.
  2. Heaven mandates (ming) family order: first son, second son, third son, and so on.
  3. Family order is expressed in learned, prescribed rituals (li) that restrain emotion, thought, word, and deed.
  4. De is the presence of Heaven in a leader that enables him to provide for the people and all things as a good parent would.
  5. If a leader provides for the people and all things as a good parent would, he cultivates/enhances de.
  6. One studies the oral-written record of those of illustrious de in the past in order to cultivate/enhance illustrious de in oneself.
  7. Anyone of cultivated, illustrious de has responsibility to assist a leader in providing for the people as a good parent would.
  8. Although lower in rank, a person of cultivated, illustrious de, for the sake of assisting the king in his provision for the people, can serve as a teacher (in upper role) over the king (in lower role).

Emulation of the Duke of Zhou in his inversion of hierarchical order in order to give instruction to the king about how to provide for the people as a good parent would is a distinguishing mark of the Ru moral tradition. To those who serve as minister-instructors to the political center, a highly challenging role that often requires courageous critique of the political center, I have given the name “minister of the moral order.”[17]
The third innovative change of the Zhou, namely, extending care to others beyond one’s family, involves cultivation of ren (benevolence, goodness, kindness). Kongzi (Confucius) gave cultivation of ren primary focus and is remembered as China’s greatest teacher. Kongzi emphasized:

  1. One must cultivate the “interior side” (later called “the heart-mind” [xin]) of ritual as well as the “exterior side” (visible actions) of ritual.
  2. A lifetime of effort to practice putting aside self-interest for the sake of the larger whole cultivates ren.
  3. A person of ren is a true noble person (junzi), able to assist by giving instruction to those at the political center, who are responsible for providing for the people as a good parent would.
  4. Anyone able to offer a dried piece of meat, who, when shown one corner comes back with the other three, may be instructed in ren.

With these four emphases in the cultivation of ren, Kongzi inspired his students to study the record of former sage-kings, to examine inwardly their motives, to think rationally through how to apply old principles in new situations, and to take courage in assuming the role of instructor over the political center.
Importantly, Kongzi’s instruction did not involve coercion of any kind:
The Master said, “Lead the people with government regulations and keep them orderly using penal law, and sure enough, they will avoid punishment but be without a sense of shame. Lead them with de and keep them orderly with ritual, and they will develop a sense of shame and moreover, will order themselves.” (Analects 2.3)
Trusting, resting, and relying on Heaven’s way already in everything, already present in all prescribed ritual action, Kongzi did not fabricate any man-made order to impose from the top down. Seeking instead to align with Heaven’s “good, right, life-supporting, providing for the people, peaceful and harmonious” way, Kongzi taught that all that is needed to cultivate ren is 1) access to records of the moral way of ancient sage-kings,[18] 2) intelligence, 3) will to practice vigilantly, and 4) courage when one’s life is threatened. Heaven does the rest.
Over a lifetime of effort and practice, ren on the inside increasingly motivates outward, prescribed, ritual actions. Inner character expressed outwardly in appropriate, learned ritual action mattered most to Kongzi as the one effective way to restore manifestation of Heaven’s order in the world.
To summarize, in similar ways, God’s call to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants and Heaven’s call to the Zhou Ji clan, as transmitted by the Duke of Zhou, Kongzi, Mengzi, Xunzi, and their followers inspired “innovative, monotheistic, moral reform movements,” within polytheistic worship traditions already in place. These two reform movements share several elements in common. First, transcendental power was discerned as one, not many. Just as God called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to worship God alone, so also leaders of the Zhou Ji clan, especially the Duke to Zhou, Kongzi, Mengzi, Xunzi, and their followers focused on Heaven and put worship of spirits at a distance. Second, God and Heaven were discerned to be concerned with the greater welfare of the people, whom leaders were called to serve. Third, leaders called to serve the people needed the help of instructors (prophets in the case of Israel and minister-advisors in the case of China) to put aside self-interest for the sake of the people and the kingdom.
However, with the passage of time, these two 1000-year-old, monotheistic moral reform movements (roughly 1000 BCE to 0 BCE) that innovatively moved away from royal-blood primogeniture as the basis of leadership and towards moral character as the basis of leadership, devolved back into bloodline-based primogeniture, family-ism, rigid social hierarchy, and ritual legalism, for which the Jewish tradition and the Ru tradition are misunderstood and rejected by many today.
Into Jewish primogeniture, family-ism, rigid social hierarchy, and ritualistic legalism came Jesus of Nazareth, like judges and prophets before him, to lead God’s people back 1) to right relationship between God and neighbor through loving others as God loves us and 2) to serving as ambassadors of God’s love here in the world. But there is something new with Jesus, for by what Jesus does, he offers two free gifts of grace by which alone humanity is put in right relationship with God and neighbor and able to lead, not by relying on one’s own power and works, but by relying on God’s grace in these two free gifts.
In the next section, we explore some ways that receiving Jesus’ two free gifts enable Ru leaders to re-envision, reform, and revive their role as stewards of the people and to exercise their important responsibility of bringing the people’s concerns to the awareness of those working at the political center who establish and promulgate instruction/policy for every sphere of human life.

To understand how reception of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord can reform and revive Ru moral cultivation for leadership, we first present what Jesus’ two free gifts are:
The First Free Gift: Resurrection and Justification: Through Jesus Christ’s passion on the Cross, death, and resurrection, we who by God’s grace receive Him are justified, that is, put in right relationship with God:

    1. We have been declared not guilty or “not shamed”, for by His sacrifice, He has taken our sin
    2. into death once and for all, remembered no more – “it is finished” (Jn 19:30);
    3. We are liberated from slavery to sin, death, and evil as Jesus Christ’s resurrection declares victory over Satan, and

We are healed as we are taken up into new life in Jesus Christ.

The Second Free Gift: Pentecost and Sanctification: At Pentecost by God’s grace, the Father, through the Son, sent the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the second free gift, and sanctification begins whereby the salvific change that has taken place invisibly inside us begins to manifest visibly on the outside – to reveal itself through the clay of our lives: in feelings, thoughts, words, gestures, actions, buildings, institutions, and every manner of stewardship.
The Chinese call this clay, this material stuff of our lives, qi, meaning the entire range of physicality from the subtlest form of energy to giant boulders of rock. In sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit, the life-offering love of God increasingly manifests in qi, the material clay of our lives, in the way we breathe and feel, in what we say, do, build, organize, and steward.
Sanctification by the Holy Spirit in some ways is parallel in movement with what Chinese people call dao (way), which moves from inward invisibility into outward visibility. Not only this, just as Jesus Christ is both the “way” and the “word” of God, so also the Chinese term dao means both “way” and “to speak.” In Chinese discernment, dao, the true, living way of Heaven, is moving from invisibility to visibility, moving from inaudibility into greater audibility.
As has been the story around the world for the last 2,000 years, when Jesus Christ is received as Savior and Lord, inherited and precious heritages of ways of living are not destroyed, but corrected, reformed, and transfigured. The same is true for Ru leaders who receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. As Jesus Christ incarnates −gently and non-impositionally− into Ru ways of living, there is rectification, transfiguration, and fulfillment through rebirth of the human heart-mind (xin).
In Chinese discernment, manifesting (making outwardly visible) Heaven’s good, right, life-supporting, harmonious way already within one is the responsibility of the human heart-mind (xin). If Heaven’s way is not visible here in the world, the problem is with the human heart-mind. So what is the difficulty? Does the human heart-mind lack focused reflection? Is the lack of focused attention due to a lack of will? And is the lack of will due perhaps to something lacking in human nature?
Over 2500 years, Ru have pondered these questions with regard to the human heart-mind and offered every variety of answer giving rise to multiple schools within the Ru tradition. Common to all Ru schools is instruction on how to cultivate the human heart-mind, first, by pruning away self-interest for the sake of the larger whole and second, by practicing vigilantly the moral way of the ancient sage-kings, making the old way new in today’s world. Study, effort, practice, study, effort, practice. No special divine assistance here.
But what if there were divine assistance? What if Jesus Christ takes the lack of focused reflection, the lack of will, the burden of choices one never wanted to make, the overwhelming grief over what has been lost through one’s choices, the continuing agony that one did not do better for one’s family, for one’s friends, for one’s community, for one’s people, although Heaven knows how much one tried? What if Jesus Christ takes all this fallenness into death upon the Cross, and it is remembered no more? The first free gift.
A new heart shall I give you, and will put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh, and give you a new heart of flesh. And I shall put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes (Ezek. 36:26-27).
And what if God the Father, through the Son, Jesus Christ, sends the Holy Spirit to strengthen and to hold steady the human heart-mind made new in Jesus Christ? With the Holy Spirit aligning human heart-minds with the heart-mind of Christ, Ru ways of living are corrected, reformed, and transfigured in Jesus Christ. The second free gift.
Romans 12: 1-21 (NIV) describes precisely how by God’s grace the two free gifts of Jesus Christ correct, reform, and transfigure the whole of human life:

12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is –his good, pleasing and perfect will. 3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. 9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Generations of authentic, ecclesial community sorting through former ways of living –saying “yes” to this and “no” to that− gradually incarnate Jesus Christ in inherited ways of living being ever corrected, reformed, and transfigured by the Holy Spirit.
In this Holy Spirit-led transfiguring process, two areas of Ru leadership need particular attention: earning and spending.
As to the first, in all regions where Ru learning and practice have gained sway, there is a pervading message that one can and should “earn” one’s way to merited positions of power and responsibility. By contrast Luke 15, with its three parables, affirms that God’s love and salvation cannot be earned nor merited but are simply given by God’s grace alone.
Relatedly, how does one “spend” God’s graciously given love and salvation? Here, Luke 16 has important instruction: with gratitude in our hearts toward God for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ (which we have not merited), we are to offer compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to others, again without regard to merit.
As Christian love transfigures Ru leadership, those who lead in an upper role walk more humbly with those in lower role for whom they are responsible to provide food, clothing, shelter, and education. They do so by listening and responding to those whom they serve, taking others’ interests to heart, rather than imposing policies merely from the top-down. Reformed in Jesus Christ, Ru leadership is less vertical and far more horizontal as leaders share responsibilities rather than allowing one person to dominate from the top down. Instead, from the bottom up, encouraging harmonious offering of gifts, talents, and wisdom that God has given His people brings out their best and their grateful, responsible stewardship of others. Love extends beyond the natal family to all members of one family in Jesus Christ.
Importantly, receiving the two free gifts of Jesus Christ enables Ru leaders to rely on God’s grace as they re-envision, reform, and revive the minister-advisor role as stewards of the people and to exercise their important responsibility of bringing the people’s concerns to the awareness of those working at the political center who establish and promulgate policy for every domain of life. Prior to receiving Jesus as Savior and Lord, Ru leaders rely on the own vigilant study, cultivated will, practiced courage, and cumulative ren as they face possible demotion, exile, even death when, for the sake of the people, they dare to give wise counsel (in upper role) to those of political power (in lower role).
Receiving and resting in the two free gifts of Jesus Christ, Ru “minister-advisors of the moral order” no longer depend solely on themselves to cultivate moral character. Receivers of Jesus Christ not only have ancient sage-kings and ministers as models, they have Jesus Christ, who is the original servant leader (Eph. 2) in whom all servant-leaders by the Holy Spirit live, move, and have their being. Moreover, it is not mere contentment in good times or bad that characterizes a Christian “minister-advisor of the moral order” but overflowing gratitude for what God has done and continues to do to enable each and every person to be the person God intends her/him to be.
Whereas Kongzi (Confucius) was innovative in his seeking frugality and selflessness in the practice of ritual, which for him mirrored Heaven’s way, Christian “minister-advisors of the moral order” go further: by the Holy Spirit they abound in compassion and mercy, seek justice and the release of captives. Whereas the masses of people have depended on Ru leaders to speak on their behalf, they also have despised these same leaders who, having entered the circle of self-centered political power, often turned from the people and even against the people in pursuit of profit. By contrast, Christian “minister-advisors of the moral order,” alive in Jesus Christ, surrender pride, arrogance, merit, prestige as they partake of their Savior’s “wounded healing,” steer away from primogeniture, rigid hierarchy, legalism, and ritualism, and are beloved, cherished, and remembered for their deep sacrifices on behalf of others, just as He.


[1]This presentation weaves together in significantly new ways several themes from my earlier writing; please see: Diane B. Obenchain, “Revelations of the Dragon: Observations on Christianity and Ru (Confucianism) in China Today”, the Henry Neumann Lecture presented at Princeton Theological Seminary on April 14, 1999 and published in The Princeton Seminary Bulletin, July 2000;
—–“Jewish and Ru Moral Community: Compatibilities and Contributions to the Modern Era,” Edition Chōra: Verlag Fur Philosophie und Kulturwissenschaften (Series for Asiatic and Comparative Philosophy), edited by Gűnter Wohlfart and Rolf Elberfeld (Cologne, Germany: Spring 2002);
—–“Youtaijiao – Jidujiao shengyue shehui yu rujia shehui: yu tian tong gong” (“Judeo-Christian Covenant Community and Ru [Confucian] Community: Co-partnership with Heaven”), trans. by Shin Yun, in Jidujiao Wenhua Yanjiu (Christian Culture Studies), August 2003;
—–“Reformed Perspectives on Christian Faith in a Multi-Religious World: Jesus Christ as Salt, Light, and Yeast for Reform”, for international conference on “Reformed Mission in an Age of World Christianity”, June 15-17, 2010 in conjunction with the Uniting General Conference (UGC), an assembly held Friday, June 18–27, 2010 to unite the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Reformed Ecumenical Council into one ecclesiastical body, at Calvin College;
—–Reverend Dr. W. Donald McClure Endowed Lectures (3) and Chapel Service, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Sept. 28-29, 2009: Lecture #1 – What is the Problem with “Religion”? Lecture #2 – Why is “Religion” Especially Suspect in China? Lecture #3 – Who is a “Christian Minister of the Moral Order”? Chapel Service – Chinese Calvinism Today: Partners in Prayer”;
—–“If he really loved her, he would not have worried about the distance (Analects 9:30),” Guest Speaker at the Creative Arts Program Seminar “Eye on the World: Changing Landscapes,” at the National University of Singapore and the Gifted Education Unit, Ministry of Education, May 26-30, 1992;
—–“Ministers of the Moral Order: Innovations of the Early Chou [Zhou] Kings, the Duke of Chou [Zhou], Chongni [Zhongni] and Ju [Ru]”, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, 1984.
[2] See Wilfred C. Smith, The Meaning and End of Religion (NY: Macmillan, 1963; Fortress Press edition, 1991), primarily Ch. 2. This section is based on Smith, with updates from my own research.
[3] Diane B. Obenchain, —–“Ministers of the Moral Order: Innovations of the Early Chou [Zhou] Kings, the Duke of Chou [Zhou], Chongni [Zhongni] and Ju [Ru]”, op. cit.
[4] Samuel Huntington’s much criticized The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon & Schuster, 2011 edition) is a convenient example.
[5] E. Stanley Jones, Christ of the India Road (Abingdon Press, 1915).
[6] Isaiah 42:3
[7] Henry Nouwen, The Wounded Healer (New York: Doubleday Books, 1972).
[8] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, for example.
[9] Karl Marx, for example.
[10] This overview follows but substantially expands upon that of Frank Whaling (ed.), Theory and Method in Religious Studies: Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Religion, (Walter de Gruyter, 1984), Vol.1.
[11] Many scholars have compared ancient Israel and ancient China 1100-100 BCE. For a contemporary study, see Galia Patt-Shamir, To Broaden the Way: A Confucian-Jewish Dialogue (Studies in Comparative Philosophy and Religion, Lexington Books, 2006).
[12] Micah 6:8.
[13] David Novak, Covenantal Rights: A Study in Jewish Political Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).
[14] Obenchain, op. cit. The Chinese term ru (meaning “weak”) refers to well-versed scholars of the “Five Classics” in contrast with those of military expertise and prowess.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Shuching (Book of Documents). Translated by Bernard Karlgren in reprint of Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 22 (1950), 16, 18, 22, pp, 59-62, cited in Obenchain, op. cit., p. 92.
[17] Ibid.
[18] Since the Han dynasty (circa 200 BCE-200 CE), record of the moral way of ancient sage-kings is called the “Five Classics” (wu jing), consisting of 1) leaders’ pronouncements (Shu), 2) court poems (Shi), 3) codes of prescribed rituals (Li), 4) annals of noteworthy political events (Chunqiu), and 5) manuals for divining Heaven’s way (Yi).

* This paper was presented at the 2015 Forum of the Asian Society of Missiologists in Thailand. It is also published in the compendium of the same Forum.

Dr. Diane B. Obenchain is Professor of Religion and Director of the China Initiative in the School of Intercultural Studies (SIS) at Fuller Theological Seminary. A comparative historian of religion (PhD, Harvard University), her work has four foci: 1) Christian engagement with people of other faith, 2) East and Southeast Asian traditions of faith, with a focus on the Ru (Confucian) heritage, 3) the global, interactive history of faith from the Neolithic period to the present, and 4) cross-disciplinary methods in the study of faith and worship Her current work includes four book projects 1) Confucian Confusion: What’s in a Name?, 2) For China: Comparative Essays on Moral Leadership and Individual Responsibility, 3) Rethinking Mission, and 4) The Garden of a Spoonful of Water: Beloved Terrain of Emperors, Foreign Missions, Yenching University (Christian), Peking University , and China’s “Silicon Valley” Today.


Recent works have highlighted the fact that in spite the good and noble intentions, much of “foreign aid” including (and perhaps also mainly) those in missions have contributed to worse situations, particularly in the perpetuation of paternalism (for donors) and dependency (for beneficiaries) wherever such relationships occur (Schwartz 2007; Corbett & Fikkert 2009; cf. Everist 1989). In the public square, foreign aid has corrupted governments, and enriched and empowered dictators, too (Easterly 2006; Moyo 2009; Wrong 2009)!
This article focuses on how this sad state of mission and church relationships can be turned into effective partnerships, particularly in advancing the cause of “Christward movements” (CMs) in the 10/40 Window and beyond. I share from my experiences both as receiver and/or partner, mainly as a Filipino mission leader in relation to various non-Filipino missions, as well as a giver, mainly as an ethnic Chinese church leader in Southeast Asia and the president of a global school with extension programs in Southeast Asia, Australia & the USA.

Partnerships are formed whenever two or more parties decide to work together in projects that range from micro to mega. It often starts with friendship and networking between people who share a common cause, and in our case, cross-cultural missions and national evangelization. These can eventually develop into formal relationships which usually seek to fulfill specific and time-bound goals for the benefit of the parties involved.
But mission-church partnerships have been problematic for most of mission history. A classic case may be the unintended result of the sacrificial ministry of the three widows of the five missionaries who were martyred by the Waorani Indians in Ecuador in 1955. When the son of the pilot Nate Saint visited in 1995 for the burial of his mother there, he discovered that the Waorani church elders were waiting for American resources to supply their needs, even for the seeds for their farms and the repair of their church facilities. Stephen Saint returned and helped them to set up livelihood training and businesses to enable them to sustain and develop their own lives as a people (Saint 2007).
The former head of India Missions Association (IMA), K. Rajendran has called for “the Missiology of Self-Dignity” as a solution to the dependency that prevails in Indian missions, which I observe to be characteristic of many mission fields. He notes accurately, which is worth quoting in full:

Many Indian and the 2/3rd world missions have somewhat come to a place of self-governance. In terms of self-propagation and self-funding there are many struggles. Propagation and funding are connected to each other in some ways.
Propagation is to do with the methodology used. The methodology of the proclamation is too traditional and too old in many ways. There is also a theological tint to it as the propagation is most often connected to “full-time,” “called,” theological degree holding professionals and “cross-cultural workers.” Thus, anything beyond this boundary, people are not able to think. The paradigm of global people at our footsteps and the Gospel to all people through the missional Christians[1] does not yet make sense to the many church going Christians.
The other theological tint is that the gospel is (sic) only to the poor. Because of this tint, we do not have competent people who will reach out to all peoples other than the poor and the down-trodden. As many Christians come from the poor or illiterate background, they tend to reach the same. Therefore the rich and the influential do not come to Christ. Even if they come to Christ they are only seen as the “senders” by contributing funds to the “full-time” workers to the “unreached” places. Very seldom they are asked to be the missionaries among their own class. Thus the church missed out the idea of every follower of Christ being a missionary – missional Christians.
Thus, whenever there is a need for funding the churches do not seem to have the source as many in the church are from the poor. Thus all appeal is to reach the poor and the marginalized. In the longer run, the Indian Christian workers continue to appeal for funds from the Western or the economically developed nations. Many of these friends contribute liberally but more for the uplifting of the poor than to bring the Gospel to them. Also with funding comes many stipulation of how to spend the funds including the foreign methodology and foreign face of Christianity. Some Christian work has used this “opportunity” to give exaggerated reports and misuse of funds and not able to raise local funding and leadership.
Any conference anywhere in India or abroad it becomes impossible to gather the right kind of people because of the funding issues. Every gathering needs travel subsidy and thus at times we get leaders who are not supposed to be there and also a tendency of man pleasing for the subsequent funding for the work in India. Many times it is done at the cost of dignity.
The theological issue here again is that fund generation through businesses are silently not welcomed in “the ministry.” Often, thus the ministries tend to be dependent in external funding, more so from the West, Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, America and so on. The meaning of all partnership boils down to how much fund could be extracted from the relationship. In the long run it breeds guilt ridden paternalistic and/or controlling relationships. Dignity is out of the windows. In many global conferences it is openly announced funds for the “sponsored” candidates or for the “poor brethren.” Some Indians cringe in this situation and some are happy to perpetuate the “poor brothers” syndrome. This has to change.
Therefore IMA has been advocating all mission organizations to become self-reliant with fund generations from their area or through businesses etc. It is heart warming to see members like the Great Commission Movement Trust in Gujarat, which encourages all people to have jobs/businesses/vocation even if he is a fulltime pastor. Their philosophy is that a vocation not only makes a person financially independent, gives dignity but also makes him/her become an acceptable member of a society (2010:22-24).

I agree with these analytical views and recommendations. I proceed to highlight the four measures to advance effective and strategic mission partnerships with churches: commonality of strategy, friendship of equals, empowerment of locals, and servanthood of expatriates.

Above all, effective partnerships must start only with those who share the same mission strategy, and in the first few years be very strict about welcoming new partners. To overcome all the weaknesses mentioned above and to be most effective in reaching the entire peoples and communities that will finally put “closure” to fulfilling the Great Commission, I highly recommend “CHRISTWARD MOVEMENTS” (CMs) as the best common mission strategy.
There are basically two kinds of CMs. The first are those who plant churches with religious structures separate from the community. These prefer to be called “Church Planting Movements” (CPM) or “House Church Movements” (HCM) and are classified mainly as C-4 in the C-1 to C-6 spectrum (cf. Travis 1998). The other is C-5 and has been called “Insider Movements” (IM) or “Disciple Multiplication Movements” (DMM). This second type avoids extraction evangelism and disciples converts informally in house church networks (HCNs) in their socio-religious contexts. It spreads vertically and horizontally seeking to transform religious structures from within (cf. Talman & Travis 2015). In Asia, most CMs in China, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam tend to be of the first kind (C-4), while those in Japan, Pakistan, Myanmar and Thailand to be of the second (C-5). India and Bangladesh have a mix of both, though the largest ones are C-5 (cf. Lim 2016).
CMs are best seen in contrast to the “extraction evangelism” of the “imperial” approach (or “missions by wealth and power),” which has been the predominant “top-down” paradigm of Christendom missions. Instead CMs use the “friendship (or relational) evangelism” of the “incarnational” approach (or “missions by love and good works”). The best “bottom up” practices are the integration of CPM (most effectively through house church networks) (cf. Simson 2001; Zdero 2004; Lim 2010, 2016), with critical or radical contextualization of the Gospel message (cf. Richardson 1981; Lim 2003, 2010) and church forms (cf. Kraft 1979, 2005; Lim 2010a; Richard 1999; Hoefer 2001), as well as community development (Lim 1992:20) through lay (or tentmaker) missionaries, especially business people and social entrepreneurs (Bornstein 2003; Yamamori & Eldred 2003).
Although there was some hesitation in a plenary session at Tokyo 2010, CM was fully endorsed in the concluding sermon by David Cho, the founder of Asia Missions Association (AMA) and the Third World Missions Association (which co-hosted Tokyo 2010), at the 10th AMA Triennial Convention held in Jakarta last November 3-7, 2010. CM, specifically IM, was also recognized in the Cape Town Commitment of the Third Lausanne International Conference held in October 2010. In the past two decades, CM has been gradually accepted by Western and Filipino missions, and lately by a few Korean missions.
There are many success stories of CM over the years especially through the house church movements in China and India. Mainstream missions who have done CM in the 10/40 Window have gradually been recognized. This type of missions has been done among Muslims (Garrison 2005; Travis 2000, 2006), Hindus (Richard 1999; Hoefer 2001), and Buddhists (Deng 2005; Garrison 2004; Wesley 2004; Carlton 2000).
Given CM’s unique and fruitful missiological understanding and missionary approach, sharing a common mission strategy becomes a very important requirement. Having a commonly-owned vision, defined objectives and a common focus or purpose are clearly listed among the “key principles” that make for effective collaborative partnerships (Butler 2006). Having partners who do not share the same strategy will delay, hinder and often also detract the group from pursuing the mission and goal of the partnership. May there be a CM partnership for every unreached people and community in the next few years.

Secondly, the very nature of CM requires that all partners accept each other and relate to each other as friends and equals, even in the patron-client relational culture that prevails in most Asian contexts. This transformational relationship prevents the patron from becoming patronizing. From the start, the expatriate should avoid the patron role, but should rather build on local assets or resources, so as not to create dependency. In CM, upon entering a community, the outsider models simple lifestyle by living dependently on the hospitality of the local people, specifically a “person of peace” (cf. Luke 10:4-8). Friendship, mutuality and community are established from the beginning.
As in all partnerships, and more importantly for CM, there must be trust, mutuality, understanding, compassion, and sometimes forgiveness. And as in all human relations, especially intimate ones, this is possible only through mutual listening. People want to be heard: “They want us to understand their intrinsic claims, their justice of being. They want justice from us. But we can give it to them only through love which listens… Listening love is the first step to justice in person-to-person encounters” (Paul Tillich in Ross 2010:145).
In order to make partnerships grow, more being, more living, more listening, and less talking is needed of each partner. Listening enhances the acceptance by each one of genuine involvement, a committal of oneself to the other partners in trust. This element of trust is foundational, as each partner entrusts the direction and programs of the partnership to the others. They must each respect the others’ cultural way of being and doing. They must give up control and share the responsibility. This is precisely what Bishop Azariah of India (one of the few non-Westerners at Edinburgh 1910) meant when he said in his plenary message on what was amiss in world missions in his days, and is still relevant in most missions today: “Give us friends.”[2]
Yet friendships must translate into “giving” in give-and-take relationships. “It belongs to the right of everyone whom we encounter to demand something from us” (Tillich in ibid.). This is the essence of the “I-Thou” relationship. Exchange of gifts must be done in a way that both partners practice giving and receiving in a spirit of mutual respect that enriches the relationship. This giving may be as simple as acknowledging that the other whom we encounter is a person. This minimum of giving can lead toward a maximum of self-sacrifice if required. In terms of partnership, this means responsibility. To be in a partnership means to be committed to giving within the partnership and through it (ibid.).
The situation is complicated by the reality of great disparities in material resources between partners (Funkschmidt 2002:570). What do churches in the Global South have to give to those in the Global North? In most instances, those from the Global North have not been able to name what they receive from their “partnership.” Western partners usually know what they have to give, but they “[do] not know as clearly what [they have] gone to receive. And that is where the trouble starts” (David Bosch in Spencer 2010:150).
Trouble starts in part because their partners are, as a consequence of this inequity, unsure of their commitment to authentic partnership. “It is necessary for the church in the West to demonstrate that it is ready to receive what is offered; it is also important for our partners to know of that receptiveness” (Thomas 2003:384). Put more bluntly, Amon Eddie Kasambala, a Zambian, critiqued partnership by asking, “What can one receive when one has been on the giving side for a very long time?” (Spencer 2010:150).
So, how do we do this in a world (and in the missions community) that behaves differently – in a world rife with unequal power dynamics, in a world where the powerful are heard and the powerless are not, and where the wealthy can choose to give and the poor are forced to receive? In a recent reflection about the last of the Millennium Development Goals, to “create a global partnership,” Spencer wrote that Americans need “to allow ourselves to be needy too, to see in these goals a message to us. It may mean that, contrary to dominant American impulses, we are just quiet for awhile, we listen, we don’t organize anything or do anything for ‘them.’” We just are (2010:151).[3]
Discernment is required to address the neediness of all partners. For “true mutuality,” the “fatal mistake” in relations between Global North and Global South churches…was that our partnerships have historically involved “the same kind of ‘commodities’” (Bosch in Spencer 2010:152). Reciprocity was expressed in an exchange of the same commodities that those in the Global North already had in abundance. “Genuine reciprocity can only develop where the two respective partners do not receive the same as they have given.” The purpose of partnerships is to serve the needs of each other (ibid.).
What do those from the Global North need that a partnership could provide? Most of these are intangibles: phrases like “global awareness,” “a broadening experience of the world,” “a sense of what it is to be a global,” “a window on the world,” and “an incarnational presence.” And individuals and institutions in the Global South can offer these things in abundance. Sandra McCann, an Episcopalian serving at Msalato Theological College in Tanzania, observed that “what Tanzanians have to offer is an example of Christ-like hospitality and a rich worship experience and a living example of joy and deep faith in the midst of poverty” (ibid.). Grant LeMarquand reports that students at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry (Ambridge, Pa.) return home from global experiences “realizing that they are in a missional situation here.” They have found a “new way of seeing home.” The benefits flow from “expanded horizons” (ibid.).
But Mortimer Arias, formerly the president of Seminario Biblico Latinoamericano in Costa Rica, adds the caveat that mutuality requires those in the North “to be specifically careful not to use the rest of the world . . . for the sake of their global education.” It is clear that “use” is the key word in this warning (ibid.). Indeed, without the mutual give-and-take friendship of equals, no mission partnership can endure or even exist with integrity and dignity.

Thirdly, effective mission partnerships must result in the empowerment of locals or nationals. CM’s goal is the realization of the Kingdom of God (New Testament) or Shalom (Old Testament) in particular communities and sectors of society. These transformed or redeemed communities must be indigenous: self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating and self-theologizing as they express their faith in simple ways out of their love for God by the power of the Holy Spirit. They must be contextual (= not foreign) and community-based (= owned and managed by local people).
For this to happen, priority must be given to the development of local leaders who are also empowering or transformational.[4] Partnership is “close to the biblical notion of koinonia” (Funkschmidt 2002:568). It is grounded in God’s indwelling, a message of hospitality, of mutuality of guest and host (Reissner 2001:5). In this relationship, non-residents must keep in mind that they are guests who offer the gift of enabling and empowerment. But it is the local persons and organizations who play hosts, who offer the gift of freedom and opportunity – for friendship and partnership (Spencer 2010:151). Therefore, the local people should be the senior partners whose interests and even authority and control must have preeminence, no matter the contribution each has invested into the partnership.
This is the principle by which the missions of Jesus and Paul were conducted. They always left an empowered community that was truly indigenous and contextualized in self-governing, self-propagating, self-supporting and self-theologizing. These community-based “house church networks” were not dependent on external partners and resources, and their receiving of external help on occasion, usually during calamities and persecutions, were showcases of their inter-dependence in the single Body, or better, between the branches of their Father’s business (or better, His global “family of families”)!
In our age of globalization, financial sustainability and growth is needed for the long-term development of communities and nations. So some, if not most, of the budget for CMs must be allotted for income-generation and economic development. We should join cause-oriented groups to advocate for “simple (or green) lifestyles” and “fair trading” to slow down the overpowering “consumer society” of globalization. There are many who are now working for a new economic order called “Solidarity Economy,” following the principles of Jubilee in Leviticus 25. The bottom-line for businesses must now be four-fold: not just profit, but also planet, people and prayer (financial, ecological, social and spiritual), as stated in the Lausanne Forum 2004 paper on “Business as Mission (BAM).” Many Christian development organizations, like World Vision, Compassion, TearFund, World Relief, Food for the Hungry and World Renew have been doing “Transformational Development,” which include livelihood training, micro-credit and micro-enterprise development (Myers 1999; Fikkert 2005; Corbett & Fikkert 2009:201-214) as well as fair trade.
These efforts must focus on the organization of people-owned and self-managing community organizations and social enterprises, like cooperatives, mutual insurance firms, credit unions, etc. (Lim 1992:15-18; Fikkert 2005). The wealth generated by the poor will lead to “lift” their own families, who will often move elsewhere, thereby forsaking their community. Thus we need to set up cooperatives to help keep the wealth while also generating more wealth in the local community. And the best way for any locality to gain wealth is to provide for both local food sufficiency and appropriate technologization and industrialization.
Many effective missions have also invested in the economic and social “lift” of their converts through providing basic schooling and vocational training, even up to post-graduate education. These programs eventually became Christian colleges and universities. Providing scholarships for leadership development of national movements has been empowering, too.[5] These provided the leadership, not just for the churches, but also for the communities, even for their respective nations and beyond. Moreover, since financial accountability is almost always involved, the capacity of the local financial office for the accounting of their incomes and expenses has to be ensured.
Actually CMs do not require major external funding, except for the travel expenses of the catalyst-workers, just as Jesus trained his disciples to do (cf. Luke 10:1-17).[6] Believing that the resources for God’s harvest are in the harvest-field, these bi-vocational missionaries need minimal external support. With just authentic work, study, business or even tourist visas, they can catalyze CMs wherever they go. It is possible and highly effective to simply send out such workers into the global labor market as maids, cooks, welders, seamen and other low-skilled jobs as tentmaker-missionaries, as Filipino Christians have been doing strategically since 2001. Using businesspeople as “foreign investors” for BAM may even be a much more effective way.
Yet external funding is needed for partnerships on the ground for their community/people, most especially if they work among the poor and marginalized. With simple basic community organizing skills, they can mobilize the poor communities to become self-sufficient and fast-track their economic development with bigger capitalization. This external aid enables them to gain excess income faster, not just for their communal life, but also for their capacity to contribute to relief and development challenges and to send out their own workers, who are going to be more effective to reach out to their neighbors and even cross-culturally.
For Evangelicals, a central concern for CMs is the self-theologizing aspect also: who controls the theological development of the indigenous movement? Most helpful may be Andrew Walls’ (1997; 2002) insight that it took at least a couple of centuries before the early church developed through different doctrinal conflicts what eventually became mainstream Christian Trinitarian theology. He has suggested that we must be patient to let each community reflect directly from Scriptures in their context, perhaps for at least three generations.
Walls identifies three stages in the process of transformation of biblical faith into the Greek thought-world of subsequent Western Christendom. The first missionary stage was typified by Paul as he began to adapt Jewish vocabulary and forms to Hellenistic worldview, categories and language. The second convert stage was represented by Justin Martyr who showed that Christ can inhabit the Greek world and work to transform it from within; conversion means to turn what is already there in a new direction, rather than substituting something new for something old. And the final refiguration stage was seen in Origen who grew up in the Christian faith and yet was reconciled to its pre-Christian inheritance, and was comfortable and not afraid of either.
This should give comfort and confidence most especially to indigenous peoples and those who speak minority dialects who are usually considered “poor:”: they will not need to surrender their identity, worldview and culture, to follow a foreign Jesus. They can confidently reflect on God’s word in their vernacular and let Jesus enter fully into their culture and specific sub-cultures. This is the confidence that we have in the infallible teaching authority of the Scriptures (sola Scriptura!) for our faith and its transforming power for our practice/lifestyle/culture. As Christ-believers doing CM or IM in the midst of religious and cultural pluralism, we only need to hold on to two absolutes: God and His Word that reveals His plan in the creation-fall-redemption drama in Christ. We call on all our earthly contacts and all humanity to share in this pilgrimage to obey His will for our lives, each in their cultural and religious milieu.
Hence to be truly effective, priority must be given to the native who understands the local culture and situation best. If finances are involved, they must be incorporated into the budget made consultatively with the local leadership. During and after deliberations, their preferences should be given primary consideration, their initiatives and programs encouraged and developed, and their best materials should be the ones produced and reproduced, rather than just the translation of those foreign-produced, no matter how effective they may have been used elsewhere.

And lastly, besides being aware of being guests in a partnership, expatriates or non-residents must also view themselves as servants. In most instances, those from the global North assume leadership in any relationship, just because of their superiority of position and wealth (whether in reality or in perception), often combined with their self-confident personality if not assertive demeanor, and also because of the culture of most Global South contexts where guests are given preferential treatment. This is actually a test of their maturity in practicing servant-leadership.
The issue of power distorts all the fine ideals and makes the practice of partnership difficult and demanding. It is difficult to have a truly mutual relationship when the two parties possess unequal power. But that is the reality of our world today. We know that money, resources, education, land, access to technology, ownership, and much more are unfairly and unequally distributed (Ross 2010:148).
The model of God’s incarnation is helpful here. We can let go of our pride and power, our privilege and sense of entitlement, insofar as we empty ourselves following Christ’s way depicted in Philippians 2. We seek to empty ourselves of our pride and ethnocentrism, our feelings of cultural, religious, and technological superiority, which blind and grip us all. We seek to empty ourselves of the need to initiate, control, dominate, impose, manipulate, and run ahead in partner-relationships. We seek to empty ourselves of autonomy and independence.
In cases where finances are involved, partnerships require the expatriates to share willingly and cheerfully, without strings attached, while rightly demanding contextual forms of transparency and accountability. In the New Testament koinonia denotes “partaking together in” or having a share; it stands for the privilege of participation.

“We are then, to seek first for the inward bond which holds the fellowship of Christ-followers together, which inward fellowship is then externally manifested by the life of fellowship, with its almsgiving, sharing of property and breaking of bread, which we find in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles” (Warren 1956:48).

In passages where koinonia refers to the life of the Christian community, the partnership with other Christians is made explicit in the taking of collections on behalf of the needy (Rom. 15:26; 2 Cor. 8:4; 9:13): “all are equally involved, all have committed themselves to God in trust, all have a share in common responsibility, all recognize that they belong together, that if one member suffers, they all suffer, all have a liability for each” (:52).
Bosch writes about “victim-missionaries,” who, “in contrast to exemplar-missionaries, lead people to freedom and community” (in Ross 2010:147). Could we say the same of “victim-partners”? In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul teaches about “the validity of paradox, about a God who, in spite of being all-powerful became weak and vulnerable in his Son” (ibid.). We live in a relationship with a crucified God. Do we in our involvement with Him and as His ambassadors live likewise? Koyama complained that too often Christian mission has exhibited a “crusading mind” rather than a “crucified mind” and that it suffers from a “teacher complex.” What attitudes do we exhibit when we enter into partnership? Do we adopt a crusading mind and teacher mentality, or are we disciples and partners with crucified minds, giving up our rights, manifesting the courage to be weak – living the paradox of a crucified, almighty God? Victim-missionaries are not powerful and successful, nor are victim-partners. In this asymmetrical and uneven world, victim-partners will not create what has been described as “a relationship of controlling benefactors to irritated recipients of charity,” in which recipients end up experiencing a complex mix of gratitude and resentment at the same time (ibid.).
These insights about vulnerability and “victim-missionaries/partners” remind us to adopt an attitude of humility and of considering others better than ourselves (Phil.2:3-4). Such sensitivity is required of the strong, so they may empower the weak. A related issue here is what the partners are seeking to share. Money, resources, education, land, technology, ownership, and power may be unfairly distributed and may lead to distorted exchanges. But as seen above, what else are we seeking to share? Stories, traditions, ancient knowledge and customs, inheritances, joy, kindness, goodness, beauty, sustainability, difference – these too are to be shared and can restore a balance where there may be uneven power dynamics (ibid.).
Moreover, this practice of humility, vulnerability, generosity and servant-leadership can serve as good modeling for the locals/nationals, too, and thus promote and perpetuate the way of Christ. Such incarnational and cruciform pattern of sharing sacrificially is the way to fill up the gaps, weaknesses, struggles and sufferings in the body of Christ – in a truly inter-dependent mutuality of partaking in each other’s spiritual and material gifts.

Finances have been a dominant challenge to authentic mutuality, leading to problematic partnerships where economic resources are disparate. This is not going to change, even if much of the Global North is struggling financially since 2008, so the task is to work through financial inequities in a manner that creates and sustains mutual and authentic partnerships (Spencer 2010:153). As shown above, the key to this is an analysis of power, for it is from a position of power that wealthier individuals and institutions, religious and secular, have historically abused relationships and misused partnerships.
This article has shown that mission-church partnerships can occur only if the parties involved work on the four measures: commonality of vision, friendship of equals, empowerment of locals, and servanthood of expatriates. Such arrangements assume the sincerity of all partners to do effective mission together, and the willingness of each to plan, budget and discuss all matters openly and honestly. Each is free to accept or not accept the terms of any agreement within the partnership. In this process of shared discernment, the ultimate decisions about programs and budgets belong to each partner, yet each must be committed to listen to and learn from one another as they consider what are needed to fulfill their mission (ibid.).
How long should partnerships be sustained? For as long as necessary, that is, until the mission has been achieved to the satisfaction of the partners. It is best to set time limits from the start, while leaving the dates flexible and allowing for renewals or extensions. Time limits free each partner from the unsatisfactory phenomenon of just letting the partnership quietly die. Rather, timetables encourage evaluation, and as critical an exercise as this may be for any specific activity, it needs to be undertaken for the relationship as well. With this periodic mutual discernment process, the partners may reach shared decisions about the future. Whether a partnership is renewed or ended, or even dissolved earlier than anticipated, partners should remain friends, seek possibilities to collaborate on other programs/projects and find opportunities to celebrate the relationship (Butler 2006). The quest for partnerships that result in effective missions deserves constant celebration.

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[1]“Missional Christians are believers in Christ who believe that the work of the missions is not just for fulltime Christian workers but for every believer who follows Christ. Thus each committed believer feels and works as a missionary in any area of work that God has kept them as teachers, doctors, artists etc” (Rajendran 2010:23).
[2] Bishop Azariah spoke on the theme, ‘Native Church and Foreign Mission,’ saying, “I do not plead for returning calls, handshakes, chairs, dinners and teas as such. I do on the other hand plead for all of them and more if they can be expressions of a friendly feeling, if these or anything else can be the outward proofs of a real willingness on the part of the foreign missionary to show that he is in the midst of the people to be to them not a lord and master but a brother and a friend…..We ask for love. Give us friends.”
[3] Fung rightly cautions that this mentality can be Asian, too, “I am concerned that we as Asians may be repeating the same mistake that our Western brethren might have committed in the past – that is, to equate economic and political power with advances in the spreading of the gospel. We continue to reinforce the notion that the spreading of the gospel is always from the powerful to the powerless, the haves to the have-nots. There is a sense of Asian triumphalism that makes me nervous” (2010:4).
[4] To be transformational, the whole community and not just their leaders must be directly involved in the planning process. Input and decisions must come from all the stakeholders rather than top-down leadership-determined outcomes. We may start with a leadership-initiated partnership, but the partners should explicitly create structures, committees, votes and other opportunities to engage their whole constituencies (cf. Scheffler 2008:261-270). Hence short-term partnerships between small organizations involving “just enough” funding may be most efficient and effective.
[5] My school, the Asian School of Development and Cross-cultural Studies (ASDECS) seeks to fast-track this leadership development process through offering secular graduate degree programs (with biblical theology and spirituality integrated in the courses) for national leaders in Asia and beyond.
[6] Fung rightly observes, “Over-giving and over-receiving often cripple the work of God. A pastor from China once said to me, ‘We do not need money from the West. Money will divide the church in China’” (2010:2). The corrupting influence of money (esp. of having more than enough) is human and global (cross-cultural).

Dr. David S. Lim is the Executive Director of China Ministries International-Philippines, that recruits Filipino missionaries for China. He serves as a key member of the Facilitation Team that seeks to mobilize and train 200,000 Filipino missionaries to reach the unreached peoples of the world. He had previously served as Academic Dean at Asian Theological Seminary(Philippines) and Oxford Centre for Mission Studies(U.K.), and now serves as President of two schools: Asian School for Development and Cross-Cultural Studies (ASDECS) and Asian Center for English Studies(ACES). His Ph.D in the New Testaments was earned from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, U.S.A.


In missions, relationship building should be our passion. Missionaries should make developing relationships a priority, because ministries are not only about church growth, constructing facilities (schools, seminaries, churches, etc.), creating field projects and programs and others, but also about the daily build up of relationships with people.
Relationship building takes time and most of it happens when we visit homes, understand their culture, dine with the locales and join them in their village meetings. We usually become closer when we sit accross each other, and enjoy God’s grace and fellowship. Criticisms and comparisons are big hindrances in building up closer alliance. Listening is also important in Relationship building. How many times did our Lord Jesus Christ listened to His disciples, to those seeking healing and forgiveness? Our Savior always lent a listening ear to others and built His relationships within the three years of His life here on earth.
We hope that for our 57th issue, our readers will learn about relationship building. We have prepared four articles about different relationships. We pray that you will all learn from them as much as we did.
First is Dr. David Lim’s “Strategic Missions Partnership with Churches for Christward Movements.”. His article focuses on how the sad state of relationships between church and missions can be turned into effective partnerships. He shared his experiences with our readers both as a recipent and a giver in the Philippines. Second is “Christian Transformation of Ru (Confucian) Leadership:A Historical and Comparative Analysis” by Dr. Diane B. Obenchain. This paper asks the question: What does Jesus Christ give to Ru (Confucian) leaders that enables these leaders to re-envision, reform and revive their role as stewards of the Chinese people and to exercise their important responsibility of bringing the people’s concerns to the awareness of those working at the political center who establish and promulgate instruction/policy for every sphere of human life? To find the answer, read on!
Dr. Reid Kisling gave us a case study on the Haitian church’s partnership with American Church to enhance understanding of mission partnership in his paper, “Partnership: A Case Study of How a Haitian Church Impacted a U.S. Church’s Understanding of Missions.” While Dr. Yong Cho wrote about NGO work in relationship with churches, missionaries, government and private corporations in his work, “The Need and Possibility of a Missional NGO.” Lastly, Dr. Lim gave us a meaningful book review. Be sure to check it out so like him we can enjoy a good read!