“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 DEMANDS FOR HOLISTIC CHANGES
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.
PRESENT SITUATION DEMANDS TRANSFORMATIONAL MISSION
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.
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP CAN PRODUCE SYNERGY
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.