Seeing Inside the Missions Movement

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One of the huge benefits of reading missionary biographies is that we get to see how God has worked--and is working--around the world. We are able to watch as God uses men and women to transform lives and show His love. We get to wrestle with the difficulty of contextualizing and translating messages. We witness the courage and sacrifice of believers who lay down their lives for their faith and their friends. Our views of what "church" looks like are challenged by vibrant communities of believers who worship God in ways unfamiliar to us. The pressures and assumptions of culture smash against the desire to see people encounter Christ. Missionary biographies--which are included in almost every Sonlight Core--are great because they give us a glimpse of just how big our God is.

A couple days ago my family got to talking about the "Insider Movement" that continues to be a hot topic within the world of missions. I found a brief overview of what is wrong with these ideas dating back to 2006. For the other side, check out the article written earlier this year about the Insider Movement and Discipling the Nations.

I'm not a fan of "missionary dating," but I've heard enough stories from pastors who met Jesus because they were trying to be closer to a girl to think God can't work in pretty bizarre circumstances. I've read enough missionary biographies of women whom God used to transform whole villages to believe that God can't use women to lead. And I wonder: Is the Insider Movement another "crazy" way God is transforming lives?

I am so grateful that I get to be part of a company--and curriculum--that is so committed to sharing the Good News of Christ with those who have never heard...

As you read about how God has worked through missionaries of the past, what are your thoughts on modern missionary efforts?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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  1. I'm so grateful to Sonlight for including all the missionary biographies. I had every intention of reading some on our own this summer, but didn't. I really need the accountability. Also, thanks for the link to the critique of the insider movement. I have to say I agree with their critique. It's not so simple, though when you live in an Islamic country. I'm not a big fan of contextualization, but can see how a certain degree of it may be necessary when the people you're evangelizing have no clue about the connotation or nuances of many of the words and stories in the Bible.

    We believe the church doesn't have to look like a "western" church, but just include elders, teach the Bible, gather regularly for worship, take communion, baptize believers. We are anti-emergent and it sounds like the insider movement is kind of an international version of the emergent church movement. I'd like to learn more about this. The missionaries from our church are in China, Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico, and the US. They all plant churches, some underground, but all are churches according to what we think is the biblical definition. We also have missionary friends in an Islamic country. It will be interesting to see what happens with their ministry. They are still in language school, but there officially in some kind of humanitarian effort. It's wonderful to meet needs, but the social gospel must not replace the gospel of Christ in missions. We're praying they will have opportunities to share Christ, or the people they help will just go to hell on a full stomach, pardon the expression.

    Thanks again for Sonlight's committment to missions! I can see how these books in conjunction with the Word of God are changing our hearts and priorities. Praying for Christ's church around the world gives us a vested interest, so to speak, and we're more mindful of our brothers and sisters facing persecution and in need of our prayers. Ultimately this increased awareness of God's work around the world leads us to greater praise and worship of the Lord. And that's a very good thing.


  2. I admit, I've got a soft spot for the way that Sonlight draws the concept of missions into each Core; it was through a gradual immersion via SL that God was able to water the seeds that eventually led to my family saying "Yes!" to a move to SE Asia. ((grin))

    As for the modern missions movement, well ... I think it leaves much to be desired. I can't tell you how frustrating I find much of "missions culture." The concept of sending agencies who "assign" where families will go, the cut that agencies get out of m's monthly support, the countries that seem to have a very top-heavy missionary-to-tribe ratio, the folks who drop the idea of spreading the gospel altogether and simply become doers of good works in the name of humanitarian efforts ...

    As you've said, God can work through anything. But often I wonder if He is working IN SPITE OF rather than THROUGH us.

    I don't claim to have all the answers. I don't even claim to have *any* answers. But I do claim to know Jesus, and I want to share Him with others. I want to see people in Nepal set free from the tyranny of a million Hindu gods. I want to see Nepalis leading one another to Christ. And I want to see women and children treated with the love and respect that Christ teaches instead of with the contempt that pervades much of Hindu caste system.

    I believe that the only way to do that is to cast off the shackles of what you have known and truly become a new creation in Christ. There is no half way. There is only one way--THE Way.

  3. I think the insider movements are exciting. New followers of Jesus are having opportunities to talk with people that many missionaries won't. I understand the concerns, but I think it's just like our God to be creative about how His ultimate purpose will unfold.

    In regards to Sonlight, we are just getting ready to start our second year. One of the things I love best about it is that it's preparing my children to consider that they may be called to serve God as missionaries. When I was growing up, I heard about missionaries when we prayed for them in church, but I thought only a select few were called and those few were extra-special-super Christians who had it all together. I love it that my kids are hearing real stories about real people who gave their imperfect lives to serve so maybe they'll be extra sensitive to hearing God's call in their own lives. That's my prayer anyway and I am grateful that it's important to Sonlight, too.

  4. I haven't followed the insider movement debate for the past couple of years, but I generally think it's a positive thing. It treads some dangerous ground, but so did Jesus. It's not terribly applicable to my setting here in Mongolia, but I applaud those who are looking for new ways to take the good news about Jesus to places it hasn't been taken. On the subject of missions being integrated into Sonlight curriculum, I applaud it. Sometimes, I think my son doesn't even know he's an MK, but he sure gets excited about reading missions stories and praying for and sending money to other parts of the world!

  5. ...I had great things to say to all of you... and then the internet ate my comment.

    Rather than try to recreate all that, please allow me just to say, "Thank you, all, for sharing!" So much good stuff here. I appreciate it!