I almost let the Gospel Progress website go by the wayside. There’s not much demand for it. Most missionaries and missions trainers already have too much to do, yours truly included. And what difference would one little website make in the big scheme of things?
But didn’t the Lord say that where one or two are gathered, he is there in their midst? The context? Saving a soul.
And doesn’t the lack of demand point up the need for more input on the subject?
Then there is the near absence in our universities of missions emphasis and training. And what there is pushes short-term missions.
The voice for an ongoing need for sustainable missions has been lost.
What are sustainable missions? Those efforts begun with the view to carrying the work forward with local resources. Efforts which begin with local resources. Because when they don’t, that transition is rocky and often fraught with insurmountable difficulties.
God asked Moses what he had in his hand. Jesus asked the disciples to see what food items were available. Paul called Timothy back to the all-sufficiency of Scripture.
Just there is where we start with sustainable missions.
- Scripture. To people who have whined (at least, it sounds like whining to my ears) that they need full-time preachers and church buildings (and money for it all!), I send them to the Bible. There’s all you need to do a good work, 2 Tim 3.16-17. The Bible, in and of itself, is education, training, transformation, and content of communication.
- People. Not full-time necessarily, but people willing to pray and work, to cry and rejoice in the harvest. Investing in people is where God produces the sustainability, 2 Tim 2.2. After Scripture, people are the raw materials, the building blocks of the kingdom. “You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1 Pet 2.5 CEB.
- Space. The Jerusalem temple as a meeting place was not sustainable. When they left the capital, people went to homes for their meetings, Rom 16. Or maybe the bank of a river. This ain’t rocket science. Nor is it a McDonald’s strategy, as one missionary suggested to me: “Location, location, location.” Actually, the requirements needed for a sustainable work are few. When we make a longer list, we get ourselves into trouble.
- Time. A challenge, maybe greater than space, now that people are absorbed in Facebook, Whatsapp, and selfies. But the converted will set aside their belly-button gazing to devote themselves to the task of God. “Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time” Col 4.5 HCSB. Realizing that all of life is to be lived for God and for serving others mitigates the time crunch to a degree. But time for evangelism, for studies, for meetings is a precious commodity.
In the end, sustainability comes down to the simplicity of biblical faith and service. Modern efforts often pile on extras as if they were necessities, and these are killing many works that would otherwise be wonderful long-term efforts.
But few are saying that less is more.
Hence, Gospel Progress is back online.