The Anti-Mission Society Of The United Methodist Church
"Official" Hindrances to Mission by Frank Decker
At an evangelism training conference, I had a conversation with a young pastor whom was sensing a call to serve in full-time foreign missions. After he had shared his heart for seeing the Kingdom of God grow in regions where people had little access to the Gospel, I asked him if he had considered service through the faith mission with which I work, The Mission Society for United Methodists. He replied, "I couldn't do that. Association with the Mission Society is the political kiss of death in my annual conference."
This is a sad but familiar story. Consider the following situations in which an "official" barrier has blocked the advance of missions:
Indeed, when it became known among my peers in 1986 that 1 was planning to leave the pastoral ministry to serve as a missionary with an "unofficial" agency, a number of concerned colleagues advised me that I would be ruining my career. My response was that I didn't enter the ministry to perpetuate a career, and that I believed I was participating in a movement of The Holy Spirit. My sentiment was reflected in a statement that one Mission Society staff member had printed at the top of each of his memo sheets: "Riding God's Avalanche."
Thankfully, there are exceptions to this unfortunate trend. I am grateful for the three bishops who have appointed me to serve under the auspices of the Mission Society over the past seventeen years. And, a number of ordained United Methodist ministers from conferences earlier than my own have enjoyed the blessing of serving under appointment to the Mission Society and other faith ministries. But the prevailing attitude seems to be an enthusiasm to endorse only that which is deemed "official."
In addition to the unfortunate consequences that such attitudes have for our denomination, we should also ask ourselves whether or not this is the model of church polity that should be exported to other countries. Certainly there are standards to insure that a movement is congenial to doctrinal and theological fidelity and issues of missional propriety. And, there are legitimate reasons to avoid partnership with certain ministries. But to dismiss a ministry solely because it is not official implies that one is more concerned with perpetuating his or her denomination rather than the Kingdom of God, and fails to recognize that God is, indeed, also at work outside of one's denomination. There is no room for denominational or organizational pride in the worldwide Christian movement. In the words of one Mission Society' executive, "We don't care who gets the credit, as long as the Kingdom of God advances and people come to know Jesus."
The Sentinel Group (www.sentinelgroup.org) is an organization that has produced two videos called "Transformations" and "Transformations II" documenting a clear movement of God around the world in which whole communities have experienced times of radical renewal and refreshment through the Holy Spirit. In each instance, the period of transformation in the community was preceded by times of concerted intercession and a call to unity in the Spirit. Pulpit exchanges took place as pastors set aside their turf issues and denominational divisions. It is evident that God blesses attitudes such as this.
There are critical times when one must decide whether it is more important to be concerned with that which is official, or that which is anointed. After all, I'd rather make a "bad career move" than miss a ride on God's avalanche.
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