What happens after AD 2000?
The future of evangelical cooperation in missions and international perspective
Presented at the Norway Leadership Seminar, 23 March 1998
AD2000 & Beyond Movement
Would you think and dream with me about the world we would like to see in our global context of ministry beyond 2000?
Imagine the Norwegian mission's world, the Great Commission community, where the man in the church in Norway knew what the issues were, was totally committed to glorifying God through world evangelization, that discipling the nations or peoples was what the Christian life was all about. In this context, this local man or woman was motivated by the knowledge of God's plan for humankind. The kingdom image was fixed clearly in the forefront of his heart and mind. In this dream, the local man or woman in the church pew has a realistic picture of the world around him, the historical context of world evangelization, aware of its challenges, problems and opportunities, including the available resources represented by the Body of Christ.
In this dream, we are all linked into a system that could increasingly inform and support the actions of the Body. The Body is not being manipulated by one power block or another; it is being empowered by God. The Body is in fact a system that can promote coalitions, networks and alliances. This is not an organizational system that we are discussing. It is a system that might look like chaos to us if we are unaware of the divine design, if we do not have a deep-seated belief that Jesus Christ is the head of the Church and will coordinate the Body towards the fulfillment of His Word and purposes.
This dream introduces the first of four models I would like to share with you for consideration about structures or movements for advancing God's purposes for this world beyond the year 2000. In making this presentation it is with the recognition that many are doing so in evangelical circles as well as secular circles. I have drawn from several colleagues in presenting these models along with my own ministry experience especially over the last nine years in the AD2000 & Beyond Movement. I am indebted in having drawn thoughts and words in this presentation from my friend and major "behind the scenes" influencer in the AD2000 & Beyond Movement, Dr. Paul McKaughan, the Executive Director of the association of denominational and other mission agencies in the United States.
Envision a system where challenges are faced and the organism of the Body senses these challenges and as a reflex moves itself to meet those challenges. Use your intuition, inspired and inflamed by the Holy Spirit to think of a world where the nerve structure and bloodstream are functioning under the headship of the Divine Creator.
In this structure, Great Commission mission is the nervous system of the Body. It is out there in vital contact with the environment and the world, which must be reclaimed from the results of the fall and the devastation of the evil one. The local churches and their networks constitute the skeletal structure; without this we are all but a blob of jelly. The bloodstream of the Church is represented by the prophetic ministry, that ministry which proclaims God's Word in a fashion that galvanizes people to action. The brain, the head, is the Christ of the Church who will not surrender that place to any person, group or structure.
This seems to me to be the biblical model; to settle for anything less is to opt for less than the Scripture holds out to us. To settle for less than this is to relegate to the post-AD2000 future of evangelical cooperation to that which is non-biblical. To settle for less than the Scripture holds out as the model is to allow the fallenness of our natures to dictate what is organizationally or operationally optimum, and not to refer to the square of God's Word and the image of Christ, which should be the sole judge of our operation. If the guiding star, which we are using for navigation, is not fixed where the Spirit of God has positioned it in the Scriptures, we cannot but arrive at a faulty destination.
There are some well-known biblical metaphors which may help answer those fundamental questions of who and what we are called to beyond AD2000. Some of these biblical metaphors are the vine and the branches, the growing mustard tree, the wheat and the tares growing together in a field, seed which is scattered over various types of soil - fields which must be plowed, cultivated, watered. All of these metaphors used by Christ or His apostles describe the kingdom, which is here but is yet to come.
We can conclude from these metaphors that what the biblical model teaches us as we contemplate evangelical structures beyond 2000 goes beyond system thinking, in that the model is not made up of inanimate components as many systems are, but rather a living organism. As living, thinking organisms, we cannot force our will on anyone or anything, but we may be able to exert some kind of positive influence towards God's purposes.
Evangelical organizations, as with other organizations, follow a typical pattern involving four stages. First of all, the pioneering stage, where defining and delivering a new superior vision or value seems to be the central focus. There are those organizations that seem to be specialized in occupying new open spaces. Sometimes they are crowded out later as the environment becomes more complex and structured. The biggest challenge in this pioneering stage is to find space to develop this embryonic organization. It tends to need a sheltered niche or space in which it can grow.
Then there is the second stage, the stage of expansion. There the force that drives is an attempt and quest for a critical mass, where the boundaries are being increased and there is an increasing diversity of inter-active products or responses which becomes very critical. Within that environment it becomes a goal to occupy as much of the space as possible, so there are not unoccupied niches to be exploited from outside. This may occur through the creation and development of standards where new "space competitors" can be held off due to not meeting the standards.
The third stage is the stable stage. It is also called the authoritative stage. The challenge in this stage of the organizational development is to lead. You do this by the supplying of a compelling ongoing vision, which drives the whole system toward continued improvement and enhancement. The last stage is the stage of renewal, where it is renew or die; the death may be the supplanting of the organization by more vigorous ones.
John Naisbitt wrote in Megatrends 2000 "The year 2000 is operating like a powerful magnet on humanity, already reaching down into the 1990's and intensifying the decade. It is amplifying emotions, accelerating change, and heightening awareness, compelling us to re-examine ourselves, our values and our institutions." The largest evangelical organization in the world in this last year exemplifies this reality. They have totally restructured in these last years as we approach the year 2000. Beyond 2000 undoubtedly this trend will increase. We are all being called to re-examine our structures. I remember the last time I was here in Norway, at this very same Free Lutheran Theological Seminary, being profoundly impressed by the report of Torbjorn Lied with respect to renewal within the core structures of his own mission.
We live in a networked era, an era that has broken down the ways which we organize ourselves. We once were like companies that were readily defined and industries that knew who we were and everyone else knew who we were. We were the ones that did it over there with missionaries. Yet we all find ourselves engaged in many, many other things and with alliances that we could not even have envisioned twenty and thirty years ago. We are currently working on a manual on networking at our International Office.
In the process of networking, we have discovered that the principle of working together rather than each entity on it's own, has literally exploded as we have approached the year 2000. We have discovered that there is wide variety of kinds of networks and coalitions and movements and partnerships. Some are embedded in primary, unshakable principles such as intentional partnerships, international partnerships, integrated partnerships. Others, seeking to accomplish the same thing do not insist on adherence to rigid standards. They call themselves strategic alliances that are strategic both because of their focus and their approach to the task. Some ride on the wave of technological advance with e-mail conference networks. Some are field-based seeking to advance God's Kingdom on the ground. Others are resource-based seeking to generate and supply greater resources for the task. Some are strategic networks in that they seek to advance certain strategic functions such as prayer, women in missions, cities, business and professionals, presidents and academic deans of theological institutions. Others are countrywide coalitions seeking to advance the purposes of Christ in a country. Some are people-specific networks that have the common focus on peoples.
The only article of the Lausanne Covenant that begins with the expression of rejoicing was due to awareness that the growing partnership of churches would develop and the universal character of Christ's Church would be more clearly exhibited. It began with the words "We rejoice that a new missionary era has dawned." Now twenty-five years later we can say that what was a dawn then is midday now. To think only of my organization or my industry, whether it is a single mission or a network of missions, may merely lead us to irrelevance. Beyond 2000 there is every indication that the networking model will continue to grow and diversify.
>From the current trend towards effective organizational development emerges a picture of more effective organizational development for the post 2000 AD period. Organizational development that grows in effectiveness in the nineties can be characterized by a series of contrasts. The FLEXIBLE LEADERSHIP STYLE model emphasizes personal relationship over positional relationship. The FOCUS OF LOYALTY has shifted from institution to people. The STYLE is less structured - more flexible. THE SOURCE OF ENERGY, rather than stability, comes instead from change and innovation. Instead of LEADERSHIP being dogmatic/authoritative, it is inspirational, empowering, enabling, facilitating. The LEADER rather than giving orders coaches, teaches. Instead of the QUALITY depending on the affordable best it calls forth excellence. EXPECTATIONS for associates are not for security but rather personal growth. STATUS does not come from title and rank but making a difference. What are considered RESOURCES are not so much cash and time but rather information, people and networks. This is the wave of the future-beyond 2000.
In conclusion, I am cautiously optimistic regarding the future of evangelical cooperation in missions and the international perspective after AD 2000. We have a number of encouraging models as well as encouraging trends. Thank the Lord of the Harvest for the way He has led in these past 2000 years. Above all let us keep fresh in our heart and mind the biblical model. We, the Body of Christ, are a living organism rather than an organization. Let us follow Paul's counsel to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith . and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ .Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole Body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Praise God and Amen!
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