August 2000 Issue
It's better to be a lizard than
a frog, Southern Baptist missionaries say. "Frog churches"
that sit fat and complacent on their lily pads and wait for the
world to come to them are a thing of the past, according to the
International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Missionaries today are starting "lizard churches"
that adapt to their surroundings and aggressively pursue converts,
an IMB report says. "They are willing to change their colors
and expend enormous energy to bring the lost into the family of
"It's a 'whatever it takes' to get the job done attitude,
within certain bounds," said Ray Franklin, a twenty-year
IMB missionary to Japan. "We have broadened our perspective
while maintaining our theological grounding."
Welcome to New Directions, the SBC's updated strategy for evangelizing
the world. IMB leaders have overhauled the organization's structure
and strategies in the past two years and given missionaries freedom
to use new methods, according to IMB Executive Vice President
New Directions was developed from the experiences of missionaries
and the ideas of missions experts and researchers. Its emphasis
is on prayer, evangelizing indigenous people groups rather than
countries as a whole, cooperating with other Christians, and planting
churches, Kammerdiener said.
Lizard churches plant new congregations that in turn plant
other new congregations, a multiplication process the IMB says
is necessary to spread the gospel worldwide. SBC missionaries
have had success planting thousands of cell churches. They meet
in homes and attract tens of thousands of converts in nations
where church growth had been negligible for decades.
The process includes training leaders to start other cell churches.
"Once we get a church-planting movement going, then the growth
rate far exceeds older models that we have worked with,"
Reaching people groups rather than countries is a major change
in strategy. Looking at the world as a collection of individual
nations is not the best approach, Kammerdiener said, because it
assumes that all people in a country are the same. "Yugoslavia
is a classic example. We thought it was one nation, but now we
know that there are Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Muslims - and they
are all different."
The IMB divided the world into fourteen regions, each overseen
by an on-site missionary leader who plans the best evangelistic
strategy there. The IMB used to have to get permission from its
board of trustees before entering a new country, but now regional
leaders can take the initiative to do that, then rely on the board
for support, Kammerdiener said.
"Progress is not measured by how many nations we are in,
but how many people groups we have reached. We really turned that
on its head."
The IMB is working with like-minded Christian groups in this
endeavor. That wasn't the case twenty years ago, but "there
has been a growing awareness that we are part of a larger Christian
community as part of the Kingdom of God," Kammerdiener said.
Fruitful relationships have been formed with groups that share
the "Great Commission vision," such as Wycliffe Bible
Translators and Campus Crusade for Christ, he said.
Cooperation is broad for food distribution or medical care,
but narrows when churches are planted, Kammerdiener said. "The
more we work toward church planting, the more we want the theology
of those we work with to be close to ours."
Prayer and the need for "spiritual warfare" are emphasized,
he said. "Prayer not only supports progress, but it is a
wedge to create access to unreached people groups." Prayers
are focused on the power of God to change people rather than on
identifying evil spirits that may oppress them, he said. "We
would not give more attention to the power of Satan than to the
power of the Lord."
From "Missionaries Doing Whatever it Takes,"
Religion Today, April 24, 2000.
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