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5 New Trends That Will Affect Missions

new challenges in missionsWe received a package recently from a Girls in Action* group in Darlington, SC. Oh, and by the way, we love packages! But this particular one really made me think.

In it were handmade cards with heart-felt notes including, “Help the Marlins witness to people in Sao Paulo, Brazil” and “Help them in traffic that is bad!” I chuckled, but I really do want to see answers to those prayers!

New Mission Trends and New Challenges in Missions

As I pondered these cards, I wondered what missions would hold for these kids as they grew older. In my life, I’ve already seen huge changes take place in missions. I can only imagine what changes they’ll see.

I reminisced briefly about how life on the mission field has changed over the years when I wrote the post, “Times have changed in Missions.” And things have even changed radically since then!

Acculturation and Deculturation

The world is rapidly changing. The ease of experiencing other cultures is breaking down the barriers that once kept us isolated from the outside, largely in part to the internet and travel.

Acculturation has distributed diverse ideals, thoughts, and viewpoints over the years, while deculturation has chipped away at those seemingly unchangeable aspects that cultures have held. And this exchange has gone both ways between the East and West. The result is that there are many cultural characteristics today that are common between different cultures. This is especially easy to see among the youth.

It’s true that the trends changing culture and society currently have been in play for some time. Still, we must consider that the trends we are seeing today will probably only intensify in the future. What are the trends leading to these rapid changes?

Trends and Missions

As I thought about this post, I began to list on sheet of scratch paper trends that I thought would impact missions. Some are good changes and some are not so good, but the way we deal with them will have an impact on how missions is done. I had to stop when I had more than 25! Change is all around us. That is the nature of the world today!

Here are five trends that not only are affecting missions today, but that I think will continue to impact missions for years to come.

Trend One – Connection

Missionaries today are among the most connected people on earth. Thirty years ago, a missionary went to the field and there was very little contact that could be maintained.

Phone calls could cost several dollars per minute, that is, if a connection could even be made. Usually, the echo was so strong that it was difficult to speak. E-mail was non-existent. Snail-mail was just that… as slow as a snail and not reliable at all. I’m still waiting for letters that my family sent me decades ago.

Today, there is E-mail (which is considered slow), Skype, Facebook, and Magic Jack. We have Vonage, VPN for security, webinars, and conference calls. You can talk to anyone in the world from your cell phone, iPad, or Galaxy Tab.

Connection exists, and it must be a two-way street between missionaries on the field and Christians in the states. Churches can ask, “What is needed?” Prayer, a team, resources, materials, etc. Funds are instantly transferred. Teams are quickly mobilized. Prayers are offered up when they are most needed. All of this is changing the face of missions. Being connected is exciting!

How can we maximize this trend for reaching the lost? I believe the ideas are limitless. I also believe that the next generation will be doing it in ways we cannot even imagine. Or who knows… maybe we can imagine!

Trend Two – Urbanization and Cities

In 1900, the world was 13% urban (people living in cities). By 2030, the world will be over 60% urban. This trend is taking missions by storm. Go to the cities! Minister in the cities! New York alone has 800 different languages spoken on it’s streets. A mission field? You bet!

With urbanization also comes new social factors that must be considered as we share the gospel. People will be facing issues of housing, poverty, unemployment, pollution, inadequate water supplies, sewage, and waste disposal. Schools, medical facilities, and public transportation systems will also become factors that we must take into consideration. While much of this existed in the past, it didn’t exist to the same extent it does now. And in highly populated areas, it has merely become intensified… on steroids, so to speak.

We need to be constantly asking ourselves the question, “How will we tailor our methods so that we can best get the message of the gospel to the people?” I believe that everyone of the so-called downsides to living in the city can be turned into a positive influence in bringing people to Christ! We only need to be asking God how!

Trend Three – Maturing National Churches

The national church in most areas of the world is maturing. No longer is the national church’s sole dependence upon the missionary. The internet has made the world much smaller and information much more accessible. YouTube brings 1000′s of Bible studies to anyone that has internet access and the basic knowledge of a major language, be it English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, etc.

As a result, the national church is maturing at a remarkable rate. The work of discipling new believers and planting new churches is also happening at a much faster rate also! While we still must put our hands to the plow, our roles are constantly changing as well. What can we do? We must be using technology for all it’s worth to get the Word out. We must use it to teach sound doctrine. We must not let other groups use these tools more than we do, especially the internet. The cults are all online. The prosperity gospel is inoculating the lost agains the true gospel. Resources are being siphoned off by false teachers. We must act and the time is now. We must use every opportunity to get the Word out! Check out this article.

Trend Four – A Multilingual USA

Remember the old joke? “What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. And someone that speaks one language? American!” Well, that’s not the case anymore. Today, it is not uncommon to find people speaking Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Arabic, etc. By 2050 it is estimated that 30% of the US will be Hispanic. That’s great. Think what that will do for our mission outreach capabilities!

But, this is only good if people are being reached for Christ and there is discipleship going on. We must consider this for ALL that God brings into our borders. Maybe God has brought them to us because we didn’t effectively take the gospel to them?

Trend Five – Changes in Mission Giving

I am grateful for the mission giving of Southern Baptist Churches. Through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, theInternational Mission Board has been able to launch an incredible army of workers into the world and maintain them. I think this is the greatest program in the world and must be maintained.

But, there is also a move for sending workers into the world through other means. Often a single church or group of believers will send a person or family on a short-term trip, or even support them for the long haul. Short-term teams are being sent more than ever. Going on a mission trip is now something that many are excited about doing. People are returning with a new sense of the task!

The paradigms of mission giving have not so much changed, as they have given way to other methods as well. J.G. Morrison pleaded with the Nazarenes during the Great Depression of the 1930′s to support their missionaries. He challenged them by asking, “Can’t you do just a little bit more?” I think the honest answer is almost always, “yes.”

Consider how this changing trend in mission giving might help Christians and churches today to do more regarding missions.

In Conclusion

Now when I reflect on what the future holds for world missions, I’m encouraged. I believe the trends and changes can be fantastically positive. We just need to fearlessly allow God to work through us.

We have the responsibility to take the life transforming message of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each generation is responsible for it’s own generation.

Those girls that sent the homemade cards to us will be fine. They’ll get the job done. I have no doubt! Maybe the question centers more around what each one of us is going to do right now?

Discussion Question: In what ways do you see God working through these trends today? God bless, and I really want to hear your comments!

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