Paradigm Shifts In the Mission Movement – Part 1

By Ryan Shaw

We are living in extraordinary and crucial days – when the Spirit is highlighting the possibilities toward the realization of Jesus’ core purpose of the fulfillment of the Great Commission in our day.

It appears to be a transition time. Through which the Lord intends to bring great paradigm shifts from what ‘has been’ in global, cross-cultural mission, to prepare us for what ‘is coming.’

We want to keep in step with the Spirit, aware of what is taking place, discerning and embracing the shifts He is bringing to see the global harvest among unreached and unengaged people groups He intends.

Several years ago I was driving near our home in Chiang Mai, Thailand when the Lord spoke clearly to my heart. It came with authority and was accompanied with peace.

The phrase was “I am changing the face of missions.” My sense was that He is changing the basic expression of the mission movement, bringing it back to His Scriptural standards.

What are some of the core shifts this appears to include? We will consider seven of them in total, four shifts in this article and three more next week.

These paradigm shifts are long-term, wide ranging and largely provable through considering various growing evidences in the mission movement.

There is a lot more to be said related to each one of these. This is but a snapshot to give us a glimpse of needed paradigm shifts.

(1) The Prominence of the Global South in Cross-Cultural Mission. We are well aware of the growing body of Christ in the global south (nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America).

This numerical and spiritual growth is turning into greater vision, understanding and obedience to the Great Commission. This is only going to increase in the coming years.

The Lord intends the body of Christ in every nation to intentionally engage in His Great Commission – no matter the national percentage of believers, status, poverty, or any other external factor.

The fulfillment of the Great Commission will be the result of a global prioritizing of cross-cultural mission and involvement of every national body of Christ.

(2) Moving From Traditional Missionaries to the Scattering Principle of Everyday Disciples Moving Out to Unreached People Groups. Traditional message bearers (alternative term for missionary) will continue yet the emphasis will be on regular disciples scattering with the gospel, relocating their homes, families and jobs to areas of unreached peoples.

They will willingly choose to go to places others may never go (Acts 8:1;4). They may not have lots of education or the best strategies. But in obedience they will be used greatly of God among near-culture people groups in their region of the world.

This is a key biblical emphasis often overlooked today in favor of only the professional missionary. If the mission movement is reliant only on professional missionaries we will continue to be severely hamstrung in our efforts.

The Lord means many more to be “sent,” or “scattered,” then are presently doing so. He also meant them to be “sent” very differently. This is a growing shift.

(3) Pursuing Church Planting Movements Over One by One Evangelism. This is a shift that has been taking place for some time and is becoming more crystallized.

Research proves most people come to faith along family or people group lines. We must cooperate with the Lord in seeing “people movements” coming to the Lord, not looking only for individuals coming to Jesus.

This is in essence what Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19, to “disciple nations” (ethnos = ethnic people groups). Disciple here means to influence an entire group with the facts and demonstration of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Over time many will come to the Lord. These are immediately incorporated into small, simple, culturally relevant churches with a vision to reproduce.

Is it possible to see a vibrant, spiritually alive church within walking distance of every human being on the planet? Yes, yet we need to shift our paradigms significantly to do so.

(4) How Cross-Cultural Work is Funded. A major concern regularly heard from pastors and leaders in the global south is some variation of the following. “We believe in cross-cultural mission and want to do it ourselves but simply don’t have the money.”

What is meant is they are not able to duplicate the financial model shown them through the history of the modern mission movement. Affluent, western churches launched the modern mission movement, sending workers fully funded.

This is impossible to replicate in most of the global south. Yet it is not the will of God that only affluent nations participate in His Great Commission. Instead, we must not be rightly grasping something.

Scripture tells us the very first mission team sent from the church in Antioch in Acts 13 was not sent with financial support. Instead, they each had a skill enabling them to earn an income as they went preaching the gospel.

The Moravians in the 1700’s also sent cross-cultural teams using this model (though they had access to the wealth of their leader, Count Zinzendorf). They developed self-sustaining methods wherever they served the Lord to provide for the needs of each member of the team.

This model must be embraced today more widespread if we are to see more global south workers raised up and ‘scattered’ for the sake of the Gospel.

2 thoughts on “Paradigm Shifts In the Mission Movement – Part 1”

  1. I am from Myanmar. My job is Missionary to be in the Buddish land in Myanmar. I want to build with you for Mission partner .thank.

  2. Very interesting discussion!
    The face of Mission work is certainly changing and the Church must adapt to the new realities.
    Your comments are in line with our perception .
    Grace to you


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