Skip to main content

Innovation and missions

dominik schroder FIKD9t5 5zQ unsplash 1 scaled 096578e7
The faster the world changes, the faster we've got to change to keep up. In the world of missions that I live and work in, everything has changed in a generation: A generation ago, 90% of missionaries used to be American and 10% from other countries. Now the figure is reversed. Travel co…
By Seth Barnes

The faster the world changes, the faster we've got to change to keep up. In the world of missions that I live and work in, everything has changed in a generation:

A generation ago, 90% of missionaries used to be American and 10% from other countries.
Now the figure is reversed.

Travel costs as a percentage of a missionary's total costs used to be much higher.

Communication with the field took weeks. When I was a missionary to Indonesia in 1980, a letter took two weeks to get home. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive. Now, of course, we Skype for free.

Every four years you traveled back home for a sabbatical. Now you come home annually.

Church planting used to be a bigger deal. Now issues like social justice take priority.

The Church's mission hasn't changed. We're still motivated by Jesus' call to "go and make disciples of all nations." But our methods of doing so need to flex to leverage current trends. As the world changes, we can either make adaptations, or get left behind.

It turns out that many missions agencies are in fact getting left behind. I'm amazed by how many continue to use the same tired old methods they always used. And each year their ministries get a little smaller.

If you visit their home offices, they seem to be staffed by an older demographic. And when you ask them how they're going to adapt to the way the world is changing, the shelves of their imagination are bare. They seem to be content to manage a declining status quo.

This morning as I went into our offices, our staff had a worship service. I worshiped with a demographic that is probably half the age of other mission agencies.

The atmosphere is fun, exciting even. And we're busting at the seams. Every day we wrestle with new ideas and we are committed to empowering young people to implement them.

Yes, they are very different than my generation was at their age. They are more community-minded. They are quicker to be transparent about their brokenness. They don't commit as easily. They live on the internet. They have tattoos. Most of their peers have already left the church.

And they can't abide phoniness of any kind or the stodginess of most mission agencies. Which is why those agencies won't be around in another generation.

Jesus' message should not be confused with the methods by which it's communicated. The message never changes. The methods perpetually do. Innovate or die.

Some questions to ask to help you stay relevant:

  1. What are the old ideas you've believed that may need revitalization?
  2. What are the old ways that need to be rediscovered?
  3. What in your life is in need of change?
  4. Who are the people who want to introduce change? How can you help them?

Comments (7)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

about team