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Are American Missionaries A Thing of the Past?

This week I had the remarkable opportunity to speak at a global conference of pastors and marketplace leaders in the amazing United Arab Emirates city of Dubai. In the conference were pastors who individually oversee hundreds of churches and collectively oversee thousands of churches in some of the most difficult and challenging places Christians can operate.

One thing I discovered was that they were hungry for information about using the media to share the gospel. They understand – even in remote places in Siberia, rural Africa, or the Pacific Islands, that we all live in a media-driven culture now, and using the media to engage with their communities is more important than ever.

The truth is, if I could find the funding, I would focus more of my time on teaching media internationally. These leaders are making a remarkable impact in the most difficult places, and were energized when I shared simple, basic techniques and principles for social media, websites, and video. As I told the attendees, it’s time we stopped thinking about “missions” only in terms of geographical boundaries, and started thinking about missions in terms of digital boundaries as well.

If you feel a burden to help us reach these global leaders with information and resources in communication and media, you can contribute to our Influence Lab initiative.

But something else I learned is that for the most part, the age of the Western missionary is over. The truth is, we really don’t need more Americans moving to Asia, Africa, Russia, or other places because right now local leaders are raising up a generation of young pastors that are planting churches in remarkable numbers. Historically, past missionaries from the West did their job, and now the baton has been handed to these local leaders.

However, they still need our financial support, expertise in select areas, and strategy. In some countries it may be to help finance a church building, in others, build a school or medical clinic, in still others it may be a motorcycle to help a church planter make his rounds. They also need strategies as I mentioned in communications, media, and other specialized areas. They have picked up the challenge and are making a difference, but they need our prayers, professional expertise, and financial support more than ever.

I can tell you that after a week with these global leaders, the world is changing, and in spite of all the negative stories you hear in the news media, the gospel is moving forward.

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36 Comments

  1. For the most part the day of the generalist Western missionary is in rare exceptions not relevant. However the need for specialized missionaries from every nation is desperately needed. Focusing on outcome based missions, asking the field what they need and working collaboratively with indigenous movements should be the pillars of our 21st century missiology. Media, technology, education and other specialties are competencies that many Westerner communities have that emerging markets desire and need.
    So Phil get out there and do it‼️‼️💪

      1. This is a very key point. Saying “Traditional approaches of American missionaries are a thing of the past” is true. What’s also true is that people who follow Jesus must be sent to propagate His message of the KIngdom to the ends of the earth, and do they must do it it in strategic ways and in partnership with indigenous churches and ministries everywhere. If this isn’t the description of a missionary enterprise, I don’t know what is. I would say even open-minded Americans could do this (and I count myself as one of them). 😉

  2. I totally align with your perspective. To a large degree, the age of Western Missionary is over. A huge advantage of empowering local Christian leaders to push the frontiers of the gospel is the ability to do same within the context of their local culture. The Western missionaries still have a lot of role to play in helping the local missionaries develop capacity to carry out this assignment.

    Well done Phil!

  3. For the most part the day of the generalist Western missionary is in rare exceptions not relevant. However the need for specialized missionaries from every nation is desperately needed. Focusing on outcome based missions, asking the field what they need and working collaboratively with indigenous movements should be the pillars of our 21st century missiology. Media, technology, education and other specialties are competencies that many Westerner communities have that emerging markets desire and need.
    So Phil get out there and do it‼️‼️💪

  4. I agree with Rob that specialized missionaries who train, move across mission fields, and apostolically motivate are still immensely important. The idea, however, that we need a full time missionary to teach a Sunday School class once a week in Puerto Rico is just not necessary. National apostolic leaders are building buildings that seat 50,000 people now. The foundation has been laid in many nations and does not need to be relaid over and over. National leaders can assume the leadership with Westerners filling in specialty training as they need it. I was with you in Dubai and believe that your ministry is one of those amazing sources of training for the world.

  5. Yes Phil, go ahead with your dream the funding is sure. Remember, in January, two months ago, I told you that I was going to execute all the divinely inspired ideas I had from 2015 – 2017 in 2018. Surprisingly, the funds started coming in last month. I have used part of it to register my Foundation with the Corporate Affairs Commission at Abuja. Last week, they gave us approval for “availability”. My attorney is working towards accreditation which is the final stage. You can see how you have been a real blessing to me and many around the world. When we are done with the accreditation, we shall partner with Influence Lab initiative. Go forward Phil. Remember, this is our year of EXECUTION! Blessings.

  6. Right the baton has been passed. And yes the emerging Church still needs our help. Skills related to Bible translation, media scripture use aspects for local (i.e. minority or mother tongue) languages, and literacy efforts in multilingual settings still need to be passed on among other things.

  7. With hundreds of millions of Unreached/unebgaged people in the earth today we must train and mobilize indigenous people, but I believe Ralph Winters would still tell you that “what we need more than ever is not just those who go, but those who facilitate thousands to go”…from the west and everywhere else.

  8. So many people want to be directors and other media positions (nothing wrong with that!) but when you can marry what you love to making an eternal impact, there is nothing more rewarding than that. Praise God for what you are doing!

  9. With hundreds of millions of Unreached/unebgaged people in the earth today we must train and mobilize indigenous people, but I believe Ralph Winters would still tell you that “what we need more than ever is not just those who go, but those who facilitate thousands to go”…from the west and everywhere else.

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