Missional Principles: Applied to Our Local Work

From his survey of Mission Work in East Africa over the last 100 years, Stanley E. Granberg shares 5 principles that guided mission efforts in Kenya through a period of growth in the 1980s:

  1. A body orientation - the goal of evangelism was not just baptisms, but the establishment of local churches
  2. A harvest orientation - in order to reach full maturity, churches must be involved in going and preaching themselves
  3. Identification - the missionaries go to the people to learn their languages and ways of life so as to present the gospel message in ways which make sense to people in their life state
  4. Autonomous churches - the goal was to produce churches that were self-governing, self-propagating, self-supporting, and self-theologizing
  5. Interdependency - the mutual support and encouragement of the church across multiple levels of structure

As I thought about the wisdom in these principles, I also considered the relevance of the same principles to our mission in Rockville, MD and in other local communities where you may be.

  1. We, like the early church, should never stop being focused on individual baptisms while remembering the importance of discipling those who have been baptized and integrating them into the church. 
  2. The harvest orientation reminds us that part of discipleship is training those who will bring in other disciples to Christ. Evangelism begets more evangelists (2 Timothy 2:2).
  3. The identification principle is essential in ministry to any culture. We, like Daniel and his friends in Babylon or like Paul in the Mediterranean world, need to understand the customs, the thinking, and the questions in our culture in order to present the Gospel as the narrative of truth that brings answers to their longings. Identification cannot be conformity. We must emphasize transformation. But we cannot do that from a position of isolated tribalism. We cannot be the battleship firing shots at the world from off the shore. We must be ground soldiers in order to know the terrain.
  4. We maintain the importance of autonomous leadership, support, and the exploring of the Bible together. We do not accept decisions or doctrinal positions as handed down from a centralized governing body or even a “brotherhood publication.” Each individual in each congregation is called to study the Scriptures themselves and take personal responsibility in the local flock and the local mission.
  5. However, the goal of autonomous congregations is not isolation. We need to stay connected with other Christians in our region and throughout the world, even across different languages and other potential barriers.

To His Glory,

Caleb Cochran

Photo credit: Maker Faire Africa via Foter.com / CC BY