A system has been setup that is supposed to serve all. Everyone is to be treated equitably as the Church goes about her mission. However, after some time, minorities have started to raise the issue that the system isn’t serving the minority group as equitably as the majority group.
I am talking, of course, about the distribution of food to widows in the Jerusalem church soon after Pentecost.
What is amazing about the early church is not that they had problems, or even that those problems often fell along ethnic lines. That’s as common today as it was then. What is incredible about the story in Acts 6 is that when confronted with the problem the church leadership readily admitted they had one.
There was no intent to deny, no blaming of the Hellenistic widows for their own plight, no sweeping the issue under the rug. The incredible thing about the early church is that they listened to minorities, admitted they had a problem, and asked the minority group to lead them in solving the problem.
The Western Missionary Enterprise is facing its Acts 6 moment in our generation.
Agencies, systems, and structures that were designed to function for all are being stressed to the limits by growing ethnic diversity in North America. With the increasingly multicultural world in which we we find ourselves, we can no longer ignore the fact that while our society may be 35% minority, the Church’s missionary thrust from the U.S. is far from that diverse.
Ethnic minorities within U.S. mission agencies have long voiced that the current model of personal support raising doesn’t work as well within their communities. Though I am a member of the majority culture (and don’t presume to speak for ethnic minorities), I have observed that while some ethnic minorities are able to raise their full support goals, many are faced with a difficult choice: leave their ethnic community to raise support among Anglos, or resign from the mission agency and pursue a career outside of full-time ministry.
Their concerns have generally been met with skepticism or disbelief. Instead of trusting these ethnic minorities to understand their reality, Evangelical mission leaders have questioned either the workers’ work ethic, depth of faith in God to provide, or the level of mission zeal of entire communities. Rarely have mission agencies simply acknowledged the equity problem present in the support raising system and begun to seek a solution.
What would it mean for the American missionary enterprise if we learned the lesson of Acts 6? What if when minority groups among us raised complaints about equity we listened instead of blaming the messenger (or the messenger’s community)? What could God do in and through us if we followed the example of the early church?
This is the first post in a series to explore how our current mission funding structures are proving ill suited for a New American Reality. We’ll describe the problem, explore why we’ve been reluctant to admit it, show how it limits us from reaching the world for Christ, and suggest bold actions to lead us into the future.
May we be a Church who follows the example of Acts 6: listen to the voices of our minority brothers and sisters, admit the shortcomings of our current system, and appoint them to help lead all of us into a glorious future of joining Christ in His mission. All of us.
image credit: Andy