. . . posts on faith and life
If you have not read through the comments on the post entitled, “our approach to missions has to change” I highly recommend that you check it out. Some great stuff has been shared! Again, this issue of world missions is very complex, and will take a lot of talking. So, I’m just throwing out things one at a time here. I want to briefly mention the idea of internationalization.
Last year at the Western European minister’s conference the following comment was made about internationalization: “We have to decide if we are going to truly become an international church or if we are going to stay an American church with a big international outreach.” I found this comment to be extremely helpful. Currently membership outside of the USA represents somewhere around 85% of our constituency. Everyone of those nearly 6 million persons not only falls under the structure of the American church, but under one department within the American church. It’s amazing that these members, ministers, and churches are willing to continue in such a structure. In many cases that is a real testimony to their humility and “Kingdom” focus. Perhaps it’s also a testimony that COGWM has managed, for the most part, to avoid being too “heavy handed” in its administration.
Still, some are getting tired of certain restrictions. There are three things that I heard mentioned most among European ministers when asked about what they would like to change. (1) Let us select our own Field Director (these are appointed by COGWM and are most often Americans). (2) Let us have a truly international assembly somewhere other than the USA. (3) Let us have more input into the structure of our regional office, including where our tithes go and how they’re used.
Some fields want this more than others. Some fields are more prepared to take some of these steps than others. However, I suspect that we are going to have to get serious about showing that we want to move towards a structure that reflects a truly international church if we want to find ourselves relevant and meaningful in our own future. I will say that we have made a few small strides in certain areas. For example, the Council of Eighteen has become more diverse and international once we put our current parameters in place. But much more needs to be done.
In many ways this is similar to some of the decentralization that so many are calling for in the USA as well. For example, many ministers desire to allow individual states to select their own administrative leadership. I think this makes a lot of sense. It does not fix everything. It will not eliminate the good ol’ boy system, for example. At least not in many states. It will only take that system from a national scale to a state level. Yet, it is likely that some states would manage to escape the political system that currently pervades our structure. Likewise, some international regions are simply not prepared to run themselves. I am not sure how we will internationalize in a measured way. It would certainly need to happen in increments in many contexts. But a church domineered by Americans has no future in the 21st century global context.