Like many Christian Reformed churches, God’s Spirit has blessed the congregation I serve by placing the wider world right on our doorstep—and increasingly into our pews. We have received brothers and sisters in the faith from Sudan, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Rwanda. And we are expecting the imminent arrival of others from Zambia. This has brought home to us how, in today’s world, we really do live in a global village. That’s exciting, if a little complicated, as we learn to enjoy fresh unity in this exciting new diversity.
In many churches like mine, we can no longer distinguish our “Home Missions” from our “World Missions.” Our response to Jesus’ Great Commission to disciple the nations is now local and global all rolled into one. When our neighbors hail from China and we Skype across continents, we can and should live out that age-old commandment/blessing in new ways.
What holds at the local level also applies to our denomination. Kudos, then, to our World Missions and Home Missions agencies for taking exploratory steps to forming one agency that conducts missions work both at home and abroad (see “Directors Explain Agency Unification Proposal,” p. **). That is a prudent, stewardly, and obedient response to the Spirit’s beckoning.
Fortunately this idea in its present form comes from the agencies themselves and is not a bureaucratic ploy to pressure them into something they do not want. It’s predicated on the ground-level realization that the marriage of “demographic churn” and technological transformation in recent years presents us with exciting new opportunities that require a reconfiguration of our missions efforts.
No doubt working toward a unified mission effort will take time. There are huge challenges ahead with respect to staffing, policy, funding—not to mention the hardest of all tough nuts to crack: very different cultures within each agency. And the rest of the denominational structure will need to flex as well to adjust to the new situation.
For example, there will be large “chunks” of important denominational work supporting our congregations that will no longer fit in a unified agency and will need to be housed elsewhere. Perhaps these could be gathered, along with the other congregational support ministries, into a new “congregational services” unit.
And then there’s the question of what a such a merger would mean for our other mission agencies, Back to God Ministries International and World Renew—agencies that also already reach out locally and globally.
In the present confusion of several layers of denominational restructuring, maybe a bold move like the union of World Missions and Home Missions could break new ground that would spur further creative realignments in its wake.
It will be a challenge. But we can do it. I know we can—if we get behind this as churches, if agency personnel will not shy away from the inevitable and necessary conflict, and if financial supporters of both agencies will share the vision and fund the new, unified ministry as generously, or more generously, than ever before.
Reconfiguring ourselves to make good on this new opportunity to evangelize a shrinking planet is just too good to pass up. Let’s catch the wind of God’s Spirit by taking that bold new tack.