Paradigm Shift in Missions
par·a·digm (pàr¹e-dìm´, -dîm´) noun
1 An example that serves as a pattern or model.

Matthew 28:18-20: 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (The Great Commission)

The Christian faith, I submit, is intrinsically missionary. Christianity is missionary by its very nature, or it denies its very existence. Mission includes evangelism as one of its essential dimensions. Evangelism is the proclamation of salvation in Christ to those who do not believe in Him, calling them to repentance and conversion, announcing forgiveness of sin, and inviting them to become living members of Christ’s earthly community and to begin a life of service to others in the power of the Holy Spirit. In a word, Christianity is to be “Transforming”. Furthermore, this process of transformation has not yet come to an end, and we find ourselves, at the moment, in the midst of one of the most important shifts in the understanding and practice of the Christian mission. With the aid of the idea of paradigm shifts, I am attempting to demonstrate the extent to which the understanding and practice of mission have changed during almost twenty centuries of Christian mission.

I will be speaking on this subject from personal experience and from my research on the subject of missions. Kenya, East Africa was where I ministered for nine years. The missionary is one who begins his journey by visiting American churches in the hopes of receiving financial and prayer support. This activity is called deputation. Often, this process can last from four years to ten years and, sorry to say, many can’t reach their financial goals and never reach their mission field. Yet, I believe it is absolutely important that all churches (pastors) need to see and know the new paradigm shift in missions today.

Some “mission agencies” insist on a monthly support of ten thousand dollars. Generally speaking, before going into the field, they will need fifty thousand dollars for moving expenses and money to buy a vehicle and set up housekeeping in their foreign field. Often, their new residence is in a town with amenities such as having electricity and running water. From there, they drive to their particular field of ministry, often a four-wheel drive vehicle is needed, and there they engage the national pastor/s by encouraging, strategizing, evangelizing, and studying the Bible, to name a few of the possible activities in which the missionary can be involved. Before the missionary conveys their message (preaching and teaching) to the indigenous people, it first must be contextualized. Here is a quote from the book, Missiology: An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Missions: Missiology, over the years, has experienced its share of paradigm shifts. The change of focus from indigenization to contextualization is one of the most significant in contemporary missiology. Alan Tippett, for example, considers this change to be the greatest methodological issue (technique) facing the Christian mission today.

Indigenization and contextualization are perplexing concepts the missionary must face before they can preach and teach effectively. Of course, the national pastor at the grassroots level does not face these problems of indigenization and contextualization. These terms are innate to the national pastor who speaks to his own people, in their own language. The national pastor knows the language/s, he knows the customs, the animistic ideologies (the worship of ancestral spirits & witchcraft), the terrain (travel), and he knows his own people with their unique problems and aspirations. The new paradigm shift in missions takes the focus off the American and European missionary and places the focus on the indigenous national pastor. IGM made this paradigm shift fifty-three years ago. IGM sees the role of the missionary as working alongside the national pastor in a supporting role. Here is another quote from the book, Missiology: An Introduction to the Foundations, History, and Strategies of World Missions: Missionaries should realize the necessity of changing roles as they work with nationals. Role changes are to move toward and foster biblically balanced and healthy autonomy in the emerging church through a true spirit of trust and partnership in kingdom causes.

International Gospel Missions focuses on the national pastor at the grassroots level. IGM sees the Great Commission being fulfilled by these national pastors as they plant churches in areas beyond their own homeland. But, in order for the pastor to take time to disciple other possible pastors and to travel to areas that do not have a church, requires lots of time, planning, and money. Often, the lack of money prevents the national pastor from establishing churches in other villages. A rule of thumb is the farther the church plant, the more money it takes. The indigenous church is a poor church, and the people cannot even afford to pay their pastor a salary. So, the national pastor has to work to care for his family and to pay school fees for his children. This hinders the national pastor from disciple-making and church planting. IGM’s vision is to see the national pastor financially assisted so they can give themselves full-time to the ministry. Most national pastors can live and minister on five hundred dollars a month as compared to the missionary who needs ten thousand dollars a month. IGM gets weekly reports of new converts, baptisms, and pastors establishing new churches. IGM is in twenty-eight countries, and we are involved with approximately one hundred and fifty national pastors (tip of the iceberg). IGM is a small mission agency with big results in the mission field. Thank you to those of you who share our vision of revival in these third-world countries. Your prayers and financial assistance empower these indigenous national church planters in seeing “The Great Commission” fulfilled.

Questions and comments are welcome.

In His Vineyards,
Michael L. Grubbs
Communications Coordinator
International Gospel Missions