In no way do I think that traditional missionary practice isn't up for debate and analysis. But progressive missionary strategies have very little to do with the three primary activities of mission (evangelism, discipleship, leading to church planting) These should be traditional, by the way, because they are found in the pages of the Bible as commands (evangelism and discipleship) with an evident outcome (churches).

I do note that in the article I state that there are allies within liberal denominations toward a missiology that takes Jesus' commands regarding the nations seriously. You, evidently, are one of them.

If I were titling your book, I would have avoided "re-imagining" in the title. It has been "done to death" as a title for missions books (along with "re-thinking"). I agree with the thesis you state: short-term missions is, in my view, very sick. It is mostly about the goers, not the three primary activities that align with Jesus' command to take the Gospel to the nations. Short-term mission is not the primary activity of people taking the Gospel to the nations. It has a role, to be sure, but that role is limited in when compared to the larger task of seeing evangelism, discipleship and church planting happen.

If you think I am not up for innovation in missions, please check out my book, The Innovation Crisis.

Expand full comment

As someone who comes from the Reformed tradition, I have always appreciated the motto of the Reformation: Ecclesia Reformata, Semper Reformanda. The Reformation itself was a push to make change in the church, recognizing that practices and attitudes that had "worked" for a while were no longer working, in no small part because they excluded most of the very people the gospel meant to include. The beauty of "The church reformed, always being reformed" is that we are a learning community, in progress of becoming more the people of God we are meant to be--in tune with grace and salvation. I'm grateful that the church is recognizing that *maybe* we used the evangelism mandate as a poor excuse and practice of the Doctrine of Discovery, something that the Catholic church has acknowledged was wrong. Did the gospel spread? Yes. Did it get shared perfectly? No. Similarly, my faith today is different than it was when I was 15, and I'm hopeful that it will be different still in 15 more years. I think that is, dare I say, progressive in the best of ways. In that process of working out my salvation, I am invited to let go of elementary perspectives and practices that have limited my understanding and application of the gospel. I've grown from seeing that Jesus wasn't just concerned that we be 'saved from hell' but about partnering with him to bring heaven to earth. God knows we only need to turn on the news to see that hell is having a heyday. And while we bicker about DEI/CRT and the like, we miss the opportunity to be light and salt and grace and salvation to those who were once, be design, excluded and dehumanized. In this sense, I'd rather err on being "progressive" than embrace an anemic gospel that thinks that we're "done" when people say they believe in Jesus, thinking that Jesus only came to offer a 'get out of hell free' card.

Expand full comment

This doesn’t strike me as a very nuanced evaluation of the current movement to question traditional missions practice. Are the issues really so black and white? You seem to be arguing that the church needs to resist critique of missions praxis, and to fight for old ways of thinking and acting--which is an attitude that characterizes so much of the Evangelical church in particular these days, one that works against necessary, healthy growth and change. In my view, taking honest account of the ways in which we might have gotten missions wrong can (if we are teachable) lead to doing missions better--in more humble and more theologically sound ways. I wonder too: As the editor of a new volume called Reimagining Short-Term Missions, and as someone who was sent by PCUSA as a missionary to do church planting in the Muslim world, I find that some of the generalizations in this piece to be unhelpful, and not encouraging of truly open dialogue on this topic.

Expand full comment