Rethinking Missions in the 21st Century

Prior to a February trip to the tsunami-affected nations of Sri Lanka and India, Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, explained to me that the Baptist World Alliance has a threefold strategy for meeting human needs.

First is relief, ensuring that victims of the tsunami have shelter, food and clean water. The second stage is rehabilitation, helping victims rebuild their homes and put their lives back in order. The third phase is development, enabling people to achieve economic sustainability, thus avoiding dependency on outside entities.


BWAid's philosophy involves entrusting, empowering and enabling indigenous people, Montacute said. The Brit demonstrated repeatedly on our trip that he indeed believed in and worked through those who lived in the community, knew the language and understood intuitively the culture. He showed how BWAid does missions without building an infrastructure for Western missionaries.


Unlike the colonial era of Christian missions, in which I was reared and whose values still find expression in too many contemporary missionary-sending organizations, BWAid works through indigenous people. It is a 21st century model for doing missions.


Rethinking missions is a critical necessity in local churches of the moderate variety. It begins with biblically based and practical religious education.


To help equip churches for 21st century missions, Acacia Resources, the publishing imprimatur of the Baptist Center for Ethics, has produced an online, undated 13-lesson quarterly for Sunday school classes. The unit's title is Leading Churches into 21st Century Missions: 13 Lessons in Acts.


Several of the lesson writers are program leaders at the Baptist World Alliance's congress meeting this week in Birmingham, England.


In addition to Montacute, Tony Cupit and Parush Parushev are lesson writers. Cupit, the BWA's longtime director of evangelism, is an Australian. He now leads the organization's newest initiative called Living Water.


Parushev, a Bulgarian, is dean at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague. He is leading one of the congress' Bible studies in Russian.


Other international Baptist lesson writers are Erich Geldbach, a German, and Laurence Barber, a Canadian.


One reason for enlisting Baptist writers from other nations is to help Baptists in the United States listen to and learn from global Baptists. 


This curriculum does that through its student guide, and it also helps teachers with a leader's guide. Teachers also can access free, online supplemental articles for teachers, written by Jan Turrentine, managing editor of Acacia Resources.


This complete, inexpensive religious education package focuses thoughtful Christians on 21st century missions. Together with this unit, we have articles on about the BWA and written by global Baptists. Thus, and Acacia Resources provide the richest synergy available for any church committed to mission study and action.


Consider emulating Huguenot Road Baptist Church. The Richmond-area church had adult Sunday school classes use one of our curriculum units, while the pastor, Bert Browning, president of the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, preached a sermon series on parallel texts and topics.


Terry Maples, Huguenot Road's associate pastor for education and discipleship, recounts that that experience gave the church incredible energy.


Hopefully a similar experience on missions can be duplicated this fall at your church.


While our mission curriculum illustrates our educational innovation, coupled with our commitment to the global community, it also underscores our commitment to proactive partnerships. The 21st Century Missions was made possible through funding partnership support from the Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of South Carolina and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Global Missions.


For a sample lesson, click here.


Consider thinking outside the education rut this fall and join 21st century mission initiatives.


Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.



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