News Update – August 2015

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From this issue of News Update:

Rev. Isaac has led a very adventurous Short-Term Missions (STM) trip to Ghana in July. I am sure he will give us a detailed and insightful report about the trip when he writes the News Update next month. What I want to share with you in this issue are observations from people who are more dubious about the STM ministry and how we would like to respond.

Firstly, Long-Term Missions (LTM) has been considered the proper way to missions for centuries; consequently, with the change in time commitment, some missiologists see that STM is a paradigm shift from LTM. Is such a change promoting missions or is it undercutting the importance and effectiveness of the program in churches?

STM is indeed a paradigm shift in missions strategy, placing the focus from career missionaries to the lay Christians. We believe career missionaries should not be alone on the missions field in responding to the call of the Great Commission. As a matter of fact, every committed follower of Christ should be making themselves available and seeking opportunities to share the gospel with all people in the world.

CIM is adding another dimension to this change by promoting the cross-cultural nature of our ministry. Chinese churches have been more “mono-ethnic” in most of her past missions endeavors while the Scripture is candidly instructing us to go to all nations to spread the gospel. The change, therefore, becomes necessary and important if the Great Commission is to be taken seriously and literally.

Another observation from critics of STM is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to make disciples in such a brief period – days or weeks – in STM trips. Many STM groups return home with reports of how many people received Christ but, unfortunately, the story ends only there. Is STM attending to short-sighted convenience and overlooking the long-term commitment of missions?

It is true that STM ministry is restricted by the limited time, language and cultural barriers which the STM teams come across during the trip. CIM clearly recognizes these weaknesses in STM ministries. However, the strategy we now employ is that we are working as a link in the discipleship chain. While working in partnership with the local churches, the STM teams focus their efforts in breaking into new geographical frontiers, utilizing personal resources and, more importantly, getting more people informed and involved through our daily electronic updates from the STM teams which have effectively generated interest and prayer from home churches. The local churches in the fields would pick up from the STM team and carry on with the disciple-making process.

Partnership with the local churches has become a profound blessing to the STM team members who are opened to an entirely new horizon as it is made known to them, mostly for the first time in their lives, the reality of spiritual warfare, the cost of following Christ and the joy of the local Christians who live even in extreme poverty.

The last observation is that in spite of the positive responses from most STM participants, some people are doubtful of the long-term effects of STM ministry on the participants after their mountaintop experience. Are they more involved in church services? Do they read the Bible, pray and give more? Are they more committed to missions?

I am very thankful that Rev. Isaac has reported affirmatively to the above questions after following-up with the STM teams. However, there are researches that give a very different conclusion. Very few STM members, as they found, can translate their experience into a relevant response in their daily lives after their return home from the trip, and the excitement to respond dwindles after a few weeks or months.

Even with the gratifying results we have found within CIM, I believe this is a true and common phenomenon which we need to address. We have to make the confession that we are still in the spawning stage of the STM ministry among the Chinese churches, much more so in a cross-cultural context. We do not claim to have all the answers nor techniques in maneuvering through the distractions and obstacles in this new missions model. What we do know, nonetheless, is that we are following the Lord’s calling: to be His witnesses to all nations. And we do this as we hold onto His promise, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Rev. Philip Leung
Executive Director