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To the Ends of the Earth: Building a National Missionary Sending Structure

Arto Hämäläinen and Ulf Strohbehn, To the Ends of the Earth: Building a National Missionary Sending Structure (Baguio City, Philippines: Asia Pacific Theological Seminary Press, 2020), 126 pages, ISBN 9789718942833.

Both of the authors of this book are Pentecostals with extensive experience in international ministry. As the subtitle clearly indicates, this is a book about missions. Specifically, it is about “the organizing of a mission agency” (page xv). In view of this some readers might think that this book is for a specialized audience. In one sense they are right; I understand how someone might come to that conclusion. But, in view of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) I think missions ought to be of major interest to all believers. It is true that some individuals will be more involved in the day to day “nuts and bolts” operation of the missions structures of churches and denominations; but all Christians should be missions-minded. One point the authors make in the introduction of the book is that all of the churches that the apostle Paul and his coworkers planted did become missions-minded (page 1). The Great Commission is still not complete. If it is going to be completed shouldn’t every church be like the missions-minded churches that Paul and his companions planted?

The book consists of a few pages of endorsements, a foreword, a preface, an introduction, and eight chapters. In the course of the chapters the authors cover a variety of subjects. The following are some of the chapter titles: What is Needed to Start a Missions Program,” “Missions Structure,” and “Key People on the Normal Missions Team.” The authors also address matters related to decision making and finances. The book also helps address issues related to the roles of the local church, the larger missions organization (if there is one), the missionaries, and the church or missions leaders in the receiving country.

Missions ought to be of major interest to all believers.

The task of missions involves more than having missionaries and money. While both are necessary, more needs to go into the ministry of missions if it is going to be done right. The authors maintain that there are three things that are essential to having an effective missions program. They say that you need: “Holy Spirit-empowered people, a missions strategy, and the structure to implement that strategy” (page 5). Some Christians, perhaps especially some Pentecostals, might see the Holy Spirit and strategy as at odds with each another. In their minds the Holy Spirit speaks of divine guidance that is spontaneous and strategy sounds like calculated planning that is done by human beings. Hämäläinen and Strohbehn do not see the Holy Spirit and strategy as contrary to one another but as complimentary to one other: they believe both are necessary.

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things!’” (Romans 10:14-15 NKJV).

The Holy Spirit is certainly important to the missionary task. The authors say that “the Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit” (page 5). They demonstrate the importance of the Spirit in missions by making reference to His work in the book of Acts. Acts chapters 1, 2, and 13 are especially relevant in this regard. The importance of the Spirit cannot be minimized. However, more is needed if there is going to be a successful missions ministry. The authors identify four key structural elements that are necessary, these are: “(1) mobilizing and recruiting people (who?); (2) training people (what, how?); (3) sending the missionaries (by whom, to where?); and (4) partnering with others (with whom?)” (page 31).

As these four structures are adopted and put in place it will not result in a “one size fits all” program for every organization. The authors point out that different groups use different models. In chapter four they mention three, these are: “The Networking Model,” “The Cooperation Model,” and “The Hierarchical Model” (pages 75-78). As they discuss these models they point out both the strengths and weaknesses of each. For example, one of the strengths of the hierarchical model is that responsibilities and decision-making are clearly understood in the organization, one of its weaknesses is that power can be misused(page 78). The authors also tell the reader which parts of the world tend to use which models. They say “Many Asian, African, and Latin America cultures reflect the hierarchal model” (page 78). I find this interesting because these are the areas of the world that have become “the centre of gravity of Christendom” (page 6). Christianity is experiencing dramatic growth on these continents.

The book also outlines who should be on the missions leadership team and what qualities and experience they should have. The members of the team should include: “The Missions Director,” “Missions Board and Committees,” and the “Director of Missions Training” (pages 81-87). The book also looks at the issue of financing various aspects of the missions task (pages 95-98)

Has your church asked what the Lord wants you to do, specifically, in regard to missions?

I think there are at least two benefits that can be gained from reading this book, even if you are not directly involved in the missions ministry in your church or denomination. Hämäläinen and Strohbehn point out in chapter one that some churches have not asked themselves missions related questions about what the Lord wants them specifically to do with regard to missions (page 24). This book may help the reader and their church do this. If the reader is a church leader then it is even more likely for this to be brought to the church. A second thing that this text can do is open the reader’s eyes to the reality that there is a lot involved in the missions enterprise. As I mentioned earlier there is more involved than having missionary candidates and money to pay them. Whether you are operating a missions program out of your local church or working through a missions agency this book can help you make informed decisions regarding key issues. The authors are familiar with the challenges and they can alert the reader to them. Their input can potentially spare the missions leadership, and missionaries, unnecessary trouble and help them to choose strategies and policies that will be most effective for them. All of this is important because the Great Commission has not been completed yet.

Reviewed by John Lathrop

 

Publisher’s page: https://wipfandstock.com/9781725269927/to-the-ends-of-the-earth/

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2021

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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