Newbigin's shift — from a traditional to a movements paradigm

Lesslie Newbigin

Lesslie Newbigin

I was compelled to ask myself whether it is really true that the Church’s obedience to the Great Commission is intended to be contingent upon the accident of a budgetary surplus.
— Lesslie Newbigin

Lesslie Newbigin was one of the great missionary statesmen of the 20th Century. He spent much of his life in India. He began with a tradition paradigm of ministry that relied on foreign workers, funding and supervision. He soon discovered its limitations.

I have lived and worked as a missionary within the structure typical of modern missions, responsible for the conduct of institutions, for the supervision of Indian workers, for the employment and control of teachers and others in charge of congregations. I have seen this system come to a practical standstill: funds were not available to increase the number of salaried workers. ... Only if some fresh resources came from ‘home’ could the mission become a mission again. As it was, it was plain that any talk of ‘winning India for Christ’ was not serious. I was compelled to ask myself whether it is really true that the Church’s obedience to the Great Commission is intended to be contingent upon the accident of a budgetary surplus.

Rather than fix what was broken, Newbigin became a careful observer of what God was doing on the fringes.

The answer came through various experiences. Firstly, through seeing how ordinary lads from village congregations ... could themselves become active witnesses and evangelists among their comrades. Secondly, through learning to call on the services of all kinds of lay men and women as volunteer pastors and evangelists for the village congregations left without the guidance of a full-time worker. And thirdly, most decisively, through the experience of a small group-movement in a very backward area where the Gospel had only recently been preached for the first time. ...

Here’s what happened next…

the churches began to multiply themselves by a kind of spontaneous growth which was not dependent upon increasing outside resources. In an area almost entirely pagan, the number of Christian congregations rose from thirteen to fifty-five in twelve years. ... In the midst of a movement of this kind, one could speak seriously about winning India for Christ.

Lesslie Newbigin, Trinitarian Doctrine for Today’s Mission (London: Paternoster Press, 1998), 74-77.

099-Pioneering Movements in Thailand

Nick and Steph share the story of pioneering movements in Thailand. Steve Parlato is asking the questions.

The cost of declaring his glory to the nations


I heard Helen Roseveare speak forty years ago. Her story has stayed with me ever since.

Recently I found these messages on the Urbana site. 

In them she shares candidly of personal tests and trials she underwent while serving as a medical missionary in the Congo (now Zaire), including pride, marital longings, prolonged illnesses, and beatings, rape and imprisonment by rebel forces.

The cost of declaring the glory of the Lord Jesus costs all our heart, soul and body. "The branch," Roseveare says, "had to lose its leaves and flowers to become an arrow;" such is the privilege of sharing in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus.

The Cost of Declaring His Glory

The Spirit’s Enablement

Motivation for World Missions


Financial dependency and the death of a movement

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Dependency occurs when a local church [ed. or church planting movement] requires funding or leadership from outside of its own members in order carry out the core biblical responsibilities of a local church under normal conditions.

Consequences of financial dependency include a lack of ownership, stunted growth, mixed motives in leadership, confused accountability, suspicion of foreign influence, and compromised witness.

For a church to be sustainable it must be able to carry out its core biblical functions without relying on foreign funding or leadership.

The benefits of sustainability are the opposites of the consequences of dependency listed above.

Ken Stout

In this masters thesis, Ken Stout does a great job of wrestling with the relationship between financial dependency and the health of a movement.

Hudson and Maria

Hudson Maria Taylor

I’ve been captivated by the story of Hudson and Maria Taylor.

It’s a love story and an adventure story intertwined with one of the most significant breakthroughs in the spread of the gospel beyond the boarders of Western Christendom.

It’s the stuff great movies are made of. Yes I cried and yes I was inspired.

Lessons if you’re single and trusting God for a partner who shares your vision for multiplication movements.

Lessons if you’re married with a family. The joys and the cost.

Lessons for aspiring movement pioneers.

"Hudson Taylor And Maria: A Match Made in Heaven (History Maker)" (John Pollock)

Communicating the gospel through stories

6 9 Why Communicate the Gospel Through Story 2

This month’s edition of Mission Frontiers is all about Unleashing the Gospel through Storytelling.

Tom Steffen explains why it’s important to communicate the gospel through stories.

There’s a report on Church-Planting Movements Among Oral Learners.

JO Terry provides some practical tips on storytelling.

Steve Smith writes about how to find "houses of peace.”

Mission control, we have a problem


I’ve been away for the last two weeks. The trip gave me the opportunity to bump into a whole range of people engaged or thinking about overseas missions. They are all good people with a heart to serve God. They all hope their ministry will result in new disciples and new churches.

Some of their comments left me wondering if their hopes will every become reality.

Here’s a sample. . .

Mission by just being there

We’re off to a south Pacific nation on mission.
Q. What does that look like?
A. We’ll go and live among people and just see what happens.

Mission by foreign invasion

We’re a team of six westerners in an African village. We’ve been there four years learning language and reaching out to a town of 3-4,000.
Q. What’s the plan for reaching the 50,000 plus people beyond your town who are in the same people group?
A. We need to pray for teams of (western trained and funded) missionaries to go into every town and village.

Mission by stealth

We’ve been in an Asian city for two years building relationships. We haven’t had to initiate conversations with anyone. They come to us. Two have become Christians.
Q. How many new believers are now sharing their faith and making disciples?
A. None.

Mission by delay

I want to go to Africa and build an orphanage and school. First I need to get my degree so I can earn the money to fund the ministry.
Q. How long before you can get to the field?
A. At least five years.

Mission by wishful thinking

We're at college for another three years, then we want to go to the field and to do evangelism and plant churches.
Q. Have you had any experience in evangelism and planting churches?
A. No.

Followup Q. Do you have any idea of what you will be doing when you get there?
A. No.

As I mentioned, they were all dedicated people trying their best within a flawed paradigm.

The solution? Read the Gospels and keep asking, What did Jesus do? Read the book of Acts and keep asking, What did the risen Lord Jesus continue to do?