I have been grading the mid-term assignment for my Foundations of Missions course. Students identify a local church and then search for evidence for the importance of global missions.
Here are the instructions from the syllabus:
Missions Involvement in the Local Church: Discover & Report. Find out how your local church participates in activities, promotions, services, trips, and ways to be involved in missions education, missions financing and missions prayer support. Look for evidence on bulletin boards, pre-service slides, newsletters, and web sites. Talk to three lay leaders involved with promoting missions and your pastor. If you really want to earn a good grade, talk to your district missions president (or his or her equivalent in your denomination) about his or her expectations for missions support among churches on the district. The outline of the paper should be: Why This Church Thinks Global Missions Is Important, How This Local Church Promotes Global Missions, Surprising Things I Learned.
As a result of grading these assignments, I have been reminded about the proliferation of various Baptist groups in Appalachia splintering throughout the American South during the late-19th century. One of the distinctions between some of these groups included the means by which a local church supported global mission efforts, particularly between missionary Baptists and anti-missionary Baptists.
Missionary Baptists supported a foreign missions board that selected, trained, and sent missionaries. The local churches partnered with these agencies, and outsourced foreign mission strategy to organizations within the denomination that were directly and more closely linked with these foreign locations. Strategy was left to the experts.
Anti-missionary Baptists sounds harsh, but it really isn't. "Anti-missionary" as a modifier means not relying on a mission agency or mission board to make decisions or develop strategies for foreign missions. The local church, from this perspective, sent and supported individual missionaries directly rather than send monies through a mission agency. Part of this trend arose due to the mistrust of how these agencies were governed, sometimes with little outside accountability.
This direct support without intervening agency is an implication of congregationalism, represented generally by Baptists, in which the local church is the deciding authority.
The alternative is connectionalism, represented generally by Methodists, in which the local church acts in unison within a network of local churches and mission agencies. These definitions are grand simplifications but they get to the gist of the issue.
So, the questions rattling around my mind once again: