|Guidelines for World Evangelism||George Gurganus, editor|
|Contents | Foreword | Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | Personalia|
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. (Ecclesiastes 4:9, RSV)
Team or group evangelism is defined as "two or more individuals organized for a sustained effort to spread the Gospel."1 Group effort can accomplish a task otherwise hopeless for an individual alone or for many individuals functioning in an uncoordinated way. Especially in times of crisis there is strength in unity of purpose. Benjamin Franklin once said: "Gentlemen, if we do not all hang together, we shall all hang separately."
Moses was given his brother Aaron as a spokesman, to compensate for Moses' lack of fluency, thus making a "complete" liberation team for the Israelite slaves. Later, the need arose for a company of judges to share with Moses in the burdensome task of civil jurisprudence. Barak needed a Deborah; Naomi a Ruth; David a Jonathan; Jeremiah a Baruch. Nehemiah succeeded in the enormous task of reconstructing the walls of Jerusalem, because of his capacity to organize a dedicated task force (Nehemiah 3-6).
Jesus sent out His disciples in teams of two, to evangelize, and he developed a compact force of twelve thoroughly prepared apostles to fulfill the great commission. Paul journeyed almost always with a company of colleaguesfirst, Barnabas and Mark, and then Silas, Timothy, Luke, Titus and many others.
Why is there this consistent thread throughout the Bible of the need for companionship in service? Because man functions better and is discouraged less frequently, if he has at his side others with like purpose. When Moses became tired, the Lord raised up help for him. When Elijah was hiding out, afraid for his life, he was given an assistant, Elisha. When Paul was alone in Athens, and later in Corinth, he reached a low ebb in spirit; but he took on new life, however, with arrival of Silas and Timothy (Acts 17:15-16, 18:1-5).
Man is a social creature. He has the need to be with his own "birds of a feather". Very few people are successful loners; most function best in company with others who can complement their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses. In the spiritual realm, this need is recognized by Paul in his use of the spiritual figure of the body (I Corinthians 12:12-28). Each member functions according to his abilities and gifts, supporting and strengthening, in his own essential way, the functioning of the body as a whole, as well as being guided and strengthened by the entire body.
This principle, of various elements making up an integrated whole in the Lord's service, has been largely forgotten in recent centuries by many missionary planners. With dismaying frequency, one man has launched alone into the 44 outer darkness" of world evangelism. Some succeeded, sticking out the intense loneliness and discouragement, but many others failed, returning home with shattered health and/or faith. In Brazil, we have witnessed such mismanagement of human power. The same note has been sounded time and time again throughout the world, as otherwise potentially successful workers leave the field disenchanted, primarily for lack of companionship on the battle line.
Although infrequently used in the past, mission teams as such are not a new concept. Francis of Assisi and his companions, for example, served in voluntary poverty in the attempt to bring order out of chaos concerning the religion and morality of Middle Ages Italy; and so did the Jesuits, who tamed savage Brazil for Catholicism. In the last century England launched many mission teams to other countries in its farflung empire. Only in recent years, however, has this basic principle of evangelism been adopted on anything like a consistent basis. While many religious bodies still practice the "one man to one nation" or "one man to one city" approach, the notion of sending entire groups of families to unreached areas came to be held by several men of vision following World War II.
Out of this same stirring came concrete action, in the form of "Exodus Movements" to major cities in the northeastern United States. While successful in themselves to a greater or lesser degree, these movements gave birth to the idea of well-organized mission teams, especially prepared and qualified to work in major foreign cities.
We next saw the development of small teams which entered Italy, Germany, Japan, Guatemala and other areas, and then came the formation in the late 1950's of the Brazil team, which brought to Sao Paulo an initial total of 13 couples. Most of the persons in this group had prepared together at Abilene Christian University before their arrival in Brazil.
This "new" approach to overseas missions was observed by many and copied by some. Other teams were formed, going to Australia, Austria, Jamaica and later on, to Argentina and other countries.
Meanwhile, our Belo Horizonte mission team was formed in 1962, under the name of "Operation '68." At first, it was to be something of an Exodus Movement of largely self-employed Christians to the carefully selected foreign metropolis. To this end, extensive planning was put into the movement. As it turned out, most of the 15 families involved during its first years on the field were fully supported by churches in the States, with but three being classified as purely "vocational" missionaries. Some of the more recent workers have maintained themselves by teaching in the local American school, but most have had support from churches in the States.
Since the arrival of the Belo Horizonte team in Brazil, other mission groups have been formed. The Buenos Aires, Argentina team, the Quiche-Indian team in Guatemala, and the Zambia team in Africa, have arrived on their respective fields and are functioning with moderate to excellent success. Other groups are still in the process of formation and preparation. It appears to be a coming pattern now at some Christian colleges and preacher training schools to select a city or country, and then to concentrate on preparing a qualified team to enter it.
What are some of the considerations involved in the decision to organize and/or participate in a group thrust into a foreign target area? What are some of the positive and negative factors involved in team evangelism?
On the positive side of team evangelism, we have pointed out man's need for companionship, especially in the strange surroundings. This may be illustrated by the present writer's experience on more than one occasion, as he found himself stranded in some remote city of Brazil. Even with a briefcase full of names to contact, it was extremely difficult when alone to get at the task and to keep at it. But when he had even one other colleague with him, the searching out and teaching of these same persons became interesting and challenging. A man needs companions in arms.
Secondly, team evangelism provides more than just companionship "in battle." It also provides companionship in solace and in mutual encouragement. One man's low point may be offset by another's high. One man's discouragement may be relieved by a colleague's understanding "hand on the shoulder." Team evangelism, then, is a pooling of individual emotional strengths, just as a tired battery may be brought back to life by an energized one. It develops strong common personal bondsDavid and Jonathan relationshipsbetween the colleagues. Deep, loyal friendship develops and becomes a real blessing.
Team evangelism is also a pooling of other areas of mutual support. It is a case of all complementing the abilities and strengths of each other, as well as compensating for the others' weaknesses. No one man can be all things to all people, nor can he do all of the things that may be required of him on a mission field. At best, a missionary is a man who must wear several hatspreacher, teacher, counselor, printer, parent, public relations man, fund-raiser, financier, church planter, proxy elder, writer, linguist, practical nurse.... Often, he becomes confused and frustrated by his many roles, not really succeeding at any of them. In the group effort, he isn't required to become all things. He can gravitate naturally toward those areas of work where he is best prepared and most successful. In a missionary team, there is room for writers, printers, and those with other specialized skills, whereas in the lone-family thrust, men with certain professional skills may either find little time to utilize them on the field, or more likely, never be given an opportunity to even enter mission work. After all, our usual image of a missionary does not normally allow for the presence on the field of highly skilled technicians.
The team that went to Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 1967-68 was purposely organized to include people of varied professional backgrounds. There were: a business administrator, an airplane pilot-photographer, school teachers, a house builder, an artist-journalist, a professional music writer-arranger and a doctor, as well as several who had years of preaching, Bible teaching, and youth camp experience. Some criticized us for taking "non-preachers" to the mission field. But were we to organize a new team today for some other city, we would not change this principle, but rather, would encourage various specialists to join us. We thus have in our team what might be described as "unity in diversity." Not all are called to preach publicly. Some are skilled at preaching on paper, or at freeing the evangelists from recordkeeping and financial details. Our pilot, for example, is not a polished public speaker. But he is an "old pro" at carrying men and printed matter to every area of vast Brazil. But in the process, he is able to teach men all over the country on a quiet, one-to-one basis.
Only in a team effort can such specialized abilities be put to their most effective use. Only in a team effort can the collective skills of all of its members be blended together, to create an end result that is even greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps this is one of the most valuable, yet mysterious, aspects of a mission team. It can become a unique, living personality in itself, functioning as all of the body of Christ should function.
Most mission fields are far from home and far from the sponsors' supervision. A mission team can provide some of the gentle (and, if necessary, more stringent) pressures needed by some missionaries to produce and to conform to expected norms of behavior. Alone, a man may let down his standards over a period of time, but in a group, he thinks twice before ignoring pressure from his on-the-field peer group.
Group evangelism is a give-and-take process, with emphasis on the giving. A firm understanding of the group dynamics process is essential to team missionary effort. No one person is the permanent "chief of operations." No one man will be able to run roughshod over the opinions and will of the group.
Since team evangelism is definitely a case of giving, herein lies one of its strengths. By pooling its collective resources of money, time, and talents, it will accomplish much that otherwise would not be possible. In the area of finances, the Belo Horizonte team receives as a group a certain amount each month from each of its members, according to his ability to participate. This money is then utilized for various programs which could not be sustained by one or two men working alone. These programs include publications, correspondence courses, a Bible camp and many other areas of outreach. Interestingly, the pooled funds (separate and apart from each team member's church contributions) amount to more than many smaller congregations' monthly budgets.
Don Vinzant, former Sao Paulo missionary, notes that a whole group can share in the cost of expensive facilities and equipment, language instruction, the hiring of lawyers or brokers, and the shipping of goods as the need may arise. He also suggests that it is easier to raise support for individual team members, because of publicity generated by the team thrust and the confidence brethren have in the stability of the group involved.2
"On-the-field" blessings also include the combined resources, both spiritual and material, of all of the congregations involved directly in the team effort. For example, in times of special opportunity, need, or crisis on the field, sponsoring and supporting churches can all analyze the situation and provide such advice or resources that only one or two churches would be unable to realize.
Pooled resources also include a team's ability to assist members who are ill, injured, traveling, or on leave. One of our colleagues was stricken recently with a critical heart attack. His teammates immediately went into action, providing around-the-clock hospital vigil, financial aid, help on documentation, arrangements for his return to the States and a host of other details. If a team member goes on leave, his work doesn't come to a sudden halt. Rather, it is carried on, at least nominally, in his absence. His home is cared for and his other interests are served while he is away. He is given a loving send-off and a warm welcome on return.
Perhaps the most useful areas of pooled resources are those in the mental and spiritual realms. One man, working alone, may arrive at what he believes to be an excellent new idea or approach to a problem. In team evangelism such "brainstorms" can be examined, tested, left to simmer down and then re-examined. In Proverbs 11:14 the King James version states the matter well:
Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors, there is safety.Certainly, this point is true. An entire mission group can be wrong in one of its collective decisions, but the chances of this happening are much less likely than in the case of individually made decisions. The New English Bible puts a different but also a practical slant on this verse:
For want of skillful strategy an army is lost; victory is the fruit of long planning.It is our experience, after more than a decade of group decision-making in regard to our work in Belo Horizonte and elsewhere in Brazil, that real success generally comes only after much soul-searching and careful planning of the whole team. The problem-solving process as practiced by a group is tedious, but the end-results are worth the effort.
Spiritual growth for a man, and a group, can be stimulated by pooling spiritual resourcesexperience, past study, areas of specialization, research, books, prayer fife and worship. No one person can be a master of every aspect of Bible knowledge, spiritual life and church work, but several Christians together, functioning as integral members of the same body (I Corinthians 12:14-31), can cooperate for the good of the whole, with one supplying strength where another is weak, and vice-versa. Vinzant comments:
In a group some may be down emotionally because of culture shock, poor physical health, neglected spiritual life, etc., others will be in better spirits. Thus the group is protected because one can encourage the other.3
A mission team should learn this lesson well. Team members must work together as yoke-fellows, never as competitors. One perpetual critic or laggard in a group can hold back the entire team's progress. They also must learn to communicate their needs, their weaknesses, their sins and their complaints. Of course, this is what James teaches all Christians to do in their interpersonal relationships (James 5:13-16), but serving together on a team absolutely requires mutual understanding. There is no place in which to hide from a problem that may arise. There is no transferring to another congregation in order to escape an interpersonal problem. Misunderstanding must be faced honestly and if at all possible, through prayer and brotherly love, resolved.
Team evangelism as in any team effort, requires considering the other person as more worthy than oneself. This requires a generous portion of humility and of Christian maturity, as taught in Philippians 2:1-4:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.
Because of the many advantages of team evangelism, especially in the areas of mutual companionship and encouragement, the chances of longevity in mission service on a particular field are enhanced. Even the chances of entering the field initially are improved, because of the presence of a team on which to rely and with which to serve as an integral part of a whole operation. Of the thirteen men who went to Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1961, five are still active on the field after more than fourteen years. Of nine American men who went to Belo Horizonte in 1967, six are still in Brazil, after more than eight years.
With a strong continuity of personnel and activity, mission teams can have an impact on their host society that might never be achieved by an individual working alone. A team's presence is more strongly felt over the years. In researching mission methods before coming to Brazil, John Curtis made this observation:
The group method may possibly serve to impress the nationals of a country that the group means business and is there to stay.4
Nationals have often watched a new religious movement brought in by some zealous missionary, but then as he moves on, or his work for some other reason declines, it is abandoneda stark testimony to its temporary nature. For this reason many are hesitant to become connected with another potential failure. The long-term presence of a mission team can help reassure the nationals that this venture is planned, determined and permanent, and thus facilitating their acceptance of the church and their incorporation into it. Among team members contact is made with a number of top government and business officials. This is another type of rich resource whose benefits can be pooled. For example, materials or technical know how are needed for construction of a meeting place. Among the teammates someone generally has the necessary contacts for its design, engineering and construction.
This same continuity of personnel and program can also have a cumulative impact on the church as back home. Over a period of time brethren come to know of and to respect the work and trustworthiness of a seasoned team. Thus, if handled correctly, new projects and personnel for the team can be provided more easily than might otherwise be the case.
Are there any weaknesses in team evangelism? Certainly! For example, any team effort involves human personalities, some of which run counter to each other. Add to this the fact that most missionaries are strongwilled and at least fairly well dedicated to their task. If they were not determined people, they never would have gone to the field in the first place. Strong willed, determined individuals hold intense points of view. Put several such people together and the results can be anything but calm. Not every man can work as a partner, or let us say, as a servant, considering the welfare of others ahead of himself (Philippians 2:3-4). Interpersonal problems and clashes can be the greatest difficulty to overcome in any team effort. This is true, not only for the men, but also for wives and children. Many a time an otherwise smooth-working team grinds to a halt because of complaints and/or gossip among wives or eruptions among children.
Veteran missionary and writer T. Stanley Soltau makes this pertinent statement about missionaries serving together on the field:
It is true that a few individualistically minded missionaries have a difficult time getting along with their fellows, and they do their best work if they are left alone in a station. On the other hand, when two or more families, working individually or as families, are compatible, the combined impact of their work and influence is cumulative. The moral and spiritual discipline which they undergo as they work together, checking and counterchecking on each other's efforts, precludes the tendency toward becoming dictatorial and "difficult." In the long run they will accomplish much more, both quantitatively and qualitatively, than had they been placed singly and along in different places.5
It is often traumatic to accept this, but there are times when it proves impossible for two or more to serve together in the same group. The only solution is for them to work separately in the same city or preferably, in separate localities. This is not a new phenomenon, as we see by reading about Paul and Barnabas' rupture in Acts 15:36-39. In such case, however, for the good of the team and of its individual members, the separation must be made as peacefully as possible, hopefully with a demonstration of forgiveness.
A related handicap, which perhaps precipitates many other more serious difficulties and misunderstandings among team members, is that of a failure to take the time and effort required to maintain good communications in the group. Many tensions arise because someone unintentially overlooked, snubbed or otherwise hurt a fellow team-member.
Mission teams require considerable time for planning and communication. The problem-solving process can be frustratingly slow and tedious, For this reason, some become reluctant about participating in brainstorming sessions and business meetings. If they do attend, through group pressure, they may arrive late and leave early, seldom entering into the discussion. Their attitude frequently is, "Let's quit talking about it and get with it!" Of course, there is a tendency for any group to unnecessarily prolong discussion. There is also a tendency to waste time in idle chatter, or even harmful gossip, in the name of problem-solving. But the problems must be faced and solved.
Another disadvantage of team effort is the tendency to rely only on each other as social outlets, thus narrowing the individual member's contact with nationals. It is easy to thus develop a "mission compound" attitude and huddle together to the point of seeming to deliberately exclude nationals from intimate friendships.
This tendency can also include the work itself. A mission team may come to make all decisions and rely only on team members for leadership and supportive roles on the field rather than drawing nationals into the program, including its decision-making processes and its leadership. This is a serious mistake!
Sometimes an individual team member comes to rely too heavily on others in every aspectfailing to master the language, shirking his own responsibilities and producing less than his own share of results. He can bask in the glory of team accomplishment, while hiding from the brethren back home his own lack of productivity. Riding on the shoulders of others is beneficial and essential for a newcomer, who must learn the language and adapt to the culture and the work, but for the experienced missionary, this is dishonest and unfair to his colleagues and to the work. He must carry his own load, as well as sharing in the burdens of others (Galatians 6:1-6). This obligation includes financial, moral, emotional and spiritual concerns, as well as that difficult area of plain hard work.
There are times when a team may expect more from a colleague than he is qualified or prepared to deliver. Group pressure can be awesome, if consistently applied. At the very least, it can force a member into tasks that he finds disagree able and discouraging. He must sacrifice individual freedom to serve with a team, but he must not be forced into "a right-handed task," when he is really a "southpaw" by nature. His individual abilities, rights, and freedom of thought and action must be protected, despite his participation in the team.
There are other times when the team must investigate honestly the behavior and/or lack of productivity of one of its members. One possibly negative aspect of team outreach is that such a task is distasteful and awkward, because the person involved is also answerable to his sponsoring elders and to the Lord, and not just to his teammates. So the team will sometimes patiently, or critically, wait out a situation that should have been dealt with much sooner.
Another area of possible difficulty of a large "foreign" nucleus of team members, is that they may easily earn a reputation of "foreign domination" of the work. This can be destructive, if there are strong nationalistic tendencies in the host nation.
Having considered plus and minus factors involved in team evangelism, let us move on to other aspects. For example, what type of individuals and families should make up a mission team? Should the team be an homogenous, closely knit group, before arrival on the field? What is the optimum age range for team members? Should the group be made up of single workers, young marrieds, parents of small children, or older people, who have largely or totally reared their children? What about the level of maturity, the goals, the ability to work with others?
A mission team must plan and work closely together. Obviously its members must be compatible, with the ability to complement the others in the team, rather than compete with them. The rugged individualist, the overly strong-willed and the self-centered have no place in a team effort. Those who seek to be the "chief of missionary operations" cannot function well in a team. Those who must have their own way at all costs are destructive to group success. A successful team member is one who seeks the greatest good for all, rather than for himself. He fights for his own ideas, but for the sake of group unity, knows when to yield gracefully and to cooperate in the work to be done, even if the decision as to how to accomplish it goes against his own opinion.
A good group man is a dreamer, but who is also practical. He is goal-oriented. That is, he is able to set high goals for himself, for the team, and for the work, and then he sets about to determine how best to meet these goals. However, a man who only dreams may become carried away with his own fantasies, without ever considering their practicality.
David Mickey suggests another characteristic of an effective team member:
The good group member accepts responsibility readily, and leaves no room for c riticism that he is not carrying his part of the load. In group work each member must fulfill his goals, if the others are to achieve theirs.6
A group man can and should be a specialist in one or more areas, but must also be adaptable. He may have to learn new areas of ability on the field, or change his skills to meet new and different situations. The present writer came to the field as a professional artist, designer and journalist. But he soon found that to function here in Brazil in the area of Christian publications, which was his major goal, it was going to be necessary to retrain, to learn new methods and technical vocabulary, to adapt to new tools and materials, to understand new attitudes and to have a great deal of patience. All of this he has learned to some degree and so is able to be producing materials in the Portuguese language, but still at a slower, more frustrating pace than he could have done in his own language and cultural and professional setting at home.
Adaptability is a real key to successful group evangelism. There is no such thing as one super mission method. Situations, needs and opportunities constantly change. A mission team must adapt to these changing situations or perish. The missionary himself must be adaptable to a new language, culture, environment, methods and workmates. A rigid type of person who sees everything as a dichotomy, who believes that the way it was done back home is the only way to do it on the field, or who believes he can only eat, drink or wear items to which he has always been accustomed, is in for serious trouble on the field and so is his mission team.
Each missionary must be flexible in methods and life style. He must be adaptable to the other personality types on the team, in the church on the field and among the nationals in general. Perhaps a good way in which to describe him is that he should be humble, a pillar of strength when necessary, but also tactful and gentle, not abrasive in personality. He should be a person of mature thinking, which need not necessarily correlate to his physical age. Some will show considerable maturity even in their early twenties, others may never. And along with maturity of judgment, it would be helpful for him to have had experience.
Howard Norton, veteran missionary in Sao Paulo, describes the successful mission team member:
A group member must be Willing to try new ideas and not become despondent when some cherished plan does not materialize ... Flexibility, which means the ability to adapt to changing conditions without undue upset, is an important character trait of group members.7He goes on to list other qualities:
To the above list, the result of more than a decade and a half of team partnership, I would add one other key characteristic: Patience. Perhaps no other desire, except for increased faith, trust in the Lord, vision and understanding has been expressed more often in our prayers in Belo Horizonte, than the word "patience." It is a characteristic in great demand, but often short supply, among missionaries. We tend to want instant results and instant understanding among our colleagues. We want mature, indigenous churches almost overnight. We want all of our plans to be realized now. But this is not the way in which it normally happens.
This is a good place in which to mention the need to make and fulfill a long-term commitment, as a characteristic of the good group man. He must make a firm decision to cast his lot with the Lord and with a specific team of Its servants, and then to stick with his decision. Building the church, especially in another cultural and religious heritage, is the process of a generation at best. There is a vital place for short-termers in a team effort, but the basic core of the team must be committed to continuing in its task in the field, perhaps for decades.
In summarizing the traits of the good team member, the following points also come to mind: He should be friendly, open-hearted and open-minded (no one can successfully serve at the side of a sour or domineering type). He should be willing to hear the other man and to fairly weigh his ideas. But he should also have an independent mind, capable of analysis and original thinking. Above all, he should be sincerely involved. Utterback says that any group "should be composed of persons genuinely interested in the problem to be discussed."9 This sounds axiomatic, but it is strange how often a group finds itself in supposed partnership with one or more persons whose interests run counter to those of the group itself.
A prospective team member's age, marital and family situation all enter decisively into the picture. Arguments fly pro and con over the optimum age range for beginning missionaries and their families. This does not appear to us in Belo Horizonte to be as important as the attitudes of the family in question. Our own team has had members whose 'ages ran from the early twenties to the sixties. While it is more difficult on the whole for older persons to adapt and learn the language, it is not necessarily impossible, and they can function in areas closed to the young. Middle-aged, older people and retirees, often overlooked in the demand for youth in missionary outreach, can be quite effective, especially in those parts of the world where age and experience are held in high esteem. Several of our families had teenage children when they arrived in Brazil. Despite prophecies of doom it was discovered that the teenagers benefited greatly by their stay in Brazil, and they also performed a valuable service while there. Their middle-aged parents have shown a higher-than-average longevity on the field, due perhaps to their having already been through the millof education, work and human experience in general, and thus being more content to stick out the added frustrations and crises of the missionary endeavor.
It is essential, however, that both the wife and children favor the idea of foreign evangelism, especially in a team thrust, and that they be compatible with the other families involved. When the idea of their going to Brazil became a serious possibility, the writer's entire family met around the dinner table for a conference on the matter. Problems of moving, adjustment, language, education, returning for college in the States and the long separation from parents were all considered. When it came time to make the awesome decision, the teenage sons opted for Brazil ahead of their father.
Once a team is carefully and prayerfully put together, it should spend time in joint and individual preparation for the venture. Teammates should come to know each other as well as possible and should all participate in the advance planning. To throw a group of strangers together and expect them to automatically become a smoothly operating missionary machine is to invite disaster. Our own team was five years in forming and preparing before the first unit left for the field. During this time, especially the last two years, there were frequent retreats and planning sessions. A lengthy handbook called Operation '68 Master Growth Guide,10 was drawn up, after much research and prayer, as a guide for all the team members. Every effort was made to acquaint all teammates and supporting churches with each other and with the project. This included a monthly group newsletter called Brazil, Oba!, regular bulletins shared by the committed and prospective workers, personal correspondence, frequent telephone conferences, visits in the homes and other means of communication, as well as the retreats and planning sessions.
But even with all of this effort to communicate and build team understanding and spirit, some were not well acquainted with each other when we arrived in Brazil, and some were hazy about proposed methods. Some proved to be incapable of working closely with others, and some returned home early, frustrated by their stay. The entire prospective team must feel a real esprit de corps, a real sense of "familyhood" among its members and should have a real sense of having participated fully in planning before departure. Otherwise, there is a great likelihood that a spirit of comradeship will never develop under the pressures faced in the work. Such a spirit will "grow" on the field, but it must be there, at least in essence, beforehand.
A mission team is no stronger than the potential strength of all of its members. If one of its partners is well prepared and another ill prepared, the result will be for the two of them only mediocre preparation. If one has studied the language and culture of his new host country, the mission methods and other areas of preparation before coming, while the other made little or no specialized preparation, the second man will inevitably retard the progress of the first. Of course, no two will have the same capacity nor the same opportunities to learn. But every effort should be made, collectively and individually, to see that all members, including wives, have the best preparation possible before going. (How very often wives are overlooked in the process of both preparation and decision making. This is a dangerous oversight and will haunt the group later on.)
In many cases, some knowledge of the language can be obtained before departure. This will facilitate learning it on the field and will also reduce some of the initial frustration as the workers attempt to find houses ant furniture. The history and culture of the target area should be researched by every team member. If the preparation period is long enough, courses can be taken in cultural anthropology, mission history and methods, principles of church growth, group dynamics and other studies beneficial to success on the field.
Most worthwhile things in life are realized by setting goals and then aiming one's energies at accomplishing them. Individual members of a mission team should set personal goals of preparation, language mastery and personal growth and service on the field.
Then the group itself should collectively set goals-for preparation, departure and development of the work. These goals must be the product of group consideration and consensus, not just based on someone's individual decision. A longtime Brazil colleague, John Pennisi, says this about group goal-setting:
...interest and cooperation are created within the group through participation in the establishment of goals. When the individual has the opportunity to express himself and to participate in the decisions that affect him, he feels that the group is of benefit to him and not merely to the leader along.11
During its preparatory period, the group should determine certain basic goals and understandings, both immediate and long-range. The Sao Paulo team set the following goals in its early planning:
Once goals are set by the group, they should be kept in mind and pursued diligently. Pennisi additionally lists several essential steps in areas of goal-reaching and problem-solving:
First, a clear perspective of the problem must be obtained and boundaries placed around the scope to be discussed. Second, all must settle on a definition of terms and concepts, in order that semantics may present the least difficulty. Third, an understanding of the long range objectives must be developed, in order that the more immediate goal may be determined in consideration of them. Fourth, identify the problem concretely by bringing in all facts in the matter, studying them carefully. Fifth, reconsider the long-range goals and the effect that they have upon the problem. Sixth, determine the possible solutions and fully understand what each means, without ridiculing any proffered course of action. Seventh, evaluate each solution in the light of the long-range objectives.12
Unity in establishing goals, and then in reaching them, is dependent upon "how well the members personally like each other, how well they like the shared goals and how much they realize that they need one another to reach their goals."13
Utilization of the above principle in group work will help guarantee the fulfillment of group goals and the continuity of its spirit, both in preparation and functioning on the field. Individuals will flag in zeal, especially as the preparation period drags month after month and perhaps year after year. Group spirit must be maintained, by every means possible, during this critical time.
One mistake that deeply hurt our group spirit (one that future teams might avoid) is that of entering the field in separate waves. When our first group (one family independently and seven families together) left the States, the departure caused a letdown in spirit for those who were to follow, as well as a serious breakdown in communications, and unity among the members of the total group. When the second wave of five families arrived a year later, friction developed between what had become, in essence, two separate teams. How much better it would have been to hold the team together, both in preparation and arrival on the field.
Now that we have roughed out some guidelines for forming a mission team, where should it go? Among the requirements for selection of a country and city, the following were included in our list during the process of selection: It must be receptive: to the gospel, to the entry of a team of Americans, and to vocational opportunities. It should be a growing nation, with a reasonably stable government. Finally, it should have large, unreached metropolitan centers, from which to choose a target city. Brazil was one of the nations that met all these requirements for us, with Belo Horizonte selected as the next promising city, after Sao Paulo, in which to open a new work. The selection process should have much research, and direct, on-the-field investigation. It also requires time, patience, and a heaping portion of prayer.
Obviously, not every area is conducive to team evangelism. Rural or small town settings, where missionary colleagues are scattered over a wide area, would complicate greatly a group operation. The area selected should be homogenous; that is, a large city that is conducive to the presence of a team of families, or a closely knit tribal area that can be worked from a central point.
How central? A "missionary compound" approach is probably unwise, especially in these days of strong nationalism. Team members must live close enough together to maintain effective communication and joint effort, but they should not live "in each other's pockets." To some extent, availability of housing and its price will dictate where team families should live, at least early in the stay.
Once on the field, a team must devote time to organization of the work. During our first few months in Belo Horizonte, we met almost daily to hammer out procedures and solve unforeseen difficulties.
One area of very vital concern in the functioning of a mission team, as well as its morale, is that of continuing internal communication. We attempt to assure good communication by means of: notes distributed to each member, telephone calls and a regular group bulletin (distributed to the team, as well as to a select group of friends, supporters and former colleagues). We also meet once a week in what we call "Chat-N-Chew" luncheon sessions, where ideas are shared and filed mentally for future reference. Despite the best intentions, however, someone on the team will inevitably complain, "Nobody ever told me about that!"
Communication is more than announcing facts. It is also gaining the other person's attention and sharing with him heart-to-heart. No two of the workers in a team will have identical experiences, goals, vocabulary, educational level or communicative skills. As pointed out by Beal, Bohlen and Raudabaugh:
In heterogenous groups ... it is particularly important that each group member makes sure he is communicating with all other group members.14They further state that group members feel unsure of themselves, and therefore defensive and suspicious, when they do not have two-way communication. Evidently, even open words and acts of hostility are received with more certainty, if there is a practice of open communication among group members.15
It is essential that a missionary team discipline itself to regular times for business, fellowship and recreation. It should also maintain adequate records of its work and its finances. It must know who is responsible for what, simply because "what is everybody's business is nobody's." It must discipline itself to requiring completion of assignments, participation by all members in the work, in the finances, and in the times of group discussion and fellowship. It is our considered opinion that a man who voluntarily joins a mission team, and then refuses to participate wholeheartedly, has forfeited his right to team membership. To avoid such a reversal of attitude after reaching the field, our team requires all prospective team members to sign an agreement "'of participation, in the work and in financial and moral commitment to it. A copy of our agreement form is found in an appendix at the end of this chapter.
Organization includes the necessary machinery of: chairmanship of meetings, minutes-taking, keeping of and reporting on finances, responsibility for official group correspondence, and other group-assigned tasks.
Ted Stewart, another veteran group worker, lists the following reasons for sound structuring of group work:
Team effort requires regular meetings, despite the time they take up. And meetings require rules and records, as noted by Howard Norton:
Even as a brief meeting at midfield to discuss ground rules is necessary prior to a football game, it is necessary for a group to decide jointly the norms which will regulate its discussion periods (and business methods).
Written records are worth the effort because the minutes record all formal decisions of the group and thus cut down on misunderstandings that might arise.17Rules are necessary to the orderly processing of decisions. Faulty memories and changes in the group, as well as legal considerations, require accurate record keeping. There are also historical considerations, because someone later on might want to research the development of that particular work. Record keeping includes sound business procedures for handling of funds, payment of group bills, processing of documents and other such matters.
A distinct characteristic of both the Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte teams is the absence of a single group leader. However, all discussion periods, business meetings, and group functioning need coordinating by a chairman. For this reason, a chairman is selected by the group to serve only for a specific period of time. Thus, leadership is spread around in the group.
Depending upon the size of the group and the complexity of its work, a certain number of committees is necessary. Both of these Brazil groups have a Steering Committee, composed usually of the chairman, the secretary and the treasurer for the year, or other men selected by the team. This committee coordinates group activity, handles internal conflicts and difficulties and represents the team in various official and legal realms. Committees may also be formed to care for recruitment, publications, evangelism, public relations, facilities, Bible camps and other such matters. Because our team in Belo Horizonte is now fairly small, we have simplified the committee structure. Except for the Steering Committee, specialized areas are assigned generally to one man, who reports to and counsels with the entire group about his area of responsibility.
A mission team's individual assignments must be based partially on need but partially on individual abilities and desires. Considering only one aspect of assignment making, to the neglect of others, can create problems. For example, the present writer is no carpenter or handyman. But for a time he was made responsible for maintenance of the Bible Camp near Belo Horizonte, a clearcut case of a square peg in a round hole. On the other hand, his group assignments from the beginning have included responsibility for creating printed materials, a happy choice for all concerned.
In our team approach, we have tried to consider the human resources available, as well as the task to be accomplished, and then to match these up as well as possible. It is most important that each member understand and accept his part in the functioning of the whole structure. Here is our present group "job description" chart:
As indicated on this chart, each man has at least one assignment in his area of specialization. He also serves in other areas, including working with one or more congregations. All team members also share in responsibilities connected with our Bible camp and with major evangelistic campaigns.
Each member also shares in group expenses. Our mission team is registered officially and functions in Brazil as a School of the Bible. This gives us legal recognition as a team, with the right to transact business, apply for visas for new workers and such like. We operate a group office, which also doubles as a center for correspondence courses, publications, courses for church leaders and other projects, such as large scale campaigns that are beyond the capacity of the young churches here. In order to function in this way, we expect each team member to contribute his share each month for group office rent, printing, postage, Bible camp maintenance and other expenses. Thus, we can have a reasonably stable financial-base for our growing commitments. Careful records of all transactions are kept, approved by the group and registered according to Brazilian law.
Each team member accepts a responsibility to the entire teama "one-for-all and all-for-one" spirit. When one member suffers, all suffer. When one rejoices, all rejoice. It is not at all uncommon for one member to spend part of his Stateside leave attempting to reinforce the work or shore up the support of another member.
The good team member "can often help to create a favorable climate by expressing good will toward the other members, by complimenting others on their contributions, by encouraging others to speak (and participate) and by helping to pacify the short-tempered and to harmonize divergent views."18
But let us suppose that divergent views still exist, or that friction arises. How does a team handle these? Conflicts will occur, even in the most understanding of groups. Missionaries too are human. Misunderstandings arise, due primarily to strongly held views about the work and about how others in the group should or should not be performing. Each other's faults are seen in the bright light of day-to-day reality. On this point David Mickey observes:
In a close group relationship, where each member of the group knows the others so well, individuals are let to see their own weaknesses and inabilities.19
Some cannot tolerate this mirroring of their own faults, as pointed out by Miller:
A person who has never learned to crucify this pride system of his life, to cleanse his inner life until it can stand the transparency of genuine interpersonal relationships, win retreat further behind shame, false fronts and intrigue 20
And just as the individual discovers his own weaknesses, as reflected by the group, he also comes to see the weaknesses in the lives of other members of the group. It is the obligation of all involved to gently encourage and correct each other. They must be willing to help and be helped. They must be ready to forgive and ask forgiveness, to criticize constructively and to receive loving criticism.
One area of potential misunderstanding between team members on the field, or between the team and sponsoring churches, is that of financial support for workers. To diminish this possibility, we in Belo Horizonte have tried to maintain a somewhat uniform set of guidelines for level of support of present and future team families, depending largely on number and age of children in the family involved, since their schooling can be a real financial and logistics problem on the field. Other major expenses, apart from housing, are transportation, telephone (which is usually quite expensive in other countries, but indispensable to communication within the group) and the purchase of major household appliances. In addition, the family's budget must include resources for settling in, for language study and for sharing in group expenses. The former two expenses are almost always higher than anticipated.
Some have questioned whether it is better for each worker to be sponsored separately or whether all in the group should be under the sponsorship of the same Stateside congregation. It is imperative that all team members be answerable to an eldership, somewhere. The first system, that of a different sponsor for each family, has been followed by the Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte teams, whereas the entire Buenos Aires, Argentina group is largely sponsored by one church. If there are various sponsors, support and accompanying interest in the work are spread out over a larger area and have a generally wider financial base. Also, if one congregation decides to withdraw its participation, the entire effort is only hampered, but not killed outright. The method does have the disadvantage of having to keep a number of elderships informed and approving of the work being done.
This is no easy task, since decisions are generally reached by the consensus of the men at work on the field (that is, by those who should generally be most qualified to make such decisions). At times elderships at home, not understanding the real situation and the process by which a particular decision was reached, disagree with it, thus placing their man in the untenable position of being pulled in two different directions by two opposing loyalties. If this two-way stretch continues, he must either part company with the team over the matter, or part company with his sponsor. Fortunately for our team, such a problem has seldom arisen, but it can.
In such an arrangement (various sponsoring churches), it is wise to develop early in the program a sense of mutual confidence between the team and the sponsoring churches. This can be done by careful communication and better yet, by occasional joint meetings of the elderships of the churches involved, to discuss the work in general, as well as visits by team members on leave to the various sponsoring churches of his fellow workers.
With such a spirit of mutual confidence, sponsors will more readily accept team decisions, even in the extreme case of disciplinary action recommended by the team against one of its members.
The other system, that of one sponsoring church for all team members, has certain advantages, perhaps chief of which are simplified communication and better coordination of team effort and its relationship to the sponsor. However, there are certain handicaps, one of which is the risk of a team's rising or falling together, depending on the mood of the moment in its sponsoring church. Another is that the entire team may be held back unnecessarily by limitations imposed by the lack of vision or resources of its single sponsor.
Any efficient team must have periodic means of evaluating both its progress and the processes by which it reaches its decisions and realizes its progress. In this way, it will direct its energies toward the task at hand, rather than heading off at tangents, as enticing as they may seem at the moment. In the book, Leadership and Dynamic Group Action, the importance of group self-evaluation is stressed in these words:
...systematic, rational evaluation has great potential in leading group members and the group to greater productivity. Members participate the most in group activities when they understand the goals and objectives of the group and evaluate the group as making satisfactory progress toward these goals.21
Most who enlist in a mission team are determined to stick with their commitment. They want to be a part of a successful group venture and for this reason, pledge a definite period of years to the work. To become really useful to the work, a period of several years of on-the-field experience is essential. They often have the rosey-eyed notion that their fellow team members will be nearly perfect and that no one will create problems, become discouraged or return home. But this is not the case. Even with the best of intentions, relations and planning, there are misunderstandings and disappointments, with some leaving the team from time to time. Illness, lost support, changing interests and circumstances, disillusionment and just the very changing nature of life itself contribute to changes in a team's personnel. To maintain its program of work, a team must recruit new families.
This is a difficult experience for all. It has been our observation that the times of greatest stress in group work are the final two or three weeks before departure, the first few months after arrival (the settling-in period), those moments of frustration in language learning, periods of division in the ranks of the team, serous calamities, such as loss of support, sudden illness, major accident or death, strife among national congregations, departure of a key member of the team and the arrival of a new member. The right kind of recruit must be sought out, prepared, documented and visaed (a tedious task) and then incorporated into an already operating program. He doesn't have the benefit of previous experience and may not be absorbed readily into its nature and spirit. He may not agree with its methods, and, of course, nothing irritates a group much more than a newcomer's challenging its time-honored practices, which have been hammered out, over the years, on the anvil of hard experience. It is possible, however, for a newcomer to see things from a fresh point of view and for this reason his ideas should be given fair consideration.
The newly arrived worker goes through all of the agonies of adjustment and language-learning, which can be aggravated by his seeing the "old pros" operating and communicating so easily. They, too, may be irritated by his "slowness," forgetting how it was for them a few years earlier. It is often better to assign a more recent arrivee to lead in the orientation of the newcomer, because he can identify better with the problems of the novice. Once on the field, continued care must be given to the newcomer's absorption into the group, the work and the culture. His permanent attitude about his new co-workers and the environment in general becomes pretty much set during his first weeks and months on the field.
It is essential, then, that replacements be given careful consideration. We here in Belo Horizonte put them through a screening process that is designed to point out potential strengths and weaknesses before the person leaves home. Questions we ask in recruiting are: What is the optimum size for our team? What talents are needing to be replaced or incorporated into the work? What kind of temperament does this person have? Can he make the necessary adjustments to life and service here? Will he be a real asset to the work, or a liability? To help us answer these questions, we ask him to submit to us a statement about his personal background and references, as well as the already-mentioned agreement form. We also try to arrange for various ones of our number to visit in his home prior to his departure for the field.
Team evangelism, then, involves many considerations. Any such team should be carefully and prayerfully formed. Its task, especially if in an area newly opened to evangelism, is monumental and should be begun with all of the advance preparation possible. Its task has long-term implications, which call for long-term commitments. Some in our Belo Horizonte team felt earlier that, surely, five years would be sufficient for mounting a strong, self-perpetuating work in our city. Now we see it as the task of a generation, considering the almost total lack of prior Bible knowledge on the part of its citizens, as well as their background, steeped as it is in tradition and superstition. To change a nation of people is an extremely slow process, one that must look ahead to the rise of a new Bible-oriented generation.
Despite the great cost, energy and time involved, it is well worth all the extra efforts to launch the right kind of mission team. Its total impact for good can and probably will continue for many generations.
This is an age of teamworkin sports, "brain" pools, research, industry and even teaching. It is time for the "sons of light" to be as wise as, if not wiser than, the sons of this world. Major population centers all over the world require concentrated assaults by crack teams, well prepared and dedicated to long term service. In Brazil alone, several cities of a million or more inhabitants each are still strategic targets for team evangelism. To this end we launched several years ago a strategy for conquest, called Breakthrough/Brazil. According to this concept, several teams are to be formed and placed in these centers, to establish strong nuclei of Christians and to eventually reach outward to secondary cities in each area.
Such a strategy ought to be devised for all major centers where the church is either non-existent or still weak. For too long we have largely ignored the major citiesthe Calcuttas, Shanghais, Tokyos, Londons, Parises, Montreals, Mexico Cities, Rio de Janeiros, Recifes, and Buenos Aires'. Or, if we have ventured into them, it has often been with but one or two families and little real strategy for conquest. In fact, it is almost guaranteed in advance that one or two men will come to feel intimidated by the masses of humankind about them and frustrated by their lack of physical strength and time to penetrate successfully.
For too long in our mission planning we have followed the mentality of Israel in the period of the Judges: "Every man did that which was right in his own eyes," (Judges 21:25). We should rather have followed the example of cooperative team effort demonstrated by Nehemiah and company: "And so we built the wall, for every man had a will to work."
If other nations and their great cities are worth evangelizing, and we know that they are, the task is worth doing in an all-out, permanent way. One means of achieving this is through the formation, placement and long-term service of "tough", dedicated teams of God's men in every strategic metropolis on earth. Let us raise up a generation of team evangelists, in order to assure the eventual firm securing of the Eternal Kingdom everywhere in the world. Properly taught nationals will then form their own teams to carry the Good News to every surrounding area and to other metropolitan centers.
In this way, we can more likely say at the end of our generation, "And so all Asia (or Africa or South America ...) heard the Word."
Understanding that a missionary team effort is precisely thata team effortthat it is a privilege rather than a right to serve with a team dedicated to evangelism, regardless of the place, and that in a team approach to evangelism, the individual is willing, when necessary, to relinquish his own "rights" for the good of the whole team and of the work, I agree to accept the following conditions to my serving with the team in Belo Horizonte, Brazil:
1Morris, Don H., "The Power of an Idea," Horizons. May-June, 1961, p. 1.
2Vinzant, Don. "Steps Into The Mission Field," Chapter 1. Unpublished mission textbook, written by members of the Sao Paulo, Brazil mission team.
4Curtis, John and Curtis, Joy. "A Study of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Church Growth Within That Growth Metropolis." Thesis presented to Sunset School of Missions, Lubbock, Texas, 1974. p. 67.
5Soltau, T. Stanley. Facing the Field, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1965), p. 88.
6Mickey, David. "Steps Into The Mission Field," Chap. 14 (See footnote No. 2).
7Norton, Howard W. "Steps Into The Mission Field," Chap. 2.
9Utterback, William E. Group Thinking and Conference Leadership, Revised Edition, (New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1964), p. 15.
10This manual, although in some respects out of date now, is available for study. A copy may be researched at The Mission Center, Abilene Christian University or at other sources available through the Belo Horizonte team.
11Pennisi John L. "A Study of the problem of Church Leadership in the Light of the Dynamics of Group Management." Masters Thesis, Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas, October, 1959, p. 50.
12Ibid., p. 60.
13Laird, Dr. Donald A., and Eleanor C. The New Psychology for Leadership, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1956), p. 135.
14Beal, George M.; Bohlen, Joe M.; Raudabaugh, J. Neil. Leadership and Dynamic Group Action, (Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1962), p. 86.
16Stewart, Ted. "Steps Into The Mission Field," Chapter 2 (See Footnote No. 2).
17Norton, Howard W. op. cit., Chapter 3.
18Utterback, op. cit., p. 53.
19Mickey, David. op. cit., Chapter 14.
20Miller, Paul M. Group Dynamics In Evangelism, (Scottsdale, Pennsylvania; Herald Press, 1958), pp. 48-49.
21Beal, Bohlen, Raudabaugh. op. cit., p. 120.
Beal, George M.; Bohlen, Joe M.; and Raudabaugh, J. Neal. Leadership and Dynamic Group Action. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1962.
Budd, Richard W. and Ruben, Brent D. Approaches to Human Communication. Rochelle Park, N. J.: Hayden Book Company, 1972.
Cartwright, Dorwin and Zander, Alvin. Group Dynamics Research. Evanston, Ill.: Row, Peterson and Co., 1960.
Gordon, Thomas. Group Centered Leadership. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1955.
Gulley, Halbert E. Discussion, Conference and the Group Process. New York: Henry Holt, 1960.
Homans, George C. The Human Group. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950.
Laird, Dr. Donald A. and Eleanor C. The New Psychology for Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1956.
Maier, Norman. Principles of Human Relations. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1952.
Miller, Paul M. Group Dynamics In Evangelism. Scottsdale, Penn.: Herald Press, 1958.
Soltau, T. Stanley. Facing the Field. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1965.
Stogdill, Ralph M. Individual Behavior and Group Achievement. New York and London: Oxford University Press, 1959.
Titus, Charles H. The Processes of Leadership. Dubuque, Iowa: William C. Brown Co., 1951.
Trecker, Audrey R. and Harleigh B. How to Work With Groups. New York: Morrow, 1952.
Uris, Auren and Shapin, Betty. Working With People. New York: The MacMillan Co., 1952.
Utterback, William E. Group Thinking and Conference Leadership (Revised Edition). New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964.
Wagner, Russel H. and Arnold, Carroll C. Handbook of Group Discussion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950.
Brown, Ida Stewart. "Working Toward Goals." Adult Leadership, Vol. 1, No. 4, Spring, 1948.
Lippitt, Gordon L., and Schmidt, Warren H. "My Group and I." Washington, D. C.: Educator's Washington Dispatch, 1952.
Morris, Don H. "The Power of An Idea." Horizons, May-June, 1961. Abilene, Texas: Abilene Christian College.
"Evaluating Programs and Performance." Adult Leadership, Vol. 1, No. 11,1953. Understanding How Groups Work, Leadership Pamphlet No. 4. Chicago: Adult Education Association, 1955.
Sao Paulo, Brazil Mission Team. "Steps Into The Mission Field." Soon-to-be published book on group missionary preparation and operation. Address: Caixa Postal 30.217 01000, Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil.
Shipp, Glover H. "Missions And The Local Church." Scheduled for publication in 1976. Address: Caixa Postal 15 14, 30000 Belo Horizonte, MG, Brazil.
Belo Horizonte, Brazil Mission Team. "Master Growth Guide," Operation'68/Brazil. Los Angeles: Operation '68 Team, 1966.
Curtis, John and Joy. "A Study of Sao Paulo, Brazil and Church Growth In That Growth Metropolis." Thesis submitted to Sunset School of Missions, Lubbock, Texas, 1974.
Pennisi, John L. "A Study of the Problem of Church Leadership in the Light of the Dynamics of Group Management." Masters thesis submitted to Abilene Christian College, Abilene, Texas, 1957.
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