The I-factor

Is internationalization the next necessary step for Alliance missions?


If you’re a U.S. or Canadian Alliance Christian, you’re part of a North American family of nearly 2,400 churches that helps to support more than 1,100 international workers and church planters. As a result of this 125-year legacy, more than 20,000 churches have been established in our neighborhoods and throughout the nations.

On April 8, church presidents and leaders from nearly 50 countries met in Santiago, Chile, for the quadrennial assembly of the Alliance World Fellowship (read firsthand accounts by pastors Miguel Palomino and Mark Forsythe on pages 14–16). Many of these national churches are now sending their own missionaries to other cultures. In fact, of the 1,500 C&MA cross-cultural workers serving in our world, 400 are from non–North American churches. Today, only about one-tenth of the 5 million Alliance believers on earth inhabit our own continent. Dr. Simpson’s vision to reach the unreached people of the world continues to become reality.

What implications do these current realities hold for the future of our North American–based missions efforts? *Are our glory days behind us? Is it time to slow the deployment of our own missionaries in favor of helping to equip and send workers from national churches that may have greater access to the remaining unevangelized corners of our world?* Some would say yes, and for good reason:

  • More and more national Alliance churches from economically challenged areas of the world (Latin America, Africa and Asia) are catching the vision to send their own missionaries.
  • These national church missionaries can access some peoples of the world more easily and, in some cases, more effectively than North American missionaries can.
  • The main barrier to deploying and sustaining trained missionaries from Latin America, Africa and Asia is financial.
  • The U.S. and Canadian church families represent the majority of financial resources within the Alliance World Fellowship.
  • The U.S. and Canadian Alliance are jointly investing in missionary training for young men and women from our partner churches in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Bob Fetherlin, U.S. Alliance vice president for International Ministries, cites Romans 10:15 as the guiding passage on this issue: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” In the last century the predominant understanding in U.S. and Canadian Alliance churches was that it primarily would be white American feet that would bring the good news to the nations. In this new vision, “it will be feet of many colors from many different nations and ethnicities as we move toward greater and greater internationalization.”

At the same time, however, convincing arguments have been made for retaining our current model of sending and supporting North American–based missionaries only:

  • National churches should bear the full responsibility of deploying their own missionaries. Funding from outside sources can create an unhealthy dependence and pose conflicts regarding ownership, methodology and priority. A missions leader from India once wrote, “If Americans want to send funds to non-Western missionaries, that may be fine in some cases. But do not rob us of the joy and responsibility to support our own people. And I fear that if Americans send now only their dollars and not their sons and daughters, the next step will be to neither send their dollars nor their sons and daughters.”
  • Through God’s empowerment, many U.S. and Canadian based missionaries continue to see tremendous fruit in reaching lost people, training future church leaders and building essential cross-cultural bridges toward the establishment of Christ’s Church. When a Western missionary is truly committed to the people he or she has been sent to reach, those people are often more receptive to this missionary than to one from within their own identity group. The legacy of Alliance missions bears witness to this.
  • Our current missionary team could do so much more if they were more adequately resourced. Why should the U.S. and Canadian Alliance families consider supporting missionaries from other national churches when we haven’t fully succeeded in resourcing our own?

So is internationalization the next necessary step for Alliance missions? As an engaged Alliance person, YOUR VOICE MATTERS. Please express your thoughts on this vital issue online at www.alliancelife.org or in writing to:

Alliance Life
P.O. Box 35000
Colorado Springs, CO 80935-3500

Living the call together,

Peter A. Burgo

Past Alliance Life Issues


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