In 1985 I knew very few missions pastors. Today, they are everywhere. One of the things I like to do is ask them, “How long have you been on home staff?” They usually don’t like it.
In years gone by, missionary agencies could plan future staffing around returning field missionaries. These folks, seasoned and experienced, sometimes made great leaders and mobilizers, other times, not so great. But they were there… and they played a role.
Today, many of these folks end up in the local church as mission pastors. While I very much appreciate the fact that we are moving the missionary advocates further “downstream” it has made recruitment for home office roles more difficult.
At the same time a new niche has arisen in the mission agency world which I call the “meta-agency.” These are groups that mobilize or train or provide some other type of “supporting” role but don’t themselves deploy missionaries. Examples include the Caleb Project, The RightNow Campaign, The Journey Deepens, and I could go on. There are literally hundreds of them.
What I like about them is their zeal. What concerns me is that they are a further drain on the leadership pipeline. Some of the best and brightest seek the elusive goal of being mission “catalyzers.” In the meantime, there are fewer cattle to be catalyzed. Somehow we need to elevate the needs of the “meat and potato” organizations that not only speak about mission, but actually do it.
If one were to take a macro level view of missions in North America, I think we would find many, many more people are “home staffers” but don’t call themselves that. Let’s be careful that we don’t transfer the stagnation of the oversized home office into a new form which is equally taxing on the financial and personnel base from which we draw resources.