The Alliance Journey in Response to Vision 2025: A Missiological Conversation

Editor’s note:We are sharing this document publically in the interest of building understanding and community. This synthesized set of notes does not reflect a consensus opinion or a specific position of the Wycliffe Global Alliance. It is a record of discussion that took place among more than 200 leaders and board chairs from more than 100 Alliance organizations. As such it represents the diversity of cultures, opinions and ideas of the Alliance organization leaders. The learnings and relationships are ongoing and continue in new venues and with new expressions. This is a part of the Alliance journey as we travel together, desiring to fully participate in God’s mission.

Wycliffe Global Gathering
6-7 May 2016

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Over the course of two days during the Wycliffe Global Gathering, participants discussed ‘our Alliance journey in response to Vision 2025’. We acknowledged that Vision 2025 serves as a reminder that, when participating in Bible translation, we need to both reflect on and respond to what we see around and before us. We considered the caution of Payne that “just because we are doing something on the field, even if we are experiencing results, does not warrant a refrain from the evaluation of our actions”.[1]

The purposes of our discussion of Vision 2025 were:

  • to revisit and reflect on the journey of the Alliance in response to Vision 2025
  • to explore some of the current questions Alliance Organisations face in relation to Vision 2025
  • for each Alliance organization, in the context of their own unique contribution to Bible translation, to commit to engage with the issues that could either hinder or enhance effective Bible translation.

The conversations focused on the following areas:

  1. An overview of the Alliance journey in response to Vision 2025
  2. Missiological affirmations expressed in Vision 2025

2.1 Urgency

2.2 Toward Kingdom-based partnerships:

2.2.1 Partnering as friends

2.2.2 Partnering in the context of global realities

2.3 Dependency on God

The primary value of the conversation was experienced through discussions in table groups as well as discussions during breaks. We are indebted to our facilitators (consultation and table group facilitators) who assisted the discussion process. We are also grateful to our note-takers for providing us with a glimpse of the discussions we had around the 28 respective table groups. Those notes are compiled in a 100-page English language document that can be requested from Stephen Coertze at [email protected].

The collection of notes has been synthesized into this 10-page summary. This summary is not meant to be an exact representation of what was said during the discussion groups. It is an attempt to portray the depth and diversity of ideas that make up the richness of the Alliance. Feel free to use the ideas contained in the summary to continue the conversation.

The Alliance journey in response to Vision 2025

The Journey so far…

Reflection is critical. It offers a change of perspective. Are we willing to recognize when a door is closing and are we willing to go through a new door in a direction we haven’t gone before? Reflection must happen at all levels in the organization from the Board to the office and field staff. It’s important to reflect on how things have changed and to consider what to do and how to respond to the new realities. Reflection demonstrates dependence and trust in God, and allows for time to think creatively.

Church Engagement is a common theme in mission today. Missiology is changing the Church’s thinking. Traditional mission and methods will change. We need to engage with the local church, the national church and the outside church. Churches are changing and Wycliffe must change with the times. It seems sometimes in Bible translation organizations the “church’s mission” is optional. It should not be that way. Wycliffe must be more interdependent with the local church: Problem solving, resourcing, sustainability. How do we involve the majority of churches?

Humanitarian mission goes hand-in-hand with Bible translation.

Local involvement / ownership is essential. Senders must respect local needs; they should become trainers and helpers rather than doers. We need a strategy that uses existing structures. Funding organizations should recognize local and national decisions.

There is more interdependence in mission today. We need to find the middle ground where “we receive” or “we give” becomes “we receive and we give”. We must be very careful in the area of financial dependence. Leaders need to have a very prayerful attitude when dealing with money.

Revisiting V2025 now is timely. Because Alliance organizations have diverse histories, not everyone in Wycliffe fully understands the intent of the Vision, that it is about community transformation and about local ownership, not just about counting translation projects. The vision offers the ability to include rather than exclude. It is useful as a call for moving the church, a statement, to give a sense of urgency in building partnerships among the churches of the West and the global South.

We need partnerships; ministry without borders. Small organizations can have a big impact on a region. We need to use the strengths we have to participate in the work of Bible translation. “Together we can”. It’s critical that we find our identity; know our strengths and weaknesses so we know how we can serve one another. Some organizations can serve as a model for other organizations in their own countries and beyond. We need more stories, different stories. Every story is important, is part of God’s story. We can learn from everyone’s story—stories of failures as well as of successes.

Missiological affirmations expressed in Vision 2025: Urgency

The topic of urgency revealed a wide spectrum of views and a deep sense of concern for God’s mission, our participation in it, and the needs of the people of the world.

The meaning of the word urgency as understood within the context of Vision 2025 included those who view it as addressing a life and death situation. Many language communities are still without access to Scripture. People are dying without knowing the Savior of the world. Churches cannot become strong and effective without the foundation of God’s Word.  The end is near; the night is coming. The world is changing. God has commanded us to go; it is his will. Therefore, urgency is about completing translations as quickly as possible by partnering more, using available resources both locally and globally and building more partnerships to engage with the work.

For others urgency is about strategizing rather than speeding up the work. Focus and priority are considered more appropriate guiding words than urgency. Don’t act in haste. Have patience to seek God’s direction. Urgency is more about how the work is done than when the work is finished. Urgency should not supplant community involvement, partnership development and church engagement but rather open up opportunities for more involvement with less pressure.

Many organizations have been impacted by a sense of urgency. Some have identified specific goals in terms of number of language communities to engage or number of churches to connect with language communities. Some have been more intentional about board training and church partnership development. Some Wycliffe organizations have sought to foster closer relationships with Wycliffe organizations in other parts of the world. Many are seeking to spend more time reflecting on God’s mission and the role of Bible translation in it.

Tensions exist when issues of relationship and accountability are raised. Relationships take time, yet stakeholders expect quick, measurable results. Urgency will be defined differently in different contexts and languages. Our responses, then, should be context-specific.  Mission belongs to God. He is the one who is going to complete it in his own time. He has invited us to participate with him but the success of his mission is not dependent on us. Our scale of urgency is measured by how well we understand God’s mind, his will, his mission, etc. Therefore, urgency requires dedicated prayer.

As an Alliance the consensus was that we need to pray, first and foremost and then craft a strategy that addresses the needs and expectations of all partners involved. We need to depend on God to provide all that is needed to complete his mission. We need to build strong and healthy relationships; to communicate better—more often and more effectively—between ourselves and with constituents, partners and local communities.  We need to let go of control, thereby developing partnerships that offer the freedom to take more risks, to contribute whatever can be contributed, to pool resources and support one another in new ways. We need to think long term; think holistically; learn from our past, share our experiences with one another, and learn from one another.

Missiological affirmations expressed in Vision 2025: Toward Kingdom-based partnerships – Partnering as friends

Some say friendships grow out of partnerships, others say partnerships are built on friendships. Still others think the two do not need to be aligned at all. Some say friendship and partnership are commitments like a family. Others say they are not permanent like a family, rather they are a choice, requiring commitment. Many people use the words “friendship” and “partnership” interchangeably, but then again, upon reflection consider them to be different on several levels.

All agreed that friendship is culturally shaped, and that our cultural definitions of / parameters surrounding good friendships are so different, they can cause deep conflict. But all also agreed that friendships that endure conflict together come out stronger and truer.

Friendships are more personal, individualized than partnerships. Friendships last; partnerships terminate. Friendship takes time and proximity; friendships cannot happen easily where there are great distances, cultural differences and/or gaps of time to be overcome. Friendships in the Alliance are costly both with time and money — for travel to visit, for helping one another with gifts of kindness (food, coffee, meeting one another’s needs, etc.)

Friendships are built on the elements of biblical love. A person pursues a friend as the subject of the friendship rather than the object – to give rather than to receive; to celebrate with rather than compete with; to humbly know and to be known as equals. Good friends trust one another and are loyal to one another. Sincere friendships take time to develop well.

Partnerships, on the other hand, can be established more quickly as business agreements. Partnerships also require commitment, honesty and trust, but can navigate the inconveniences of distance and time more easily. Partnerships are built on a common vision and clear commitments and goals. However, beyond simply being productive, we work together because it is God’s will, because we know our partnership in the ministry honors God. Partnership is a spiritual endeavor. It reflects God’s call to live in community.

Partnerships between organizations can be practical. However, friendships between organizations is difficult when leadership changes. On the other hand, leaders model for the organizations what true friendship looks like. Leaders need to lead the way in building friendships within the Alliance.

There are many levels of friendships. One cannot manage many deep friendships; they are costly and therefore precious. Some believe it is more practical to focus time, energy and resources on only a few good friendships for quality and sustainability.

Life and work are more beautiful in friendship. God is not ashamed to call us his friends.

Missiological affirmations expressed in Vision 2025: Toward Kingdom-based partnerships – Partnering in the context of global realities

Understanding Globalization and Glocalization offers a better understanding of how the Alliance works. United in the Body of Christ, our shared beliefs, shared resources and shared manpower allow the Alliance community to form creative partnerships and strategies. In such partnerships, no one is less valuable than another, either locally or globally. When one is in need, resources are generously drawn from wherever the resource exists. Therefore, we are free to be more open, to talk about difficult things, to be vulnerable with one another. The strength of the Alliance comes from the relationships within its organizations; there is no control center but multiple centers of influence, a democratization of power.

Globalization allows for fast access to information and encouragement from others. Something that was successful in one place can quickly be made available to other places.  Globalization underscores the uniqueness of our particular contexts—makes us think of ways in which we can share and cooperate and learn from each other without losing our identity and distinctiveness. It creates a general sense of unity and friendships that we bring back to the local context. Polycentricism allows for better relationships between ourselves and with local churches. There are many local needs that require global partnerships and many local strengths that require a global system for expression.

Globalization/Glocalization and polycentrism raise concerns, however. They could contribute to a dilution of individualism – a onenessization of people, cultures, and organizations.  Polycentricism challenges church government systems and churches’ rising desire for more direct involvement in mission. This can cause concern for partners who fear losing control. Also, natural fears based on history can cause some to hesitate before entering into a shared power system (consider the history of colonialism, or the historical position of SIL in many contexts). Some organizations prefer a hierarchical structure in their own context and therefore struggle to blend that with a fluid global structure. Furthermore, the difficulties one organization faces will impact others. For example, a financial crisis in one group will impact resources for others; or tensions from issues like the Divine Familial Terms controversy can impact many. The increased visibility of organizations in global partnerships and the proliferation of social media results in governments becoming more aware of activities happening in their nations.  This creates an increased risk of exposure that can adversely affect people and projects in sensitive areas.

We need to insure that our partnerships are balanced in time, authority, ownership and competences both in giving and in receiving. We need a good platform for sharing best practices across organizations, systems to enable communication, technology appropriate to contexts and strategies that address the seven streams.  We need to acknowledge the wrongs that have been made, ask forgiveness and restore relationships. Reconciliation has to be authentic. We need to be humble, to listen more to God and to one another; to speak less and learn together; to be willing to give up rights, embrace chaos and recognize the need for better coordination and communication on both the global and the global-to-local (glocal) levels. To build relationships and be better equipped to respond to needs, we need to be intentional about meeting together to build trusting, interdependent relationships at all levels.

Missiological affirmations expressed in Vision 2025: Dependency on God

Dependency is abandoning ourselves to God

We are dependent on God because our lives are not our own; we are dependent creatures.  Secure in our identity as loved by God, we choose to live in total abandonment to Him. God becomes more important than anything else. We seek first his Kingdom, trusting that he will provide for everything else. We ask, “What is urgent in God’s eyes? What are his priorities?”

Dependency is balance

Dependency strikes a balance between waiting on God and acting in obedience on a plan. We make plans and then hold them lightly, always being willing to let them go if that’s what God prompts us to do. We trust God in a deliberate, active way, not pursuing our own agendas, not looking for quick and easy solutions, nor being lazy or inactive, but praying diligently, waiting expectantly and acting obediently.

Dependency is freedom

Bible translation projects belong to God; transformation is God’s work, not ours.  Because all the work belongs to God, He is responsible for completing it. Dependency on God releases us from the worry of limited resources and time. We recognize our limitations and insufficiencies. We don’t rely on ourselves. While we are accountable for and must be good stewards of what God has entrusted to us, dependency on God frees us from the pressure and stress of success. Knowing that God has faithfully provided in the past, we can have confidence that he will again provide what is needed for his work.

Dependency and anxiety cannot coexist. Urgency should not ruin our dependency on God. Rather there is an urgency for us to depend on God. We need to trust his timing.

Dependency is prayer

Prayer is action; it’s an expression of dependence on God. Dependency is not just about funds or physical resources; it is also about seeking wisdom from God. It’s about exercising self-discipline to limit our self-sufficiency or independence, both of which are sin.  Dependency is humility – the ultimate test of intimacy with God.

Dependency is mutuality

Dependency on God frees us to have relationships/partnerships built on mutuality. Partnerships force us to trust God more. Partnerships are not based on material things but on God. One is not greater or lesser than the other. When we have need, we can call on the global community. We need to be willing to sacrifice without expecting rewards; to not take advantage of others.  We help one another by transferring (modeling) our trust in God. We are all frail and equally need to depend on God. In partnerships we model dependence on God for one another and thereby help one another. Sometimes one teaches and the other learns; other times it is reversed. We need to intentionally build in time with God in our interactions with one another.

 

[1] Ott, C and Payne, J D (eds) 2013.  Missionary methods: Research, Reflections and Realities. Pasadena CA: William Carey Library. p. xv.

 

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