How much can one person alone accomplish in taking the Gospel to the whole world? Very little! While individual church members are increasingly aware of the need, they are also acutely conscious of their individual limitations to do much about making disciples in all nations.
Thankfully, the Lord did not put the entire burden of mission on any one Christian. The responsibility of world evangelism is a shared obligation. The proclamation of the Good News is entrusted to all believers.
The church is like a chain. It can do its job because it has many links. Members of the body are linked together by faith in the One who empowers each of them. The mission committee is a crucial link in world evangelism. However, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. How strong, then, are mission committees in the churches of Christ?
A. Statement of the Problem. The underlying inquiry in this research project is: "In what administrative areas -- mission committee organization, missionary selection criteria, or mission budgetary procedures -- do churches of Christ have the most specific policies?" The assumption is that greater preparation to function as a mission committee ought to result in greater achievements in mission. Likewise, it is assumed that fewer preparations to function as a mission committee will result in fewer accomplishments in mission.
This investigation concludes that there is great potential for mission among the churches of Christ but a substantial need for preparing mission committees to do their job. As one elder remarked, "we are the most ill-prepared organization in the world responsible for doing the most important task in the world." Considering the data collected in this project, that assessment is accurate.
B. Mention of Previous Research. Various books and articles are already in print on mission committees. Dale Lundy, "Mission Management," Firm Foundation, Volume 97, Number 14, 1980, pp. 215, 220, in the first of a seven article series, focused on the need for a responsible entity -- a mission committee -- in the local church. C. Philip Slate, "An Evangelistic Committee in the Local Church," Speak a Good Word for Jesus: An Introduction to World Missions, edited by Joe D. Gray, Nashville, Tennessee: 20th Century Christian, Inc., 1980, pp. 120-124, comments on the purpose of mission committees. Paul Borthwick, "The Crucial Roles of the Church Missions Committee," Evangelical Missions Quarterly, Volume 21, Number 3, July 1985, pp. 272-280, suggests various functions of the mission committee.
One of the most extensive research projects on mission committees to date is by Ralph Beck, "Church Sponsored Missions: Seven Components of a Dynamic Missionary-Sending Ministry," unpublished M.A. thesis, Pepperdine University, 1987. Beck identifies seven factors -- four attitudinal and three organizational -- common to thirty missionary-sending churches of Christ in eleven different states (a third of them in Texas). The organizational components are:
Another research effort of considerable magnitude is Alan Henderson, "The Role of Missionary Training Within the Selection Criteria for Missions Personnel in Churches of Christ: A Descriptive Analysis," unpublished M.A. thesis, Abilene Christian University, 1992. This study of mission committees is based on 160 congregations in the state of Texas. The primary focus included both the organization and budgeting of mission committees as well as the attitudes and activities of missionary selection.
C. Purpose of this Project. The following report deepens and extends certain aspects of previous research projects. There is enough overlap to study the commonality in the results yet enough uniqueness to move the missionary enterprise into new territory.
A. Sampling Method. The book compiled by Mac Lynn, Churches of Christ in the United States, Nashville, Tennessee: Gospel Advocate Company, 1991, listed 2200 congregations in Texas. The researcher used a systematic sampling procedure. Every tenth entry in the list became part of the sampling frame (if the congregation had a membership larger than 100). Because churches with fewer than 100 members are not likely to be involved in missions, if the systematic sampling method selected a "small" congregation, the author merely moved down to the next entry on the list that was above 100 in membership. This procedure was repeated until the sampling frame was completed.
B. Data Collection Technique. A "Mission Committee Guidelines" questionnaire (See APPENDIX A) was sent to the "Mission Committee" of 220 churches in Texas with a stamped, self-addressed envelope between October 5 and December 8, 1993. By February 25, 1994, there were 74 usable questionnaires returned (See Figure 1).
This is a 34.74% response rate. The percent of the sample that responded was similar to the percent of the different sized churches in Texas (See Figure 2).
The sample adequately reflects the whole population. Additional measures to obtain a larger return of questionnaires did not seem warranted.
1. Compared with previous research. This report coincides with previous research on almost every item investigated in common (See Figure 3).
The greatest variations occur in the frequency of mission committee meetings and the possession of a written mission policy. The former disparity is probably due to Beck reporting on churches that had fully supported missionaries for ten consecutive years while Mathews includes churches that had partially or fully supported missionaries for any length of time. The latter disparity is no doubt attributed to the small number of churches involved in the study, i.e., the actual difference is only a matter of three churches. Considering the agreement of the three studies compared in this report, it is appropriate to conclude that this research project has criterion validity.
2. Unique to this study. This effort also plows new ground in seven areas unique to mission committees among the churches of Christ (See Figure 4.)
B. Implications. There is much to do. Further research is needed, deeper commitment required.
i How many churches -- which claim to support missionaries but do not have mission committees -- are actually supporting national preachers?
ii What is the difference in member satisfaction in those committees that meet once a week, once a month, and once a quarter?
iii Are mission committees with written policies more efficient?
iv Would requiring a special training course prior to membership make a mission committee more successful?
v What are the advantages and disadvantages of financing a mission program by a special one-time-a-year collection compared to financing a mission effort out of the regular Sunday contribution?
vi How should a mission committee be organized for optimum productivity?
The list of questions is long. The need for further research is urgent. Churches are increasingly serious about doing a better job in missions. They can (and will) when better information is available to them.
i For the sake of those being supported, all churches with missionaries should have a mission committee.
ii Mission committees should write (and periodically revise) policy guidelines.
iii Membership requirements on mission committees should be raised to a much higher standard.
iv Members of mission committees should continually develop additional understanding and skill through reading books, attending workshops, and taking courses.
v Mission committees must be better organized so that greater productivity can be gained.
vi Psychological assessment of each missionary should be an absolute requirement prior to any support agreement.
When commitment to mission is deepened, when understanding of mission is broadened, the harvest of souls will increase and the number of responsible, reproducing churches will grow. May that day come quickly!