Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis 4, no. 1 (February 2013)

done_all Peer Reviewed Article

Vulnerable Mission vis-à-vis Mainstream Mission and Missiology1

Stan Nussbaum

The goals of mainstream mission and missiology have gone widely unmet. The Alliance for Vulnerable Mission (AVM) proposes better methods for reaching those goals. The AVM has advocated the methods of local languages and local resources. This article expands the vulnerable mission methodology to include local thinking style. In particular, Western missionaries need to use oral thinking styles rather than the analytical thinking style that creates dependency in oral societies. Missionaries must decide whether to supplement local methods with foreign “strength” or to accept the vulnerability of using only local methods.

As a missiologist who has observed a lot of missions and churches in a lot of countries for a lot of years, I want to try to position “vulnerable mission” against the broader backdrop of trends in missiology and mission practice today.2 My hope is to help the rest of the mission world connect more easily with what we are talking about in this conversation, so that fruitfulness and glory to God may connect more commonly in mission practice just as they connect in John 15:8.

Underlying the paper is my personal conviction that we in the Alliance for Vulnerable Mission have a theme that ought to resonate with a lot more mission scholars and practitioners than our current circle. What could or should we be saying that we are not saying clearly enough to find more people who are already doing or desiring something akin to VM, no matter what label they put on it?3 In this paper I will try to answer my own question, and I invite you to answer it even better.

I will compare and contrast the theory and practice of mission in three areas: the goal of mission, the methods of mission, and the big question that Western missions face today. Along the way I will relate VM to the three trends or camps of mission with which we overlap most—partnership, self-sufficiency (overcoming dependence), and orality (storying). This brief exercise will require some sweeping generalizations that readers may wish to challenge.4

The Goal of Mission

If we look at the Edinburgh 1910 missions conference and its coordinated planning to turn this into a Christian planet by planting churches everywhere, the methods appear to have worked even beyond the planners’ dreams a century ago. Churches have been planted across huge stretches of previously unevangelized territory.5

But if we look at Roland Allen’s Missionary Methods book from 1912, we have to ask, “What kind of churches?” The goal in Allen’s terms was self-governing, self-supporting, self-propagating churches.6 For our purposes, and to save us getting bogged down in the long debate about the adequacy of that famous Three-Self Formula, let me use three more recent and roughly parallel terms: contextualized, sustainable, and missional. These are very prominent in missiological writing in the last 40, 20, and 10 years respectively, and it seems almost everybody writing about mission now takes them for granted as three marks to look for in a healthy church.

But what is the state of the church globally? The harvest does not match the three-part goal very well. For the vast majority of the world, believers and unbelievers alike, Christianity appears to be more culturally foreign, money-driven, and confusing than contextualized, sustainable, and missional.

Allen’s goal Current buzz words about goal Frequent results
Self-governing Contextualized Foreign
Self-supporting Sustainable Money-driven
Self-propagating Missional Confusing

I am not saying that twentieth-century mission was a waste or a failure or that the global church is a basket case, needing rescue by us as if we are the enlightened part of the world. But I am saying that we have not yet arrived at well-contextualized, sustainable, missional churches (even in the West), because if we had, the missiologists would have quit talking about these things. They would be losing their jobs for being behind the times, writing another book about contextualization. They keep their teaching positions because they are focusing the next generation on the things churches do not yet have but that missiologists think churches should try to get.

In case you need any reminders that the church has not yet arrived at sound mission practice, here are three very painful ones I have recently encountered, all indicating that the bull-in-the-china-shop approach to missions is alive and kicking:

  • Steven Ybarrola concludes a 2008 article by sadly noting, “It was twenty-six years ago that I was first exposed to this application [of anthropology to mission work, that is, of contextualization] at the U.S. Center for World Mission. However, in my experience . . . I still find this perspective to be largely lacking.”7
  • Two weeks ago I was requested to answer a few survey questions for a researcher, one of which was, “The multi-language translating software can be used to translate foreign languages. The use of SMS, multimedia, internet, and satellite services can enable followers of Jesus Christ to communicate the gospel with non-believers, whose language is different, more efficiently and effectively than a missionary physically going to a nation in which the native language is different.” I’ll admit that I checked “strongly disagree,” but only because there was no option that said, “violently disagree.”8
  • Three weeks ago a missions pastor friend of mine returned from a trip where he heard a veteran missionary say, “Satan has taken full advantage of the short-term missions movement in [his Asian country]. We would be so far ahead of where we are if no teams had ever come.”9

To sum up, VM does not propose different goals than mainstream mission and missiology.10 We are arguing that the mainstream methods of reaching those goals are not achieving them very well. The contextualized, sustainable, missional church is not here yet.

Better Methods of Reaching the Agreed Goal, Including Oral Thinking Style

As someone has said, “Stupid is not doing stupid things. It is doing the same things and expecting a different result.” Let’s apply that to mission.

The biggest shift in mission from Western countries in the last twenty years is a massive increase in short-term trips and short-term workers (a year or less). In a sense, this is a new “method,” but in a deeper sense, it is the same old method of the colonial era, putting monocultural, ethnocentric people into cross-cultural settings.

In a way it is worse, because now that quick trips are possible and affordable, the trippers have no time to grow out of their ethnocentrism and no clue about why they should. They stick to the methods that ethnocentric people can use, even though these fly in the face of the goals of mainstream missiology. They rely on English or a personal translator, they operate as “haves” among “have nots,” and they cannot begin to imagine doing mission with an oral approach to life rather than an analytical approach.

Missiologists and most advocates of partnership in mission know this kind of mission activity will not reach the goals of mission, so they make some major improvements to the ethnocentric model, such as advocating that Westerners do things with people instead of for people. They promote these better methods even among short-termers whenever possible.11

Goal Partnership methods Short-term mission methods
Contextualized English or local language English only
Sustainable Prime the pump, or top up local resources Provide from outside
Missional Simplify the message Operate analytically without realizing it at all

VM takes the whole thing one step further, though none of us are claiming that VM methods are the silver bullet that will solve everything with one shot.

Goal VM methods Partnership methods
Contextualized Local language English or local
Sustainable Local resources Prime the pump, or top up local resources
Missional Local thinking style Simplify the message

VM has been very explicit about the first two methods (local language and resources) and has not yet said much about the third, that is, local thinking style. We have assumed that oral thinking style is naturally built into local languages and resources, but I believe it might be helpful to raise it to the status of a third defining mark of VM.

What is a “local thinking style”? In the broadest strokes, there are basically two styles—oral thinking and analytical thinking. Various labels have been used for these two styles.12 I am indebted to John Walsh for the following explanation which greatly helped me on this point: “When people routinely assume that the opposite of orality is literacy, they are making only a superficial contrast. The real contrast is not oral vs. literate. It is oral vs. analytical.”13 In other words, an oral style is a story or narrative or holistic style of thinking as opposed to a conceptual style that breaks everything down into pieces and then connects the pieces. Oral thinkers apprehend whole ideas; analytical thinkers comprehend them one piece at a time.

Again in very broad strokes, the preferred local thinking style is analytical in the West and oral in the Global South, though oral thinking is growing quickly among younger Westerners and analytical thinking is widespread among people with a lot of Western education, regardless of their home culture. The aspect of this relevant to our discussion is that the vast majority of mission today is undertaken by analytical thinkers working in contexts where oral thinking is the preferred local style.

Let’s return then to the earlier comment about doing mission with “an oral approach to life.” This hit me like a bombshell while I was giving some guest lectures in a Central Asian seminary a few years ago. I was talking about Bosch’s overview of paradigms of mission throughout church history14 and the question was asked, “What is a paradigm?” My on-the-spot attempts to answer did not shed any light for the questioner. In later reflection I realized that a paradigm is a tool that an analytical thinker uses to compare two or more systems. Non-analytical (oral) thinkers do not use that tool because they never undertake that task. They simply do not look at their worlds that way.

Further, I realized that every lecture by a foreigner and every book in that seminary library (except the biographies) was structured for analytical thinkers and was basically lost on the oral ones. I understood why a Scottish faculty member at the school had said, “We try to get them to answer the questions on an exam but often all they do is give testimonies.” The entire seminary system was set up to turn oral thinkers into analytical thinkers rather than to capitalize on their natural strengths as oral thinkers.

Whether that illustration was helpful or not, here is the abstract description of the problem. Outside money is often used for mission methods such as building a seminary or paying a salary for a church planting pastor, which are seen as the best or only means to the desired goal, such as a strong church or a successful outreach plan. There may be several Xs in a chain; for example, Bible schools (X1) are seen as the means to theological orthodoxy (X2) and spiritual maturity of pastors (X3), good study habits using good study tools (X4), and quality sermons (X5)—in order to reach the goal of mature believers and a mature church.

But the vision of the “mature” church may have been flawed in the beginning because it assumed that genuine disciples are analytical thinkers and their leaders must use analytical methods to help them grow. Look at the financial implications of this ethnocentric assumption.

Biases That Go with Assuming a Mature Church Must Be an Analytical Church

  1. Professionalization—the leaders are the best analysts; laity tag along.
  2. That kind of leader needs special schooling for analyzing the Bible.
  3. A congregation must be big enough to support a professional pastor.
  4. That size of congregation will need a building.
  5. The building, the schooling, and the pastor all require major funding.

Alternative Model If a Mature Church Can Be an Oral-Thinking Church

  1. The laity can be involved in developing the theology of the group.
  2. Special schooling not required for leaders; they can be apprenticed.
  3. Congregations can thrive and sub-divide though too small to support a pastor.
  4. Buildings are optional.
  5. Little or no funding required.

It boggles the mind to think how much Western mission effort and funding have gone into things the alternative model does not need at all. It also makes one wonder how many of today’s Western missionaries are missing golden opportunities for fruitful witness that they could seize if they could adapt to an oral thinking style. Here are a few examples, which have a few advocates but in my experience are usually regarded as quirky interests of a tiny minority.

  • Ethnomusicology. Music shapes the faith and life of emerging churches more than anything else. How can it be a sidelight of mission? A network of Christian ethnomusicologists is encouraging wider use of the kind of Christian music development that happened spontaneously in the VM churches.15 Let this become a mainstream pursuit. Cultural outsiders cannot do the composing and choreography but they may legitimize it for the local composers, give a little guidance for it, and act as cheerleaders while the new music emerges.
  • Proverbs. Proverbs are distilled oral thinking, masterful carriers of profound truth. How can these be incidental to preaching and witness? Why not routinely build them into mission work. For example, here is an ethnographic project for a one- or two-month short-term experience for a college student: “Write a paper of five pages or less that answers this question: What are ten local proverbs that every missionary who comes to this place should learn on arrival, and what would they know about the local people if they really grasped these proverbs?”16
  • Festivals. How can festivals be so neglected? They are communal events celebrating the great acts of God in the biblical story, intriguingly and graciously open to outside observers, involving music and drama, processions, symbols, colors, and many layers of meaning.17 Westerners are festival-deaf and festival-blind, but the rest of the world is fluent in festival. I would love to see us change the dominant paradigm for mission from a war to a festival, so that we automatically think of ourselves more as carriers of joy than agents of force. Might the festival be so effective that it would have an even greater impact on both evangelism and discipleship than sermons do?

A shift to an oral thinking style would also go a long way toward helping us understand and utilize the shift that N. T. Wright, Dallas Willard, and Scot McKnight are calling for—the recovery of the biblical “gospel of the kingdom” as opposed to an exclusive focus on the “gospel of salvation.” I cannot summarize that here. I only want to note that the “gospel of salvation” (our standard way of preaching and teaching the gospel in the West) is an analytical gospel, that is, it breaks the gospel into concepts and pieces, while the gospel of the kingdom is a narrative and is much more intelligible to oral thinkers.18

Emphasis on local thinking style would reinforce the other two marks, relate VM to the familiar Three-Self Formula, and point us toward another emerging mission network (the International Orality Network) as a naturally ally of VM.19 It would also align VM squarely with the healthy trend in missiology to attend to thinking style as an aspect of worldview. This is greatly needed because the message has not got through to many mission practitioners and even mission agency leaders yet.They do not comprehend the orality issue and do not assume it as a core aspect of mission strategy in nearly the same way they assume contextualization and sustainability.

Perhaps most importantly of all, emphasis on local thinking style would make our vulnerability more obvious to us than the other two marks. As Mary Lederleitner said in her paper, “It is always hard for people with a lot of money and education to learn from those with less.”20 But our money will not help us become oral thinkers, and our education, since it is so analytical, will actually hurt us.

The instant we try to shift from analytical to oral thinking, we know we are off our turf and out of our depth. Local oral thinkers are the experts, and we are in kindergarten, so we have to let them lead and learn from them as they do. When we ask them how to write a song, quote a proverb, hold a festival, or explain the gospel in an oral way, we know we don’t know!

This is a huge challenge, almost incomprehensibly different than our analytical ways. I ran into it as I worked with oral thinkers in Lesotho a generation ago, and I tried to explain it to my American supporters this way: “Teaching the Bible in Lesotho means teaching parts of the Bible we don’t often read (like Hebrews) to teach truths we don’t understand (like purification) to meet needs we don’t feel (like body-soul cleansing) by using methods we don’t like (like memorization).”

Once I taught a two-day course on worldview at a YWAM training base in England and included some of this material on thinking styles. At the end a Swedish student commented, “Now I see not only why I felt lost for most of the six months I served in Tanzania. I can see for the first time just how lost I really was!”

If missionaries among oral peoples tried from the beginning to shift to oral thinking, they would find out much sooner “just how lost they really are.” Then they would slow down, invest much less money and energy in poor (i.e., analytically based) mission strategies and programs, and do much less damage before they started doing some good.

The Huge Methodological Choice for Western Missions Today

If VM methods—local language, local resources, local thinking style—are so much better than others, where are they working? It is a fair question. If Jim Harries has come up with such a valuable theory, why has his own VM approach to theological training not yet caught fire in Western Kenya, spread across Kenya and even to other countries? Where’s the beef in the VM theory?

The answer is hiding in plain sight, and it is a lot bigger than Jim or any of the rest of us. Arguably the three most fruitful mission movements in the entire twentieth century were three that operated almost entirely on VM principles. (I realize these do not fit with Jim’s definition of VM as an issue of Westerners working in the Majority World, but bear with me.) The three movements are African indigenous churches, Chinese house churches, and (to a lesser extent) the charismatic movement in Latin America. Mainstream mission thinkers and leaders are fully aware of all three and generally admire them, yet they seem not to have grasped the implications of their fruitfulness. Consider this:

The AICs [African Instituted Churches] have shown how much mission can be done for free. It takes no money to retell the story of the calling of the founder or to tell people about one’s own walk with God. It takes no money to pray for someone to be healed. It takes no money to sing and dance or to write a new song that praises God. It takes no money to receive dreams or prophetic revelations from God. It takes no money for each member of a congregation to stand up and speak in a service. It takes no money to be freed from alcoholism, wife-beating, jealousy and witchcraft. It takes no money to become an honest, hard-working employee.21

The massive success of VM is not just a twentieth-century phenomenon. In our new century in India, Mongolia, the Philippines, and across the Muslim World, things are beginning to happen that look very similar to Africa 100 years ago and China 50 years ago. And the movements are typically working on VM principles because they have no other options.

If it is true that in the twentiety century God spread his kingdom most widely by VM methods, and if it is true that he seems poised to do the same thing in the remaining “neglected corners” of the earth in the twenty-first century, then we in Western missions need to ask ourselves one huge question, perhaps the biggest question facing Western churches, the Western mission establishment, and the next generation of Western missionaries: Complement or copy? To what extent does God want us to use our strengths (methods and resources) to complement the groups and churches who are using VM by necessity, and to what extent does he want us to copy their VM methods ourselves by choice, leaving our “strengths” on the sideline?

Complementing seems to be the obvious choice if we are thinking of the global church as a body where different members have different functions. For example, groups like Gospel for Asia promote mission by combining the money of the West with the manpower of the East. There are many more nuanced variations on this model, which is the premise for all forms of partnership. But in light of Paul Yonggap Jeong’s paper in the present issue, we have to recognize that every attempt to complement is an attempt to do mission from a position of strength. We want our strength to complement their effort in some area where they are weak.

VM is pointing out that the body is not working like it should when one member acts like Saul trying to help another “weaker” member, David, by offering some armor. That is interference not body life. It comes from the kind of well-intentioned thinking that says, “We are stronger than you, you need what we can provide, we are willing to help you, so accept it as God’s provision for you through us.”

Sometimes this thinking is true; God is providing by this route, but perhaps not nearly as often as we think. I believe a great deal of what is interfering with the carrying out of the Great Commission today—the foreignness, the money-centeredness, the fuzziness of the message—is largely the result of many Davids accepting Saul’s armor and trying to fight while they wear it.

We in the wealthy countries have to become much more self-critical. Are our strengths really strengths? Is David’s weakness really weakness? It all depends on what the Lord of the mission wants to do and how he wants to do it. If we assume that our money and technology, which look like strengths from a human perspective, are what God is most likely to use to get his mission done and to bring glory to himself, won’t we forget to check with Jesus, the general director of the mission, whether he actually wants to use our money and technology in each particular case?

Are we not overlooking 1 Corinthians 1 as the default setting for mission—God using the weak to confound the strong? Are we not relegating that “weak” and vulnerable method of mission to those who are too poor to be able to afford to do mission the way we do it?22 Are we not assuming that people do mission from a position of strength if they can and from a position of weakness if they must?

Three Requests for Readers

While we consider the mega-issues of oral thinking style and “complement or copy,” there are three very down-to-earth activities I would love to see readers engage in. I am doing them already and benefiting, but I am only one person. We need to multiply this.

  1. Getting more perspectives on VM from Majority World people whose contact with the West has not persuaded them to approach mission like Westerners (we’ve been confining the dialogue mostly to Westerners). For me this happens mainly through ongoing communication with a house church pastor in Central Asia.
  2. Discovering where and how VM overlaps with other movements and trends in the mission world, particularly “partnership” and “orality” (we’ve been describing ourselves mostly in isolation or in contrast to others). For me this means staying in touch with the COSIM and ION networks.23
  3. Finding and sharing more success stories about VM in practice (we’ve been refining the VM theory, and I’m still mostly doing that in this paper). For me this means promoting Thomas Oduro’s book Mission in an African Way.


There is broad consensus among the overseas churches I am familiar with, missionaries, and mission scholars that the Western missionary movement has not produced the desired amount of the desired fruit, and that the shift to emphasis on short-term mission is not helping much if at all. There is widespread work on method improvement, especially among advocates of partnership.

VM takes things a step further, advocating much greater reliance on local language and resources than we currently see. I am proposing that we also advocate a much greater reliance on oral thinking as opposed to analytical thinking.

There is a very difficult choice for the next generation of Western Christians. Should they complement the “weak” VM of the Majority World church with their strength, or should they forego their strength and copy the VM that the Majority World uses by necessity?

If God is in this, then we need to widen the VM circle and connect with others among whom he is also stirring. It is his mission, and it ought to be done in his way(s), which we can find in consultation with others he guides.

And here is the heart of the matter for VM. If missionaries and mission agencies are so interested in bringing more glory to God,24 why would we not cut back on the mission methods that are failing to bring much glory to him? Why not replace them with a more vulnerable strategy, one that for its inspiration harks back to the cross, the resurrection, and Pentecost instead of the conquest of the Promised Land? Why not pay the prices of vulnerable mission and bring to God the glory that vulnerable mission in his name brings?

Dr. Stan Nussbaum is Staff Missiologist of GMI Research Services and Adjunct Professor at Wheaton College. He has also taught the Breakthrough course at the Overseas Ministries Study Center in Connecticut, at the World Link Graduate Center in Portland, and (including earlier versions) in England, Korea, Malaysia, India, Egypt, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Congo (Dem. Rep.), and Nigeria.


Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. American Society of Missiology Series 16. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991.

Butler, Phill. Well Connected: Releasing Power, Restoring Hope through Kingdom Partnerships. Colorado Springs: Authentic Publishing, 2005.

Christian Storytelling Network. http://christianstorytelling.com.

Coalition on the Support of Indigenous Ministries. http://cosim.info.

Elmer, Duane. Cross-Cultural Connections: Stepping Out and Fitting In around the World. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2002.

Hiebert, Paul G. Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008.

The International Council of Ethnodoxologists. http://worldofworship.org.

International Orality Network. http://oralbible.com.

Johnstone, Patrick. The Future of the Global Church: History, Trends and Possibilities. Colorado Springs: Biblica, 2011.

Krabill, James R., ed. Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxology Handbook. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2013.

The Lausanne Movement. “The Lausanne Standards: Affirmations and Agreements for Giving and Receiving Money in Mission.” Documents. http://www.lausanne.org/docs/standards/lausanne-standards.pdf.

Lederleitner, Mary T. Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010.

Lingenfelter, Sherwood G., and Marvin K. Mayers. Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

McKnight, Scot. The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011.

Nussbaum, Stan. American Cultural Baggage: How to Recognize and Deal with It. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005.

________. “Vulnerable Mission Strategies.” Global Missiology 10, no. 2 (2013): http://ojs.globalmissiology.org/index.php/english/article/view/1135/2630.

________. Waking Up to the Messiah. Morton, IL: Enculturation Books, 2011.

Oduro, Thomas, Hennie Pretorius, Stan Nussbaum, and Bryan Born. Mission in an African Way: A Practical Introduction to African Instituted Churches and Their Sense of Mission. Marturia series. Wellington, South Africa: BybelMedia, 2008.

Rickett, Daniel. Making Your Partnership Work: A Guide for Ministry Leaders. Enumclaw, WA: WinePress, 2002.

Standards of Excellence in Short Term Missions. “The 7 Standards.” http://www.soe.org/explore/the-7-standards.

Vulnerable Mission. http://vulnerablemission.org.

Winter, Ralph, and Steven Hawthorne, eds. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader. 4th ed. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.

Ybarrola, Steven J. “Avoiding the Ugly Missionary: Anthropology and Short-Term Missions.” In Effective Engagement in Short-Term Missions: Doing it Right!, edited by Robert Priest, 101–119. Evangelical Missiological Society Series 16. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2008.

1 This essay is an adaptation of a lecture presented at the Abilene Christian University “Global Conference on Vulnerable Mission,” March 7–10, 2012.

2 See http://vulnerablemission.org. Vulnerable mission (VM) as defined by the Alliance for Vulnerable Mission has two trademark emphases: the use of local languages and local resources in mission and development. Its primary focus is on mission strategy and mission practice, especially the gap between these and mission theory. The VM concept has been developed primarily by Alliance chairman Dr. Jim Harries, a British missionary in Western Kenya. It is of most relevance in similar contexts where (1) mission (or development) is being done in a poorer country than the country or countries where the foreigners are based and (2) missionaries are not already “vulnerable” in the sense of being open to legal and/or physical attack once their purpose is known. Wider implications will be discussed later in this article.

3 Do not read too much pessimism into the question. We are finding some very important connections represented by all of you, and Jim Harries’s new books certainly give people much new information to chew on and debate, but we are still asking ourselves what we could do better.

4 Some of these are dealt with in a later version of this paper, revised for presentation to graduate and post-graduate students at a seminary. See Stan Nussbaum, “Vulnerable Mission Strategies,” Global Missiology 10, no. 2 (2013): http://ojs.globalmissiology.org/index.php/english/article/view/1135/2630. The current version was designed more for undergraduates and mission practitioners.

5 This is beautifully documented in Patrick Johnstone’s new work, The Future of the Global Church: History, Trends and Possibilities (Colorado Springs: Biblica, 2011).

6 Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (London: R. Scott, 1912).

7 Steven J. Ybarrola, “Avoiding the Ugly Missionary: Anthropology and Short-Term Missions,” in Effective Engagement in Short-Term Missions: Doing it Right!, ed. Robert Priest, Evangelical Missiological Society Series 16 (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2008), 101–119.

8 My experience with translation software is that really ordinary conversations are difficult enough, let alone communicating the gospel into a culture I have no feel for. I recall one message where the software translated a Russian speaker’s greeting as, “Hello, expensive brother!” After pondering what kind of an insult my friend intended by this greeting, I eventually figured out that “expensive” was the software’s way of translating “dear.” But it didn’t give me much confidence in the rest of the message.

9 This is not to deny that short-term trips can be mutually beneficial if they follow strict “Standards of Excellence in Short Term Mission” guidelines referred to in fn. 11. The anecdote above only illustrates that as of this writing, the problems are still dire in spite of efforts to mitigate them.

10 We are with the missiologists at this point, battling against the popular temptation to define “better world” as “more like the wealthy part of the world.”

11 For “Standards of Excellence in Short Term Missions,” see http://www.soe.org/explore/the-7-standards. For excellent summaries on partnership principles, see Mary T. Lederleitner, Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Mission (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2010); The Lausanne Movement, “The Lausanne Standards: Affirmations and Agreements for Giving and Receiving Money in Mission,” Documents, http://www.lausanne.org/docs/standards/lausanne-standards.pdf; Phill Butler, Well Connected: Releasing Power, Restoring Hope through Kingdom Partnerships (Colorado Springs: Authentic Publishing, 2005); and Daniel Rickett, Making Your Partnership Work: A Guide for Ministry Leaders (Enumclaw, WA: WinePress, 2002).

12 For example, Sherwood G. Lingenfelter and Marvin K. Mayers, Ministering Cross-Culturally: An Incarnational Model for Personal Relationships, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 51–64, describe “holistic/dichotomistic thinking;” Duane Elmer, Cross-Cultural Connections: Stepping Out and Fitting In around the World (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2002), 142–49, sketches “categorical/holistic thinking”; and Paul G. Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008), ch. 2, deals with different kinds of logic. (My thanks to Missio Dei editor, Greg McKinzie, for these helpful references after the conference.) Jim Harries speaks of the issue most often as “monistic/dualistic thinking.”

13 John Walsh, an astute practitioner of orality (http://christianstorytelling.com), explained this to me in a memorable personal conversation in October 2011.

14 David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, American Society of Missiology Series 16 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991).

15 The International Council of Ethnodoxologists, http://worldofworship.org, states: “We facilitate online networking and provide resources for the development of culturally appropriate Christian worship, utilizing insights from ethnomusicology, missiology, worship studies and the arts.” See also James R. Krabill, ed., Worship and Mission for the Global Church: An Ethnodoxology Handbook (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2013).

16 An entire cultural profile can be sketched using proverbs as points for a “connect the dots” approach. This is what I have done on American culture in the book American Cultural Baggage: How to Recognize and Deal with It (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005).

17 I am currently making a personal attempt on this one, which you can see in my book Waking Up to the Messiah (Morton, IL: Enculturation Books, 2011). The book sketches an annual cycle of festivals that together tell the whole story of Scripture. A two-page diagram of the cycle is downloadable at http://gmi.org/services/research/stans-lab/the-messianic-year1/messianic-year-brochure.

18 They are not “two gospels” but two ways of presenting and explaining the gospel. McKnight clearly shows that the gospel of the kingdom is summarized in the same biblical passage that the gospel of salvation advocates claim as theirs, 1 Cor 15:1–3. See Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 40–43.

20 Mary Lederleitner, unpublished paper presented at the Abilene Christian University “Global Conference on Vulnerable Mission,” March 7–10, 2012.

21 Thomas Oduro, et al., Mission in an African Way: A Practical Introduction to African Instituted Churches and Their Sense of Mission, Marturia series (Wellington, South Africa: BybelMedia, 2008), 159–60.

22 We may note that 1 Cor 1 does not entirely exclude the strong from mission. Not many strong are called (1:26), but a few are. I don’t think that means that the church really needs to thank God for those few strong ones and build its whole approach to mission around them and their strengths. I think it means rather that God’s preferred way and most common way of getting his mission done is the surprising way, through apparently weak people and groups. He does weave a few “strong” people into the tapestry but they are not the ones holding everything together.

23 COSIM is the Coalition on the Support of Indigenous Ministries (http://cosim.info). In spite of its name, it is not about funding of indigenous ministries but partnering with them in a variety of ways. ION is the International Orality Network (http://oralbible.com).

24 Thanks to the influence of writers like John Piper and programs like the Perspectives course, there is increased attention to the connection of mission and the glory of God. Ralph Winter and Steven Hawthorne, eds., Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed. (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009); see especially Hawthorne’s article on pp. 49–63 and Piper’s on pp. 64–69.