Thursday, March 29, 2007

Networking Mission

"The World Christian Movement is not a single organization, but rather a network of organizations working toward the same goal. They use many of the same resources and incorporate the same buzzwords to define and implement their mission."
--Al Dager, "U.S. Center for World Mission," The World Christian Movement (Sword, 2001) [emphasis added]

A discussion of the networking of the church would not be complete unless it also examines the networking of global mission groups.

The two grandfathers of the global mission movement are Billy Graham and Ralph Winter. Creating this movement was a goal of the original neoevangelicals (see article here). An overview of the history of the U.S. Center for World Mission can be found in Al Dager's book The World Christian Movement. This book is a concise history of the major leaders of the modern mission movement and summarizes their aberrant doctrines. Almost all of the world mission groups were either spawned downline from these two men, or were networked into their system through their umbrella mission agencies, conferences, parachurch groups, education and training, and other activities.

Dager explains historically that: "Until the middle of the nineteenth century, missions were conducted by denominations and individual churches with a vision to take the Gospel to heathen lands" (p. 7). This would be the "old world order" missionary work where local churches sent out missionaries, or associations of churches would cooperate in sending missionaries to the field. This old fashioned way of doing missions ensured doctrinal purity and integrity along denominational lines.

The "new world order" of mission activity is vastly different. The mission movement was intentionally set up based on the systems model (also known as General Systems Theory -- see previous posts). "Networking" is more sophisticated than simple ecumenism. It is a way to burrow down deeply through organizational structures through stealth to infiltrate and diffuse new ideas that will begin to change things. Networking has the effect of leaven, when it comes to doctrine and practice, permeating an existing organization with new thoughts, new ideas, and new doctrines via missionary training, cross-pollination with other groups, partnerships, and the more sophisticated "collaboration."

Networking came of age in the computer era, becoming more sophisticated with the rising complexity of computers. But global mission networking encompassed more than simple cataloguing of information. The mission leaders also began integrating psychology, sociology, anthropology and a host of other "soft" disciplines into their activities. This combination systematized global mission databanking along the lines of ethnicity and other socio-cultural data. This style of data collection was "sold" to the evangelical world as a method of completing the "Great Commission." Evangelization replaced evangelism as the byword for this activity, indicating a new focus of social and political action, and the dominionist emphasis of making disciples of all nations.

A seedbed for much of the early activity in networking systems applied to mission was the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA). Many of the early mission leaders such as J. Edwin Orr, Ralph Winter, Wesley Duewel, Edward R. Dayton, Kenneth L. Pike, etc., were active members of this group, which was formed in the early 1940s as a scientific organization. In September 1962 its newsletter reported that four new disciplines had been added: natural sciences, psychology, social sciences and philosophy. In December 1966 the newsletter reported that:

"Physical Sciences group was led by Joe E. Lingerfelt, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Westmont College and Consulting Senior Research Engineer for General Motors Defense Research Laboratories, Santa Barbara. In viewing the ways in which ASA can make a future contribution, three distinct but not exclusive areas were seen. One is the practical application of modern engineering concepts to the technical problems involved in fulfilling the gospel commission. For example, systems engineering approaches using such techniques as PERT for planning and carrying out overseas mission programs. It was pointed out, however, that no such effort could be complete without effort in the second area involving the Christian world view development." [emphasis added] [Ed Note: PERT is the acronym for Program Evaluation and Review Technique.]

These scientists were enamored of the rising high-tech industries at that time period. They were looking to "borrow" the tools, methods and techniques and apply them to creating a world mission movement. Like so many other movements that happened in the 1960s, bigger was better, newer was better, and few raised questions about the ethics of applying emerging new technologies to human beings. Ed Dayton (Missions Advanced Research and Communications Center, World Vision), noted in a March 1968 newsletter:

"'If your company had a contract to evangelize the world, what would you do?

"With this titillating thought Edward R. Dayton, Director, Missions Advanced Research Center (MARC), Fuller Theological Seminary, launched into an interesting consideration of the problems of communicating the Christian message. He feels that the systems approach which has been so successful in the $3 billion Apollo project has something to offer. Working backward on a PERT-type diagram, Dayton emphasized the primary importance of gospel communications in which we scarcely understand the problem. Disciplined planning, a knowledge of the resources, an information and communication system and research were also identified as critical elements. MARC's part in making a start in some of these needy areas was explained through a filmstrip."

An October 1972 newsletter detailed Dayton's development of the prototype global databanking system for world mission activities:


"Missions Advanced Research and Communications Center (MARC) of Monrovia, California, is a division of World Vision International. It was founded by Edward R. Dayton five years ago to put computers to work effectively for the church, particularly in the task of world evangelism.

". . .ASA News asked Ed to tell us how he happened to start MARC. . . .

""In 1964, 1 was happily settled with my family in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as an assistant engineering manager for systems at the Lear Siegler Corporation. Just as we had decided to settle down to a happy life in 'New Jerusalem,' my boss tole me I was leaving. I was being offered a job in two of the company's other engineering divisions as an engineering division manager or vice president. The Lord used this opportunity to uproot us in a rather breathless way.'

"'Within six weeks I had sold our house in Grand Rapids and bought one in Pasadena, enrolled in Fuller Theological Seminary, been granted a Fellowship from the Ford Foundation, and become a management consultant for Leer Siegler Corporation. The fellowship was administered by the Dean of General Studies of Columbia University and allowed a year's scholarship at an institution of higher learning to those wanting to change careers in mid-stream. (A primary purpose of the grants was to study the participants, so I was processed through an interviewer at Columbia and a bank of psychologists to see if my head was screwed on right.)'

"'About four months into my new career as a 40-year seminarian, I ran into Ted Engstrom of World Vision. In a talk he gave, he wondered what else God might be able to do with the computer system World Vision used to keep track of its finances and its Childcare program. Foolishly, or providentially (you'll have to check your theology on that), I told him about innumerable other things that could be done with computers. This led to a series of discussions with Ted Engstrom, David Hubbard (president of Fuller), Donald Gavran (dean of the Fuller School of World Mission), Paul Rees (vice-president at large of World Vision), and Don Gill (executive director of the Evangelistic Association of New England).'

"'These discussions led to some exploration with McGavran, Alan Tippett, and three other missionaries, of how one would go about applying aerospace-management planning techniques to world evangelism. By the summer of 1966, 1 was convinced that God was leading us into interesting fields of inquiry, although I still felt I was going to seminary to become a minister. At the Congress of World Evangelism in Berlin in November 1966, we had a display (some called it a sideshow) on the use of technology in evangelism. We centered on the systems approach, planning and research being the keys, vis-a-vis "acceptable technology" such as radio, TV, airplanes, etc.'

"'By then it seemed that the fat was in the fire. In early 1967 we started planning something we called the Missions Advanced Research and Communication Center, "a division of World Vision Incorporated, in cooperation with the School of World Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary." When I graduated in 1967, 1 joined World Vision, and MARC was formally launched. . . .'

"'Today, as a division of World Vision, we have a small staff of technologists: computer specialists, information scientists, statistical engineers, and a missionary researcher. These are supported by ten assistant researchers, information handlers, and secretaries. We make use of the publication and computer-processing resources of World Vision. We're now finishing a four-year pilot project in Brazil. We believe this project demonstrates the power of useful information to plan new directions for evangelism within a country. . . .'

"'We received about 3,500 requests for information from all over the world, mostly on what others are doing, and from this we are gradually building up a bank of information. We participated in putting together North American Protestant Ministries Overseas, a directory of all North American missionary work in other countries, and we co-edited the World Christian Handbook coming out in 1972. This gives us probably one of the largest banks of information on the work of the church around the world. We've also developed a rather sophisticated name-handling system; with it we can store information about Christian specialists who have talents they want to be used for the Lord.'"

"Incidentally, I've had some discussion with Dick Bube and others about the possibility of MARC and ASA getting together on a project. For instance, we could create an ASA directory that would include much more information than the present directory: the skills and background of all members, plus the areas of distinctly Christian service they're into at present.

"[W]e have also put on a number of training seminars to teach a systems approach to Christian and mission management problems, and we have held two-day 'Managing Your Time' seminars for local pastors. Our major goal in all of this is to 'give every person in the world an opportunity to say Yes to Jesus Christ.' I have a firm belief that God gives tools to each age to be used for His glory." [typos in original]

The human systems management model referenced above may have been influenced by the first prototype in that era, coincidentally implemented in California in the late 1960s during Reagan's tenure as governor, called Planning, Programming, Budgeting System (PPBS), which was based on an input-outcome economic system theory. This onerous system was first used in the federal Department of Defense under McNamara (go here or here to read more).

From that point on the evangelical missionary activity across the globe began to be catalogued in a networking fashion, tracking people groups, missionaries, agencies, churches, activities, leaders, etc. As computerization became more sophisticated, mission databanking grew right along with it.

The Truth:

" . . . they hunt every man his brother with a net." (Micah 7:2b)