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Vulnerable Mission Opens Whispering Campaign

by Dr. Jay Gary, Jan 6, 2009


The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46

What is the future of world missions, given the permanent white water of turbulence we seem to be facing? Could “the Next Big Thing in Missions” actually be the “Next Small Thing,” namely missionary vulnerability?

On January 16th, 2009 Dr. Jay Gary and Christian Futures hosted a workshop on Vulnerable Mission in Colorado Springs. Joining him was Dr. Jim Harries, from the UK and Dr. Stan Nussbaum of Chicago, for a workshop on vulnerabilty as vocation, focus and strategy the western missionary.

In opening the session, Dr. Gary recalled how since September we have all experienced the ramifications of a faltering economy. He claimed we may be entering a season where Western missionaries can no longer prop up development projects with a continuous flow of capital. By necessity we may have to let our mission programs be “vulnerable” to local economic realities and the will of local people to lead them.

Following the opening, Dr. Stan Nussbaum asked how vulnerable mission compares and contrasts with what mission theorists have been saying for a long time, especially in the areas of contextualization,  dependence, and partnership. Dr. Nussbaum put forth seven premises of vulnerable mission, to position it within the past hundred years of missiology.

Dr. Harries followed and told his story of how he let Kenyans teach him how to speak and think, while he helped them find the treasure buried in their own backyard. In contrast to foreign financed and expatriate languages, Dr. Harries put forth an appeal: “Let there be some Western missionaries to the non-West whose ministry is carried out using the language and resources of the people being reached.”

Vulnerable Mission, marked by voluntary simplicity and missionary poverty, can be a sign of hope for our times. It can put the ministry focus back on where it should be, the “treasure hidden in the field” (Matt. 13:44)–the field being local resources and local wisdom.

After lunch, Dr. Gary led the group in a formal point-counterpoint debate on vulnerable mission. The group divided in two and argued the benefits of vulnerable mission versus default western mission. The conclusion was that “power over” situations should be avoided, and anyone serving cross-culturally should build on “power from” practices.

The day ended with reflection on how Vulnerable Mission could be improved and related to both servant leadership and national mission. Others expressed how Vunerable Mission should be a calling not just for those on the field, but those living the gospel in our own culture.

For more on the Vulnerable Mission calling or to read more about other conferences, see

avm_ad_oct08_140wPROGRAM for Vulnerable Mission

8.30am  Arrival & Welcome

9.00am  Worship & Introductions

9.30am  The Need for Vulnerable Mission – Address
by Dr. Stan Nussbaum
What new terrain does mission, church planting and development face? How does VM addresses this? What is the Spirit saying to the church?

10.30am  Break

11.00am  The Practice of Vulnerable Mission – Panel
by Dr. Jim Harries
A reasoned case for how VM works, its means and ends. How is the vulnerable mission lifestyle, values and organization different? What is the output in terms of contextualization and its avoidance of power?

12.30pm  Lunch

1:30pm  The Debate of Vulnerable Mission – Point-Counterpoint
by Dr. Jay Gary
A group exercise that allows the group to argue the strengths and weaknesses of Vulnerable Mission

3.00pm  Break

3:30pm The Alliance of Vulnerable Mission – Large Group Discussion
How can we enter into vulnerabilty in both thought and action in our networks and ministries?

4:30 pm Closing service

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