Report 2: Canadian Evangelicals and Long-term, Career Missions: Calling, Sending and Training
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This report is based on ground-breaking, comprehensive, national research on how Canadian Evangelicals engage with “mission” or “missions,” as part of the Canadian Evangelical Missions Engagement Study series.
Second in the series, Canadian Evangelicals and Long-Term Career Missions looks at the interplay of local church engagement and beliefs about calling, sending and supporting missions. The responses of pastors and lay Evangelicals indicate broad similarities of belief, but with some significant differences.
With over 3,400 Canadians polled and qualitative interviews with 56 Evangelicals, this series of reports provides a snapshot of how and why Canadian Evangelicals engage with missions, and forms a baseline for future study.
One key trend throughout the report was that lay respondents who attend religious services and read the Bible frequently were more aware and engaged with long-term career missions (LTCM). Involvement in the life of a local church was associated with greater knowledge and investment in missions.
- In-depth interview informants usually indicated they would be reluctant to encourage their children or grandchildren to consider long-term, career missions (LTCMs), but that they would accept their family member’s LTCM call if they were convinced the Lord was calling them.
- The majority of pastors (90%) and lay people (67%) agree that local churches should challenge young people to consider long-term, career missions. Although two-thirds of lay respondents agreed that the local church should be challenging young people, only 19% strongly agreed.
- Pastors (90%) were far more likely than lay people (63%) to indicate the local church is critical to discerning an individual’s call to LTCMs
- During in-depth interviews, several informants expressed ambivalence about the missionary enterprise and the role of Canadians in it. They expressed a belief that Canadians should have limited roles due to concerns such as LTC missionaries being a threat to indigenous culture.
- The majority of pastors and lay people disagreed that LTC missionaries do more harm than good. However, a significant percentage, almost one in four (23%) lay Evangelicals, either indicated that LTC missionaries do more harm than good or said they did not know. Seventeen percent of pastors said the same.
- A minority of pastors (44%) and lay respondents (29%) indicated “It is better to send money to indigenous missionaries than to send long-term, career missionaries from Canada.”
- One in three lay respondents (35%) indicated LTC missionaries should not be sent to work in dangerous situations, compared to just one-sixth (16%) of pastors.
- Most pastors (68%) agreed that their congregation would at least consider supporting business persons or professionals as LTCMs, while 18% did not know and only 14% disagreed.
- The majority of pastors (85%) and lay respondents (63%) agreed that the local church holds the primary responsibility for the Great Commission.
- Pastors (76%) were more likely than lay respondents (50%) to indicate that mission agencies or denominations are “better equipped to care for and supervise missionaries than local churches.”
- More than one-third of pastors (37%) said their local congregation sent out at least one LTC missionary in the last 5 years.
- In-depth interview informants tended to see Christian higher education institutions primarily offering training for “classic” missions, i.e. theological and language training for pastoral and evangelistic roles. Informants broadly agreed that training should fit the specific task and that the wide range of possible tasks necessitates flexibility in training. Some suggested experience on the mission field itself would be the best training.
- By far the minority of lay respondents (18%) and pastors (15%) said LTCMs needed no training, “just a calling.” However, the pastors’ survey allowed the selection of additional training options along with “just a calling.” Each pastor who indicated “just a calling” also chose training options, with 93% of them selecting 3 or more additional training options. One hypothesis is that pastors assert a calling is the only necessity for LTC missionaries as an expression of confidence that God’s equipping for ministry will accompany his calling.
- Nearly two in five evangelical lay respondents (39%) said that LTCMs typically last 5 years or less, compared to just under one-fifth of pastors (18%).
- Frequent service attenders and those in lay leadership roles were more likely to say LTCM were 6 years or longer, and less likely to say they did not know the length of a typical LTCM.
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