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Defining our focus for international missions
Does ECO plan to have an international mission involvement? Is that a priority for ECO? You bet! That’s why I have been appointed as the new (volunteer) Director of Global Engagement for ECO.
ECO plans to have an exciting new approach to our international mission focus. We want this to reflect our vision as a whole: to build flourishing churches that make disciples of Jesus Christ. How can we do international mission in a new way as a denomination, while drawing on the strengths of the Presbyterian history of mission? Also, like ECO as a whole, this is something we will be making up as we go along! But we do have a starting place, which we are now beginning to flesh out.
First, ECO is encouraging churches to continue with their present international ministry. We are not setting up our own ECO international ministry agency or structure to which we would then ask congregations to switch their support. Rather, we know that many of you are already involved in exciting things that God is doing around the world. Keep it up! Our goal will be to help you be more effective in your kingdom ministry, not to set up our own ministry and ask you to support it.
Second, some congregations may want to get involved in some type of “ECO” international ministry. We are working with our three partner organizations (Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, The Outreach Foundation, and The Antioch Partners) to develop three different foci, through which they will provide us ECO-specific opportunities to be part of what God is doing. These opportunities will reflect the overall ECO focus on innovative church planting. The intention is that they will help inspire us to new and creative ways for further engagement in our own communities. Part of my role will be to coordinate with these organizations and help ECO congregations be aware of how they can be involved.
Meet our mission partnerships
Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship will help us with a frontier mission focus in the Middle East, reaching out to unreached peoples from several countries through one location. The Outreach Foundation will help us connect with a denomination in India that comes out of early Presbyterian work; they want to increase their church planting efforts. And, besides serving ECO as a sending organization, The Antioch Partners will help us with a focus on Business as Mission (BAM). These three organizations are in a special relationship with our ECO family. They are not agencies doing mission; rather, they connect congregations to those who are doing mission. All three organizations fit us well due to their theological position, their missiology and experience, their staff who already know many of our churches, and their history as organizations in working with many of our churches. And they enable us not to have to set up another structure!
There are other agencies, more directly involved in ministry, that have relationships with our ECO congregations as well. We encourage you to continue working with them. We will be working on ways to help you share what you are doing with other congregations and work together where it makes sense. And we will be lifting up a few special opportunities for ECO churches through some of those organizations.
“What about ECO missionaries?”
This is one of the questions arising from ECO congregations. One implication of not having a denominational structure is missionaries from ECO congregations will not be sent by ECO as a denomination. In a sense, their own congregation or, in the case of ordained ministers, their Presbyteries would be their sender. That’s why it’s important to have an organization like The Antioch Partners involved. And for pastor-missionaries, who are to be in a Pastoral Covenant Group, I have already started one such group that meets monthly over Skype! I’ll be glad to help Presbyteries get others into this or another group.
“Will ECO have partnerships with churches in other countries?
This is a more complicated question. On one level, we are partners with our historic Presbyterian brothers and sisters around the world through common membership in the World Communion of Reformed Churches. On another level, many ECO congregations partner with the work of those churches, whether through connections made by the Outreach Foundation or PFF, or through their own connections. Since ECO does not have a national mission structure, we will not be entering into the same kind of relationships many of us are used to. At the same time, we have the opportunity to focus on relationships in mission more than on structures. Rather than defaulting automatically to what we already know, let’s be creative in figuring out new ways of being God’s people!
I’m excited about the possibilities before us! God is working in the world today in some amazing ways. I’ve laid out some of those in past blogs and will be mentioning more in the future. We are in a position to hold on to the best of the past while moving in some new directions for how we engage. Thus, my title is Director of Global Engagement! I look forward to serving Christ and ECO in this role, and to seeing what God is going to do. Feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions.