Wayland Mission center moving university into new era of missions

January 24, 2012

 

PLAINVIEW -- Dr. Rick Shaw has a simple statement that paints a quick picture of the challenges facing Christians as they work to tell their story in a rapidly changing social and cultural environment.

Shaw, an assistant religion professor at Wayland Baptist University, is the director of the university’s mission center.

His message is direct: “Form changes; substance stays the same.”

The professor spent the month of January in Kenya — where Wayland is partnering with religious leaders and educators — working in a variety of mission-related areas, but took some time to address via e-mail the challenges missionaries and religious leaders face in a new era driven by technology and by what he referred to as “a generational era of instability and values-free lifestyles.”

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ is an unchanging story, whose power can shape and change us into Christlikeness. However, the ways we communicate this gospel must adapt to the audience to which it is communicated,” he said, adding that while culture changes, the immutability of the message doesn’t.

On the local level, Shaw pointed out that West Texas is facing changes in demographics, as well as generational changes within the region’s communities. That is coupled with a general shift in society that is “increasingly post-Christian (and sometimes anti-Christian).”

Enter into that environment the Wayland Mission Center, which is designed to address missions on the local, national and international levels.

The center’s aim, according to its mission statement, is to “serve as a rallying point to educate, inspire, encourage, empower and equip children, youth, university students and adults of all ages, to discover, identify and realize their God-given calling to Christian mission.”

HaitiTo that end, the university and the mission center have developed a bachelor of arts degree in missions in which students already are enrolled; established short-term collaborative networks on every continent and within the United States — including Kenya, Macedonia, Kosovo, Greece, Brazil, Mexico, India and nationally in the Detroit/Dearborn area; and developed local mentoring projects with the Plainview school district and local prisons.

Additionally, the center is hosting the inaugural ExperienceMissions 2012 conference, scheduled for April 21.

Dr. Paul Sadler, dean of the School of Religion and Philosophy at Wayland, explained that the Wayland Mission Center actually is the fulfillment of a 10-year dream for many at the university.

“The Mission Center is an integral part of our school,” he said, adding that through it young people constantly are being exposed to missions and mission opportunities.

Sadler pointed to the role the center plays in not only making students aware of mission opportunities but equipping them for those as well. He used the work the university is undertaking in Kenya as an example of how Wayland is integrating the goal of spreading the gospel through a variety of efforts.

Currently the university is partnering with Kenya Baptist Theological College, near Nairobi, to provide education and training for students in that country.

“The main thrust of the Kenya effort is to deliver an accredited degree to the leaders of the Baptist churches in Kenya. That is what they don’t have there,” Sadler said.

He explained that the students in that degree plan are earning a bachelor of art’s degree in religion, which provides them with a broad-based and well-rounded education, as well as training in ministry and leadership.

“Through the program, we are educating the next generation of Baptist leaders in Kenya,” he said.

At the same time, Sadler said, through the efforts of the Wayland Mission Center local mission teams are sent each summer to partner with those leaders in their churches in Kenya.

Art StudentsShaw took the partnership even a step further by pointing out that Wayland’s work through the educational process has opened doors to taking missions into other parts of Kenyan society. It is in this area where Shaw stressed the importance of presenting an unchanging story through methods that must continually grow and evolve.

It is critical, he said, to make sure that the gospel is presented in a way that is relevant to every particular audience. To that end, he took an example from the global business community, pointing out that it is adept at changing with the demands of globalization.

“While spiritual power is the force that drives the mission enterprise, we as mission leaders and directors are behooved to understand the ethical and viable mechanisms and methodologies used by business and commerce in the propagation of the gospel,” he said. “As business savvy is necessary for global business, cultural intelligence and cultural savvy is essential for global mission and evangelism.”

Dr. Paul Armes, the president of Wayland Baptist University system, expanded on the idea of contextualization.

“There is more to missions than just going to Africa,” he said, adding that ministering to the families of prisoners housed at the local detention centers or working with at-risk children through the local school district is just as viable a mission effort.

The important thing, he continued, is delivering the message of the gospel in a way that makes it easy to receive.

“I think contextualizing missions is very important. Meet people in the context of their lives and share the gospel in a language they understand,” he said, adding that too often Christians are guilty of speaking their own language.

“It’s like legalese. It’s easy to have churchese, as well,” he said.

As for the work of the Wayland Mission Center, Armes said it was created as a center to train both students and laypeople for missions. In fact, he continued, that is a primary focus of the university’s upcoming ExperienceMissions 2012 event. The conference was developed out of the wishes of local and area church leaders to find ways to meet a growing interest in their congregations to become more involved in missions.

“(The conference is) a response to what we’re seeing. Not only are more students being called to missions, but more adults are feeling called to missions,” he said.

That new environment represents a bit of a sea change, Armes said, but that is a good thing.

“I think we’re seeing a time where there is a more personal impetus in participating in missions. That is why the mission center was so important to us.”

Upcoming mission events:

•March 10-19 — Mission to Detroit and Dearborn, Michigan

•April 21 — Experience Mission 2012, Plainview, Texas

•May 7-22 — Mission to Salvador and Torrhinas, Brazil

•July 5-28 — Mission to Kenya

•July 31-Aug. 13 — Mission to Macedonia, Kosovo and Greece

 

SIDE BAR:

By Richard Porter, assistant director of communications, Wayland Baptist University

 

Wayland to host ExperienceMissions 2012

In keeping with its goal to help both students and adult laypeople grow in their knowledge of missions, Wayland Baptist University will host ExperienceMissions 2012. The one-day conference is scheduled for April 21 on the Wayland campus in Plainview, Texas.

Dr. Paul Armes, president of the Wayland Baptist University system, said the conference is in response to a growing desire on the High Plains for more emphasis on missions and is an outgrowth of the university’s recently established Wayland Mission Center.

Armes said the event was put together by area church leaders whose congregations were seeking more information and training on mission opportunities.

“It’s a response to what we’re seeing. Not only are more students being called to mission but more adults are feeling called to missions,” Armes said.

Dr. Rick Shaw, director of the Wayland Mission Center, echoed that.

“There is an increasing sentiment that Hale County (and the six surrounding counties from which Wayland draws its constituency) is a rapidly developing mission field of its own. ExperiencingMissions 2012 will help bring awareness to this sentiment, and provide mechanisms and interfaces to meet mission needs in our own Jerusalem,” he said.

The conference will consist of a number of seminars lead by current missionaries and will cover a broad variety of issues and topics, ranging from working with Muslim populations to learning more about Mission Amarillo and Mission Arlington.

The conference is designed to provide information to all ages, with an adult track, as well as youth and children’s tracks.

The youth track will include presentations on work in China, Brazil, New York City and Kazakhstan, as well as information on mission projects in Plainview and a homeless poverty simulation for junior and senior high school students.

The children’s track will include presentations on world sports and missions to Brazil, China, Kazakhstan and New York City.

Shaw said there are seven basic goals for the conference:

•That 100 persons will respond to career missions

•That churches and individuals will re-focus on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment

•That support will increase for the Wayland Mission Center

•That students and churches will develop direct linkages with missionaries and mission organizations

•That many will be introduced to Christian mission for the very first time

•That missions will be understood as the whole gospel

•That the many unreached and unengaged peoples of the world will finally receive the gospel.

For more information, contact Shaw at shawr@wbu.edu, or call 806-291-1162.