It’s time for North American churches and mission agencies to take another look at where God is working and begin to cooperate with him. This will require bold and courageous leadership to
(1) Evaluate current missionary programs and structures,
(2) Revise priorities and strategies,
(3) Make tough decisions, and
(4) Reallocate personnel and resources.
Let me give one example to illustrate. North Americans need to partner with Spanish speaking missionaries in Europe, North Africa, Asia and the Muslim world. Not many years ago, more North American missionaries were needed south of our border, but today the picture has changed significantly.
Believers in Latino Countries
The chart below illustrates the percentage of believers in Latino countries, including Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Charismatics—both Catholic and Protestant (Barrett 2001, World Christian Encyclopedia). In Latin America today Christian churches are thriving and multiplying (see the first twenty columns from the left). In contrast, Spain desperately needs the Good News of Jesus Christ (see the right hand column with less than 1.5%).
Latin American Missions in Spain
In recent years Latin American Christians are leading a world-wide missionary movement, with a special focus on Spain. As a result, this country is beginning to experience a resurgence of evangelical Christianity. Several new churches are emerging on the peninsula, typically beginning among the Latin American immigrant population and then quickly spreading to other immigrants from North Africa and Eastern Europe and to Spaniards themselves.
Huge Partnership Opportunities
A few valiant North American missionaries have labored for decades in Spain, typically with little or no fruit to show for their sacrificial labors. But today, the Latin American missionary movement in Spain represents a huge opportunity for North American churches and mission agencies. This is our opportunity to join our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters in the harvest field, allowing them to lead for a change and supporting them in as many ways as possible!
North American Missions Slow to Respond
Unfortunately North American mission agencies have been slow to respond. Many are still operating under old paradigms, soliciting support for their well-established ministries south of our border and providing a plethora of opportunities to visit these traditional mission fields.
In a recent survey of university students preparing for intercultural ministry, a large percentage have visited Latin America and now have a strong interest of returning to serve there. In contrast, only a handful of them are willing to consider serving in less evangelized places including Spain.
When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Matthew 9:36-38 NIV)