4) Vulnerable Mission

The AVM (Alliance for Vulnerable Mission), that in early 2009 held eight regional conferences in the USA and Europe, wrote recently to express its opinion that, whenever possible, outreach should be conducted in the local national language whenever possible. It ensures that people being reached remain free to use familiar categories in important debates, forcing the outside missionary rather than locals onto difficult cultural learning curves. Ministries developed without start-up money are more likely to be locally ‘owned.’ For more information on this vital new approach to mission write to

3 Responses to 4) Vulnerable Mission
  1. Raul Reply

    I am pleased to see this discussion of Vulnerable Mission being brought to Brigada.

    The Alliance for Vulnerable Mission says: “That there should be some missionaries from the West whose ministries are conducted in the language of the people being reached, without use of outside financial subsidy.”


  2. Raul Reply

    Here is what got me started thinking about this:

    Conferences discuss important aspects of "Vulnerable Mission"

    by Jim Harries (Chairman AVM)

    The AVM (Alliance for Vulnerable Mission) held a series of eight conferences in the USA and Europe between January and March 2009. The aim of the AVM is to encourage more Western missionaries to carry out their ministry in the non-western world using indigenous languages and resources. Important aspects of the concept were covered by various papers presented at the confernces.

    Julia Pring's keynote paper described her somewhat traumatic experience in mission in Africa. Her trauma was due, she said, to her failure to observe vulnerable mission principles. Her attempts at identifying closely with the people as an 'equal' were constantly frustrated, she explained, by her use of English instead of local languages, and facilitating of outside resources, in her ministry with orphan children.

    Stan Nussbaum pointed out that vulnerable mission was a needed next-step in global missions' strategy. VM is not a re-writing of widely held missionary goals, he emphasised, but a way to implement them. At one time Western missionaries to the Third World merely assumed their own superiority, and did what they thought was right. This was 'top-down' mission. Then they realised the need for contextualisation, and attempted to ensure that what they communicated had a better 'fit with' local contexts and cultures. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of contextualisation has been limited as a mission strategy, because usually it was being done by the West. More recently, widespread emphasis in mission has been on 'partnership'. Typically Westerners provide resources and others the manpower, contacts, linguistic skills and so on to carry out mission work and projects. Serious questions with partnership include whether controllers of purse strings really can delegate authority to others. Efforts at contextualisation and partnership are often in effect, Stan told us, unintentional continuations of the old top-down mission.
    Part 1 of 2

  3. Raul Reply

    Part 2:
    Jim Harries' session on 'vulnerable mission in practice' included a report on 21 years of mission-work in Africa. He has implemented the vulnerable mission principles of use of local languages and resources in key ministry for 16 of those years. He explained some positive outcomes of such implementation. Jim outlined some of the very real difficulties involved in resource-transfer and use of European languages in the African-mission context.

    Many other papers were presented, and positions shared. Steve Rennick had questions regarding the apparent refusal of Western missionaries following VM principles to share their bountiful financial resources. The difference in VM was found to be in the way resources were to be shared and not necessarily whether they were to be shared. Dan Peterson contributed a paper that emphasised the importance of using the language of the people being reached in ministry. He explained that the origin of the word translated into English as 'barbaric' is 'does not know our language'. Steve Skuce suggested that perhaps VM principles are so important, that they ought to be adopted by all missionaries, and not only 'some' as the AVM is proposing. Someone who has lived VM principles in mission for many years in South America is Frank Paul. Frank drew on examples from his experience in Argentina amongst Toba Indians to emphasise the importance of vulnerable mission principles.

    Perhaps the most interesting part of the conferences was the opportunity given after lunch to debate the pros and cons of vulnerable mission. For this exercise, conference delegates were arbitrarily assigned to the pro or con position. The two teams then planned and presented their opposing positions for debate. This usually resulted in voicing many of the standard criticisms of vulnerable mission and also hearing them ring hollow when challenged. The conferences closed after a final session in which delegates considered how vulnerable mission could be more widely promoted and implemented. There was widespread agreement with the importance of getting vulnerable mission more widely practiced around the world.

    The conferences served the function of making vulnerable mission as a means to cross-cultural evangelism and 'development' more widely known. As well as materials on the web, the Alliance also has a monthly bulletin and active email discussions going on both in English and German.

    For more details see


    and http://www.jim-mission.org.uk/discussion/a-devotion.pdf

    This appeared in: WEA Theological Commission – WEA Theological e-News Apr 2009 Issue 64

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