The Church, Local, Wider, and Universal: A Study in Diversity, Unity, and Relationships

This paper contrasts the way early believers understood the church with the reality that whereas OMF perform many “churchly activities,” from a practical point of view it does “not really have a working ecclesiology.” It lays some biblical bases for understanding the church, overviews some historical understandings of its nature, questions the concept of a mission agency from Scripture, and proposes some policies to help mission agencies work with the local church.​

Ray Porter joined OMF in 1972 and served in Indonesia until 1986. After a short absence to lecture in New Testament at Belfast Bible College he was UK East Region Director from 1991 to 2005 when he was seconded to Oak Hill Theological College in London to set up and teach their World Mission Studies programme.  He is currently Chair of the OMF UK Board, having also served on the OMF Global Vision Council for its initial three years.

The Church Local, Wider, and Universal: A Study in Diversity, Unity, and Relationships [1]

Mission Round Table Vol. 13 No. 3 (Sep-Dec 2018): 4-9


If I were writing in 1018 instead of 2018 our discussions would probably be unnecessary. Until 1054 ecclesiology was fairly simple. Until that date one could talk with confidence of “one holy Catholic and apostolic church” encompassing all who accepted the Nicea-Chalcedonian doctrines. Donatists and Arians might present some problems, but they were minor issues for the bulk of Christendom. If we were living in the West we would still be talking about such a reality until 1517 when Martin Luther hammered his 95 Theses onto the door of the church at Wittenberg. The issue that we face is a particularly Protestant one in that the Reformation accepted that the church of Jesus Christ could subsist in national and doctrinally distinct parts.[2] With the Magisterial Reformation national churches arose and, with the assertion that all could read and interpret Scripture, more radical denominations began which made nonsense, not only of the idea that there could be one human head to the church, but that a state could enforce what its subjects believe. “Cuius regio eius religio”—“To whom the state belongs, to him also the religion”—died and with it any hope of real ecclesiastical visible unity. Doctrinal and cultural distinctions[3] became enshrined in the nature of Protestant Christianity and the tendency has been to divide more rather than unite.

  Martin Luther from the Workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

Troeltsch made the sociological distinction between a church that is coterminous with its community, a sect that is a voluntary association of those who have made a definite commitment of faith, and a mystical society that has its focus on “a purely personal and inward experience.”[4] In this plethora of religious structures there have been various attempts to rediscover the unity of the church. The World Council of Churches (WCC) is one such attempt that has at its heart a church rather than a sect identity. The sect pattern would be more the hallmark of various evangelical associations such as the World Evangelical Fellowship or the Lausanne Movement that are familiar to us. Whereas historically, the WCC would see practice uniting and doctrine dividing, the evangelical movements would put doctrinal unity as central. For many evangelicals visible unity is not of prime importance because they consider that there is an invisible church that is bound together by the bands of spirituality and that this is more desirable than any visible unity, especially one that fails to separate sheep from goats or wheat from chaff.

OMF and Asian churches

Into this confusing picture comes the mission agency, like OMF. We assert, as do other agencies, that we are not a church even though we often perform churchy activities, such as baptising, dedicating infants, and holding Eucharistic services. Our ethos, function, and certain core doctrinal statements unite us. We are composed of people who are members of churches or sects.[5] Some of our members are perhaps also part of the mystical grouping in that they have really joined an organisation like OMF because of its spirituality.[6] It is not surprising then that after 153 years, we discover that we do not really have a working ecclesiology in the context of the Asian church.[7]

Before I begin to attempt to respond to this situation, we need to consider the churches of Asia. They are as varied as the churches from which OMF members come. Some are associated with Western denominations and have some church characteristics even though nowhere in Asia, except perhaps the Philippines and Korea, is there any possibility yet of their being identified with the majority culture.[8] The churches of Asia therefore predominantly conform to the sect pattern described by Troeltsch.[9] They are voluntary associations in the midst of cultures that are generally hostile to Christian belief and shaped by religious values that are not Christian. Missionary action has contributed to many of the divisions that are apparent between churches.[10] Not only have we, the mission agencies, established churches that bear our name or identity, but we have also perpetuated tribal and ethnic divisions. Current missiological theories and practices have concentrated on separate people groups and our concerns to contextualise have given a value to existing separate cultures that all militate against the reality of Christian unity. [11]

CIM/OMF has acknowledged its non-denominational character historically by supporting different patterns of church association. In China there was the specific Anglican field in Sichuan with its own CIM bishops. One of these bishops, Frank Houghton, became the fourth General Director of the mission. When the mission moved to the “new fields”, North Malaya became the Anglican field although without the benefit of an in-house bishop.[12] Not only were those who already had Anglican orders permitted to exercise their office in that church, but there were also those whose Anglican ordination was performed in Malaya.

In Indonesia the necessity of sponsorship meant that OMF established no church ministry in its own name, but seconded members to a variety of Reformed, Lutheran, Methodist, Mennonite, and other denominations. Many OMF members became recognised ministers of these denominations and some were appointed to congregational or denominational roles. In South Korea the mission also worked with established denominations. In Taiwan for many years there was a similar pattern, but the development of a new field policy that focused on “blue-collar” evangelism ended some of these links.

Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan show a pattern that could be regarded as the norm for OMF work. In each of these countries, the decision was taken not to work with any existing church denomination, but to plant independent churches.[13] As more churches were formed they were brought together into a denomination that sometimes, as with the Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines (ABCOP), brought together churches established by other like-minded missions in the Philippines.

Biblical teaching [14]

In the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the OT, ἐκκλησία (ekklēsia) always refers to gathered assemblies. This is in contrast to συναγωγή which can be used for a non-gathered group. Most interesting is the use of the term in Deuteronomy 4:10, which

looks back to the day when the people assembled (ἐκκλησιάζω, the cognate verb of ἐκκλησία) at Sinai to hear God speaking the Ten Commandments, and characterises that occasion as “the day of the assembly” (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἐκκλησίας). This Greek phrase is twice repeated in Deuteronomy,[15] both times seemingly in a semi-technical sense to refer to the events of Exodus 19–20. Comparison with the underlying Hebrew text confirms that this phrase carried special significance for the LXX translators; for whereas its two subsequent appearances both translate the Hebrew phrase בְּיוֹם הַקָּהָל, its initial occurrence, in Deuteronomy 4:10, was introduced in the absence of any Hebrew equivalent.[16]

Within the New Testament this prime sense of ἐκκλησία as a gathering of people together continues. This is both in its secular uses in passages like Acts 19:32 and in the Christian context. Flint argues that the term ἐκκλησία is never used of a church that does not assemble together. He suggests that Paul does not address the ἐκκλησία in Rome because it never assembles as a whole in contrast to the church in Corinth or Jerusalem that, whilst regularly meeting as house churches, also gather as a whole church.

What then shall we say about the use of the word ἐκκλησία for the church universal? Flint argues that this is an extension of the usage that we find in Hebrews 12:18–24 that depicts the whole completed church gathered in heaven. The universal church throughout the world is composed of those who will be together as members of the heavenly completed church. So every individual Christian is part of this body. But such a membership implies membership also of its local manifestation. There are not two churches, but one.

This concept of the completed people of God is clearly presented in Ephesians and it is probably in that letter that we have the most clearly articulated view of the church as both the bride and body of Christ and at the same time a small group struggling with the realities of life in a pagan, magic-dominated city.[17] The high status of the church as the elected bride of Christ is seen in the midst of the conflict of the present time. In the course of his letter, Paul gives us several important pointers into the nature of the church as an earthly fellowship. It is a body that is created in the cross of Christ that removes the distinctive legal basis of Israel and creates a new humanity in which both Jew and Gentile are united and there is access to the Father through the Spirit (Eph 2:14–22). Unity is emphasised in chapter 4. Paul’s ministry, as related in Acts as well as in his other letters, is concerned with the establishment of churches that are racially comprehensive and united not on the basis of a shared culture, language, or previous religious loyalties, but are united around the Messiah.[18] This was the basis on which the Christian church emerged from Judaism and is part of the gospel that is to be proclaimed. It is this unity that proclaims to the watching world that God sent Jesus (John 17:20–23). There is no example in the Book of Acts, except for the Ethiopian eunuch, of people becoming followers of Jesus and not members of a local gathering of believers, distinct from the world around them.[19] This was the logic that led local people in Antioch to invent a new sociological category—Χριστιανός “Christians”—to identify people who were united by belief and not by culture or ethnicity.


Saint Paul and the burning of pagan books at Ephesus by Lucio Massari (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons. It is a faithful reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art and is thus in the public domain in its country of origin, the United States, and countries where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or less.

Creedal and confessional statements

The Nicene Creed confesses “One holy catholic and apostolic church” and that remains a good summary of biblical teaching. This gives the vital elements of any definition of the church.

  • One – we recognise that there is only one church and that divisions are a denial of that. Unity should be the aim of each individual congregation and of churches ministering in one geographical area.
  • Holy – the character of the church underlines the need for true discipleship and behaviour that reflects the character of the Saviour.
  • Catholic – we recognise the universality of the church and the fact that it crosses ethnic groups and nations as well as time and space.
  • Apostolic – we see this clearly in terms of doctrine, but perhaps it should also be seen as a temporal continuity.[20]

Irenaeus gave an earlier definition which focused on the spiritual nature of the local church: “For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth.[21]” The confessional statements of the Reformation gave more attention to the nature of the church, especially at the local level. Whilst these were in reaction to the Roman Catholic Church they also focussed attention on the spiritual life of the congregation. Calvin’s marks of the church were: “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ’s institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.”[22]

Both of these statements, coming centuries apart, focus on the spiritual nature of the church with Irenaeus noting the role of word and Spirit and Calvin adding the organisational detail necessary to produce such a church. He was also defining a true church over against one that had erred. Whilst Reformed churches were organised on a national basis there was no lack of international co-operation. Refugees from persecution found warm acceptance in friendlier regimes. Calvin, in particular, made Geneva a missionary sending centre from which people were sent out, not only into the countries of Europe, but also to Brazil.[23] Correspondence and visits meant that no national church was cut off from broader European fellowship. Often the foreign visitors played a full role in the life of the church that they were visiting or with which they found refuge.

Evangelical unity[24]

The unity to be found among the early Reformers did not survive to the second generation. As time passed and a greater variety of views emerged, tensions and divisions increased. Even when the political status of those who did not belong to national churches had been dealt with and the Wesleyan Revival had changed the religious face of Britain and the US, relations between different Protestant and Evangelical Christians were often strained.[25] The foundation of the Evangelical Alliance[26] in London in 1846 sought to establish a form of evangelical unity that would not only be effective for the UK, but also throughout the world. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is now such a body with its national associations and other members including most of the major evangelical mission agencies.[27] The Keswick Convention was another example of an association of Christians united around a particular theme with its strapline “All one in Jesus Christ.”[28] One week in the Lake District of England[29] was seen as satisfying the need for Evangelical unity without needing to discuss ecclesiastical issues. Such trans-denominational unity makes many evangelicals unconcerned about ecclesiastical disunity.

Where do we find the mission agency in Scripture? [30]

There is a story, which may be apocryphal, that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was once asked to address a gathering of various evangelistic and mission agencies.[31] He began by saying that he had looked for them in Scripture—first in the New Testament and then in the Old—but couldn’t find them. He then said that he identified them in Judges 21:25![32] The view that agencies have no biblical mandate is popular in many circles, especially amongst separatist and Reformed groups.[33] Frequently, one hears the complaint that mission agencies were only formed because the church was not active in world mission. If William Carey is regarded as the first missionary of the modern era this is not a true understanding of the ecclesiastical setting from which he came.[34] The Particular Baptist Mission that was formed grew out of the Northampton Baptist Association and opened the way for Baptists in other parts of Britain to join.[35] It was, therefore, a group of churches finding a way of working together in a specific ministry.[36]

It is when we come to the formation of the China Inland Mission in 1865 that we see a different pattern beginning to emerge. There was no association of churches behind the Mission, but the selection of individuals with a variety of ecclesiastical relationships or none.[37] The early days of the Mission, when it was an untried gospel instrument, may have made this lack of church backing inevitable, but it was also in line with the sort of teaching Taylor would have embraced in fellowship with the Plymouth Brethren. He accepted that members of CIM might have different views of ecclesiology whilst agreeing on central evangelical doctrines. But the Lammermuir incident—when he (re-) baptised members—showed his own convictions at the time.[38] Despite the lack of fixed church relationships in the selection of members, Taylor was willing to establish churches with a denominational identity in China.

Dr. Ralph Winter sought to find mission agencies in Scripture.[39] He argues that in the New Testament there are two forms of the church: the “modality” and the “sodality”.[40] The latter is identified in Paul’s missionary band, and it is argued, first, that this was an expression of the universal church that was distinct from the local church, and then that a modern mission agency has the same characteristic. He then attempts to find similar groupings down the ages into which succession he places modern mission agencies.

Winter tries to prove too much from scanty evidence and a selective reading of church history. His assertion that Paul’s missionary group was structured on pre-existent Jewish missionaries has no historical basis—indeed the very existence of any Jewish evangelism before Paul has been questioned.[41] Paul’s missionary “band” was not a fixed group of people, but rather a changing group relating to the apostle in a variety of ways. Sometimes they would be together in ministry, but very often one or more of them would be sent off to minister elsewhere. When Paul settled in any place for a length of time he related to the church that was either already in existence, as at Rome, or the emerging church that he has founded, as in Ephesus or Corinth. There was also an on-going connection with the churches from which he had been sent out, both Antioch and Jerusalem, to which he reported back and of which he became a fully functioning member when present there, even though there is no record of any practical support or advice from them.[42] With his only recorded supporting church, Philippi, there was a relationship of care and concern, but no reporting back or return visits.

Paul’s itinerant missionary work, with its usually short periods in each place and changing personnel, has little in common with the activity of a modern church planting mission agency with its concern to incarnate and contextualize its ministry in a set location and through that to establish an indigenous church. Winter notices that down through the ages there have been groups of Christians associated together for specific purposes, but there is no evidence that they, any more than the Apostle Paul and his companions, ever thought of themselves as distinct church groupings parallel to those of which they were members.

Towards an missiological ecclesiology

OMF and other agencies now look for any joining member to be sent from a local church and often for other local churches,[43] as well individuals to support the missionary.[44] Thus the “homesides” of OMF may have a variety of ecclesiastical associations and assert the centrality and autonomy of the sending church in the process of missionary accountability. We have noted that receiving fields of OMF have adopted differing ways of relating to the churches in the countries in which they work. There are particular issues that need to be addressed in situations where OMF is seeking to evangelise an unreached people group or operating in a country where missionary activity is illegal. Hence, I propose the following polices for consideration by OMF and other agencies as they work in Asia.[45]

  1. We need to recognise that a mission agency is not a church, but an instrument of unity in bringing together individual Christians in the task of evangelism. The subsidiary role of agencies in the world church needs to be recognised in all relations with churches, strategic planning, and publicity.[46]
  2. Unity is one of the key aspects of the church as presented in Scripture. Mission agencies should therefore be working towards unity in all aspects of their work. This may be demonstrated in various ways.
  • OMF and other agencies should be represented in any evangelical association in the countries where it works as well as formally being part of an international body such as the WEA.[47]
  • Mission agencies should ensure that any church planting plan has as its final stage the establishment of a church that is united across ethnicity and culture. A mono-cultural church should only be found where there are no other cultures around.

As interdenominational[48] organizations, mission agencies should not identify themselves wholly with any one denominational grouping, but become an instrument towards unity between denominations and individual churches in any local situation where it is engaged. This would mean that in any country where an agency has established a denomination out of the churches it has founded, the time should arise when the denomination becomes distinct from the agency and the agency is therefore able to form working relationships with other church bodies. This may be worked out practically as individual members are seconded to specific churches.[49] Delicate negotiations may need to take place where churches with which an agency feels able to co-operate do not recognize each other as gospel churches[50] or there are local political or other reasons for the separation of churches.

  1. Where there are functioning denominations within any country, an agency’s ministry should be in fellowship with them with national input regarding priorities of missionary action. In situations where the agency works only with one denomination in a country, giving a controlling role to the local church could result in missionaries being regarded as no more than the evangelistic/missionary arm of that church. It could lead to the conclusion that missionary/evangelistic work is the responsibility of only the foreign missionary.[51]
  2. It should be the responsibility of every agency field to demonstrate how they relate practically to national churches and how such churches play a role in the direction of the work of the mission. Where an agency is working with unreached people groups, there should be consideration of how the results of evangelism may be connected to other church bodies within the country.
  3. In countries where there are both “field” (receiving) and “home” (sending) agency entities, there should be serious consideration for the merger of the two. In any case, it is likely that the “homeside” will be the appropriate instrument for defining and negotiating the relationship of the agency to national churches.

[1] The bulk of this paper was initially prepared for the OMF Mission Research Consultation in 2013.

[2] As, for example, Article VI of the Augsberg Confession of 1530 reads: “And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike.”

[3] It can be argued that some factors in denominational characteristics, even in a mono-ethnic situation, are determined as much by class as by theology.

[4] Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, 2 vols., trans. Olive Wyon (New York: Macmillan, 1950) Vol. 2, 993–1013, as summarized in Donald Bloesch, The Church: Sacraments, Worship, Ministry, Mission (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), 190–95. I do not think one has to accept all of Troeltsch’s ideas to view this as a useful classification. Whilst using these categories, Bloesch adds a fourth grouping—a cult, which he says aims to create a completely new religious identity rather than “restoring pristine forms of piety.” Bloesch, The Church, 192.

[5] I think we can escape the cult categories, although some may feel that over-devotion to our charismatic founder tends in that direction.

[6] I remember being told by one older OMF couple that they didn’t have a denomination, but counted the mission as their ecclesiastical and spiritual home.

[7] We are possibly at a better position in respect to sending churches in that we now expect members to be part of churches in their home countries. This was not always true in previous centuries.

[8] The church with which I worked in Indonesia had the inheritance of formerly being the state church of Dutch colonialism and it viewed itself as part of the national establishment with a large church building as its headquarters in the centre of Jakarta.

[9] Possibly the Three Self Patriotic Movement in China would regard itself as a church body rather than as a sect.

[10] Sometimes this has perpetuated divisions that grow out of particular theological developments in the sending country in Asia so that some churches divide on the basis of whether the Authorised/King James version is the only one to be used.

[11] Particularly the Homogenous Unit Principle. See Donald McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 85–86.

[12] David Huntley, in his unpublished doctoral thesis, wonders whether OMF should have brought Bishop Bevan to Singapore in some role so as to preserve the relationship with the Anglican Church on the same level as in China. Huntley, “The Withdrawal of the China Inland Mission from China and their Redeployment to New Fields in East Asia” (PhD thesis, University of Liverpool, 2002), 131.

[13] The unpublished PhD thesis of Patricia McLean raises several interesting questions about the rightness of this decision in respect of Thailand and the effect it had on both the work of OMF and the Thai churches that were established. Patricia McLean, “Thai Protestant Christianity: A Study of Cultural and Theological Interactions between Western Missionaries (the American Presbyterian Mission and the Overseas Missionary Fellowship) and Indigenous Thai Churches (the Church of Christ in Thailand and the Associated Churches of Thailand-Central)” (PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2002).

[14] For a useful and convenient summary of a more general theology of the church in a mission situation, see the master’s thesis of one of my students Christopher Flint, “Church and Mosque: A Comparison of a Christian View of Ἐκκλησία and a Muslim View of the Mosque as part of the Ummah and an Analysis of the Missiological Implications of these Views” (MTh thesis, Oak Hill College, 2012). Available in the Oak Hill Library at DISS FLI 2012 or (accessed 4 Oct 2018). Quotes in this section are from Flint’s work including related footnotes.

[15] Flint adds in footnote 23: “Deuteronomy 9:10 (ἡμέρᾳ ἐκκλησίας) and 18:16 (τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἐκκλησίας).”

[16] Flint, “Church and Mosque,” 12. He adds the following in footnote 24: “Cf. Deuteronomy 4:10, 9:10, and 18:16 in the Masoretic Text (hereafter, MT) and LXX. By choosing Deuteronomy 4:10, a verse in which considerable emphasis is placed on gathering in order to listen to the voice of God, as the verse to introduce their gloss, τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῆς ἐκκλησίας, the LXX translators frame the ἐκκλησία of Exodus 19–20 as an assembly convened specifically for the purpose of hearing God’s words.”

[17] I am persuaded by the thesis of Clinton Arnold that this is the background story of the letter. See Clinton E. Arnold, Power and Magic: The Concept of Power in Ephesians (Cambridge: CUP, 1987).

[18] Whatever the merits of the various forms of the “New Perspectives on Paul,” it is right to assert that Christian community is identified by its connection to the Messiah.

[19] There is no mention of a church being formed in Athens, but the believers are listed together, which suggests some mutual recognition and inter-relationship.

[20] There is a difference of understanding between those who see any reformation of the church as a new beginning and those who see an historic continuity even when churches have erred. Note also modern uses of the term in charismatic circles where it refers to missionary work.

[21] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.24.1, (accessed 7 September 2018).

[22] Jean Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1960), 4.1.9. Bucer and others added church discipline to these marks of the church.

[23] Information on Calvin from Philip Hughes, “John Calvin Director of Missions,” in The Heritage of John Calvin, ed. John H. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 40–54, and R. Pierce Beaver, “The Genevan Mission to Brazil,” in The Heritage of John Calvin, 55–73. For more on Calvin and mission, see Michael A. G. Haykin and C. Jeffrey Robinson Sr., To the Ends of the Earth: Calvin’s Missional Vision and Legacy (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014) and David B. Calhoun, “John Calvin: Missionary Hero or Missionary Failure,” Presbyterion: Covenant Seminary Review 5, no. 1 (Spring 1979): 17.

[24] I have not sought to produce any new definition of evangelical, but accepted that the current doctrinal statement of OMF puts it into the category of an evangelical group. The division of evangelicalism into various “tribes’” (e.g. charismatic, reformed, open) may make it necessary for OMF to further define itself and the range of evangelicalism that it finds acceptable for membership.

[25] The relationship between J. C. Ryle and Charles Haddon Spurgeon is an example of two men who, whilst agreeing on the gospel, viewed their ecclesiastical differences as a barrier to real fellowship.

[26] A brief history of the Evangelical Alliance can be downloaded from (accessed 28 August 2018).

[27] OMF is not a member agency, although OMF members have played important roles in both national and international movements.

[28] Holiness as a second experience distinct from conversion was the classic Keswick doctrine. This is not part of the current Keswick Convention.

[29] There were also other “Keswicks” in different locations around the world.

[30] Attention should be given to the arguments in Michael Stroope, Transcending Mission (London: SPCK, 2018) that the term “mission” was not used until the formation of the Society of Jesus.

[31] Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1900–1981) was the influential minister of Westminster Chapel in London for many years. His chief contribution to evangelical life was his expository preaching and reintroduction of the writings of the English puritans to twentieth century Christians.

[32] “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (ESV)

[33] These would include those who subscribe to the “regulative principle” that one must only do what Scripture commands. The principle contrasts with the Anglican position as contained in Article XXXIV, “that nothing be ordained against God’s word.”

[34] The idea that Carey is the Father of modern mission reflects a very insular British view and ignores the work of, particularly, German and Dutch missionaries who had been active since the sixteenth century.

[35] There was no Baptist denomination at the time and churches were organized in County Associations with no controlling central organisation. The mission was a necessary structure to enable the church to send missionaries. Grace Baptist Mission, formerly the Strict Baptist Mission, which seconded workers to OMF for Tamil work in Malaya, is in many ways a true successor to Carey’s mission and reflects the same ecclesiastical situation in that it unites Grace Baptist churches in mission across associations in different parts of the country.

[36] Even centrally organized churches like the Church of England had earlier seen the need for specific agencies in the formation of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG) and The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK).

[37] In the Hudson Register (one of the lists of all those joining CIM/OMF) there is often a blank against the denomination column. For instance, Leslie Lyall, who joined the CIM in 1929, has no listed church affiliation and David Adeney, who joined in 1934, is recorded as “(CofE) Baptist”.

[38] Taylor later recognized that this action was a mistake.

[39] Ralph D. Winter, “The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, 4th ed., ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne (Pasadena: William Carey, 2009), 244–53. Winter’s argument is used in an article in defence of the UCCF/IFES. Mike Reeves, “What is a Church? What is a CU?,” UCCF: The Christian Unions, (accessed 28 August 2018).

[40] See definitions at (accessed 28 August 2018).

[41] See Martin Goodman, Mission and Conversion: Proselytizing in the Religious History of Roman Empire (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995).

[42] There is a notable absence of any action by the church in Antioch to mediate in the dispute between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15.

[43] An agency like Crosslinks, with its Anglican roots, seeks to build the support of several churches for its mission partners. The question sometimes arises as to whether there is any specific church that the partner regards as “home”.

[44] In some cases in which a denomination organizes mission support centrally, working agreements are established between OMF and the denominational mission. In the UK there have been agreements of joint sending with the Grace Baptist Mission and the Elim church.

[45] There were recommendations to OMF leadership by Brian Michell in his thesis, “The Role of Missionary Partnership and Closure in Indigenous Church Development: A Malaysian Case Study” (DMiss thesis, Asia Graduate School of Theology, 2004).

[46] My experience suggests that OMF speaks less about the role of the church(es) in the countries where it is working than is the case with other missionary agencies.

[47] It may be a point of discussion as to how far OMF might relate to other ecclesiastical bodies that are not wholly evangelical. CIM was present at Edinburgh 1910 but, like most evangelical interdenominational missions, was not part of successor congresses.

[48] Undenominational may sometimes be a more accurate description of perceptions about OMF’s ecclesiology, but in so far as OMF is composed of members of churches, interdenominational is not inappropriate.

[49] There is a danger, which was noted in Indonesia, that OMF members so identify with the churches with which they are working that they do not become instruments of unity, but share the prejudices of the group to which they are seconded.

[50] There is an additional complication that some church associations in Asia may be regarded as suspect by sending churches.

[51] This may already occur. Japanese pastors are reported to have said that the missionaries do the evangelism and they pastor the members.

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