Top evangelical leaders across North America are joining a special service Monday in Boston to celebrate the 200th anniversary of North America's first ordained missionaries. The event also marked the official debut of Missio Nexus, which will be the largest evangelical mission network in North America following the historic merger of CrossGlobal Link and The Mission Exchange.
The Missions Bicentennial service and celebration is taking place at Tabernacle Congregational Church in Salem, Mass., the location where on February 6, 1812, the first missionaries being sent from a North American mission agency were commissioned.
The ordaining of Adoniram Judson and four other missionaries for overseas service represented the beginning of a new era in history when America joined the global mission movement. After their ordination in Salem, Judson, along his wife Ann and other missionaries, set sail in February 1812 to bring Christianity to India.
Today, America is the greatest exporter of foreign missionaries, sending hundreds of thousands of people every year. In 2010, about 127,000 - or roughly a third - of the 400,000 foreign missionaries were sent from America, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Speakers at the Missions Bicentennial service, which included Todd Johnson, Associate Professor of Global Christianity & Director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, acknowledged that while the missionary movement of North America is still strong today, mission agencies face their own challenges.
"Two hundred years ago, the challenge was to challenge the enthusiasm of eager students to provide a way for them to express their vocation in a colonial world dominated by Europeans. Today, American Christian students still have their vocations but they now operate in a multi-color world where they continue to need encouragement and organization genius," Johnson told the audience.
"The challenge for mission agencies today is to adapt to these changing times while retaining the core values of commitment to the scriptures, to evangelism, and to mediating human need that have made them successful of the past 200 years."
In his address entitled, "North American Missions from the Judsons to Global Christianity," Johnson also encouraged the church to retain an active role in missions even though missionaries will always be at the forefront of innovative strategies. He noted that Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are increasingly found living in traditionally Christian lands.
Service participants will also hear from Steve Moore, former CEO & President of The Mission Exchange and Marv Newell, former Executive Director of CrossGlobal Link, who will both speak on how the merger of the two organizations will bring "increased effectiveness" to the future of global mission. Moore will serve as President of Missio Nexus and Newell will be Senior Vice President.
Through the merger, Missio Nexus will have over 159 years of combined history, represent over 200 churches, and join over 35,000 missionaries representing every country in the world.
"The Great Commission is too big for any one organization to do it alone and it's too important for us not to try to do it together," says Moore in a new video on Missio Nexus's newly launched website (www.missionexus.org).
CrossGlobal Link (formerly The IFMA), was founded as an association of independent faith missions in 1917. The Mission Exchange (formerly The EFMA) was birthed in 1946 out of the NAE as an umbrella association for mission agencies including denominations. Both groups had expanded their membership parameters over the years which helped lead to the merger.
Heads of well-known evangelical bodies - including Geoff Tunnicliffe, General Secretary of World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Leith Anderson, President of National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), and Doug Birdsall, Executive Chairman of The Lausanne Movement - will also give commendations on the merger during the service.
A total of nine events commemorating the bicentennial of North American missions will be held throughout Salem. The celebration kicked off Sunday and will run until Feb. 20.