The merger of two dominant mission associations in North America culminated Monday with the public unveiling of Missio Nexus, which is now the largest evangelical mission network in North America.
Missio Nexus, formed through the marriage of CrossGlobal Link and The Mission Exchange, will represent 35,000 evangelical missionaries deployed in every country by more than 200 agencies and churches.
Top evangelical leaders across North America convened for a special service held Monday in Boston that celebrated both the debut of Missio Nexus and the 200th anniversary of North America's first ordained missionaries.
Steve Moore, president of Missio Nexus and former CEO & president of The Mission Exchange, told his evangelical colleagues that the move to form the new mission entity was by no means meant to "artificially prolong their life" or "fight to preserve the status quo" of their mission organizations. Instead, it was about increased effectiveness in carrying out The Great Commission and furthering the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"This step for us has never been about preserving what is. It has always been about pursuing together what could be the future of our merger," said Moore during the service Monday.
"We believe God has brought today a dream come true."
Service speakers gave their addresses from the stage of Tabernacle Congregational Church in Salem, Mass., the same location where the first missionaries being sent from a North American mission agency, Adoniram Judson and four others, were ordained for overseas service on Feb. 6, 1812.
"We see ourselves as the legitimate successors of the grand missionary movement that originated from this very building 200 years ago," said Marv Newell, vice president of Missio Nexus and former executive director of CrossGlobal Link.
The Road to Missio Nexus
Following the ordination and departure of Judson, the North America mission movement began to flourish. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was formed in 1812 to support missionaries like Judson and the movement grew as more denominations started mission agencies to support its overseas missionaries.
By the early 20th century, nondenominational mission agencies also joined the movement. In 1917, Interdenominational Foreign Mission Association (which was re-named CrossGlobal Link) was founded as an association of independent faith missions.
In 1946, an association of evangelical mission agencies with ties to National Association of Evangelicals united under another group called Evangelical Fellowship of Mission Agencies (later known as The Mission Exchange).
Over the past decades, both groups sent forth thousands of missionaries abroad to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
But in recent years, present day realities brought leaders of CrossGlobal Link and The Mission Exchange to consider a merger.
According to Newell, both groups were becoming increasingly similar in terms of their mission statements, vision statements, and statements of faith. The groups frequently collaborated and even held joint events, prompting many people to ask them, "Why are there two of you?"
In September 2010, a joint merger task force was formed after a meeting at an airport hotel.
"We spent a day together having open and vulnerable, honest, transparent conversation," recalled Moore. "It exposed the real challenges we had to face but at the same time it placed a cornerstone of trust and relationship that we could build on."
By the end of April 2011, Moore and Newell co-authored a proposal for a merger in which they articulated the benefits of the new mission entity, now known as Missio Nexus.
In short, the new mission entity would combine their strengths and mission expertise, alleviate competition for membership, and lower the barriers for entry by removing the credential-based membership model.
Missio Nexus was to operate more like a "structured network" rather than a "formal association."
"New Mission Entity revolves around shared interests, passion for, and commitment to the Great Commission, with less focus on doctrinal distinctives outside of our evangelical statement of faith," the final draft of the proposal states.
On Oct. 1, 2011, the memberships of CrossGlobal Link and The Mission Exchange unanimously approved the document and agreed to merge during a vote taken at the North American Mission Leaders Conference.
A New Era in North American Mission Movement
During the Missions Bicentennial service Monday, heads of well-known evangelical bodies gave commendations on the merger, expressing optimism for the future of North American mission movement.
Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO & general secretary of the World Evangelical Alliance, expressed his deep appreciation for their work and cited the importance of the merger.
"In a world of national, regional and international networks Missio Nexus provides a one-stop connection with the majority of the North American world mission movement," said Tunnicliffe.
"It is my hope that this strategic merger will lead to greater partnership, synergy and effectiveness in the global mission enterprise of the church, resulting in an even greater worldwide impact of the transformative Gospel of Christ."
Leith Anderson, president of National Association of Evangelicals, urged leaders of Missio Nexus to take a cue from Adoniram Judson, who spent 37 years as the first U.S. missionary to Burma and famously said: "Preach the Gospel, not anti-Buddhism."
The challenge for Missio Nexus, said Anderson, is to "lead the next generation in the Judson Way, the Jesus Way, not to be anti-others, but to be for the powerful and persuasive Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Doug Birdsall, executive chairman of The Lausanne Movement, said the community under Missio Nexus will be "people who will bring hope to the world" and usher in a "new century of global partnership" for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He acknowledged that there may be those who question the future in missionary activity in North America, saying, "We are at twilight years but it is not yet sunset," and wondering, "Are we living in the end of an era in missionary activity?"
Birdsall believes that if Judson were alive today he would answer them the same way he did when someone once asked him about the future of Christianity in Burma:
"The future is as bright as the promises of God."
Prominent evangelical leaders that attended the service also included: Bruce Clemenger, president of Evangelical Fellowship of Canada; Lon Allison, vice chair of Mission America Coalition; and Greg H. Parsons, general director of the U.S. Center for World Mission.
On the Web: Missio Nexus's new website http://www.missionexus.org