Mission, Research and Applied Scholarship

In May, several from the Global Research Team visited Africa International University, a Christian college in Nairobi, Kenya. In the stacks of the library there are tall blue books on nearly every shelf. These are bound dissertations by Africans documenting ministry challenges faced in Kenya and beyond. There is so much we can learn from one another!

Several mission training academic institutions from around the world have launched a new initiative called the MRAS (Mission Research and Applied Scholarship). It aims to engage institutions of higher learning involved in mission studies to catalog their research so that students who work for advanced degrees can focus on topics of greatest need to the global church's mission enterprise.

MRAS has the potential to create energy and shared commitment between the academy and applied researchers. It could encourage Christian students to ask questions that field workers actually face. It could put what gets shelved in libraries to effective use in the field.

This is what those involved in developing this project aim to accomplish:

    “This project aims to address these issues in the prayerful expectation that greater intentionality and collaboration can be brought to mission research and plans developed to grow the research capacity of those parts of the global church that remain under-resourced. Our goal is not simply the multiplication of research and applied scholarship but that this work is put to the service of the church in mission. As such, the project will include mission agencies and churches as well as mission research centres.”

MRAS addresses a perceived tension between academic institutions and field workers. Occasionally, church leaders and missionaries with solid educational credentials do not regard church workers without formal education as full partners. They believe (usually subconsciously) that their work is not as valuable, not as focused, not of the same quality. On the other hand, field workers are sometimes critical of “armchair theoreticians.” They feel that unless Christian leaders get down into the “trenches,” their contributions are not really helpful.

Clearly, this is not good. We all have been given gifts for the benefit of the body (I Corinthians 12), and we must relate to each other with humility.

MRAS attempts to build a bridge between both groups so that both can befit from the insights of mission research and applied scholarship.