Euthanasia of Mission

I have been wrestling with the issue of sustainability for emerging church projects. I know others are also thinking through these things and some of us are creating social enterprises, co-operatives, and other forms of sustaining what we are doing. Henry Venn had some good advice in the mid 19th century. Here is a snippet of a recent article of mine that deals with Henry Venn’s ideal for the euthanasia of the mission and how sustainability can be accomplished through co-operative micro-business enterprises. This is a continuation from my post “Fourth Sector and emerging mission”

“Venn saw the objective of a mission to be the establishment of a “Native church under Native pastors upon a self-supporting system”. Passing on leadership to nationals signalled what he called the “euthanasia of a mission”. He was often misquoted as suggesting the euthanasia of the mission society itself, but, as Max Warren made clear, Venn believed a self-supporting national church would free the mission society to continue its ministry by shifting its focus to the “regions beyond”.

To accomplish this, the mission society’s role had to involve creating structures that were self-governing, self-supporting and self-extending — and that meant crossing the lines that often divided commerce and ministry to remove dependency on foreign resources.

He urged caution as to the nature of the business and in the delegation of a missionary’s time devoted to commerce, and, it may be argued, he could not have anticipated the complicity of mission with colonisation as clearly as we see it now, but his advice is strikingly sound and prophetic, especially if we realise that the Co-operative movement derived its beginnings from a small group of weavers in Rochdale only a few years before Venn penned his thoughts.

Venn’s directives for the work in Sierra Leone in the early 1850s give us a good insight into what kind of structures would allow the level of self-maintenance needed for a healthy ‘euthanasia’. He suggested five structures for sustainability: a savings bank for investing and lending; the use of industrial or provident societies to provide social welfare and medicine; the encouragement of agriculture and industry; a free storehouse to enable fair trade; and education through libraries, reading-rooms, and lectures. “

Andrew Jones, “Mission and the Fourth Sector.” Read the whole thing here.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.

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