return to religion-onlineThe Nature of Mission
Should the Western churches cease, for a time, sending money and missionaries to the Third World in order to break the domination/dependence syndrome that has long characterized the relationship?
The author examines the implications of the rising number of short-term volunteers engaged in mission, in particular the results of their often inadequate training in cross-cultural understanding.
Conversion and baptism are all too commonly seen as part of a movement of 'denationalization.' Though the real fear is the awakening and uprising of the people, opposition is expressed in terms of religious conversion. But once we are freed from the obsession to baptize, to 'save`, and our concern becomes the much wider concern of God to bring about God's Kingdom, the obvious relativization of baptism opens the way to understand the Church not as an Institution of Salvation, but as a movement of Jesus followers at the service of all God's people and God's creation.
To proclaim justice and to celebrate the goodness of life are the double measure of true faithfulness.
China, as a whole, is now in a rapid transition towards the outside world. The Chinese church observes and adheres to the three-self principle, but this in no way implies self-isolation. A self-isolated church would lack vitality because a member separating itself from the body could not survive and grow alone. Only in the context of fellowship with the Church universal can selfhood be meaningful.
The church comprises a community of Christian believers called to bear witness to the fact that racial and ethnic differences are transcended in Christ. On the other hand the church in any particular locality has to be thoroughly in solidarity with its neighbourhood in terms of its national and cultural contexts. The implications for mission of this double nature of transcendence and particularity need careful sorting out.
Christian missions are better seen as a translation movement, with consequences for vernacular revitalization, religious change and social transformation. than as a vehicle for Western cultural domination.
The era in which we find ourselves demands Christian theologians to be engaged in reshaping and reconstructing Christian theology, open to what God is doing in the world, not of yesterday, but of today. The Christian church alone cannot deal with the mounting problems that threaten to tear apart the moral fabric of human community. As Christians we have to learn to work together with people of other faiths to be a spiritual force that creates a new vision for humanity.
By incorporating ancestors into Christian theology, African theologians clearly flirt with danger -- and they know it. But the relationship to ancestors is so basic to the African sense of selfhood and society, and the pastoral problems created by negative and foreign approaches to the issue so widespread and destructive, that theologians feel compelled to attempt such a synthesis.
In a post era - post-modern, post-industrial, post-ideological, post-confessional world, optimism arose among those involved in communication from the conviction that it was possible to reclaim the right people had to develop and sustain their own cultures. Today that optimism has disappeared.. In this new world, one of the most obvious facts is the growing concentration of media. Also many churches have taken paternalistic, critical and authoritarian positions. In contrast, the author discusses what is the New Testament concept of mission.
The author examines proselytism from the standpoint of Christian communication. He lists four "impure motives" for evangelism: imperialistic, cultural, romantic and colonial. Conversion is possible only if people become subjects rather than objects of communication. And offering the present and future life as motivation must be used with care; it can be misused to prevent poor people from taking any action to improve their situation in the real world.
The author looks at the way Christian conversion in non-Western nations tends to bring about cultural dislocation. He raises critical questions from an Indian perspective. Is it possible to be non-interfering and yet be messengers of the gospel? Is it possible to remain Christians without creating fear and anxiety about conversions? Is it possible for religious people to continue to practice their religion without causing disruptions in the cultural contexts around us? Can there be conversion without discontent?
Allen identifies and comments on seven areas of concern that African Christians face in their churches, including the Africanization of theology, relationships with other religions, church and state, pastoral leadership, relationship with Euro-American partner churches, theological education, and struggles with social concerns. Perplexing as these issues are, Allen sees them positively as signs of life and evidence of great courage and strength in the African churches.
No wonder that the debates between liberals and evangelicals about overseas mission are so often circular, fruitless, and frustrating to all concerned. The two sides are not talking about the same thing. There are fundamental differences between the "ecumenical" and "evangelical" understandings of mission.
(ENTIRE BOOK) An historical study of the ecumenical discussions on mission as expressed in the conferences and assemblies of the International Missionary Council and the World Council of Churches.
Missions shares a struggle with the whole Christian fellowship; but there are certain points at which it is more immediate and concrete for the missionary, and for that reason the consciousness of the church is focused in his efforts. Three such issues have emerged today and demand the mature and responsible thought of the churches: (1) the relation of Christianity to other religions, (2) the relation of Christianity to the national state and (3) the relation of Christianity to the economic order.
Church people are not effectively engaged with social ills or with the poor. It is rare to come across teachings in the church dealing with the practical tasks of reforming communities.
The author decries the failure of Western theology to allow itself to be transformed by the fact and feedback of global Christianity.
Over the past century, Christian populations in the West have either been holding steady or declining, while in Africa, Asia and Latin the numbers have been rising significantly. Today there are more Christians in the global South than in Europe, North America, Russia and Japan combined. Roughly two-thirds of all Protestants live outside Europe and North America.
Religious differences in Qatar are being addressed in some of the universities, but only those connected with the West. Many of the Eastern World students have greatly limited knowledge of any religion but their own.
The new religious diversity in America calls for both understanding and transformation. Christians, Muslims, African religious traditions, Buddhists, Hindus, and many others -- all are now neighbors in our global village.
(ENTIRE BOOK) The Pentecostal challenge to historic churches in Latin America, prepared by 17 historians, theologians and sociologists of religion from the region.
The emergence of indigenous churches in Indonesia is producing a new phenomenon, a mixture of elements: particularly western Christianity and indigenous ethnicity, which then result in various types of new churches in a very wide spectrum. Thus in practical life, the meeting of Gospel and Culture is an ongoing problem in the lives of the younger churches in Indonesia. This phenomenon is perhaps not only Indonesian, but also the phenomenon in the whole Third World generally.
If Christians are to get to the heart of the problem of salvation for those who are not professing Christians, they will have to learn to think in terms of a truly universal Christ. This they can accomplish only if, first of all, they honestly open their minds to what other religions have said and are still saying on the great questions of life.
(ENTIRE BOOK) Traditional patterns of mission fail to see the emerging needs and challenges of the Third World -- endemic poverty, marginalisation, ecological destruction, and globalisation.. The author suggests new paradigms to do theology and to formulate response in mission in the face of these grave realities. He shows that commitment to life affirming values and structures are integral to obedience to Christ, who lived "in solidarity" with the oppressed humanity.
Goals of mission can be created most authentically only in interdependent relationships through which there is true communication among participants perceived by one another as equals, rather than as bearers and receivers of the Gospel.
The author explores and analyzes various concepts of mission and missiology. The early Western missionary movement, generally speaking, aimed foremost at the saving of the souls from eternal damnation. Mission as expansion of Christendom through conversion and church growth was a dominant view during the Western colonial period. Then came the concept of missio dei, in which Christian mission was understood as Christian participation in God's mission. But this was too broad: “If everything is mission, nothing is mission.” Instead, he proposes using "witness across religious boundaries" as the defining principle of mission and as the integrating principle of missiology, and he explores the implications of this defining hub for the future of theological study.
Is there a common understanding of Christian witness that unites both mission and dialogue? Do non-Christian faiths offer alternate and parallel avenues of God’s saving action? Is the notion of a unique validity of some Christian doctrine or of Christianity itself as a religion arrogant?
Protestant-Catholic antagonisms in Mexico are disturbing, as they represent an obstacle in Mexico’s slow and fitful progress toward religious (and political) tolerance. And they reflect an exclusive brand of Protestantism.
Today the churches in the Third World have grown to the point where they should take charge of an important part of world mission. The Korean church is one of these churches. While the Western churches are burdened by their history of simultaneous colonization and mission in the Third World, the Korean church does not have such a negative historical past and therefore has a special role in world mission.
Book review. In a provocative new reading of Christian missions, Lamin Sanneh contends that the hallmark of Christian missions has been a readiness to translate the message into the language of other cultures -- an act that has had dynamic and sometimes unforeseen effects on indigenous cultures.
In global terms the forces of business, in their headlong rush to gain profit by any means, have already begun to engage upon a satanically mindless vandalism of Mother Earth. In this terrifying picture where are the women, children and indigenous people (dalits and tribals)? Where is the Church? Who is the Church? Who can claim to be God's people in India? What is our theological education all about? What is the relevance of dogmatic theology inherited from our benefactors in Europe?
Lamin Sanneh reviews a new work by Leslie Newbigin in which Newbigin claims the focus on the dichotomy between "knowledge" of so-called objective facts and "belief" in so-called subjective values is a dichotomy that is rationally indefensible. Christianity in particular is a cogent "plausibility structure" in its own right.
The ‘unified’ approach to missions promoted by national church bureaucracies is collapsing because of the failure to take full account of the fact that churches are voluntary organizations. A genuine pluralism, with a variety of activities freely supported by a variety of constituencies, held together not by political victories but by mutual acceptance, must be the direction of the future.
The author lists seven characteristics of prophecy in a progressive church.
The ideological model of a monolithic and homogenized India, which fueled the Indian national movement and still fuels contemporary Hindu nationalism, is an extension of Western colonialism. Christian mission must not adopt the ideology of the colonialists, as the Hindu nationalists have done. It will be most true to its Lord by proclaiming the gospel confidently, but in a way that respects the human right to be religiously different.
If we from the North are to open up our own spiritual and theological lives to refreshment from the South, we must get close to the people who ask the question: "Who is God for us?"
In India, the dalits (the "untouchables") have left Hinduism for Islam, Christianity, Sikhism or Buddhism, believing that they will better their lives by doing so. However, their lives have not improved significantly. Their religious champions prefer to harp on caste discrimination and religious conversion rather than take the real measures that might improve dalits’ lives.
Several of the teachers of values education believe that only a Christian perspective can renew the foundations of public morality. Does Christianity provide universal values that can influence the reconstruction of a great Asian civilization?
It may be that in the near future the church of India will find ways to include a new emphasis on both church growth and significant social engagement. It may also reinvigorate preaching and principled leadership, find ways to modulate the influence of caste, extend democratic participation and balance it with judicious episcopal oversight, while reducing the temptation to submit every intrachurch disagreement to the secular courts.
The deep changes needed in our world cannot occur without the self-reform of major institutions, most of which are inherently conservative and resistant to change. The church is one such institution. However, some of the smaller institutions affiliated with the church may be in position to bring about change, and theological seminaries are among the most important of them.
We can witness to Christ as savior of the world. Our hope lies in the resilience of life, which is Christ, the emergence of new understanding, which is possible only as Christ brings it to pass, in the extension of love to all human beings and to other species, which is Christ within us. This may mean that many Christians find in Buddha a true realization of what and who they are.
The author asserts that God governs according to the legal principle of vicarious liability: God assumes culpability for human sin, for God's own sake. Made in God's image, humans are to accept responsibility for the way in which they are governed. African churches need recover the sovereignty they lost by accepting Western models of governance.
The missionaries who introduced the gospel to Africa in the past 200 years did not bring God. Instead, God brought them, for the God described in the Bible is none other than the God who was already known in the framework of our traditional African religiosity.
Cook reviews three books which concern Latin American Protestantism, analyzing its recent explosive growth. Grand patterns in religious movements as well as grass roots phenomena are discussed. However, evangelicals cannot be neatly labeled. One emphasis in these articles is that Evangelicals’ emphasis on the family makes for stability and growth.
We live now at a time when the church is multicultural. The fullness of the stature of Christ will emerge only when Christians from all different cultures come together.
An equality among Christian communities is beginning to replace the dependency and inequity of the past in the great missionary era of the church. It is a welcome change. Still, there is something poignant about the shifting of eras, and a small event -- the farewell of the last evangelistic missionaries in north India -- may signal the shape of a much larger history.
The range of issues that the churches face in China, and the theological methodologies that they are devising to handle them suggest that in the near future a new kind of theology may come from this part of the world.
MacInnis found the "total secularization of…society and culture" in China so that organized religion finds no parallel in the experience of China’s youth today. Yet the fruits of religion and the practice of the moral life are in many ways more evident in China than in the West.
The intensifying quest for justice and human rights by millions of people across the earth gives a new dimension to world mission, calling for a depth of witnessing, caring and humility beyond anything we have yet employed. The nonviolent quest by the world’s poor challenges the churches with the most urgent summons of this century.
The shock of deprovincialization makes us aware that Christianity is not the only great religion. Isolated ignorance of other faiths is both socially irresponsible and religiously foolish.
The church discovers that it cannot truly evangelize, that its message is unconvincing, unless it lets itself be transformed and renewed, unless it becomes what it believes it is. The church must exhibit what it proclaims. But religious fundamentalism is on the rampage and has led to violence and bloodshed in several countries of Asia. It has also led to opposition to the Gospel and persecution of the church. The rise of religious fundamentalism has led to the politicizing of religion and the religionizing of political life.
When we revisit earlier missionary history, our view is coloured by an opinion, often justified, that Western missions were heavily identified with Western colonial aspirations and are therefore tainted. That is at the root of much of the political resistance to missionary work today. But a more careful reading of mission history shows that, at the beginning, Western Protestant missions wanted to tread a path very different from Western mercantile and colonial interests. They were social reformers who challenged what they deemed to be wrong in society, theirs as well as those to which they went. The task for today is to find a similar revolutionary meaning and practice for world mission. The author suggests three important principles.