The big themes this month are missionaries (and missionary support) and theology; not the usual fare for one of these Bible and Mission links pieces, but that’s what I came across on the web this month.
Missionaries and Support
The first piece asks the controversial question “Why the heck would a missionary need so much money to live in a poor country?” It’s a good question and the answer is helpful.
It seems ironic that the corporate world sees the necessity of paying people who move overseas to work a larger salary, while the church does the opposite. Corporations do not offer higher salaries overseas because they just want to be nice. They do it because they realize the extra hardships and costs their employees will face, and they want to make sure they have the resources to be successful. Does it really make sense to do the opposite for our missionary families?
Of course the flip side of paying missionaries more is that we may not be able to support as many missionaries – The Gospel Coalition thinks that this might be a good thing. Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist blog suggests four questions that a church should ask before supporting a missionary. Meanwhile, Justin writes about what keeps him motivated to talk about mission when people are simply not interested.
Mark Pickett has picked up on a graphic about the cultural distance that missionaries have to travel and makes some interesting and thoughtful observations about it.
Onesimus has written a long and thoughtful post on the place of Systematic Theology in a changing world church. He criticises both liberal and conservative theologians, though on very different grounds and I suspect that his views will irritate many in the West. However (at the risk of also irritating people), I think he is making some hugely important points.
But what relevance does any of this small Western drama have for Africa, for her thousands of denominations, for her half a billion Christians? For centuries, theologians in the West played their intellectual and theological games as if they were the only show in town. They pronounced and declared and decreed and pontificated as if their voice was the only voice worth hearing. They published articles and books and lectured and guest-lectured and got ever higher academic positions and degrees and honorary degrees and gave prestigious lecture series and got lots of letters and titles after their names and assumed that by doing so they had achieved something. But the West and its ‘center of the universe’ mentality no longer exists, mainly because the rest of the world is proving the West to be too small in its perspective. Which means the philosophical and religious assumptions underpinning the totality of Western intellectual history and theological development has already been proven insufficient and thus irrelevant, by the simple fact that there is a ‘rest of the world’.
The sort of questions that Onesimus raises are some of the most important ones that the church will be grappling with over the next century and if we in the West don’t join in the conversation, we will become increasingly irrelevant.
Meanwhile, Justin Brierly has highlighted four theological issues which are causing some stir in the Western World and which we should all be aware of. Lastly in this area, there is a handy graphic guide to tell you whether or not you are a theology nerd.
Mez McConnell has been posting an excellent series of excerpts from his new book, Church In Hard Places (any review copies going?) on the 20 Schemes Blog. Essentially, they are posts about Integral Mission, though I suspect that Mez may not be happy with the term. Try this one for size.
Unless we help the poor to see themselves as the Bible does, we will ultimately leave them trapped and helpless like a hamster in a wheel. They will be destined to see themselves at the center of a world that is all about them and their problems. But when we help the poor to understand themselves as God sees them, we open up the door to real, deep, gospel transformation that goes far beyond our wildest imaginings.
Ruth Gledhill has written a piece highlighting recent figures which show that churches in the UK are getting more bums on seats. It’s an interesting article, but I’m not sure what conclusions, if any, can be drawn from it.
Lastly, the ever excellent Brian Russell has produced an updated list of resources for reading the Bible missiologically. This is a superb list and everyone should take a look at it (there is one dodgy resource mentioned, but at least it’s free). There is also an overview of Brian’s latest book. I read it pre-publication and it really is excellent. I’m waiting till I actually get a physical copy before writing a review here, but it should come soon.