What Could World Mission Look Like?

In a comment on an earlier post, Chris wrote:

What world mission would look like if it wasn’t funded (and run?) by the west.

and Peter replied…

Dare I suggest, a lot healthier? At least if “run” is the main point of change. … The churches in Ethiopia and China grew far faster when cut off from the west than the churches in countries swarming with missionaries.

Meanwhile western churches should be spending their spare money mainly on putting their own house in order – or else on giving without strings.

This risks turning into another series, but at this point I’ll try just to give a few brief thoughts.

  • Increasingly, world mission is being run from the South and East. In my own organisation the majority of the International board and the International leadership team are non-Westerners. This is a relatively new situation and it will take a while for us to see exactly how that works out. It is good to see that the people involved in training new missionaries in the UK are increasingly drawn from outside of the Western world too.
  • I suspect a non-Western mission would be much more holistic in world view. The strong divide between sacred and secular that we have in the West is not a universal and is certainly not Biblical. Jesus call to announce the kingdom of God involves far more than a challenge to get people saved. A non-Western led mission would be much more involved in combating injustice, bringing peace and caring for the environment than has been the case for post-enlightenment Western missions.
  • Non-Western mission is likely to be less target driven than Western missions have been. The last half-century has seen an explosion in detailed plans for reaching the whole world and strict targets and explanations of how to do it. There is a need to plan and to use resources wisely, but you can go over the top with it.
  • Non-Western missions are likely to have a far higher acceptance of the supernatural. Western missionaries in Africa have actually been a secularizing force. By saying that there is no such thing as bush spirits or witchcraft, missionaries have effectively turned a lot of people away from any contemplation of the non-material world at all.
  • Non-western led missions will still include a lot of Westerners. There is a place for Western missionaries all over the world – as there is a place for African and Asian missionaries to come and work with Western churches. The riches of the Christian faith lie in it’s diversity and we need mission from everywhere to everywhere if we are to experience the fullness of what God has created in his Church.
  • Money! I hear what Peter is saying and I also agree that Western money needs to be given with far fewer strings. (Some strings are probably inevitable, but these need to be talked through and worked out between all the parties, not just imposed from the rich countries.) I disagree with Peter though that Western Christians should be spending their spare money on putting their own house in order. Actually, they should be giving far more away both to extend the Kingdom at home and overseas.

A lot more could be said, but this will do for a start.

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5 replies on “What Could World Mission Look Like?”

GREAT post, Eddie.

I think a lot more conversation on this should be going on. I’m too lazy to type out my thoughts here, but I’d love to have a rel-live conversation on it.

Thanks, Eddie. These are certainly encouraging developments.

I need to explain a bit more on my money point than I did in my rather quick comment. I certainly didn’t mean that western churches should be mean or introspective, nor that they should take the attitude of BNP that British money belongs in Britain which I criticised elsewhere.

My point is in fact two-fold.

The first is that the church here in Britain is probably in a worse state spiritually than in most third world countries. It needs more resources. But Christian work here in Britain (perhaps less so in North America) is often seriously hindered by lack of finances, and often it is much easier to raise money for exotic sounding overseas work.

The second is that sending money to overseas Christian work creates dependency. Even if there are no explicit strings attached there is the possibility of cutting off the support. Christian work in third world countries, except in pioneer situations, needs to learn to stand on its own feet, not be dependent indefinitely on outside support.

Hi Peter, thanks for the clarification. I’m not sure it is easier to raise money for overseas than for work in the UK (it isn’t my experience anyway – but I can’t generalise) but I do agree wholeheartedly that more resources are needed for the church in the UK. As to your second point – preach it bro!

I should clarify a bit more that it is relatively easy to raise money in a congregation to meet its own needs e.g. for better building facilities. What is hard is to raise money for mission into unreached areas – also, as I am sure you are aware, to raise funds for home staff supporting mission etc work.

Hey. Thanks for the thoughts. Very interesting. Sounds like their will be many benefits to non-western led mission. Hopefully we will be able to learn from this stuff in our own situations.

Interesting side discussion on giving without strings. This isn’t something we do really is it? It’s not good stewardship. I’ve been involved with a trust over the last few years seeking to discover how to give without strings. To genuinely release people. It’s been great to watch people and projects grow in ways you wouldn’t have imagined, ideas you thought frankly were terrible that have worked a treat. It’s a lesson in humility and one I’m really grateful for. That said, it’s actually really hard be genuinely releasing – not in intention but in outworking. It’s a power thing. You realise why Jesus had to go to such lengths to give up his power to release others.

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