Trade and the Transmission of Faith

What can history teach us about the relationship between trade and the transmission of faith? Quite a lot it would seem. The answers to two further questions will help unpack some key lessons for missional business in 21st Asia.

Q 1: How did Islam arrive in East Asia? Answer: Muslim Traders.

Exactly how Islam came to East Asian communities is not known but scholars agree that a “direct relationship between trade and the spread of Islam is undeniable.” The maritime history of the Indian Ocean suggests that there were Muslim sailors working on ships plying the trade routes around the archipelago as early as the eighth century. As trade increased and connections with ports and peoples were strengthened, so the Muslim presence grew. In their book, Spice Journeys: Taste and Trade in the Islamic World, de Guise and Sutarwala write that “Islam and hospitality go together like coffee and cardamon. Islam and trade have also been inextricably bound since the time of the Prophet Muhammad.” Islam spread to the region, not to begin with by the intentional efforts of Islamic missionaries, but through merchants.

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Should we stay or should we go now?

As with most people in the UK, I am trying to figure out what is best for me to do on June 23rd.  Am I in or out?  Am I pro-Europe or pro-Brexit?  There are plenty of arguments on both sides, some of which are compelling and some of which are not quite so!

The subject is one which is not always mentioned for fear of upsetting, disagreeing or otherwise causing anxiety between friends, colleagues, family or fellow church members.  So it is with trepidation that I bring it up here.  Whilst we’ve heard much from both sides in the area of economics, I believe that missiological implications also need to be considered. What will be the impact on sharing Jesus?

As this is on the GC blog website, I want to major on that which is relevant to the local community here; and please note, I have no axe to grind and no answers.  Just questions!

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Safety in numbers

We all know the idea of safety in numbers, whether it’s herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the Serengeti, or shoals of mackerel avoiding predators like tuna. But we might not have noticed that trees do the same. A few tree species produce winged seeds that catch the wind and fly far away, but most, like the oak, produce heavy ones that don’t fall far from the parent tree, so that they can build up a forest around them for protection.

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You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone

Trends in training for mission (and what happens if all the Bible colleges collapse?)

For a long time, teachers in our seminaries have thought that if they teach students sound theology, Greek exegesis and church history, these students would begin to function like church leaders” (Perry Shaw, Transforming Theological Education, 2014)

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Bricks without straw – Part 2

‘Hi John’, said the Pastor as he made a follow up Skype call to his young missionary,  ‘how are you?’

Not too bad. I’ve apologised to the language supervisor and begun to follow his advice. I have found someone my own age at the local coffee shop and he’s also an Arsenal supporter. So I have increased my football vocabulary.

That is good John. Now I said I would get back to you about the church prayer support. I have spoken with the chair of the Mission Committee and some of the other leaders. They backed my support of your language supervisor and agreed that you should concentrate on getting into the local scene and stop feeling that you have to keep in touch with us every day. An email every month or so should give us some prayer fuel.  We don’t want to always have to make bricks without straw in our prayer times!

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From Pioneers to Partners

Are we on the The Cusp of Destiny in the 21st Century? How do UK mission agencies and the UK church respond to the changing needs of East Asia?

The 20th century was an age of unprecedented barbarism, yet also amazing globalisation of the gospel. Over the past 100 or so years Christianity has experienced an incredible transformation in its ethnic and linguistic make-up. The biggest phenomenon in the history of the church during the 20th century was the growth of non-Western churches. Today Christianity is a global faith, and you and I are privileged to live at a time of tremendous church growth.

This reality must not obscure the fact that there are still many peoples in many contexts who have yet to hear the gospel. But in the years since many of our UK mission agencies were founded, many of the national churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America have been growing and maturing and are engaging in cross-cultural mission themselves.

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Blessed are the Peacekeepers?

I recently stayed overnight in a typical British guesthouse where breakfast was an interesting experience.  Not because of the food, service or facilities, but due to the interesting social interaction – or lack thereof.

In a small dining room where guests sat at separate but adjacent tables, conversation was curiously stilted, as people were aware that their private discussions were being overheard.  A men’s football team tried to joke with each other about the previous night’s escapades without incurring the scorn of other guests.  A harassed father tried hard to keep his disobedient toddler under control without losing his temper.  A browbeaten woman took the opportunity to chide her husband at a time when he couldn’t answer her back.

It occurred to me that often conversations between mission partners can be similar.  We often refrain from saying the things that we’d really like to because we are aware that others are listening.  We don’t like to disagree in case we sow the seeds of dissent, or act as a bad witness in front of others.  So we bottle up the things we’d really like to say, and if we don’t blurt them out in a fit of self-indulgence they can build up inside us to such a point of frustration that they contribute significantly to our levels of stress.

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Let’s just carry on as we are

Some people are a bit strange – and I confess to being one of them. I enjoy serving on Charity Boards. Though often having to turn up after a long day at work, or take unpaid leave, when there are good meetings I come out energised and grateful to God. When the charity has clear direction and purpose, even more so.

But what makes a good Board of trustees? The Charity Commission seems to be putting increasing burdens on trustees in the areas of compliance, financial accounting, risk assessment, policies of an ever expanding nature – and I could go on. Sadly it means that this can often dominate meetings and take up disproportionate amounts of time. Who wants to be a trustee just to do this sort of stuff?

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Jesus and our culture

Culture – I love it! I spend a lot of time hanging out with people from different countries and cultures.  I enjoy hearing about different cultural faux pas that we all do (me included!).  A great example of this is the footballer, Lionel Messi, giving a pair of his boots as a gift on TV in Egypt – shoes can be used as a sign of offence throughout the region.  And I love the desire of people who want to cross over cultures in order to engage with people to make the Gospel understandable, relevant and real.

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Minority Church – Effective Voice

In many places across Asia the church is a marginalised minority, with restrictions aimed at curtailing its witness. But it can still have an effective voice if it pays attention to its identity, vision and character.

Recovering the forgotten heritage of Asian Christian IDENTITY

It’s difficult to have an effective voice if you’re perceived to be speaking with a foreign accent.

Unfortunately the idea that Christianity is a Western religion is so pervasive that many East Asian Christians seem to believe it, with most unaware of their Asian Christian heritage. The development of a Christian identity that celebrates the gospel’s deep roots in Asia’s rich soil is a discipleship imperative. Across East Asia, minority churches can strengthen their witness by recovering their forgotten heritage. The Princeton historian, Samuel Hugh Moffett, reminds us of Christianity’s Asian roots:

It is too often forgotten that the faith moved east across Asia as early as it moved west into Europe… Asia produced the first known church building, the first New Testament translation, perhaps the first Christian king, the first Christian poets, and even arguably the first Christian state. [A History of Christianity in Asia, Maryknoll: Orbis]

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