This is the fourth and final post in a series of blogs from Global Connections – A Passion for Mission at All Souls, Langham Place. The theme was “God’s Mission in a Time of Transition. What is the role of the UK in mission today in a world that has changed so much and continues to change?” This post is a reflection on Martin Lee’s session.
The old power blocks are changing. We are seeing the rise of nationalism and the rise of religious fanaticism. We look at our falling church attendance here in the West and see churches that have abandoned global mission, and usually operate from a come and see point-of-view. The conclusion is that Europe and North America is no longer the place of power. The real face of Christianity these days is Pentecostal, probably young, female, poor and from Africa, Asia or South America.
However, there is still a vital role for global mission in the UK church, it’s just a different role to what it used to be. God hasn’t asked us to abandon his call. But what does this new role look like?
‘British Christians prayed for revival and when it came they did not recognise it because it was black.’
– Walter Hollenweger
It’s hard for a westerner. We are used to power and money, so our response is that we’ve got all the resources. So maybe we try to assimilate others into our structures. And that makes us look like we are doing well. Yet it’s often the structures that get in the way of us reaching the hard to reach places.
There are a large number of Christians in Asia compared to 100 years ago, but as a percentage of population it is very small at just 8%. There are still vast numbers of people in the Middle East, Asia and Central Asia who have not heard of Christ. There aren’t Christians in Saudi because you are killed. Yet 85% of Christian mission is aimed at other Christians. Shouldn’t we be ashamed of ourselves? Many Hindus and Buddhists still don’t know a Christian. And what about middle-class Buddhists in Japan? It’s still difficult to raise support for those working in business communities.
Much of the Muslim world is hostile to Christian witness; the forms of mission that we have been used to for generations won’t work in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. Not only that, but much of the Muslim world is hostile to people from Western countries; let’s face it, we’ve not done much to win their friendship over the last few decades. However, the church is no longer mainly Western; perhaps it is a generation of Chinese, Filipino African and Latin American believers who will take the Gospel to the Muslim world.
Global South/ Majority World missionaries are not using our structures and systems but they are taking the gospel with them. They tend to come from less affluent countries and understand poverty and suffering, and don’t come from a background of global dominance. So what place does the western church and mission movements have as part of the new worldwide church? Can the church engage in the mission of God in new ways? We need to be flexible and bent out of shape.
We need “a generation of Christians who believe in something bigger than their own lives, who are willing to live and work in hostile situations, perhaps seeing very little tangible fruit for their work and who are willing ultimately to lay down their lives” kouya.net
“Together we can be a new community – 100 places learning from each other, with no one single centre or single type of mission activity” – Andrew Walls
God is interested in character as we transition leadership
It comes down to our character and how God has changed us.
In the majority world we often see more prayer, depth in relationships, etc. However, there’s a huge contrast in the spiritual poverty of the churches in the west to those in the majority world. The western church could be described as ‘one inch wide and not even an inch deep’. Yet it is important to remember that the church in the global south is sinful, just as we are in the west.
The UK church needs to have more commitment to prayer, and a discovery of a deeper spirituality. We can learn much of this from global south churches. Prayer and fasting is a normal part of a church congregation.
We need a dose of radical discipleship and service ourselves. We need to learn. Where’s the power of God in my life and my dependency on him?
Whatever we do, God is ultimately interested in the character of us. Integrity is key. Whatever plans, strategies, meetings we run, God is interested in our integrity and faithfulness.
Martin quoted John the Baptist: ‘I must decrease that he may increase’. Nothing is more important than God’s mission. As the power base in the church transitions, the west no longer has power, only influence. Let’s influence through character, not misuse of power. Can the UK church become a Christlike in its attitudes, thinking or others more than ourselves?