February 5, 2014

The World Has Changed...

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"The context of global missions is changing," noted EduDeo Ministries International Partnership Director, Tim Bootsma, after attending a key missions conference in London, Ontario on February 1. The conference, which featured author and missiologist, Dr. Paul Borthwick, focused on the role of western Christians and the global church in missions.  

"There are now more Christians in China than in all of Europe, more Pentecostals in Brazil than in the United States, and more Anglicans in Kenya than in Great Britain, Canada and the United States combined," Tim remarked.

"Countries that were once destinations for western missionaries are now sending their own missionaries to North America. Given these changes, some think the day of the Western missionary is over. Some say that global outreach is best left to indigenous leaders. Others simply feel that resources should be focused on the home front. Is there an ongoing role for the North American church in global mission?"

With a great sense of humour, Dr Paul Borthwick addressed these questions, beginning his address by giving a quick update of the Global church:

-       It was in the mid 1980’s that the numbers of Christians in the global south began to be larger than in western countries

-       Today the Global Church, in very simplistic terms, based on numbers, could be characterized in 4 ways:

o   Persecuted  - The “Back to Jerusalem” movement with an emphasis on evangelizing the world between China and Jerusalem is “budgeting” 10,000 martyrdoms to accomplish it’s task.

o   Prospering – It’s growing rapidly in many parts of the world – especially in the Global South.

o   Puny - In some areas of this world there is still large people groups which have very few Christians among them.

o   Pentecostal – The global church is charismatic and a lively bunch.

Given this reality Christians of the Western church are called to:

o   Join – In most places around the world either local Christians or Christians from other parts of the world are already at work.  The Western Church may be called to join or partner with other ministries; to work together for a common cause.  This isn’t always easy as there may be a lot of cultureal, theological, lingistic and philosophical differences between mission groups.  Increasingly partnerships are becoming the norm.

o   Pioneer – To start something new in a totally new area.

o   Depart – Know when it’s time to leave, when you have given what you have to offer and when others can or need to continue the work. 

Short Term Missions is a role that the Western Church can fill and Christian Leaders in the Global South are asking for these trips but….

o   They need to be done in a spirit of humility – building on a long term local ministry – not bringing and starting new ministries.

o   They need to build a culture of trust.  This means letting go of some control and allowing and enabling our brothers and sisters in the Global South to make some decisions and take some leadership.

o   They ask that we don’t make promises that we can’t or won’t fulfil.

o   They ask that we go with your eye’s open looking for evidence of God at work in the lives of their people.  This will require you to build relationship and ASK people what their story is.

o   They ask us to slow down and work towards improving the impact.  We are often too quick to do and don’t take enough time to listen and plan.

o   They ask that after the trip you commit to continuing to partner with them but in other ways – through prayer and finances, and to come again.

o   They ask that we work towards reciprocity.  We need to be willing to learn from them and be challenged by them as well.  Allow our brothers and sisters to speak into our cultural or religious blind spots.

A Short Term Mission (STM) trip experience should be like a balloon that is blown up nearly to the point of bursting and then deflated.  That balloon will never be the same again.  Our lives need to be changed and we need to live differently after the trip.

If we say we are going on a STM trip in Jesus' name we need to go as Jesus did to this earth.  We need to be “incarnational”.  As God came and lived among us so we need to humbly go and live “among” and “with” the people we hope to serve.

The final challenge for the day was not to take a flood light approach to global missions (getting involved in a lot of little projects all over the place, but not really knowing much about any of them) or even a flashlight approach to global missions (much narrower and much more focused) but a laser beam.  Stick to a few key relationships and invest your time, prayer, energy and, if needed, your resources into them.

In this critical age, the global body of Christ needs one another more than ever.

"All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all it's truth," Colosians 1:6.

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