Christian Mission in a Postcolonial World
Will mission survive its inevitable postcolonial deconstruction?
Welcome to “Mission, Decolonised.” where I dream about mission in a postcolonial world. I share, here, one thought that has spoken to me, two resources I trust will be helpful to you, and three quotes about mission. I pray one of these will energise you this week.
1. Thought I Can’t Shake Off
There is a lot of deconstruction going on in our Christian communities. While some who deconstruct their faith continue as Christians (even though they may believe and behave differently from before), many end up losing their faith altogether for reasons that often sound plausible. The deconstruction of mission is, to a large extent, yet to happen. But, of course, it will happen, sooner rather than later. And, unfortunately, mission is an easy target. Its Achille’s Heel is the long history of many (and not all) missionaries aiding western expansionism and colonialism, especially in the Americas, Africa, and parts of Asia. When the postcolonial discourse turns towards Western mission in the world, it will have a devastating effect — worse than China expelling Western missionaries in the 1950s. My hope is when that happens, we will stand on a better missiological foundation, as I am convinced that God has an answer ready.
2. Resources I am Enjoying
This week, I have enjoyed a new book written by my friends, Yaw Perbi and Sam Ngugi, entitled Africa to the Rest: From Mission Field to Mission Force (Again).
It was published in 2021 but picked up steam in 2022. (We were all still recovering from the lockdowns in 2021). Between Yaw and Sam, we have many years of missionary service and numerous hours of reflection on the missiological implications of the explosion of African Christianity and migration in the last quarter of the 20th century. They are also good researchers. As such, you will find in this book timely statistics and reflections about the growing numbers of African Christians in the diaspora, and how God is using them to bring the gospel to other continents, especially to Europe and North America. Their stated purpose for the book is:
to show that the notion of Africans as missionaries to the unreached, unevangelized, and unchurched world is not just a hope, an ideal, a pipedream, or a pie-in-the-sky phenomenon. Instead, it is real and happening live, right under our noses. We only pray for more, much more! We shall highlight several noteworthy examples, including our own personal journeys, for inspiration and emulation and open discussions on how Africa, including the African diaspora and people of African descent, can steward her unprecedented God-given moment in global mission history well.
Everybody interested in mission in the 21st century will find this book helpful. Their propositions about the African future of mission may sound too ambitious here and there, but there is truth in what they are saying. The statistics presented in the book, even though only a few years old, will be dated because the explosion of Christianity in Africa continues and, as a result, the trends they describe have only intensified.
I found their use of military language quite unfortunate as I believe that the African missionary movement ought not to repeat the mistakes of the 19th- and 20th- century missionary movements of the West which, to a great extent, depended on colonialism, and this happened through military might. Of course, we need new language to describe the African missionary movement. It shall not be a mission force.
Podcast: A Kouya Conversation with Joseph Ola
This brilliant conversation between Joseph Ola and Eddie Arthur. Joseph is the pastor of the Apostolic Church of Nigeria congregation in Liverpool. He recently completed an MA in African Christianity, having done his research on the subject of the religious (Christian) self-identity of Nigerian millennials. Essentially, he wanted to know how Nigerian millennials negotiate their identities between being a Christian and being an African. Of course, there are currently more Christians in Africa than anywhere else in the world, the question of the identity of the African church is of utmost importance for the future of the church, globally. In this interview, Joseph outlines some of his findings and explores their implications for the future.
If you don’t have the time to watch the video or listen to the podcast, you can find a rough transcript of our discussion here.
You may also listen right on this page or download the audio file of the interview.
3. Quotes I am Pondering
(1) “Christian mission is not simply about the multiplication of the church; it is about the discipling of the nations. It is about the penetration of cultures and ways of thought by the word about Christ.” — Andrew Walls
(2) “Modern theology and mission rooted in the Enlightenment traditions have for so long shaped our discipleship model. The result is a discipleship model that is dichotomized and influenced by the myth of progress, a pattern of discipleship that compartmentalizes our lives so that Christianity appears to be relevant on Sunday but not on Monday to Friday at the workplace.” — Israel Olofinjana
(3) “Mission is a multifaceted phenomenon and the structures that support mission have changed over the years according to the historic context. We should continue to expect changes, especially at a time where the global church is going through huge transformation..” — Eddie Arthur
Thank you, I pray you have a missionally fruitful week.
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Thank you, Dr Harvey, for sharing this insightful information about missions with me.
l strongly believe in and support the idea of missions being given the necessary attention in our Christian fraternity today than just being concerned about the gospel propagation in our auditoriums alone. Yes, the mission may be an easy target but I think there are other components like the language barrier and training individuals with the equipped skills to carry out the task in the order for its operations to be a successful assignment.
However, I perceived the new book on a mission to be full of revelations and a gateway to explore further depths and heights on the subject. I agreed with the fact that the African missionary movement must be far different from the trend of the previous modalities the Western missionaries brought to our forthfathers which robbed African global communities with undeniable scars that cannot be easily erased even to generations.
Additionally listening to Josephs's interview taught me the following lessons;
1. The Young Christian Generation need to acquire new acknowledge by reading from African authors to learn, unlearn and relearn by telling the story from an African perspective than solely relying on western authors who kept away most of African true cultural heritage in an attempt to write about Africa.
2. Being able to identify our indigenous languages( African Proverbs)and integrate them into current day-to-day standards of living.
3. The future of Young African Christians should not only depend on what has already been told by the former missionaries by rather dig deeper to retell what Global Christianity has to preserve for its generation.