Discover more from Global Witness, Globally Reimagined.
On Theological Blindspots in Mission
And The Need For Cross-cultural Theological Conversations
Welcome to my newsletter, “Global Witness, Globally Reimagined,” where I dream about mission in a postcolonial world. Every week, I share one thought that has spoken to me in the week, a resource I trust will be helpful to you, and three exciting quotes about mission. I pray one of these will energise you in the coming week.
1. Thought I Can’t Shake Off
Walter Hollenweger suggested in 1992 that “British Christians prayed for a revival. When it came, they did not recognise it because it was black.” I wonder what this statement means to our theology (and theological education) as well as to our missiology today, 30 years after it was published. Of course, there are many more black Christians in the UK today than in the 1980s and 90s. Yet, for many of us, Hollenweger’s statement still stands true even though this black revival, invisible and excluded as it may be, has been here for decades. Generally speaking, many Black Majority Church exist in silos and have very little to do with their non-black neighbours. More often than not, their neighbours have little to do with them as well. There are many reasons for this. One of the main concerns I have heard numerous times is that African Christians are (loud-praying and prosperity-preaching) Pentecostals and they are, therefore, “too different from us.” My African friends say something similar, “We do not trust their [British Christian’s] Spirit-deprived Christianity and its theology.” A bishop told me not too long ago, “We can never allow our young men and women to study theology in Western institutions. They gain a lot of knowledge but lose the Spirit in the process.” We are divided not only by the colours of our skin but also by our theologies. Hollenweger’s statement in 2023 should read, “ … they did not recognise it because it was black and Pentecostal.” This lack of theological cross-cultural conversations starves us all. The Christian faith is better when it reflects our unity in diversity in God. We all see God better through the eyes of our neighbours. At risk here is the very theological hybridity that makes it possible for us to learn about God from one another — what if, indeed, the migrant can be a theologian? Western Christians have a lot to learn from African Pentecostals just as much as African Pentecostals must learn from Western Christians. No community has a monopoly on theology. We all have blind spots, and this is by design. As such, the lack of diversity among teaching staff in our theological institutions should concern us all.
2. Resources I am Enjoying
This podcast brings together host Latasha Morrison and pastor Rich Villodas of New Life Fellowship, a large, multicultural church in the US. Their exploration of the theme of racial reconciliation through the lens of diversity sees them reflecting on the intersection of the Christian faith and race and, of course, the issue of multicultural churches. Rich acknowledges the growing diversity in his context, the US, and the imperative for churches to reflect this population dynamics. He goes on to provide useful tips for building a multicultural church, drawing from his years of experience in successfully leading a congregation of seventy-five nationalities and variant political ideologies, among other forms of diversity. Ultimately, Rich notes that for multicultural churches to work, leaders must “be reminded that we’re not holding it together, Christ is.”
3. Quotes I am Pondering
Crossing cultural frontiers is not only a prerequisite for the spread of the Christian movement; it is also the means whereby the worldwide community of faith increasingly experiences the fullness of the Gospel. — Jehu Hanciles
We, as Christians, understand God’s self-communication in Jesus Christ as the basis for God’s mission. Through Christ, God invites all people to participate in this process, to live out the liberating love and presence of God in our own contexts. — Esther Mombo
Missiology has a greater horizon than we know because God is the God of ‘expansive vision.’ — Kosuke Koyama
I pray that you will be faithful to the mission God has for you this week.