Discover more from Global Witness, Globally Reimagined.
Still on "Black Missionaries in a White World"
Some Reasons Behind Migrant Churches
Welcome to my newsletter, “Global Witness, Globally Reimagined,” where I dream here about mission in a postcolonial world. Every week, I share one thought that has spoken to me in the week, two resources 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
In the many years I have worked in Europe and North America, I have regularly heard preachers dream about the possibilities of a foretaste of the Revelations 7:9 gathering of worshippers from “all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues.” Yet, the reality is that churches here in the West are segregated, even when segregation is impossible in other aspects of our societal life. Reasons for this are varied and shared. For instance, we all think our ways of doing things—cultures—are better and expect others to assimilate. When this fails, it appears easier for us to worship separately. Then, there is the sin of racism—many have been civilised to discriminate along racial lines, and this is normal in the shadows of Western hegemony where, of course, white is might. In addition, we segregate according to theology. Hollenweger might as well have said British Christians did not recognise the revival they had prayed for because it was black and Pentecostal. This, in part, is why migrant churches are here to stay and it is not necessarily a bad thing — migrants need their sanctuaries. The challenge comes about when our segregated and homogenous congregations are the only faith communities that shape us. When this happens, we deprive ourselves of the gifts that God gives through our neighbours. As I argued here, homogeneity is slow death. Even though we are certain that homogenous groups have their place, we also know very well that migrant congregations have a short shelf-life. Essentially though, faithful discipleship requires that we belong to some homogenous spaces in the wider context of multicultural fellowship. This may encourage, empower, and enable non-Western Christians in the West to engage in mission beyond their own communities.
2. Resources I am Enjoying
Having been published in 2012, this book is a bit old. Yet, it still feels timely and discusses issues that are current to us in 2023. Even though it is also written for North Americans wanting to engage in overseas mission. Central to the argument of the book is the question: In this new era of Christianity, is Western missionary over? Paul Borthwick explores this question with a deep sense of mutuality, reciprocity, and humility that comes from many years of critical reflection on his — and his wife, Christie’s — work in mission in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Upholding the argument of the book are several concerns, the main one being, “how can the American church be involved financially without creating paternalism from the North American Church or dependency on the majority world church? What perspectives and paradigms need to change?” Paul talks of how some of the shifts happened to him. Back in 1987, at a conference in Singapore that had delegates from more than 60 countries, Paul came to appreciate that indeed, mission was about “the church from everywhere to anywhere” and that, in our day and age, “the whole church must take the whole gospel to the whole world.” Paul and his colleagues left the conference praying “Lord, don’t leave the church in North America as you move powerfully in the world”. In Western Christians in Global Mission, Paul is persuading the North American church to not only stay connected in mission but also to adopt a humble approach, realising the rise of other key players in mission around the world. He invites the American church to yet another shift in mission where global involvement that is not built on economic power or military might (my paraphrase) but rather on the biblical global mandate given and led by the Spirit of God (that gives grace to the humble). This way, the American church can join the Majority World Christians in new and different models that help grow our global family. This is a good book to be aware of.
Podcast: Samuel Escobar on Reverse Mission
In this conversation, the famous Latin American theologian, Samuel Escobar, welcomes the unprecedented changes taking place in Christian mission today. Missionaries coming "from below" (Global South) to "the above" (Global North) — a shift that started gaining momentum in the 20th century despite its dark history of the Holocaust and the two World Wars. Moreover, while many push and pull factors are fuelling the South-North migration, Escobar notes that the presence of these migrant Christians in the Western world is recalibrating the face of Christianity in Europe and the rest of the West. However, to consolidate these gains, Escobar advises that just as Paul sought a united church in Rome, both migrant and Western Christians must remember that "mission comes out of communion; out of fellowship," and not from living as segregated communities of faith—whether as black or white congregations, for instance. Such practices of homogeneity only makes our mission work weaker.
3. Quotes I am Pondering
Reverse mission, despite persisting structural and socio-economic inequalities, does represent a divergence from the previously dominant understanding of Christian mission as flowing from
the civilized West to the ‘heathen rest.’ — Rebecca Catto
There are many reasons identiﬁed for the seeming failure [of reverse mission]. Besides the predominance of … ‘materialism’ and the rationalism that came with the intellectual inﬂuence of the Enlightenment and the perceived ‘self-suﬃciency’ of the locals as suggested by some reverse missionaries, there is also the challenge of an extreme privatisation of faith as opposed to what obtains in Africa and elsewhere in the global south. — Joseph Ola
I’m excited that from what I can see, the Lord has been sending in his reinforcements for the local church in the guise of those who we mistakenly think are the least, the lost or “not like us”. It’s my prayer that God will open our eyes to what he is doing, that we will discern the opportunities around us and listen to a more diverse range of Christian voices. — Rosie Hopley
Thank you, I pray you have a missionally fruitful week.