Thursday, January 30, 2014

Western Christians in Global Mission - Paul Borthwick

For years, the "West" has led the way in Christian evangelistic outreach. Missionaries were predominantly sent out from places in Europe and North America.  But that is changing, and quickly.  The term, the "Global South," refers to the Southern hemisphere and the rising church numbers and missional strength that we now see in the Majority World.

No longer is the "West reaching the rest."  NOW Christian missionary endeavors are better categorized as "from everywhere to everywhere."  There are more Christians in China (numerically) than in the United States, and they are reaching out to North Koreans.  Nigeria is now sending missionaries to the USA. Our Latino brothers and sisters are effectively reaching Muslims, and Filipino believers are sacrificially serving in Abu Dhabi.  

The question is raised: do Christians in North America still have a role in the Great Commission of Matthew 28?  Should we simply give financially and then get out of the way?  Is our job over?

Paul Borthwick reminds us that ALL believers are called to obey the Great Commission of Matthew 28.  And yet - our ROLE is changing.

If I were to summarize Paul's book in one word it would be "humility." No longer are we to act the role (even subconsciously) of rescuer, leader, driver, or power-holder.  We must now live out words like servant, collaborator, coach, or trainer. Releasing our past roles and quickly passing the baton to those in the Global South must be part of the ethos of Western missions organizations and leaders.  Great humility is needed to "change hats" and become those that exist only to give our jobs away to others.  (Paul lists several specific examples and ideas in his book).

My greatest personal takeaway from this book was Paul's emphasis on suffering and sacrifice: something that the North American church is not skilled in.  We have a great deal to LEARN from our brothers and sisters in the Majority World who have suffered for their faith.  Paul paraphrased the Majority World church's question to us in this way:  "Show us your scars, and then we'll believe that you understand the same gospel that we've embraced." 

As a result of reading this took, I have a greater commitment to stay up to date on world events, to reduce my naivete by reading to understand the complex system of economics, politics, and power that my Christian Majority World brothers and sisters live in.  I have no excuse to be ill-informed.

I have also begun to read "When Helping Hurts" - a book I have heard recommended highly for its insights into helping the poor in a wise and sustainable way. 

Read this book - especially if you are a church or missions leader!

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