Friday, January 19, 2007

Mission in an Upside-Down World

Christopher Wright pens the latest entry in CT's Christian Vision Project. Whereas last year's unifying question was "How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?" this year's question is "What must we learn, and unlearn, to be agents of God's mission in the world?" Dr. Wright is the international director of Langham Partnership (known in the U.S. as John Stott Ministries). He has authored widely respected works on Deuteronomy, OT ethics, Christ in the OT, the Holy Spirit in the OT, etc. His most recent book is The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative.

The map of global Christianity that our grandparents knew has been turned upside down. At the start of the 20th century, only ten percent of the world's Christians lived in the continents of the south and east. Ninety percent lived in North America and Europe, along with Australia and New Zealand. But at the start of the 21st century, at least 70 percent of the world's Christians live in the non-Western world—more appropriately called the majority world.

More Christians worship in Anglican churches in Nigeria each week than in all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Britain, Europe, and North America combined. There are more Baptists in Congo than in Britain. More people in church every Sunday in communist China than in all of Western Europe. Ten times more Assemblies of God members in Latin America than in the U.S.

The old peripheries are now the center. The old centers are now on the periphery.
Here are some more quotes from the article:
Can the West be re-evangelized? Only if we unlearn our default ethnocentric assumptions about "real" Christianity (our own) and unlearn our blindness to the ways Western Christianity is infected by cultural idolatry.

So it is discourteous (at best) and damaging (at worst) when Western mission a
activity ignores all such ancient expressions of the Christian tradition and lumps all lands abroad as the "mission field," in comfortable neglect of the fact that the rest of the world church sees the West as one of the toughest mission fields in the world today.

The whole Bible presents a God of missional activity, from his purposeful, goal-oriented act of Creation to the completion of his cosmic mission in the redemption of the whole of Creation—a new heaven and a new earth. The Bible also presents to us humanity with a mission (to rule and care for the earth); Israel with a mission (to be the agent of God's blessing to all nations); Jesus with a mission (to embody and fulfill the mission of Israel, bringing blessing to the nations through bearing our sin on the Cross and anticipating the new Creation in his Resurrection); and the church with a mission (to participate with God in the ingathering of the nations in fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures).

It is vital that we see the Cross as central to every aspect of holistic, biblical mission—that is, of all we do in the name of the crucified and risen Jesus. It is a mistake, in my view, to think that while our evangelism must be centered on the Cross (as of course it has to be), our social engagement has some other theological foundation or justification.