A Global Shift in Mission
The balance of influence and need in global mission is changing. Andy Paterson recently attended a consultation about the challenges and opportunities for mission in Europe. Here he shares with us some of his reflections.
Last week I was privileged to be able to attend the GlobalSHIFT Consultation in Budapest. Organised by the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) this gathering brought together European workers from ReachGlobal (the international mission arm of EFCA) and a variety of mission leaders from across our continent. Papers were given by Dr Rene Padilla, an Ecuadorian, and Dr K Rajendran, from India. The former’s critique of globalisation and the power of trans-national corporations certainly stirred his predominantly American audience, but his renewed call for a Bible-centred compassion for the poor resonated with many.
But this was more than just a talking shop, pontificating on academic theories of mission. This consultation gave time for all the attendees to work out the practical implications of the changing European scene and how we might better respond to the challenges of our age.
Dr Rajendran, in particular, highlighted the major shift that has taken place in world mission over the last generation. Countries like the UK, once a major sending force, are now becoming receivers for the new wave of missionaries coming in from the global south. Such workers, faced with the impossible task of raising sufficient support from their own countries, are coming in as bi-vocational workers. Often taking on some of the most menial tasks available, they use these opportunities to reach their fellow workers and neighbours.
So what about us? How does this impact the churches of our fellowship?
For one thing, it is good to be reminded that we are part of a Christian family larger than that of our own country. Europe certainly has been a tough mission field, but there are encouraging signs of change and growth. Bible churches are responding with creativity and enthusiasm and reaching out into their communities. The story of a church in Rotterdam moved us as we heard of 7 families responding to a text from their pastor, offering to move out of their homes so a refugee family might live there.
We need to talk about how we can partner better with our European brothers and sisters. So often we discover that our attention is drawn to what is going on in America and what the ‘celebrity’ pastors are saying. Perhaps we should turn our attention closer to home.
And then we need to work out what it means for us to ‘receive’ missionaries from abroad. If we are to reach the areas of our land where there is no gospel witness we desperately need all the help we can get, and often such workers can help us connect better with minority communities in our cities. Maybe our churches can help provide the necessary internships that will enable overseas workers to contextualise before launching out on their mission work.
No doubt many of us need to face up to the paternalistic attitudes that have been bred in us over the years. We need to move from a posture of pride and control, to entering into humble, equal partnerships with others for the sake of the gospel. What will this mean for you? Let me know. Drop me an email. Let’s continue this conversation.
Photos courtesy of SERVEurope.