Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Not just enterprise

While Valdir Steuernagel is interviewed on being global family in mission (instead of doing 'partnerships' in projects) by Lausanne & Christianity Today, David Robertson of St Peter's, Dundee, revives an article on How (not) to be an American Missionary in Scotland - which serves very well as a localised example of what Dr Steuernagel describes more generally. With a few changes to cultural references, it could just as easily be 'How (not) to be a Brazilian Missionary in Kenya' (and so on).

Both Jesus and Paul tell us clearly that the gospel message is a message of community. It's never an individual enterprise. We are called to preach the gospel and do good, and we are called to be a community of the gospel.

Something beautiful is that God himself is community: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And Jesus prayed for us to be a community. The Trinity models for us how to get along, how to be interdependent, how to keep our own specificity without the sense of competition.

We are not talking about a pragmatic modus operandi. Partnership is a gospel mandate, which must be expressed in how we relate to each other in a global community. Evangelicals are not very good at that. We look at it through the lenses of pragmatists. We use the word 'cooperation' more than 'community.'

Q: 'Cooperation' suggests a high level of individual autonomy.

It’s pragmatism: you put on the table what you have, and we’ll see how we can work together. Instead, we should start with being family.

Q: Are there unique challenges to partnership today?

Certainly. In the past our eyes were focused on the European and American missionaries. Today there are many more players at the table, each with their own particularity. It’s important for us to discern our own experiences, to understand each other, so we serve well together.

Western missionaries brought tremendous gifts. North Americans came out of an experience of church growth and revival, with positive stories to share. They brought optimism and a can-do spirit. They could say here it is, you do this. And they brought money.

Today it’s no longer like that. One key question is how the North American mission enterprise serves in mission while no longer calling the shots. ... [Read more.]
All this said, not as a dig at our American brothers and sisters. A missionary couple in my church presented to us something of their work among South Asians in a particular area of my city. One lady is due back in America soon, and will present the financial need for a Friendship centre building to a group she's due to address. My natural reaction? 'Good: they have money.' She challenged us, rather, to make this a British project financially, as this American team seeks to work alongside British missionaries and churches. It's no good critiquing others for not being good missionaries, if we've not got the missionary vision for our own country, ourselves. Then with that vision, let's welcome missionaries, learn from them, and help them bring the gospel to transform both our cultures, as our hearts are transformed in gospel community by our Triune God.

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