We live in a flat world, one where the distant is near and the exotic is familiar. Unless present global infrastructures disintegrate, it is likely that the world will continue to “shrink” in the days to come. Technological, economic, and travel advancements will accelerate the pulling of the continents together into a virtual and practical Pangaea.
Widespread contextual shifts demand that the Church make wise adjustments to Her missionary strategy in making disciples of all nations. While the truth of the never-changing gospel that was once for all delivered to the saints remains (Jude 3), wise stewardship involves methodological adjustment with the ever-changing contexts.
Our shrinking world is creating a great amount of pressure on the Church, particularly related to Her sending disciple-makers to the nations. While such stress has numerous implications on Kingdom service, I briefly want to draw our attention to three significant practices that need to occur in our efforts related Kingdom expansion.
Practice Strategic Integration
Missionary strategies for “over here” must be developed in light of our missionary strategies for “over there”. For centuries we have often thought of domestic missions and international missions as two strangers on two different paths that should never cross. While there remains significant distinctions between near-culture evangelism (i.e., E-0 and E-1) and distant-culture evangelism (i.e., E-2 and E-3), global shifts are forcing the Church to return to a much healthier biblical missiology and truly recognize the world as Her parish, without continuing in an unhealthy dichotomy of “home” and “foreign” missions.
Better communication and planning needs to take place among Kingdom citizens scattered across the nations. Better communication and planning needs to take place among church leaders overseeing such local church missionary activity. Better communication and planning needs to take place among mission agencies.
We must move beyond the philosophy of this land is my land, this turf is ours, to the understanding that the world is our field.
Develop Majority World Partnerships
If denominations and churches should be integrating their strategies for global disciple-making, the next obvious matter is that such integration will require developing partnerships with local churches in other nations. While I recognize that such practice has been taking place among some Kingdom citizens and that there there are numerous challenges to such partnerships, wise stewardship in this new day will seek to develop healthy relationships between churches in the West and those in Majority World nations.
For those of us in the West, we will feel the tension between paternalism and an abdication of our responsibility. We must not repeat the problems of the past; however, we must not discard the wisdom and experience the Father has provided for us. Just because colonialism was bad for missions does not mean that all Majority World churches are healthy. Yes, mistakes were made. However, past problems are not justification that the West should just step aside and let the Majority World carry out missionary labors (as some have been advocating). Do we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters? Yes! But, do we have much to contribute as well? Yes!
Labor Among the Diasporas
214 million people are presently living outside of their countries of birth. Many of these peoples are followers of Jesus and many are not. We need to consider how best to minister to, through, and beyond the diasporas. Some are Kingdom servants in need of equipping and encouragement, a potential powerhouse for the multiplication of disciples, leaders, and churches. Others have traveled land, air, and sea and are in need of the good news for themselves and their people.
We live in an age of migration, a time of such mass movements unlike any other in history. It would be wise for us to reflect deeply on Acts 17:26-27 as we recognize the Kingdom opportunities now present among the peoples on the move. I wrote Strangers Next Door (scheduled to be released in October) hoping to raise awareness among churches in the West of this present reality. The movement of the nations is one of the most critical issues shaping the Church in the 21st century. Unfortunately, many of us are not aware of the global realities and the Kingdom potential.
I recognize that change is not easy. And the longer we have been traveling one path when it comes to Kingdom labors, the more difficult it is to adjust to new directions. As stewards of the mystery of Christ, we must seek the Father for wisdom to make course corrections, patience with those who are not quick to see the opportunities before us, and unity in the Body as the world watches.
It is easier to talk about these three adjustments than do them. But we must start somewhere and talk can be valuable.
How about having that difficult conversation with someone today concerning these areas?
(Image Source: Microsoft Office)