My highlights from Western Christians in the Global Mission by Paul Borthwick

All of the following are direct quotes from the  book by Paul Borthwick Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church?

 

Miriam Adeney echoes the same call: “Our music and our worship must be multicultural, not simply because our society is multicultural, but because the future from which God is calling us is multicultural…. Not just so that those from other cultures may feel at home among us but also so that we may feel at home in God’s future.”

I believe that we in North America must take initiative in becoming more intentionally international and intercultural.Consider four actions: get to know the world, develop multicultural fellowships, view business as kingdom work and get connected to the global church.

“With two eyes and two ears and one mouth, try to observe and listen four times as much as you speak.”

…I have not yet heard any leader say, “Well, you really set the pace in teaching us how to be servants.” We in North America know how to be in control, but do we know how to follow the orders of those who will lead Christendom through this century?”

“For us in Africa, we think from a family paradigm. When we come together in partnership, it’s a partnership based on relationships (not tasks), and we stay partners for life.”

In a relational view of partnerships, I don’t need to have all the answers, all the money or all the ideas. We come together as family to chart the way forward. We need each other, as Andrew Walls suggests: “Crossing cultural frontiers constantly brings Christ into contact with new areas of human thought and experience. All of these, converted, become part of the functioning body of Christ. The full stature of Christ depends on all of them together.”

The greatest challenge in building effective partnerships between Westerners and non-Westerners is control.

Unfortunately, for the most part, the North American mission force talks a great game about partnership, but paternalism and colonial patterns still predominate. My sense is that the global church would love to partner but isn’t interested in the strings that are attached or the models of ministry we bring. Rather, they are looking for friends who model Christlike family…

“we who live middle-class lives in North America or Europe are living a lifestyle that is, materially speaking, “better than 99 percent of all the people who have ever lived in human history.”

On the one hand, we might raise and spend more money on short-term mission airline tickets than the annual budget of our host church; on the other, many in North America cannot grasp the reality of the poorer world without a firsthand visit. There is simply no substitute for going and visiting our Majority World coworkers in the kingdom where they live and serve.

The North American church must move

  • from being primarily doers to primarily equippers
  • from being in charge to being equal partners
  • from ownership and control to “We own nothing, control nothing and count nothing as our own”
  • from Western missionaries to global missionaries
  • from unhealthy dependencies to indigenous self-sufficiency and the promotion of dignity
  • from competition to cooperation (from an emphasis on “my” brand to a focus on “his” brand)•from agency-based missions to church-agency synergy

 

Faith in God is so important. Am I letting him direct my steps? Westerners (and I include myself here) are such driven people. We rely on statistics, we rely on technology, we rely on news and we rely on our experiences and gifts. But we are not always good at learning to wait on the will of God. I have learned and seen true faith in some of these leaders who are being persecuted and have nothing. They truly understand Paul when he writes, “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8).

 

It takes everyone to accomplish the mission, and the body is better because of that.

One of our slogans is this: “Building crosscultural relationships is easier if we accept the fact that 40 percent of the time we will have no idea what’s going on.”

The key issue, as we’ll see later under the topic of partnership, is building relational trust as we grow as a family. And just like a family, when one of us needs money, we might ask a brother or sister for help. But even if that brother or sister cannot respond, we’re still family!

Being in reciprocal relationship with brothers and sisters will force us to focus first on relationships rather than the creation of global strategies.

We need to learn to receive as well as give….we, the rich, go to help you, the poor, or that we, the educated, go to help you, the illiterate. We think that the word resource means money first and education second. Reciprocity teaches us that our brothers and sisters are rich in many other ways.

“Too often, we who go to serve on crosscultural short-term missions practice self-congratulatory servanthood. We live in the hut, eat the local food, endure the heat and use the squat toilet, all the time quietly congratulating ourselves on our willingness to serve.The irony is this: I might be feeling proud as I “sacrifice” my North American comforts to be with my Majority World family, but they don’t necessarily see me as a servant. They welcome me as a guest, but to them, I am just living the way they do all day every day, fifty-two weeks a year. I am not acting as a servant; I am simply a new member of their family.True servanthood is serving people in a way that they interpret as servanthood.”

Christian missionaries actually helped to preserve cultures and languages. According to Sanneh, rather than serving as a tool for Western cultural domination, the translation efforts of European and North American missionaries provoked: (1) vernacular revitalization: the preservation of specific cultures by preserving their language; (2) religious change: people were attracted to Christianity and a “God who speaks my language” over Islam, which is fundamentally not translatable; and (3) social transformation: the dignity associated with God speaking indigenous languages revitalized societies and laid the foundation for the eventual ousting of colonial powers.

 

…to grow as the global body of Christ characterized by

  • interdependence rather than independence and individualism
  • reciprocity, by which all members contribute to the benefit of the others (and all members realize that everyone else has something to offer)
  • humility, equality and mutual respect, with a stress on honoring the less significant-seeming parts of the body
  • learning and discovery together.

 

The common thread is this: God’s people, relying on God’s power and presence, go out and look for opportunities to share and demonstrate the love of Jesus to all peoples everywhere.

Jesus says to his followers “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you,” he affirms the same truth (Jn 20:21). We don’t need to ask if we are sent; Jesus says we are. What we need to ask is where and to whom.

In one respect, the big question is not “Where do we fit?” but “What is God doing?” Joining God in his global eternal mission is our first priority.

 

What’s the first small step of intentionality that you need to take to start expanding your global vision?

 

The common theme is this: intentionality. Without intentional efforts to build our diversity, we will find ourselves in isolated, monocultural churches and fellowship groups.

 

We in our peaceful North American surroundings often forget that sixty-five of the sixty-six books of the Bible were written either from or to a context of uncertainty, political violence, oppression, poverty, exile and military force.

Until the Western church can learn what it is like in the rest of the world, it can only be a spectator, not a participant.

Those of us who want to interact globally will have to suspend some of our theological judgments and listen to how someone from another land is hearing the Scriptures, experiencing the power of God or applying the Bible to daily life.

“Missions is now mutual exchange among multiple centers of influence and learning and resources traveling all directions, not only from here to there.”

Does the church in America have the humility to learn from us, or do they consider themselves to be the world’s teacher? Does the American church have the magnanimous spirit to work alongside us in genuine partnership that is based upon mutual respect and shared resources, or do they simply see us as their “partners” to fulfill their plans in our countries?

 

Even though the Western world has dominated Christianity for much of Christian history, Christianity is now primarily a nonwhite, non-Western, nonwealthy religion….Some estimate that 70 percent of the world’s Bible-believing Christians (as opposed to nominal or cultural Christians) now live in the Majority World.

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