i have written an opinion piece for fresh expressions that is published today entitled jesus is my bulldozer! which is a reflection on mission and african christianity in the west...
i was blown away when I read the first issue of a new journal missio africanus this morning. it's available free online as a download and the articles are so interesting. and don't think it's only relevant if you are african or working with africans. it will spark your imagination about mission regardless. there are so many interesting explorations going on around theology, post colonialism, migration, leadership, who jesus is. these are questions every church should be reflecting on to move beyond their own cultural ways of doing and being. harvey kwiyani is the editor. he has become a good friend in the last year and has joined in teaching at CMS on the pioneer course. anyway download and have a read…
i attended am amazing day last week with leaders from black majority churches in britain. there were some amazing presentations issuing a prophetic call to engage imaginatively in mission. during the day i doodled away to capture some of the things that struck me. i have added those doodlings to facebook...
migration is a big theme in mission studies and journals increasingly recognising the significance of migration flows in sharing faith. last year IAMS two issues of the mission studies journal were dedicated to reflecting on it. some of the most thriving churches in london are planted and grown by people who have moved through migration. there are all sorts of challenges and questions to explore in relation to mission and migration - it's far from straightforward. missio africanus is a day set up to explore mission in relation to the african diasporas in britain (and beyond i expect). i'll be going along - maybe see you there?..
i was pleased to see CMS posted an article on kony 2012 because there was quite a lot of campaiging in CMS around 2003/2004 which did quite a lot to raise profile. anyway this article seems to have its head screwed on...
amos trust, a small charity in the uk, somehow came up with the idea of having a pre world cup world cup in south africa for street kid teams from round the world. the best ideas are usually crazy in my experience and somehow they have pulled off this feat. it kicks off today i think (though as i write this in hong kong airport half way back to london from australia i am slightly confused about time and days of the week!).
can a postmodern englishman agree with a pentecostal nigerian?
at greenbelt this year one of the things i did in the cms venue was take part in a debate/conversation with yemi, a nigerian friend/colleague on the different sensibilities arising from out of african churches and postmodern/emerging. it was titled african certainty meets postmodern doubt. i enjoyed it. anyway there is now a recording of it on the cms web site...
i have never been to africa. i was invited to go recently but had already accepted an invitation to be in croatia. two friends/colleagues paul and chris went and had a great time. i'll say more about that another time. but i have an africa blog category and will post probably an occasional series to it.
If you really want to understand the future of Christianity, go and see what is happening in Asia, Africa, Latin America. It's the periphery—but that's where the action is.
this is a quote from bishop zac niringiye in a wonderful interview in christianity today last july. everyone should read this interview. until a few years ago zac was director of cms in africa. i didn't get to know him that well sadly. but he seems in especially good form now, somehow freed up to speak out in a way i never saw in cms. my experiences in india and croatia and other parts of the world have highlighted for me the problems of the legacy of foreign mission and of what i have come to term the colonised imagination. and this needs a whole lot of unravelling. africa struggles with the same issues.
the tension i guess i feel and i tried to express about foreign mission in my reflection on croatia is that all these contexts simply have to grow authentic indigenous expressions of church and leadership. that is what excited and encouraged me in croatia. foreign and outside influence even where well intentioned is often shrouded with agendas and cultural insensitivites and complicated by money. so it's tempting to think that outsiders should keep out and stop interfering. but the flip side of this is that we learn so much by engaging with people who are different to us. we only know who jesus is we engage with christ's many faces, expressions of his body and theological takes around the world. and there's a human desire and god given challenge to share resources with fellow brothers and sisters who are poor or in need. so whilst i think there needs to be less foreign interference and influence i am convinced of the need for global friendships and interchange.
zac has some great pointers for westerners on this tension. his article is addressed to americans but is equally valid for most western contexts.
first up he suggests a switch from what he calls go and make mission to come and see. rather than being preoccupied with fixing or solving issues which is how we view things from the centre of power just go and be with people. he says it's really very simple
Americans have been preoccupied with the end of the Gospel of Matthew, the Great Commission: "Go and make." I call them go-and-make missionaries. These are the go-and-fix-it people. The go-and-make people are those who act like it's all in our power, and all we have to do is "finish the task." They love that passage! But when read from the center of power, that passage simply reinforces the illusion that it's about us, that we are in charge.
I would like to suggest a new favorite passage, the Great Invitation. It's what we find if we read from the beginning of the Gospels rather than the end. Jesus says, "Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men." Not "Go and make," but "I will make you." It's all about Jesus. And do you know the last words of Jesus to Peter, in John 21? "Follow me." The last words of Simon Peter's encounter are the same as the first words.
Can we begin to read those passages that trouble us, that don't reinforce our cultural centeredness?.....
....It is very simple. Come and be with us, with no agenda other than to be with us.
the second issue which maybe is the big one in africa is confidence. zac suggests that when a white person who knows nothing about africa says something he or she will often be defered to as some kind of expert. this is the result of decades of erosion of confidence by colonial and missionary enterprise (i saw the same thing in india and was told it's a problem in croatia). this makes it even more imperative that when we go and be with, following the great invitation, we resist being deferred to.
on friday we went to see a preview of shooting dogs in london. it tells the story of the rwandan genocide through the true story of a school which provided refuge for tutsis. it's a harrowing tale. if you haven't seen hotel rwanda go and see this at the cinema when it comes out in a few weeks. if you have, the plot is very similar - it's a shame it's so similar really - this time it's a school instead of a hotel. but it's a story that needs to be heard.
column 4 for the christian herald:
The conversation and re-imagining of church in response to the emerging postmodern culture is mainly happening in Western circles - the stories I have touched on in the columns so far have been from the UK, Australia, and the USA. But actually the church is always emerging all round the globe. The real vibrancy and growth in the church is in the Global South.
Colin Smith, a CMS mission partner in Nairobi sent me a story of The Bus Stop Church in Banana on the outskirts of Nairobi. It is a wonderful example of an emerging church in Africa. This is church with a difference: an unselfconscious expression of what it means to be the body of Christ in a very untraditional way, pioneered by local vicar Susan Ndungu. The congregation is made up of matatu drivers and touts, the purveyors of Nairobi's notorious and anarchic transport system. These are the people you don't find in church. But this is their church, out in the road amidst the diesel fumes and the passing traffic. About 70-80 men gather at the bus stop at 8am on a Sunday morning for about 30 minutes for prayers, testimonies, a song and a short sermon. Here is a church stripped to the bare essentials, meeting people where they are at, a sign of the kingdom on route 106.
CMS and the Indian Evangelical Mission recently facilitated a gathering in Bangalore of leaders of indigenous mission movements from round the world. These are movements such as Al-Bashir reaching out to muslims in New Delhi, or Friends Missionary Prayer Band in South India that in the last 37 years has grown from one to 1500 missionaries and evangelists, and planted hundreds of churches with 200 000 believers now in its care. Mark Oxbrow, a CMS director who attended came back very excited. He said 'God is doing a new thing in his Church and he is doing it from the global South, from Africa, Asia and Latin America, from the poor - out of sacrifice and vulnerability - to the rich.'
One of the things I love about working with CMS is having my eyes opened to the global body of Christ and what God is doing in his world. Good mission is always contextual – i.e. the gospel and church is related to and grown in the soil of the local context/culture. It will have very diverse expressions. The ‘emerging church’ we often talk about is church in response to a changing post modern context. The ‘emerging church’ elsewhere in the world will of course look very different. Jesus will be more fully known as we see his many emerging faces round the world.
Bus Stop Church story is on http://www.emergingchurch.info/
Download an article (pdf) on the indigenous mission movements gathering from CMS