Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Revolution In World Mission

Revolution in world mission is written by Dr KP. Yohannan. The Book was first published in 1986, but has been updated regularly so its observations are still rather worthwhile and contemporary. The main argument of this book is that the tide in missions has changed. Once upon a time, those who did missions were white middle class men, sent during the 1800s, many a times with a joint mission to bring the gospel Jesus Christ with western imperialism. With the nationalist movements of the mid 19th century, and the overthrow of western imperialism, many Asian nations were closed to western missions as western missionaries were linked to imperialistic goals. The result was that Native missionaries took over where the western Christians left off. There has been massive conversion within countries such as China and India, but western churches have neither know of these developments or have supported the churches. The western church became introverted and selfish. Missions that were sent to developing nations in Asia could only focus on social justice issues without evangelism. The hope for missions in Asia, asserted by KP. Yohannan is the native missionary movement. This is because they can adapt to the cultures and are accepted within the cultures they minister to, and the cost of sending them is only a fraction of the cost ($2000 at most, compared to $50,000)

I came to this book with a critical mind and believe that this book has a lot to offer – it is a goldmine for good missiology, and for training missionaries. There are several important points that I got out of this book

1) The western church and western Christians are so well off. We have a responsibility to support our less well off Christian brothers and sisters in developing nations.
2) In the past, western churches have become selfish, focusing introspectively, not using their resources to build the church of Christ, but to fund buildings and other other projects that have no real impact (other than aesthetics!)
3) We need to allow these Christians to develop and minister in ways which are acceptable to the context they preach to. We should not be pushing a certain denomination or line – we should allow Christians go into cultures and allow them to contextualise the gospel.
4) “Contextaulisation” – this means preaching and teaching the gospel in the language of the people. Taking on the cultural dress of the group, preaching the gospel in a way that the people group will understand. For example if you go to a group of African Americans living in the Bronx you wouldn’t give them a soapbox sermon – the likelihood is you’ll get beaten up and your money taken and left in a trash can half alive or with a gun to your head if you are unlucky. No, you would come dressed up in the cultural costume and speak in the language (Baggy Jeans and speak in Snoop.)
5) The Focus of missions should marry both evangelism and social justice together. In the context of missions to countries such as India it can be seen the spiritual blindness that people live in worsens their poverty. K.P Yohannon tells that because Rats are sacred to Hindus and cannot be killed, plagues of rats go and eat the crops in India, meaning there is a lack of food. K.P Yohannan tells of how the ministry of Gospel for Asia has focused a lot on the untouchables, the lowest of low castes within Indian society. This caste has been created as a result of the religious worldview of the Hindu people. Gospel for Asia offers education where untouchable children can learn to read and write and also get told the gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result the families are changed, they get given spiritual freedom as the familty comes to know christ and economic freedom through the children getting an education.

I have some criticisms with this book though.
1) Yohannan only gets the rationale for missions half-right. Yes we are called to mission but we are called to mission so that people will come to worship God once again
Again I sight my good friend John Piper on missiology.
“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship does not”
Worship is the Fuel and goal for missions. It's the goal of missions because in worship we simply aim to bring the nations into the white hot enjoyment of God's glory”
(John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad)
The whole purpose is to see all humanity give him the glory he deserves and enjoy the freedom that Christ offers.
2) Short Term and Long Term western missions are still important . They are important as it gives a stakehold for western Christians in the whole church. Western missionaries provide information and reconnaissance in a way that pieces of paper and articles cannot offer. They provide an eyewitness and encouragement for further mission worldwide and locally. Missions trips also challenge also challenge peoples mindsets on the way we do things. They provide an intensive environment for Christians to grow and change and get out of their comfort zone. They give western Christians a means to grow and develop and to come to rely on God fully. They expand peoples views of the world and the way God works and the fact that God doesn’t work in the same way everywhere. They usually ignite Christians to find ways to engage with their own cultures back home and ways to change the world around them back home. They are also a real witness to people back time. How many times have I been able to talk about what I did in Siberia and share what my faith means to my friends because of the missions trip.
The “Mystical” nature of missions to other countries or places.
I have blogged about this before, because this has been an important moment in my life and journey I will go continue on about this. There is something really special when you worship with a whole group of people from another country and place. You speak entirely different languages but you can connect at a deeper level that what you could. Also it feels like you an enacting a scene from what heaven will be like – where people from thousands of different cultures, backgrounds, ages, all worshipping and praising the same God who saved them and made them whole. It is really special, and something that I’m happy that I have been able to share in.

3)Yohannan comments only on the bad that has happened within western missions.
I can name on the top of my head numbers of cases where western missionaries are doing awesome jobs in nations around the world and seeing peoples lives changed because of the ministry they are involved in. It’s not all bad news, but the need for balance between western missionaries and National missionaries. I totally agree that native missionaries are more affective, more adaptive on their mission field and that more funding and support should be given to these missionaries than what is given to western missionaries – but the approach should be balanced. It must also be remembered that we cannot stop the call of God. If someone is called to be a missionary into a culture by the spirit of God we cannot stop them from doing this and we must trust in the faith of God that he will enable them to reach out to that culture. Some may be given the missional gifting of tongues to reach out to a particular culture (this is quite an amazing gift when you see it at work!)

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It was a real challenge. Particularly on my priorities in giving and how selfish I can be at times. I want Gods will fulfilled on earth. Many times this will be costly to myself. Am I willing to listen to the call of God and sacrifice those things that I want for what God wants?

Another thing I saw was the dedication many non-western Christians have to God. Many of these missionaries pray and spend real time with God for hours and pray for the people they minister to for hours as well. As a result they develop hearts for those people. Am I willing to lose sleep over the lost sheep in my cultural context? The suffering I endure for the Gospel seems so little compared to the floggings, stonnings and electric baterns that Christians receive in other countries, but many a time I go quite, saying nothing about God, why is that?

All in all, this way a really challenging book. I enjoyed it. Have a read, I’m sure you will be challenged too!

1 comment:

act of kindness said...

You are quite right about the necessity of short term missions . Threw short term missions, we have identified individuals arond who have a passion for the people and who ere ministering with no financial support, we have hired them full time, and we return regularly with short term teams to encourage them and to assist them , today we have hundreds of full time workers in dozens of nations, and literly thousands have come to the lord as a result. we have planted over 250 churches in the past 4 years, and are represented in over 50 orphanages and seniors homes. and have only 1 overseas missionary overseeing all this. There is no way this could happen without the short term missions teams.
KP. says "empower the nationals." but build friendships between them and individuals here. We all need to become what our friend refers to as "full time non resident missionaries." Blessings John