The Norwegian Missionary Alliance (NORMA) have asked me to speak on the challenge of the disconnect between local mission and global mission. They observe that in Norway the younger generation have more interest in the former while the older generation the latter.
Here are my observations on the topic trying to understand from a UK context why that might be the case. I would appreciate your perspective on this subject.
My presentation was conversational but here are the slides from my talk:
There has been a disintegration of Mission in the western world. Things that God intended us to keep together in mission have been fractured and dislocated from one another. There are a number of fractures that I observe too many to explore in a short presentation but I will outline four that I believe to particularly pertinent. To give you a flavour of the talk I will give you the first fracture:
Fracture 1 US vs THEM
There is often a generational difference in the way that Christians relate to people who share their faith and those that don’t. This fracture is not restricted to generational differences as it also has resonances across evangelical theological streams.
Some Christians hold an antithetical view to our wider culture. It is Christians verses the rest. (christ against culture to cite Niehbuhr). Perhaps justified by a few Bible verses “friendship with the world is enmity with God” “what do darkness and light have in common.” These Christians have very little contact with the wider culture and often live a very monastic , ghettoised existence isolated from non-Christian people. Sometimes Christians hold a different theological view on this subject but their practice betrays their true beliefs. In some cases this has included a retreat from mainstream education and political, social and cultural participation. Ironically these Christians often have an interest in cross cultural mission – because they see it as important that more people become Christians to escape the eternal conscious torment of hell and so that there are more Christianised countries that are not hostile to the gospel. There is often a lack of awareness of the nuanced relationship between gospel and culture. Our gospel is seen to be culture free and our practice of the Christian faith is superior to the cultures we seek to deliver the gospel into. The churches that we plant in other places resemble our expression of Christianity much more than they resemble local cultures.
Some Christians find this approach to Christianity repulsive. They see in it overtones of empire and colonialism.Others reject this approach because they have spent time with non-christian people and find it difficult to relate to them as “the other” they are friends, colleagues and family. Canadian theologian John Stackhouse comments about much of western theology:
“The reality of the world’s great religions, however, has now become inescapable for all Westerners… as devotees of these religions reside among us as our neighbours, not merely as figures in textbooks or missionary photographs.”
Stackhouse, J.G. Jr. (2001) No Other Gods Before Me?
Sometimes this has lead Christians to adopt a relativistic approach to their neighbours. (Us = Them). We are not seeking to convert anyone as each person has their faith, their system, their life style and it would be arrogant to assume anyone had final access to truth. This approach is an over reaction to the major flaws of the Us > Them model. But if we are going to recapture a model of mission that is local and global – these basic divisions need to be confronted head on.
There’s more where that came from… I’ll write the rest up if you are interested: