Updated: Sep 15, 2018
By Dave Miller
Timothy Tennent pointed out a mega trend in world missions, ‘The Collapse of the "West-Reaches-the-Rest" Paradigm’’ In his work Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century he wrote, “Western Christians have been slow to grasp the full missiological implications of the simultaneous emergence of a post-Christian West and a post-Western Western Christianity.” Simply put, white western people are no longer the majority senders in missions around the world and our ability to reach our own nation has weakened.
I sat with a group of evangelical pastor’s recently where we were joined by a Ukrainian gentleman who was sent by Ukrainian Baptists to an African nation. We celebrated the work of the Lord in his life and prayed for his efforts. The response from the group encouraged my heart, while at the same time reminded me of our Western view of world missions. A Ukrainian to Africa was an unusual concept to listening ears.
God is raising up a kingdom labor force all around this world. The speaker, Eric Costanzo (@eric_costanzo), for the gathering reminded us Christianity is roughly spread among Asia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America at 20% each. Australia clearly factors in, but for the purpose of illustration, Christianity is a global phenomenon. In fact, only in recent history has the West been the center of the Christian faith. Tennet wrote:
The notion that areas that were once the traditional "mission field" could become, over time, the new heartland of Christian vitality was hardly contemplated by most Western Christians. Yet, Jerusalem, Antioch, North Africa, and Constantinople were at one time all at the center of Christian vibrancy, but today these places have only a very tiny remnant of Christianity remaining and, with the exception of Jerusalem, are almost most completely. In contrast, places like Lagos, Nigeria, and Seoul, South Korea, where the presence of Christianity at one time seemed almost unimaginable, are today vibrant centers of Christian faith.
Our eyes must be open to this reality. God is completing the work of #NoPlaceLeft and he is using ALL his people to accomplish his will in the power of the Holy Spirit. As I met with Jessica, a #NoPlaceLeftOKC resident, we talked through a personal and multiplicational response to this reality here in the US. May you be spurred by her responses:
We should regard EVERY believer as a laborer in the kingdom, regardless of background.
If God is raising up laborers all around the world who are sending and being sent for the work, then non-western believers should be trained and equipped as full partners in the gospel. There should be no air of superiority in our Christianity. We crossed that bridge in Acts 15 and there is no reason to return. Even the Gentiles received the Spirit and are fully empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish the work of #NoPlaceLeft. We will do well to remember that Westerners are “gentiles” along with our brothers and sisters around the world. The foreigner, refugee, sojourner, widow, and orphan are all potential kingdom multipliers who can be sent with the gospel of the kingdom to the ends of the earth.
When we encounter western Christianity’s culture of superiority towards non-western believers, ask a perspective changing question.
The superiority culture is most often a worldview perspective, meaning most don’t notice that they even think that way because it is the lens through which they see. Sometimes we simply need to help people focus on the lens instead of beyond it. A simple question can help do the trick. Here is a possible example:
How would you respond if an Asian missionary shared the gospel with you here in the US?
Our international brothers and sisters, those already believers and those who will be in the future, can and will be strategic partners in reaching the diverse cultures of the United States. Much of what I learned in recent years has been from South Asians, Haitians, Iranians, and Venezuelans. When you share the gospel with an international, assume those who believe could be the next Hudson Taylor or William Carey. Don’t overlook them. In fact, empower and encourage them, you just may find yourself becoming the disciple.
Until there’s #NoPlaceLeft…